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Syndicate: FW: belarus text (by Nils Claesson/CRAC/Stockholm)

From: "Nils Claesson" <nils.claesson@mail.skodk.nu>
To: <nice@x-i.net>
Subject: [NICE] FW: belarus text
Date: Tue, 8 Feb 2000 11:02:57 +0100



This is the first report from Belarus.
A brief text by me - then a text by Artur Klinov.
More will come.
E-lab people are there at the moment.

yours sincerly

Nils Claesson



A fact-finding trip was made in the beginning of January to Minsk.
Participating was Nils Claesson/Crac
and members from the Varka Crew and E-lab/Riga.
Belarus: 10 million people, 3 million living in Minsk, vodka at 60 cent per
liter, a bonapartistic state, a post-
Modern ? Disney - land- Stalinism,  the ruling ideology is a mix of soviet
nostalgia and macho-bravado.
Result: isolation or exile the choice for many artists and intellectuals.
A strong underground scene thats challenging the regime.
Minsk is an unknown metropolis in the middle of Europe where you can find a
bubbling sea of underground activity: art, politics, literature, performance
Art, music and video is mixed to a powerful and muscular cocktail. The
ambiance is highly politicized and the Belarus-public is extremely sensible
for symbolic actions and therefore the performance-Art-scene is big,
important and the most genuine expression of  Belarus contemporary Art

Together with E-lab and Varka-crew people a meeting was arranged with
different artist groups in Minsk, also
individuals from oppositional political groups and media participated.

Crac could identify a partners for further cooperation the Organization for
Contemporary Art in Belarus, a network organizing about 200 individuals in
the whole of Belarus: artists, photographers, journalists, professors and
theorists that works to Create a scene for contemporary art in Belarus.

The first big action of the organization was to arrange an international
performance-art festival in September 1999. A success. The organization
works both outside and inside existing structures. Some of the members have
joined the traditional artists union to get access to their public space,
the museum.
The name of  the performance art festival was Navinki 99.
Navinki is the name of a big mental -hospital outside Minsk and also the
name of a satirical anarchist-paper
In the Minsk-art-scene you can se a determined will to create a dialogue
with the outside world to break the relative isolation that has struck the
country because the policy of the government that is breaking away Belarus
from the rest of Europe.
You also have the economic barriers and the language-wall. People have not
been traveling- for many: go to west is to go to Warsaw.
Crac has decides to initiate a process of exchange and collaboration with

Analysis: a collaborative project Stockholm-Riga-Minsk could create a
fruitful dialogue between close neighbors divided by a sea: just in the
breaking -point between the similar and unknown there are a whole
Spectra of questions to investigate: historical the axis
Stockholm-Riga-Minsk is a traditional travel-route that
was cut of by the cold war and the iron curtain- now it exists a situation
where it is possible to recreate those

For artist working at Crac it will be attractive to research and do things
in a cultural sphere that is not under so strong USA-cultural influence as
the Swedish.

This is the ?Swedish-crac-point-of view?.

But for us all involved in International networking on the basis of art and
new media it is important not to leave the artists in Belarus behind the new
Berlin Wall. We all have to start communicate and send materials, ideas,
projects and people over the border

Nils Claesson


Topics of Collaborative program

Crac(Sweden) and The Contemporary Arts Association (Belarus)

Communication  /exchange information, experience/ program. Developing
Internet communication
between Crac and CAA. Exchange artists representation, articles, information
about running projects    and programs.

Education program. Master-classes, lectures.

Workshops/Artist exchange.

Collaborated exhibitions and festivals.

Researches critics/theorists trips.

Help! Program. Creating hi-tech new  media center in Minsk. Creating
information and fundraising
Center for art projects in Belarus. Library program /collecting materials
about Contemporary art and new media.

Art on a border! Moving Art



Contemporary situation in the Belarusian artistic life is marked by two
confronting factors. High creative potential of modern artists active here,
on one side, is counterbalanced by complete decay of specific structures
responsible for maintaining the natural mordern artistic process.

