Left: Marina Naprushkina, The Convincing Victory: Two Stories on What Really Happened (detail), 2011, graphic novel and newspaper. Right: View of “Opening the Door? Belarusian Art Today,” 2011. (Photo: Contemporary Art Center, Vilnius)


Marina Naprushkina is a Belarusian artist based in Berlin. Her work is included in “Opening the Door? Belarusian Art Today” at the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw. The exhibition, which is on view until August 21, is curated by Kęstutis Kuizinas. It was recently shown at Contemporary Art Center, Vilnius.

THE PREMISE of “Opening the Door?” is to bring Belarusian artists and theoreticians together, to unite the isolated and disconnected Belarusian art scene. But it also fulfills another goal: to allow artists to work without censorship (and self-censorship as well). After the presidential election last December, and after a peaceful demonstration against the election was met with brutality by the police, Belarus is once again standing in the spotlight.

We all were shocked after election night; no one could imagine that such terror and ongoing repression by the government could be possible in Europe today. In reaction to these events, I created a graphic novel in the form of a newspaper, titled The Convincing Victory: Two Stories on What Really Happened. The novel shows the elections and, in particular, what happened the day and night of December 19, during the demonstration and riots. The novel presents two views: One relates how the events are interpreted by the state regime and currently widely publicized by state-run newspapers and television. The other presents information assembled from independent media, which for the most part exists only on the Internet. The newspaper appeared in English and Russian; activists in Belarus distributed twenty thousand of the Russian-language copies. It was important to bring the newspapers, not only to the opposition but also to people who do not read free news and blogs on Internet and are only watching Belarusian television.

My project is not directed at the dismantling of one dictator in a given country. Rather, I think it is necessary to ask why despotic regimes emerge and what are the particular conditions in society that maintain them. It is impossible to speak about the current political situation in Belarus as isolated from a larger European context or as disconnected from the other countries in distress around the world right now.

— As told to Zachary Cahill