By Victor Petrov  

/curator of Navinki99-2001 performance festival/

What is a body of art? Where does it come from, and whom does it exist for? Why? Questions without answers. An ever-open topic existing independently, at the civilisation sideroad, beyond the desire of sacrifice and infinite sacrificing that turns everything into dust. The question of art is left outside the universal catching and capturing; it remains in the sphere denoted as Spirit, as Life without Sense. As Time approaching and ever gliding away from us. A desire to stop the time, be protected, do good and influence the outer world - all this remains senseless until we cross the border of conventions and fly into an unplumaged world of our Existence and the real "I" which lives its life in the space we call art. The performance art is for today the only open and live nerve of this existence able to create fields and space for the interaction of thoughts, feelings and experiences based on the personality of its author, who is not limited by the constraints of other genres and alien energies and through the process of performing can retransmit ideas and experiences in their purest form, for he is letting them flow through himself right at the face-to-face moment of acting. The performer himself is merging into the process, which is not realised completely. The reflections can be different: hard, tender, logical, irrational. The performer can merge with you into one body, one spirit or fly away from you for millions of years. Behind the wall of silence and emptiness. Dynamics and statics, word or gestures, talk or quiet, sound of silence are the categories of the performance translated into "the given", into existence in a certain moment. This is a living reality, the foundation of the performance art not changed by the combining, cutting out, assembling in the mass communication systems, not rehearsed by a director in the images of foreign characters. There is neither good nor bad acting in a performance, it never admits any banality. A performer leads us into a totally different dimension of the reality !
that has nothing in common with the traditional understanding of art. We don't come into performance halls to achieve aesthetic satisfaction, relax and enjoy the form, colour or proportions. We may not completely understand the meaning of the author's concept regardless of the openness of a performance. It is the performer who helps us penetrate into the process of cognition, feeling or ascension. Together we experience the Existence included in the author's idea, not knowing throughout the performance the limits of the action because they are individual. This is the fundamental, the deeper sense of the action. We are either in the centre or at the side or within the limits of the "essence" created by and given out by the performer. He restores the essential but intangible meanings not equal to some material mass, they are not to be purchased or hidden, displayed or hung on the wall of our bedroom. They are higher in rank, they exist in time, in fact, within a short period time, which implies their connection to the Infinity, and they are part of this Infinity, of the infinite stream of time with neither beginning nor limits. The database of this action lies in the in the noosphere, in the memory that fixes this imperceptible mysterious process and its preserving depends only on its properties or certain qualities of our memory. The powers of our psychics, the powers of the performance making their choice are able in their best manifestations to elevate human spirit to suffering, catharsis, perception of death, fascination. These speculations are neither for a text nor for a book. They may seem trivial, for not every performer implies all these lofty ideas in his actions, not everyone "sees" what another does. Everyone protects the limits of what his essence and understanding suggests, rejects or admits. We initiate this living process to find creation in it, the understanding of those who understand. We work for those who would go with us, regardless of the stuffed with residues visual pop civilisation with its so-called culture.

We go with those who understands the sense of art, not with bosses, the greedy but with simple people who realise the sense of freedom and its limits and are planning their lives so that they would remain within the limits of personal choice, not admitting cheap enjoyment, kitsch and everything that is destructive and intrusive. We are able to protect ourselves from these masses of pseudo-relaxation, temptation, expert views and other nonsense to keep our individuality and go on doing what we should do. We need energy that already exists. It is taken from a source, which is nothing but our creative existence. Thanks God, the performance art is intangible, subtle, impossible to sell, to be used for ideological purposes which lead to a castrated art, to the culture deprived of energy and based on indexes or price tags of art dealers. A performance is impossible to cease, performers appear in art at breakpoints as psychiatrists, healers of art. Their power lies in their activities. That is why the majority of the so-called "bought", "cold" artists who are similar in their venality say that the performance art is not topical, not up-to- date today. Regardless of their own success in life they care about castration of art. An atmosphere of boredom, absences of energies and drowsiness have become typical for exhibitions where interest is supported at the openings with the help of alcohol and awards. Later - apathy, self-censorship with caution, control for the names. I would not like to simplify, because any art has unique values. It is only desirable for any art to be a creative act, to have live energy and independence. As the history of human civilisation shows, it is art that causes a need for thinking, feeling, changing oneself. A few questions arise: what art to see, who works in it, what it presents. The performance art can also be artificial and destructive because of occasional shallow and narcissistic people. A show with no energy, with a well-rehearsed beginning and final the sense of which is understood and hence dead.

