Dialog between Generations. Belarusian Female Artists

by Maya Hristova

The exhibition features works by Oksana Veniaminova, Tatsiana Tkachova, Vasilisa Palianina, Kate Smuraga along with a curated selection from the VEHA archive of Belarusian amateur photography, founded by Lesia Pcholka.



From "WHITE DRESS" (2017) by Oksana Veniaminova, inkjet prints, 40x40cm

What causes us to think of one culture as familiar and another as exotic? Be passionate about one and put another one in a box? Looking and knowing beyond the stereotypical image of Belarus, or what mass media is presenting merely as yet another failing state on the map or Europe’s last dictatorship, feels even more pressing now that we know what the actual situation in Belarus is – mass protests and political prisoners in the hundreds, silencing of the media, beatings, kidnappings and torture of civilians.

From "VERA'S SEASONS" (2018) by Tatsiana Tkachova, inkjet prints, 240x168cm 

And while all this is happening, we again seek solace in art. It is this new generation of Belarusian artists who have gained the power to encapsulate and translate the ambivalence of historical silence into tangible works of art. For many of them, reflecting upon the past often means reimagining and rebuilding the broken dialogue with their own history, it is memory work out of utmost necessity. And it seems that recuperating and examining the missing parts of collective memory oftentimes exposes the deliberate censorship of the present. Indeed, it is in the uncertainties of interpretation and the disjuncture between past and future that hope for transformation exists.

From "THE BEST SIDE" (2018) by VEHA, inkjet prints, 127x168cm

Additionally, the processing of history through the Belarusian artist’s subjective standpoint proves invaluable because currently, the personal is political to a much higher degree in Belarus than it is elsewhere in Europe. Historical traumas, past and currently ongoing political conflict and subsequent journeys of displacement are if not directly depicted, then continuously reflected upon. Intimate connections between private and political become starting points for dealing with memory.

KVOST and EEP, two Berlin-based organizations fostering the arts in the Eastern European context, present this exhibition which houses curators Maya Hristova and Jewgeni Roppel’s research into Belarusian visual codes of remembering and structuring knowledge. Unfolding in the form of generational dialogues through the photographic medium, the presented research will hopefully result in a deeper understanding of the multidimensionality of the contemporary Belarusian photographic context through the vision of some of its main actors — female artists who in their work manage to transcend their personal experience of living through a decisive moment of their country’s history.

From "LARISA" (2018) by Vasilisa Palianina, inkjet print, 120x80cm 

A variety of approaches to contemporary photographic thinking and research blend seamlessly with classical portraiture inviting the viewer to peek behind the Western veil of silence about Belarusian visual culture and photographic tradition. For many of us, Minsk which is only about 1000km away from Berlin, as is Paris, could have been on another continent.

From "NOBODY IMPORTANT, NO ONE ELSE" (2015) by Kate Smuraga, 30x40cm 

Curated by Maya Hristova and Jewgeni Roppel


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