Poetic Dissident s an online video art exhibition that gives space and voice to the 4 young artists Lesya Pchelka, Uladzimir Hramovich, Vasilisa Palianina and Gleb Burnashev, to tell the world what is happening (and should not be said, under penalty of imprisonment or torture) in their country, Belarus. The exhibition, curated by the two companies active in the cultural industry Current Corporate (Treviso) and IoDeposito (Friuli-Venezia Giulia), will be available until April 30 on the websites www.currentcorporate.com and www.bsidewar.org.
There is still too little knowledge in Italy of the events that in a few days have upset the lives of many citizens in Belarus following the government elections on 9 August 2020, which for the sixth time saw the winner in the role of President Aleksandr Lukashenko, in office since 1994. The outcome, which assigned him 80% of the votes, sparked protests in the country over suspected electoral fraud and the demand for new elections.
In the following days, thousands of people took to the streets in Minsk to peacefully protest, but on a mandate from the government they were immediately stopped by the police and OMON special security units. The situation then quickly got out of hand, with the violence of the police who turned indiscriminately to women and men. Understanding what is happening in the country becomes difficult, because the internet and the telephone network have been blocked for days. Since August to today, there have been many wounded, 6 dead, about 33 thousand individuals arrested for presumed dissidents and more than 200 political prisoners.
The “agents of the riot police departments were responsible for episodes of brutal violence against the demonstrators”, reports Amnesty International. Like many compatriots, even the artists present in the exhibition have suffered mistreatment and arrests by the national police forces. One of them, Lesya Pchelka, testifies: “Uladzimir (Hramovich) and I (…) were kidnapped in the courtyard of our house. In my 6-bed cell there were 24 people, without mattresses, blankets and hygiene products. Uladzimir spent 15 days in prison. The conditions there are made unbearable on purpose. Now we are both at home, but we fell ill with Covid “
Several times in the past, these artists had worked with Current and IoDeposito on artistic and cultural joint projects. Chiara Isadora Artico, Art director of Current comments: “What is happening to our Belarusian artists, persecuted because they are considered intellectually dangerous, pains us. We are trying to understand if and how we can help them to continue the projects we had planned, also in collaboration with IoDeposito, which would have seen their presence here in the area, but the possibility of getting them out of national borders is minimal. In the meantime, we have decided to give maximum visibility to their works and their experiences with the exhibition Poetic Dissident, entirely dedicated to their video works on the theme of political repression. Faced with the abuses suffered by artists, as operators of the creative industries, we can only try to give maximum visibility to their message”.
With their video works, the artists taking part in the exhibition cross national borders (which Lukashenko has closed with the two neighboring countries, part of the European Union, Lithuania and Poland) within which their art is invisible. Poetic Dissident is therefore constituted as an urgent testimony addressed to European citizens and beyond.
Among the works in the exhibition it will also be visible “SCRATCHES by Lesya Pchelka and Uladzimir Hramovich, with a clear political meaning: two hands erase the gold elements from the Belarusian identity document, thus making it an anonymous notebook and symbolically releasing the owner from belonging to a state that does not represent him/her. This is the video that most likely earned the two artists imprisonment.
Lesya Pchelka, Women’s peaceful actions against police violence. Minsk, August 12th, 2020
Lesya Pchelka and Uladzimir Hramovic, Scratches, 2021 (video frame)
Gleb Burnashev, My state, 2021 (video frame)
Cover image: Gleb Burnashev, We make a human out of you, 2020, Ph. Peter Dainovski
Historian of contemporary art, she lives and works in Venice. Contributor for sector magazines, press officer and content creator, she is also involved in the organization and communication of a project of artist residences in Piedmont (Italy).