Über COURAGE und zeitgenössische WYSCHYWANKA-Kunst

Von 13.-17. September findet das Politfilmfestival statt. Wir waren am Montag bei der Auftaktveranstaltung im Leokino-Cinematograph dabei, haben uns den Dokumentarfilm COURAGE von Aliaksei Paluyan (DE/BLR, 2021, 90min) über die Proteste in Belarus angesehen und dabei erfahren, welche Chancen künstlerischer Aktivismus in Hinblick auf politische Umbrüche birgt.

Das Innsbrucker Politfilmfestival unter der Leitung von Bettina Lutz und Daniel Dlouhy steht dieses Jahr unter dem Motto „Macht und Betrug“. Ins Programm geschafft haben es vier Dokumentarfilme mit ganz unterschiedlichen Themen – von den Protesten gegen das totalitäre Regime in Belarus, hin zur Vergangenheitsbewältigung von Gräueltaten in der ehemaligen chilenischen Colonia Dignidad. Was die Filme miteinander verbindet ist die Tatsache, dass sie komplexe politische Themen behandeln, die sich nicht vereinfacht darstellen lassen – Themen zu diesen wir auch in den Medien meist nur oberflächliche Informationen beziehen.

Den Festivalbetreiber:innen ist es ein Anliegen, mit ihrem Format nicht nur politische Themen anzusprechen, sondern diese auch zugänglicher zu machen und dabei gleichzeitig deren Vielschichtigkeit und Komplexität zu vermitteln. Vor allem geschieht dies durch die anschließenden Diskussionen, die nicht nur inhaltlich an die Filme anknüpfen, sondern den Blick auch für zusätzliche Aspekte hinter den Thematiken schärfen. Die Diskussionen beim Politfilmfestival scheinen dabei einen ebenso hohen Stellenwert einzunehmen, wie die Filme selber – es finden Diskurse über das Gesehene statt, wofür heutzutage in Anbetracht der Schnelllebigkeit und des raschen Konsums oft keine Zeit mehr bleibt. Es wird ein Raum eröffnet, der es erlaubt, auch einmal „blöde“ Fragen zu stellen und sich eine eigene Meinung abseits des Mainstreams zu bilden.

Filmausschnitt, COURAGE (Aliaksei Paluyan, 2021, 90min)

So auch im Falle des Themenschwerpunkts Belarus, zu diesem wir nun zwar alle die medial präsenten Bilder von den Protesten in den Köpfen haben, während uns aber der Bezug zur Kultur, zur Geschichte und zu den Menschen, die dort leben, völlig fehlt. Umso bedeutsamer ist es, dass im Rahmen des Politfilmfestivals zwei mutige Frauen aus Belarus zur Diskussion geladen wurden: Alexandra Logvinova (Head of Public Outreach im Büro von Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya) und Rufina Bazlova (Illustratorin und Künstlerin). Im Gespräch, moderiert von Fabian Sommavilla (Geopolitik-Experte und Journalist bei DerStandard), ging es hauptsächlich um die Rolle des künstlerischen Aktivismus als Form von gewaltfreiem Widerstand, die auch im Film COURAGE stark zum Ausdruck kommt.

Diskussion mit Fabian Sommavilla, Alexandra Logvinova und Rufina Bazlova | Bild: Alena Klinger

Wir haben anknüpfend daran noch weitere Fragen an Rufina Bazlova gestellt. Für ihr Projekt eignete sie sich die traditionelle Sticktechnik Wyschywanka an, mithilfe dieser sie nun ihre politischen Botschaften künstlerisch an die Öffentlichkeit bringt.


Im Gespräch mit Rufina Bazlova

Dear Rufina, in your art series The History of Belarusian Vyzhyvanka you are using a traditional crafts technique for creating contemporary art. How did you come up with this idea and what is the meaning behind bringing this old tradition back to the present time?

For many years in the past, probably even until the 40ies of the 20th century, women in Belarus couldn’t read nor write, so they used this form of embroidery to depict situations of their lives and communicate them through their craft to the world. They used old symbols based on geometrical shapes which all have a different meaning. For them the embroidery functioned as language, a text that could be read. Traditionally these embroideries were often placed on clothes, they have some sort of holy meaning which should protect the person, who is wearing them, from the evil.  

