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National inferiority complex and the problem of a young artist

Author: Julia Fedotova.

Funny people – those Belarusians. At the same time they can be proud of their modesty, shyness and even timidity and mock at these qualities. In any case they forget that there are much more another national streaks. The modesty and shyness have been treated as the main Belarusian features even since Soviet time. During post-Soviet period this phenomenon was studied for many times. Even the generation not treating Belarusian accent as a shameful sign of backwardness and provincialism is seamed to appear... But, trust me as the lecture of art collage that a teacher everyday struggles against prejudice that "we all are miserable, backward and there has never been anything interesting in Belarusian art and will never be!". It would be worth laughing at, but this ridiculous complex can turn into a serious problem when it is time for a young artist to show his work of art and to join the general cultural process.

Variant one: a person has the sense of inferiority not as an artist but as a Belarusian person. Young and talented artist dash aside hearing the words "an international contest, an international project, the exhibition abroad". There is just moaning "Does anyone in Germany (Britain, France, etc.) may be interested with our local, traditional...". And they retreat, go into their shells. Or worse – they start copying the European art and destroy own traditions. The result is regrettable - borrowed ideas and images. The work of art is uninteresting.

Variant Two: On the contrary – the inferiority complex turns into superiority complex. Quote: "Look in Internet - in Germany (Britain, France, etc.) they can’t paint at all!". And it is fallowed with a discourse and at the end: “The Decline of the West”. Such artists demonstratively refuse to recognize the art abroad. As the result – at exhibitions of such artists are overbearing and contemptuous. When unaccepted such people grumble over impossibility of other people to understand their “real art” but never over their faults.

It seems ridiculous but the problem is very serious for artistic youth of Belarus. But fortunately there is the third part of artists – free of inferiority (as well as of superiority). Such people respect the traditions and participate the international projects of contemporary art. They don’t reject the contemporary ideas but try to combine them with the own vision of the world. And as a rule the works of art by such people are rather interesting.


The features of cultural integration. (relative opinion).

Informally we can discuss the problems of young artists without end. Mature and famous artists start to smile wisely and dreamy, they give a deep sigh: "Youth, youth ... This is the time...". And they immediately narrate about insidious traps, artist-rivals and dragon-conservatives that won’t see a grain of truth in younger artists. And we hear epics tells about “noble knight” that wins dragon, avoids traps and gets free to speak what he wants.

This story is completely different when the speaker is among young artists. There are no funny or epic stories but there is a lot of information about real problems. Talking about a concrete country – Belarus – the list of main problems of a young artist is:

  • 1 - Features of the education system.
  • 2 - Features of the existing social system of artistic life.
  • 3 – Features of art presentation (galleries, exhibitions, and general opportunity to meet audience).
  • 4 - Features of information space.

Not trying to cover all the aspects of the problem, nevertheless, we can focus on every of them.

At first we will point out the features of our art education system. In Belarus there are three main levels. In art schools children get interested in art. In art colleges they get basic knowledge of classical art. And in higher education institutions students get the opportunity to experiment and make own solutions. The main of these institutions is Belarusian State Academy of Fine Arts. The principle point of our education system is the existence of classical school.

It becomes a problem for young artists. They got the idea that it is impossible to create anything interesting without knowing main European trends. They waste time trying to understand European traditions instead of making own experiments.

We should mention the difference of teaching methods (for example in Belarus and in Germany). In Belarus students get individual tasks and work in the same studio searching the ideas of classmates. In Germany (according to limited information of the article's author) group of students work at the same project. Each method has its pro and contra. Belarusians are not experienced in the competition of ideas (what for if a project is created by one person?!), and the Germans are not so focused on the individual approach (the individual mistakes will be corrected by the team!). Of course, the education that can adopt the best features of these systems is worth dreaming but not in this article.

Now we can talk about the features of existing art life. At Soviet period the Union of Artists appeared. Of course, the organization had the patronage of the state, but having many shortcomings it in certain degree helped a young person to enter the art circle. After Soviet period the Union of artists survived but lost the great deal of its significance. Unfortunately, the average age of the members of the Union now is 68-70 years (statistic is cruel!). Being high and mighty these artists are not so interested in young artists with their problems. Of course, every member of the Union will help his/her children, grandchildren, friends of children and grandchildren or his/her students to do the first steps to art society. But for people from outside of the circle – “Oh, beg you a pardon, I’m too old for such things…” And the organization that can replace the Union didn’t appear in Belarus till nowadays. Why – it is also a subject for another study.

Now we should mention what difficulties a young Belarusian artist meets. In Belarus the most of art galleries are state ones. And the curators of the galleries don’t like shocking experiments and risky provocations. There is a chance to be misunderstood by the public (and by authorities!). Therefore, the curators prefer to work with mature artists. In such case any shocking behavior is justified with the famous name. So what can an artist whose creativity based on post-modern interpretation of classics and shocking people do? Well, once again, the part of non-state galleries in Belarus is negligibly small. There is just one escape – virtual reality. But even Internet can’t solve all problems!

So, the point four. Internet in Belarus – is the same as anywhere. Search and enjoy anything you like. But the problem of young Belarusian artists – they don’t know what to search. In many provincial towns of our country people are not familiar with Internet. To find the necessary information we must know what to search. And here the problem of press should be revealed. Most of daily and weekly Belarusian editions practically ignore questions of art. In our press one can hardly find the information (especially competent one) about exhibitions, presentations or art actions. There are just two art editions - magazine "Mastactva” (Art*) and newspaper "Kultura” (Culture*). But these periodicals are focused on Belarusian artistic life and practically don’t cover the international events. And there is nothing to say about Internet resources. So the Internet exists - but it has no sense. People ordinary don’t know what to search... As in a fairy-tale "to go on a wild-goose chase…"

Thus, young Belarusian artists are “between Scylla and Charybdis”. The education system didn’t train them for intensive and free competition of ideas and creativity; there is no organization that can help them to start; it is hard to find a gallery that can risk presenting an unknown artist; they have to search for the necessary information “to the touch”! It's amazing - how did so many interesting young artists manage to appear in Belarus?

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