Once upon a time, Alexander Lukashenko became the President of the Republic of Belarus. It was July 10, 1994. Since then, nothing has changed: Lukashenko is still on the throne. However, the last presidential elections were the final straw and protests have not subsided in Belarus since August 9, 2020.
While focusing on 4 artists and 1 art group from Belarus in this article, I would like to emphasize that every artist who responded to this event, focusing on freedom and choice, deserves attention.
Art group Lipovy Tsvet
The meaning of the name of the art group Lipovy Tsvet encompasses its main task: “lipovy” in Russian means “lime” but it also has a figurative meaning: “fake”. The group members were able to demonstrate what is hidden behind the scenes of the ideal Belarusian society, carrying out the situationist action “Excitement in bus # 23” and“ Bonding the Bible”, with a copy stolen from the Karl Marx public library.
Despite the fact that the group existed for only two years, their activities recorded the most important historical contexts of the wave of civic activism in the country in 2010-2012, which arose as a result of the 2010 presidential elections won by Alexander Lukashenko once again.
The collapse of the Lipovy Tsvet group was caused by the reaction of its member Denis Limonov to the events of 2011: on April 11, in Minsk at the Oktyabrskaya metro station, a homemade bomb exploded. 15 people died and 203 people were injured as a result. On April 13, 2011, Lukashenko declared the event was a terrorist attack. Dmitry Konovalov and Vlad Kovalev were arrested and sentenced to death. Limonov sent a letter to the Attorney General of the Republic of Belarus, in which he announced the involvement of the Lipovy Tsvet art group in the terrorist attacks Konovalov and Kovalev were accused of. In addition, he announced that these crimes were a work of art, and dedicated them to the victims of the bloody state machine. “Letter from Denis Limonov to the Attorney General of the Republic of Belarus dated December 22-23, 2011” became the most famous work of the Lipovy Tsvet art group. It did not however achieve its stated goal, since no official response from the prosecutor’s office was received, and the accused of the terrorist attack were executed.
Ekaterina Samigulina (art-group Lipovy Tsvet) – Icon, Blessed Martyr Luke and His Son Nicholas
Ekaterina Samigulina (art-group Lipovy Tsvet) – Icon _Miner
Alexandra Soldatova, editor-in-chief and creator of the online magazine on Belarusian art and documentary photography IMBALANCE, works with everyday themes, exploring the border between document and fiction. The main focus of her work is the study of society. Having been involved in photography since 2005, she now also works with visual media.
Alexandra Soldatova has released 3 books: Testosterone, Our Trip, It Must Be Beautiful – Postcards Set. The Belarusian photographer has also collaborated with The Guardian, Prism, Fotografia magazine, Frankie Magazine, Aint-Bad magazine and others.
Alexandra Soldatova, “It Must Be Beautiful”, 2012-2018
“In Belarus, my home country, people love when everything looks neat, clean and beautiful. I decided to search for origins of this fact. So I researched the environment where people normally live and I was looking for rather outstanding and at the same time very common things which could influence the esthetic feeling of a person. This project is about decorating reality. All these paintings on the bus stops are made through local authorities by unknown “artists” with the only purpose to beautify empty landscape.”
In 2010, Andrei Liankevich published his first book “Pagan”. In each photo contained in it, the artist illustrated the history of paganism on the territory of Belarus and emphasized the fact that many citizens still live with this worldview. Thus, it is worth noting that the photographer emphasizes the fact of living in the past while being confident that it is the present, which characterizes the state of many Belarusians in connection with the influence of the political regime.
As a representative of the new wave of Belarusian photography, Andrei Liankevich experiments with photojournalism and multimedia. The works of the Belarusian photographer have been featured in such publications as The New York Times, Le Figaro, Russian Newsweek, Die Zeit, Ogonyok, Gazeta Wyborcza. In 2009 the Belarusian photographer was among the 10 finalists of the Magnum Expression Award.
BELARUS / Minsk / November 7, 2005 / Woman carries USSR flag on Kastrychnickaja square rally which marks the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution anniversary. This day is a state holiday in Belarus. © Andrei Liankevich / Anzenberger
BELARUS / Grodno / June 6, 2004 / Small girl with Aleksand LukashenkoÊportrait in the bag pass away theÊfountainÊnext to the local Drama Theater. © Andrei Liankevich / Anzenberger
With the outbreak of the protests, Rufina posted on Instagram the first works referring to the atmosphere of clashes between protesters and law enforcement agencies using traditional red and white embroidery. Traditionally in Belarusian culture, red is a symbol of life. The artist’s drawings portray protesters, Alexander Lukashenko in the form of a cockroach, OMON, opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and the DJs arrested for the Kino group’s song “Peremen!” for 10 days.
Rufina Bazlova partnered with the ODB design studio to release a collection of T-shirts with her works, and all proceeds from the sales will be directed to the victims of the Lukashenko’s regime.
Rufina Bazlova – Václavské náměstí, 9.08.2020
Rufina Bazlova – Get out!, 22.08.2020
In her works, Marina Naprushkina draws attention to the propaganda used by government institutions in Belarus and its impact on society. The artist is at the head of the Anti-Propaganda Office project, established in 2007, whose activity is aimed at illustrating how the state ideological apparatus manipulates society.
One of Marina Naprushkina’s works is a comic book titled “Convincing Truth”, originally created as propaganda leaflets. With the support of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Foundation, the first part of a comic was published, parodying the release of TV news. The second part was devoted to the beaten journalists, students forced to vote under blackmailing, prisoners of the KGB detention center and others who will certainly not be shown by the Belarusian national television. Marina’s main task was to illustrate the reaction to the same event on the one hand of official propaganda and on the other, of the eyewitness accounts and the independent press.
Marina Naprushkina – Self governing, December 2011
Marina Naprushkina – Self#governing, 7th Berlin Biennale, photo by Marcin Kaliński