  A real performer is a flow of energy, someone who fascinates and captivates. A spectator gets what the performer gives to him. The task of a performer is to give that sort of experience to those who understand and want to obtain the knowledge, not to sink in the shallow mass media or be deceived by a venal art. Now I would like to outline the life context in Belarus and indicate some characteristic features of this territory, its energy and its niche in the dimension of art. Defining Belarus's today niche in art one should take into account the factor of the inner situation in the country. Namely, the contrastive division of art into black-and-white, own and foreign, official, ideological, commercial and the underground art, i.e. art with a European orientation. The process stopped in the 20-ies continues. The Bolshevist-asian decoration of buildings still exists though it has already degraded to a salon level. The energies of the Rzech Pospolita were ruined, the energies of the art of the 20-ies are also dead. Under total destruction, art on this territory has to experience over the last decade, burning its own existence, the things already presented in the European process. Just a few people formed the unvenal part of culture - the core for a free art process in the late 80-ies. However, with the return of the Bolshevist dictatorship this territory has been expelled from the world's art process. A new wave of young artists living in this country cannot find enough strength to work in art with neither material nor spiritual support from the state. This part of culture is ruined, thrown on the periphery, its representatives end up with life or have to struggle for it in unbearable conditions. This is the reality. I would like to stress this fact, because many participants of the festival may not have noticed all this during their short stay in this country and seeing numerous amicable european-looking public. Nevertheless, I would like to say again: this is neither Lithuania nor the Ukraine, this is Belarus - the country expelled from European cultural context. The country that has become the inner Mongolia in Europe. Nevertheless, the first International Festival of Performances "Navinki-99" did happen. Regardless of the disappearance of the invitation letters or the try to close the festival on the second day. So at the end of the century Belarus has entered into the world art process, and the spectators for the first time could get acquainted with the performance art and its best representatives from different European countries.
 September 1999

INTRODUCTION by Viktor Petrov, October 2000.
An artistic text is a sort of free interpretation of events, in the same way that any texts and photographs after a festival are already somewhat different, either secondary art or perhaps not art at all. Does the very act of recording events in order to reflect them become myth-making about things past which can never return? It becomes history, but if one takes "history" to be the things happening to us at this moment, then this is the creation of something absolutely novel with the status of self-reflection.

Performance is art which lies within a process, but one can assume that this process extends throughout the whole of our conscious existence, irrespective of the circumstances. Performers live out their entire lives in an eternal creative process which is invisible to the uninitiated. Their emotions belong to and emerge from this creative process. This means that the time performers possess will continue for longer than the actual performance. Consequently, by transferring several events into the text, I continue to relive the performance, and am back inside the process. Anyone who reads a text related to the events is unwittingly drawn into that creative process, thus proving that it does exist and is necessary. Of course, a free interpretation only expresses the author's point of view of events once they have been witnessed. However, nothing is wrong if you have a diametrically opposite opinion, because processes arise from these contradictions. One cannot agree with everything.

Being an event, a performance implies activity from both sides, so those who attend are its co-participants. It is a system which seeks, disintegrates and regenerates itself, whilst repelling any foreign bodies. The people who come to the event for narcissistic reasons and use it purely to reconfirm their own ambitions begin to realise that the performance is not for them. Those who go to the festival (they could theoretically be termed an audience) are mostly people on a quest to find their place in the world, people who have lived through turbulence in their personal and creative lives, those who seek to develop spiritually, or people who are demanding and do not require idle entertainment. Therefore, many people who couldn't make it to the festival for whatever reason will also be, more or less, participants and an "audience".

In fact, a festival's audience is much wider than any participant or spectator present at the actual event. A festival is passed on orally from person to person, thus changing our lives and visions of life. We discover ourselves through the new people and performers we see, share their experience of culture, views on life, and their attitudes to the world and its ways. A festival does not lead to silence, it is imprinted into people’s souls and alters their opinions about our lives. It often provokes negative reactions from the press, which is generally incapable of understanding anything or grasping any of the processes taking place in modern art. As a result, it seizes hold of itself, so revealing its true face of total incompetence and aggression.

Incidentally, none of the journalists covering the event attempted to talk openly with the performers. I don't think any of them even went to the performances, hence their articles with headlines like "Festival of Outrage", "Scary And Fun At The Same Time", etc. In the main, this stems from their elementary disrespect for human individuality, plus a desire to make a name for themselves at someone else's expense. I think similar things happen everywhere, not just in Belarus. Unfortunately, all this is far removed from the real events of the performance itself because real art, like text, is not just empty decoration, but mutual work and dialogue which gives birth to new ideas. It is alive with thoughts and energy, and stimulates action and creativity.

English translation:
Mark Bence

Victor Petrov @ : vitam@messagez.com