Several factors could be mentioned to give proof of our statement concerning
artistic structures being on the decline:

1.Suspension of the great majority of independent artistic centers activity.

Activity of the great majority of the non-governmental artistic sites formed
at the beginning of the 1990-ies  has been suspended under conditions of
Belarus' economic stagnation and dramatic lack of the state support
customary given to such institutions in economically developed countries.
Among those which have stopped their virtual functioning due to the
financial shortages  such a notorious art galleries as «Shostaya liniya»
(«The Sixth line»),  «Vita Nova», «Kaucheg» («The Ark»), «Alter Ego» in
Mensk, «Zyaleny Dom» («The Green Mansion») in Gomel, etc., could be named.
Moreover, Alexander Pushkin's gallery in Vitebsk has been closed under
direct pressure of the local authorities on the political grounds. Note
should be given, that only few independent cultural institutions and groups
are still active in Belarus today, surprisingly being afloat just because
pure enthusiasm of their founders («AB» and «Nova» galleries in Mensk,
«Salyanyia sklady» («The Salt Warehouses») in Vitebsk...). Acting Belarusian
political regime through legislative acts and enactments sets up drastically
unfavourable conditions for independent expositioners and artists (in every
sphere of visual, theatral and misical arts), non-governmental publishers
and press-media. Not the last aggravating factor is constantly growing
economic and financial crisis.

2.Complete lack of independent sponsor sources in the country.

Two main reasons have caused evaporating of independent financial sources in
Belarus. First, international charitable foundations have literally stopped
almost all their activities in the country, second, the private business has
been placed into entire dependence from official regime institutions. Placed
under strict control, business-people have been forced to sponsor only
«ideologically correct» artistic projects, such as annual «The Slavonic
Market» feast or «The Slavonic Movie Festival». Thus, pomposity official
celebrations of late soviet totalitarian times style are being regenerated.
Business structures, in case they do take a risk to support independent
cultural projects, are being exposed to strict and prejudiced inspections
and severe sanctions.

3.Shift in the governmental cultural institutions ideological positions.

State cultural institutions, known for their support and backing of the
social realism at the Soviet times, changed their attitudes towards more
flexible cultural policy by the beginning of the 1990-ies. However, today we
could observe  inverted process of their return to obsolete esthetic
standards. They act as a hindering stagnation mechanism in the better case
or as a tool of ideological guarantee of the existing regime in the worse.
It brings full-value cultural process to virtual non-existence in such a
constraining limits determined by  these institutions.

4.Gap between the Belarusian artistic process and the global cultural

 Unfortunately, a fact could be established that the modern Belarusian
artistic process is placed into informational vacuum. The reason is quite
obvious: there is no any particular artistic institution able of
accumulating and selecting of valuable information in Belarus and from
abroad and maintaining effective dialogue with appropriate organizations in
the world. As a result, starting with 1994, no one Belarusian artist has
been invited to participate in any significant european artistic project.
All the contacts of Belarusian authors with colleagues abroad bear private
and sporadic character.

5.Social and political factor.

The political regime's attitude towards people of culture turns more and
more cynical lately. It's enough to recollect  just a couple typical
examples: books by famous writers Vasil Bykau and Uladzimir Arlou are not
allowed for publishing  or they are criticized unfairly, exhibitions are
under censors' control and could be easily called of (as it was with the
last exhibition of "Pagonia" ("The Pursuit") artistic group), no concert or
public event could be organized without facing artificial obstacles created
by officials. Almost all rock-music clubs and concert halls have been shut
down during last two years.  The very fact that to organize artistic
exhibition or concert art-manager should get an official permission
discloses the anti-democratic tools of the artistic process control operated
by the state. Visual artists are practically deprived of their intellectual
property rights being forced to pay 100 per cent customs duties when
bringing their artworks abroad. The value of artworks under taxation, again,
is determined arbitrary by custom-house itself! Actual regulations make it
virtually impossible for artists and independent  cultural institutions to
organize Belarusian contemporary art  exhibitions abroad and foreign art
exhibitions in Belarus. Gloomy reality is crowned by lack of effective
network of commercial galleries and art-shops, private publishing houses,
theatres and concert organizations, media channels. All these factors
transform a creative worker - if this person is not hairsplitter oriented on
getting paltry doles for "obedient ones" from the dictatorial regime (like
back in Soviet times: ones a life - free residential place, studio,
sometimes - exhibitions, but ideologically correct) or if this person
doesn't work like craftsman - into pure marginal being, deprived of stable
livelihood and common social guarantees. Weakness of the national business
establishes insuperable barriers on the way of cultural patronage forming -
so that even this illusory chance of support for artists seems unreal.