I’m using this metaphor in my art embroidery in a sense that it should protect the people from Belarus. Also I’m using it as a tool to communicate the modern history of our country through the language of ornaments. However, the difference is that I don’t use the traditional symbols, because if you want to understand the message you would have to learn the meaning of the symbols. That’s why I create pictograms that are understandable internationally and from the first view.

rufinabazlova Artyom Parukov, 2020

On August 17, 2020, died a nineteen-year-old Artyom Parukov. According to the police, when Artyom was crossing the road during a protest he was hit by a Renault and died on the spot. However, the incident took place at 3.20 am, when there was no longer any protest. The relatives of the deceased do not believe in the version of the death, which was presented by the police. They think he didn’t take part in the protest, but probably he was followed by somebody for an accident. That’s why he ran across the road. It is not known if the driver was punished or not. / Everlasting memory to the Heroes of Change.

The scenes you are showing on your embroidered pieces of art can be seen as a form of documentation of what’s happening at the protests in Belarus. How does your way of presentation differ from the explicit photographic images of violence and brutality that we consume on a daily basis in the media?

I have some followers on social media who are writing me messages like “thank you for this style”, because they don’t like to see all this violence in the news. Through the embroidered pictures they can learn something about the current political situation in Belarus without being exposed to brutality.

Also many of my followers are people (mostly women) who love crafts – and first they think “Oh, that’s a nice craft”, but when they go deeper, they see the political topic behind and understand it, because I think my pictures are clear to understand. In this way, art has a strong power to bring information to a circle of people who is usually not interested in politics.

In the discussion at Politfilmfestival you mentioned that you actually had also been an a-political person before the protests in Belarus were happening. What has changed for you personally and why did you see the need to start doing political art?

Yes, in fact I only started with doing political art last year. I’ve been living and studying in Czech Republic already for 13 years and I’ve already given up my hope of going back to Belarus long time ago. However, when I heard about the protests and the big movement that was going on in my home country, I was so proud of all these people that I decided to support them. Also it was the first time that I realised that there is actuallya chance for serious change which also means that I might have a future in Belarus someday.

How do you consider the situation for political artists in Belarus at the moment – are there still any living and working there or did they all have to leave the country in the meantime?

I think it is almost impossible to do political art in Belarus right now. It has already been hard to do political art in the past, because political artists were followed by the government and as the film COURAGE shows, you would have ended up on the black list, so this kind of art had to be underground already before. During the last year, however, many artists started doing political art in the public in order to raise their voices, but most of those artists are either now in jail or in exile.

You also mentioned a participatory art project of yours which will start soon. Can you tell us more about it?

The plan is to do embroidered portraits of every person who is claimed a political prisoner in Belarus by Human Right Center Viasna. At the moment they count 671 prisoners, so it will be a lot of work. We want to send the pictures of the prisoners and the neccessary material to everyone who is willing to help us doing an embroidery.

Also we will send to the participants contact-information of the prisoner whose portrait they are working on, so people can also get in touch with this person. It’s very important for the prisoners to know that people from outside still care about them and that they are not forgotten, as they are told by the police officers that nobody is waiting for them anymore. And often when people write them letters, they get stuck in the system and never arrive. But we still want to ask people to write to them, because it’s important to show the system how many we are. We still care and we won’t give up.

By engaging people from all over the world, I also want to spread knowledge of what’s going on and at the same time it’s a nice idea that all engaged people are literally touching Belarusian traditional culture – I’m somehow transforming our national embroidery into international embroidery.

Whoever is interested in taking part in the project can already sign up via Instagram (@rufinabazlova) or via Mail (rufinartist@gmail.com).


Zurück zum Festival

Gegen Ende der Diskussion betonte Alexandra Logvinova noch einmal die Wichtigkeit dieser Veranstaltung und wandte sich dabei auch an das saalfüllende Publikum im Leokino: „Thank you very much for showing up. This is my first time in Innsbruck and honestly, having such a surrounding, I’m not sure if I would devote my free evening to such a topic. It helps us a lot to see that people actually care and want to know what’s going on in Belarus“. Und tatsächlich ist der große Andrang beim Politfilmfestival auch ein Zeichen dafür, dass sich viele (und vor allem viele junge) Menschen für politische Geschehnisse in der Welt interessieren und gerne auch ihre Freizeit der Diskussion dieser Themen widmen. Ein Angebot, das es noch öfter geben könnte.

Heute und morgen Abend gibt es übrigens noch die Möglichkeit, sich den Film WAS LEBST DU? von Bettina Braun (E, 2004, 84min) anzusehen. Ausnahmsweise aber nicht im Leokino, sondern heute in Hall und morgen in Telfs – um einen Diskurs auch außerhalb Innsbrucks stattfinden zu lassen. Wir freuen uns jedenfalls schon auf den Abstecher in die Telfer Riddim-Bar, wo das diesjährige Politfilmfestival zu Ende geht.

| Brigit Egger

www.politfilmfestival.at

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