Technique: analogue collages | 50 x 70 cm | Available for purchase

︎Masha Svyatogor began working on the series Everybody Strike! in 2020, during protests against the regime and usurpation of power in Belarus. Referring to the aesthetics of socialist realism, the work, on the one hand, reflects the dream of a general strike, stoppages at all factories and plants, a gesture of inspiration and encouragement for a common struggle. On the other hand, by using exaggerated, multiplied elements in the collage, the artist draws attention to the absurdity of the situation in which the country found itself and the fantasticality of this collectively born hope.

︎Words by Vera Zalutskaya; from the description of the work at the exhibition ODKSZTAŁCENIE / DEFORMATION / UNLEARNING curated by Vera Zalutskaya, Aleksei Borisionok and Raman Tratsiuk at Domie, Poznań, Poland / 2021


︎Curatorial text by Maya Hristova for the exhibition at KVOST / 2021

Masha Svyatogor’s eccentric and elusive visual style, coupled with her innate understanding of Belarus’ contemporary context, has taken the Minsk-based artist all over the world. Svyatogor belongs to a new generation of Belarusian photographers who have gained the power to translate the ambivalence of historical silence into tangible works of art. In her latest piece, “Everybody Strike!” (since 2020), a natural continuation of her series “Everybody Dance!” (since 2018), she uses photomontage techniques characteristic of the propaganda of the early Soviet era. This seems to be a deliberate choice designed to expose the arbitrary inventiveness behind visual representations of the workers’ revolution.

“The original pictures look very inspired and joyful; people on these portraits are full of enthusiasm and energy; they are ready for hard work and production. So, I put these groups of people and individuals in the opposite context — strike, resistance and struggle, related to the situation in Belarus after the presidential elections”. — Masha Svyatogor.

In the process of creating each piece, Masha Svyatogor carefully selects, cuts out, and arranges portraits of workers over a dominant red background. This approach to extract individuals out of a crowd and its original context further reinforces the sense of grotesque elevation and senseless euphoria written on the workers’ faces. Their individual destinies, as we know today, were bound to be forgotten. As is often in her work, the cutouts in “Everybody Strike!” serve as props, while she focuses on drawing powerful parallels to the current political situation in Belarus.

While the viewer is engulfed in her visual style’s sheer beauty and extravagance, Svyatogor highlights the impression that the image we have of the revolution is probably naive, idealised, unreal. Nevertheless, as Pierre Nora argues in his essay “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoir”, “Modern memory is archival. It relies entirely on the materiality of the trace, the immediacy of the recording, the visibility of the image.” In its process, we are not merely remembering the past but remembering memory itself. Herein lie the depth and the multidimensionality of Svyatogor’s modes of thinking and visualisation. Her practice is concerned with the redefinition of the terms in which the past is being understood today.

While the work on display is playful and seemingly naive, it is characterised by a clear degree of disillusionment with traditional modes of structuring knowledge. Even if there is a notable investment in artefacts that seem linked with private memories or mass culture as an antidote to the silences of history, Svyatogor manages to make the viewer painfully aware of how illusionary it is for a political system to claim possession over the truth.

As in the past, the tragic fate of the heroes of today remains unknown. Mass protests and political prisoners in the hundreds, silencing of the media, beatings, kidnappings and torture of civilians — this has become a reality for Belarusians today, eight months after the disputed sixth reelection of Aleksander Lukashenko, the first and only president of Belarus since the establishment of the office in 1994.