6.Lack of independent art- and cultural periodicals in Belarus.

>From the beginning of the 1990-ies there has been no one independent
culturall periodical professionally dealing with problems of contemporary
art launched in Belarus. Under current conditions periodicals like
"Mastatstwa" ("The Arts"), "Kultura'" ("The Culture"), "Literatura i
Mastatstwa" ("The Literature and Arts") have to adopt themselves to the
political regime, being dependant on it financially.

All the above mentioned factors lead to gradual strengthening of the
following negative tendencies:

It is a process of mass emigration from the country, on the one hand.
(Through the last couple years many outstanding individuals have left
Belarus, - just to mention artists Igar Kashkurevich, Yury Darashkevich,
Ales Taranovich, Timokh Izotau, Valery Martynchyk, Ilona Baradulina, Siargei
Lapsha, Uladzimir Lappa, Igar Famin and others.)  Writers of a global fame,
Vasil Bykau and Sviatlana Aleksievich virtually have no opportunity to live,
work and publish their writings in their native country. Leading theatral
stage manager Mikalay Pinigin has a contract abroad. And this list of
artists, musicians, writers, actors, scientists is far from being complete.
This makes especially morbid and harmful effect on artists-beginners. With
no prospectives in their home country, young intellectuals leave it at the
very beginning of their creative career, losing on the ways of emigration
their cultural identity  and leaving the Belarusian cultural space forever.

On the other hand, given the lack of conditions for creative potentials
implementation and artistic process stagnation, tendency towards
professional and moral degradation of the Belarusian authors is increasing.
Creative workers are being transformed into marginal stratum of the society.
Further development of these tendencies could lead to gradual decline and
possible complete destruction of the nation's intellectual elite, and, in
consequence, - to general cultural degradation of the Belarusian society.
This creates a danger of irreversible losses for the european and global
cultures and threatens with dangerous social and political conflicts in the
middle of Europe.

In these conditions it seems inevitable and absolutely urgent to undertake
energetic efforts and form an association, which should unite various groups
of democratically oriented independent intellectuals and creative workers,
free cultural forces of the country. Such association can play the role of
informational and coordinational center, accomplish social aid programs,
render assistance in organizing exhibitions, concerts and book-publishing,
make a positive influence on the current cultural and artistic process. Such
an organization can be the "Contemporary Arts" Association (CAA).


The CAA should be a non-governmental public organization uniting artists,
writers and literary men, musicians,  critics and arts historians, gallery
curators, journalists, historians of culture, collectors, business people -
all those who are connected with or participating in the current cultural
and artistic process in Belarus, interested in its further development or
directly involved in the creative activity.

The major object of the CAA is forming a sufficient structure for really
independent and free cultural process in Belarus.

To reach this goal the CAA unites creative and intellectual forces of the
country and carries out the following programs:

1. "The network" program.

The program is aimed to unite 4-5 currently acting exhibitional places in a
network of galleries, which would form a basis for future regular
exhibitional activity. The CAA will act as a coordinator and promoter of
this process, rendering informational, juridical, financial and technical
assistance. Creation of integrated net of cultural centers, including
galleries, art-shops, libraries, publishing houses, conference halls etc. is
a prospective goal of the project.

2."Belarus on the European culture map" program.

