Exercise books

Exercise books, 2020

The artist writes the slogans (join!, strike, solidarity is our weapon, retirees for change) of the anti-government protests in Belarus in 2020 in the exercise books. In doing so, she points out that even if the educational institutions that follow the central narratives of the authoritarian system cannot erase the events from the collective memory.
The text is drawn in the form of a cross stitch with a red marker. Embroidery is associated with anonymous women’s work, an artistic activity, a knowledge which was passed on from mother to daughter. The Belarusian poet Valzhyna Mort is writing about this praxis: “… Embroidered with red thread on white linen, the repeating pattern of Belarusian embroidery is a refrain, a song …”

The artist brings the revolutionary slogans together with the archive images of the factory buildings. The images come from the family archive of the artist and are architecture drafts and photos of the industrial buildings of the artist’s grandfather Ivan Bovt, who as an architect was involved in modern factory planning. Many of the factories are still functioning today, where in summer of 2020 the workers called for a general strike.

“… If weaving holds the potential for resistance, as the experience of ancient weavers shows, does this mean that the song of war and violence can be transformed into something else? Something that does not fit into the violence/resistance dichotomy? Into something that can offer a multiplicity of permeable options? These questions weave hope.”
From the novel Wound, by Oksana Vasyakina

Exhibition view: A Secret Museum of the Workers Movement, kunstverein hoast, Vienna.
Photography: Wolfgang Obermair