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Невидимая травма

Леся Пчёлка 2021–2022
  • перформанс
  • междисциплинарный проект
  • видео
Инсталляция, перформанс, видео-документация: 20'11"

Избранные серии работ

  • Леся Пчёлка авторка, авторка видео
  • Gareth Davis музыкант
  • Rohrer-Lied-Ensemble хор
  • ECLAT в рамках
  • Hospitalkirche место

This project focuses on the experiences of Belarusians who suffer from psychological violence perpetrated by the regime and law enforcement agencies. It is a collection of stories about knocks on the door, phone calls from unknown numbers, and how people in Belarus are suffering from a terrible case of post-traumatic stress disorder. As long as this trauma remains invisible and untreated, it will affect generations of Belarusians.

Since the beginning of August 2020, many world media outlets have published Belarusian citizens’ stories, raising awareness about the extreme physical violence in the country’s detention facilities. While these stories feature physical harm, including bruises and years spent in prison, they rarely acknowledge the emotional toll state violence took on its victims. Amid the horrifying details of illegal detentions, beatings, and torture, we often overlook other mundane manifestations of oppression. Permanent fear, helplessness, paranoia, lack of safety, or difficulties leaving the country are not mentioned at all, because »there are more serious problems to feature.« As a result, thousands of Belarusians are left alone with their traumas, unheard, unnoticed, and invisible.

I began collecting stories and photographing respondents immediately after the elections in Fall 2020. At that time, any critical activity towards the state was becoming increasingly dangerous. My documentary project, »Invisible Trauma,« was blocked from publication in three popular Belarusian media outlets in Fall-Winter 2020. The project was not safe for me to continue because activism and public speech were persecuted.

As reprisals grew, people started to use indirect symbols to express their protest. After the white-red-white combina was recognized as extremist by the regime, it was replaced by a white sheet of paper in the windows. Even a blank piece of paper could result in an arrest. This image shows exactly how absurd and dangerous the regime’s system is.

Because I could not work with the media using the usual documentary methods, I began to use online space, working with white paper on a glass as an image of invisibility. I created a chatbot in Telegram to anonymously collect stories and an Instagram account where stories are published that are voiced by other people.

I no longer do portraits of my subjects or meet with them in person. Instead, I create a space where they can take a photo by themselves and write their story anonymously. The faces of these people are hidden behind a mask in the form of a white sheet of paper, or through this mask, I created on Instagram. The virtual space is the only one that we have left for expressing protest.

As of today, all independent media are blocked in the country, and more than 200 non-governmental organizations are being liquidated. There is not a single independent art gallery in the country, and the activists are being persecuted. Currently, there are more than 700 political prisoners whose sentences range from 2 to 18 years. In the past year, more than 40,000 people have been imprisoned on politically motivated charges for 10 to 45 days or have been fined significantly. The law does not work in Belarus today, and there is only repression, torture in jails, and endless fear.