The program goal is the Belarusian art presentation in the major
international cultural projects. It requires breakthrough in the
informational vacuum around current artistic process in the country. In the
frames of the program electronic data base of the independent Belarusian
artists, creative workers and intellectuals (in wide  ranges) should be
selected and constant informational exchange between the CAA and appropriate
european and global institutions established. One of  the most essential
parts of the program would become a series of the Belarusian arts festivals
abroad (like "The Kingdom of Belarus" festival in Poland).

3."The Territory" program.

The program's goal is presentation of the modern international (foreign)
arts in Belarus and broadening direct contacts between arties and creative
communities in Belarus and abroad.
It means as well that foreign artists will be invited to participate in
joint and individual projects in Belarus.

4."The International Arts-Feasts in Belarus" program.

In accordance with this program support should be given to those feasts
which have become traditional in Belarus ("In-Formation" in Vitebsk) and to
new initiatives, which are being planned ("The Soutine plein-air",
performance festival "Navinki-99"). The goal of the program is to make
Belarusian arts-festivals corresponding with major european artistic

5."The European Studios" program.

Contrary to their european colleagues from the western countries,  the
Belarusian artists, musicians, literary men, have no opportunity,  in most
cases,  travel abroad independently in order to work, establish contacts, or
just get fresh inspiring impressions. In order to overcome this disadvantage
at least for certain extent, the program aimed to form a net (not very
expanded) of studios in the cultural centers of the european countries
(Prague, Berlin, Paris, Rome etc.). With the use of this net the program
will make it possible for Belarusian artists and intellectuals  to travel
and live abroad, use informational and cultural resources and get the access
to international cultural and artistic process.
Similar program has already been launched by the Belarusian Humanitarian
Fund "Nasha Niva" together with the Polish cultural association "Kola
Podkowy" and The Stefan Batory Foundation. Their joint efforts in a frame of
"The Window to Europe" project have resulted in creation of the first
Belarusian independent studio in Podkowa Lesna close to Warsaw.
6."The Independent Arts Publications" program.

The program is oriented on launching and promoting independent artistic
periodicals in Belarus and rendering assistance to artists and galleries in
printing necessary publications and materials (catalogues, leaflets, etc.).
Opening appropriative Internet web-sites would be a part of the program.

7.Educational program.

The program would provide possibilities for the Belarusian art critics,  art
historians, gallery and exhibition curators to have probations in the world
cultural centres.  Constituent part of the program is Belarus-oriented and
provides  series of seminars and lections on contemporary art, art- and
gallery business in Minsk and province.

8.Social program.

This program is aimed to offer possible social aid to cultural workers
having major social problems (financial, housing conditions, work, drugs,
alcohol, etc.), organize juridical and customs consultations,  rent space
for informal meetings and contacts, i.e. to create humanitarian surroundings
for the nation's elite.

Possible positive consequences of the CAA programs implementation:

a) Social aspect.
The CAA activity could keep and save from degradation and destruction the
national creative elite in Belarus and would support in forming its new
generations. The most pressing position would be hindering and reversing of
the intellectuals forced emigration process.

b)Cultural and international aspects.
The CAA programs would contribute to the cultural life of the country
flourishing, promote creative potential of the Belarusian artists maturing
in every sphere and form conditions for dialogues with the cultural elites
in the european countries and globally. This would help to preserve Belarus
as an integrative and valuable part of the cultural universe of the european
commonwealth, which can make contributions in its development but not only
consume the results of the cultural achievements.  It worth mentioning that
Belarus was a birthplace for Chagall, Soutine, Streminsky. Its cultural
catastrophe would be an irreversible and irreplaceable loss for the global
cultural process.

the text is written by Artur Klinov chairman of the Assosiation for
Contemporary Art in


Nils Claesson

International Coordinator
Creative Room for Art and Computing
Artist run medialab

Igeldammsgatan 30 A
112 49 Stockholm
tel+46 (0)8 6504090
fax+46 (0)8 6504098

Nils mobile(0)70 6329369
email: nils.claesson@mail.skodk.nu

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