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  • 21.05.2022 - 30.06.2022
  • Exhibition - Contemporary Art

Viktoryia Bahdanovich

The Belarusian artist Viktoryia Bahdanovich was imprisoned for participating in a demonstration. Her work, in the field of visual arts, speaks of this reality and more broadly of freedom of expression, which she also questions through an examination of art history. She will be in residence in Neimënster to continue her research within the framework of the Odyssey program supported by the Association des Centres Culturels de Rencontre.

“During my 14 days stay in a Belarusian prison, I was faced once again with the hardships of living under my country’s dictatorship. The intense time spent in prison and witnessing the thousands of innocent people jailed made me question the importance of associating intimacy and aesthetics. My concerns about the lived injustices in Belarus made me also question the commonalities as well as the differences between intimacy and censorship. The overall issue of intimacy is interesting to reflect on when faced with the reality of detention where many people are confined in very small spaces.

During this residency, I will be basing myself on my prison diary and sketches to create around 5 groups of installations. These installations reflect the circumstance of 16 girls living together in one prison cell. They will consist of, for example, the imitation of a wall above the sink with drops leaking from it. Based on my memory of my detention, when I went to wash my face, I would see drops of condensate on the glossy walls. I learned that the glossiness originated from the lack of ventilation and the covid-infected breathing of the 16 girls present. Another installation is an abstract and menacing sculpture with menacing beams coming out of it, reminiscent of a three-tiered chilly skeleton of a bed where lacy undergarments were dried on. We even hid letters in this kind of “envelope”-gasket. The orange color against a taupe-colored table was the only visible source of color in the room I was detained. Without these little glimpses of aesthetic and the, according to me, extreme shared intimacy of a room full of women sharing their daily experiences in this small, enclosed space. The intimacy was so deep that we would even make jokes while we were peeing (the “toilet” is only a hole in the floor, surrounded by one short wall). There was no privacy in our shared space which forced us to strengthen the bonds between us. Without these intimate relationships, we wouldn’t have been able to survive.

This project seemed like the perfect opportunity to share the reality of the Belarusian aesthetic. Instead of the distinctive national features and symbols, I want to share the perspective of the roughly damaged roads and tunnels filled with bloodied icons of the president and abnormally skinny girls in national attires. In these circumstances, there is no approachable aesthetic or level of sophistication. In the beginning, citizens did understand the importance of art and creative expression in everyday life, they responded peacefully, to the best of their abilities, to the terrible violence of the authorities. Now, they need to acknowledge that the art created by this dictatorship is not true and pure Belarusian art. Indeed, true political artists have left the country so that they can survive, but it has also taken away people’s incentive to protest. This is also the case because I am pushed into a corner where my art must be political or else, I miss out on opportunities to participate in competitions and residencies which fully support my livelihood.”