Antonina Slobodchikova and Mikhail Gulin, creators with an active civic position, have been working at the Japanese Palace since October 2022 as fellows of the Martin Roth Initiative (MRI) program. The Martin Roth Initiative was founded in 2018 by the Goethe Institute and the Institute for Foreign Affairs (ifa). In cooperation with artistic and cultural institutions willing to accept fellows, the program gives artists who are at risk in their homeland for political and/or social reasons, the opportunity to receive asylum for a period of twelve months and discover new directions.
"Cafe Belarus II: Kassandra Complex" includes the latest works of the artistic group 1+1=1. They tell about the resolute defense of the freedom of art, thereby directing attention to the social and political situation in today's Belarus. On the eve of the 2020 elections, Antonina Slobodchikova drew the same icon that became a ubiquitous symbol of those who challenged Lukashenka's autocracy in the presidential elections: a heart combined with a fist and a "victory" gesture.
The Cassandra complex — the psychological effect of ignoring or denying pessimistic forecasts — is for the artists at the exhibition in the Japanese Palace a key to understanding the political situation of Belarus in its geopolitical environment and the perception of the country at the international level.
Mikhail Gulin: "Since 1994, my country has been known in Europe as the last dictatorship, it is stuck in time: "no longer Soviet", but also "not yet democratic European". Thousands of political prisoners, abduction of people, strengthening of Russia's influence – and the EU and neighboring countries partly express "deep concern", and that's all. On February 24 2022, the situation changed."
The personal exhibition of Antonina Slobodchikova and Mikhail Gulin in Dresden explores the internal mechanisms of the relationship between myth and politics, which is very important precisely for authoritarian and repressive systems. What role does mythology play and how are so-called omens interpreted in favor of the authorities? And what is the importance of faith in the leader as a prophet or a hero, which is unconsciously transmitted from generation to generation? Who can be called a real hero or heroine in such conditions?
The exhibition includes about 25 works, including videos, performances, graphics and installations created after 2020, as well as new graphic and multimedia works developed especially for the exhibition at the Japan Palace.