The latest state of the Belarusian culture, cut into motley pieces, is interesting primarily because of the absence of obvious events and indisputable victories. The main thing here is determined not through artistic search, but through people's situations. The texts work as an addition to the authors' destinies, personal style looks like a device for voicing the empty space of life. There is a feeling of final exhaustion of the plot of the "unfinished revolution" and, accordingly, the need to change the scenery.
The former division into our own and strangers does not determine anything today, because there are no longer any former our own, nor yesterday's strangers. However, for different reasons. Because strangers have finally "zeroed out" and gone into noisy broadcasting to a forcibly friendly audience.
On the other side, you can't see hits and bestsellers: state film planning works carefully, with an eye on Moscow partners, and fine art practises agricultural trash. The theatre, losing its "disloyal" creative staff, is becoming increasingly dependent on its eastern neighbour for aesthetic and financial reasons. The loyal segment of Belarusian culture is irrevocably leaning towards the hopelessly secondary and ideologically helpless style of the frail Russian province. Permanent extermination of informality and dissent turns cultural institutions into bureaucratic branches of power structures. And it deprives most budget cultural events of even residual significance.
The state cult works in sync with the government: it does not create meanings, but keeps a place. Fills the space. Indicates a phantom presence.
As for their own, the situation is more complicated. After all, both the artistic environment and the circle of its (already sparse) loyal audience turned out to be cut down. The new dimensions of Belarusianness (both in the internal and in the migrant format) do not fit into the artistic vocabulary of the previous era. Their own are scattered in prisons and exiles. The rest learn how to practise invisible partisanship.
Being public in the country is dangerous. Abroad it is worrying. One and the other are mainly inertial movements.
Recovery is progressing hard. That's why we live intermittently. That is why there are few premieres. That's why concerts are mostly not new things, but old reputations. Therefore, exhibitions quickly live in museums and chronically fall short of the event. Therefore, in the next cultural review, there's a temptation to leave a blank page instead of the text. With all due respect to those present and absent.
You calculate your own in the darkness of our invisibility. Looking through the general uncertainty. And you find them as an unexpected bonus to your delicate absence.
Two strategies of independent cultural construction are being developed in parallel: system design and destruction of regulations. The first invents a matrix, the second breeds chaos. The first lives in the dictionary, the second offers the unspeakable. The problem is that these strategies don't know what to do with each other and don't add up to a common process.
Thus, another gap appears in the Belarusian cultural field: `in addition to the division first into pro-government and independent, and then into those who left and those who stayed, there is a split into the cultural bureaucracy and cultural activists. And accordingly, new forms of competitive interaction are coming already in the most marked circles: the struggle for the distribution of resources between different clans of the cultural bureaucracy and competing for funds, audiences and platforms among cultural figures.
If we add to the general picture the active presence of the local and global foreign cultural context and content (where the "nomads of Belarusian culture" have to delve into simply because of their "migrant" status), the results are quite difficult: the Belarusian cultural field so far replicates not a new unity, but a new level of disconnection.
Successful projects of the international level - such as the latest works of the Belarus Free Theatre or the resumption of work in exile of the publishing house "Januškievič" — seem to be rather exceptional. Single victories of individual "converted" Belarusians. New Belarus sees itself poorly. What and how to say to the audience beyond their own is still unclear to most creators. "Undefined state, unfinished order" (Aniempadystaŭ), in which the Belarusian society remains in the country and abroad, is determined in part by the banality of art management, the crisis of expert work, the general vagueness of narratives, and stylistic inertia. And as a result — an obvious disintegration of what would like to be considered a new cultural order.
One thing is clear: the situation will not be improved through pure administration, even though it's a European model. A high-quality systemic restart of Belarusian creativity is needed. Or the final retreat into the "émigré chanson" and secret partisan struggle.