Ethical Passivity

Alina Savchenko abd Ruslan Vashkevich, Pavilion, 2018

The East, seen through the westernized, colonial perspective is often associated with passivity and its people are identified as peacefully selfless, which is also the reason for their submissiveness to the determined western ideology and any other global or local regimes. This very objectifying notion is widely spread, particularly when describing the borderlands and has for ages served regimes both in the East and West in their struggle to gain influence over countries in Eastern Europe, which usually silenced its specific localness and transit character.

Zofia nierodzińska: Personally, I would like to recognize in this  — even if imposed  —  eastern passivity a possibility of agency, seeing it as an ethical choice, as a withdrawal from violence, capitalism, and generally speaking — patriarchal and anthropocentric attitude, as a sign of resistance.

Aliaxey Talstou: This choice, as you call it, at least in Belarus, may be seen as a consequence of the centuries of wars as well as imperialism of the neighboring countries – Poland and Russia. Such historical conditions – as I see it – created a hybrid, fluid type of identity, in general indifferent to the concepts of ethnic nationalism and national unity, skeptical and rooted in the land, still tied with local tradition but not interested in any political abstractions that aren’t related to daily life.

Zn: Exactly, and this conscious localness could be an alternative to the western paradigm of exploitation, accumulation and domination.

AT: I guess I used to see such relations more as violence and trauma. The latter one brings numbness and acquired inability. Overcoming this sick logic of expansion and domination is only possible after letting go the desire of defining the others. Until then, any insight into their experience is impossible to obtain.

In the third issue of the RTV Magazine we focus on the contemporary art scene in Belarus and Belarusian artists who live abroad. We are going to be guided by the co-editor of this issue: Aliaxey Talstou to Berlin to assemble DIY utopias with Marina Naprushkina at Neue Nachbarschaft // Moabit, to time travel via art in Vienna (interview with Aleksei Borisionok) and back to Minsk in order to look at the hands of the Gazprom art dealers (Vera Kavaleuskaya).

The co-editor of this issue, Aliaxey Talstou — artist, curator and activist, former coordinator of cultural projects of the human rights organization Human Constanta — shares his experience as art practitioner and gives us an insight into his diverse, cross-disciplinary and committed practice in the essay „Ingredients of an Instant Soup”.

In the report from the Neue Nachbarchaft // Moabit — the initiative started in Berlin by Belarusian artist and activist Marina Naprushkina — he describes the functioning of this outstanding grassroots initiative, the main goal of which is to create places where people can meet each other, where they can make social interactions and unite as a community. It is an educational project and a social as well as cultural center for the international neighborhood. As the members of NN states on their website: ‘We do not just campaign for those who have fled, we campaign with those who have fled’

You will find more on the topic of practical ways of community building in the text „Utopia and its makers” by Aliaxey Talstou and in the interview with Marina Naprushkina „To create new structures”. In the latter Marina shares the defining moments in her artistic life, such as participation in the 7th Berlin Biennale and experience with self-publishing, which brought her to the point where she started to use art as a tool of social change.

The post-soviet imaginary and the notion of time in “contemporary” art are the topics of the interview with Aleksei Borisionok — Belarusian researcher and independent curator based in Vienna. He analyzes the politics of memory through posing a question on what and how we remember. The historical turn in works of young Belarusian artists, the researcher understands as a reaction to the a-historical focus on the temporary seen in Lukashenko’s ideology of the state and cultural politics, as a desire to move the things forward, even if at first one has to take a few steps back. He states: The struggle with the past is a struggle for future as well. He proposes to change the term post-soviet into the time of interrupted socialism after Yevgeniy Fiks, in order to find new ways of acting, expressing, demanding and living, which would differ from those imposed on Eastern Europe after the transformation period.

In her text Rich, Intelligent and Well Developed: on Art, Gas Pipe and a Nonlocal Bank Vera Kavaleuskaya analyses a significant part of young Belarusian art scene with its Autumn Salons and international theatre affairs, as a product of Gazprom cultural managers, who shape the national culture to fit the rubrics of their business plans. The subversive approaches are not envisioned, the crucial localness is moved out of sight. In the newly renovated exhibition palaces, ex-soviet buildings, one painting of Marc Chagall costs more than the threefold of the yearly Belarusian budget for art, culture, and cinematography all together. As the author states: Gazprom as a parental organization indirectly acts to gain symbolic control over Belarusian art history up to a thousand years back; it manipulates the urban landscape in the present and builds the future of the creative economy.

This issue of the RTV Magazine ends with the interview with Monika Szewczyk — the director of the Arsenal Gallery in Bialystok, who shares her experiences with leading the contemporary art gallery in times of political crisis. She states: Even if we are aware that we have learned a lot, first and foremost, we already know that we are at war.

We wish you an exciting reading.

Zofia and Aliaxey


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