action “Gift to the President.
For a Fruitful 5-year Work!”,
Action took place on the square in front of the Belarusian president’s residence, 43 Karl Marx Street, Minsk, Belarus
Wheelbarrow, dung, pitchfork, wreath, shirt, posters, flag
Ales Pushkin’s performance Gift to the President is one of the most famous works of the modern critical Belarusian art of 1990-2000, both within and outside of Belarus. To carry it out, on July 21, 1999 at 11:55 a.m. Ales Pushkin took taxi to the main entrance of Janka Kupala Theater in Minsk. Pushkin, wearing a white shirt with a festive national embroidery, unloaded a cart, some cattle dung and a manure fork from the car trunk, and putting on his head a cornflower wreath, he moved his cart loaded with the dung to the Presidential Residence area. He was accompanied by 8 journalists with video cameras. At 12:00 the artist arrived near the entrance. He dumped the dung on the pavement and with a help of the manure fork pined three posters to it: one with an image of the president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, the second one with the official emblem of the country and the third one with an inscription in Belarusian “For Five Years of Fruitful Labour!” At the bottom of the cart there was a national flag of the Republic of Belarus. Around 12:15 Ales Pushkin was already detained by the riot police. On the same day a criminal investigation against the artist started, and in three months after the trial he was sentenced to two-year probation and five-year suppression of his civic rights.
The direct context of action is given by the recent historical of political events in Belarus, namely the expiry of Alexander Lukashenko’s first presidential term on July 20, 1999. The official flag and coat of arms used in the performance, refer to the BSSR history, being also symbols of Lukashenko’s rule, since after the referendum of 1995 he replaced the national white-red-white flag and the coat of arms “Pahonia” with the now official state symbols.
Today Ales Pushkin is considered as a potential and real threat to the existing political order by the authorities at various levels. In 2006 and 2010, during the presidential elections, he was preventively detained for several days by the police. On March 25, 2014 the authorities of the village Bobr, where the artist lives and time-to-time carries out situationist actions, the authorities carried out a number of events to prevent Ales Pushkin’s art performance and his outside ArtOccupy exhibitions from happening, despite the fact that most of the works dealt with the topics unrelated to politics. A tractor, raising clouds of dust and heading at the artist with his easel; men in black leather jackets, carrying paintings from place to place, one of them tears off Ales Pushkin’s picture from the easel and drags it along the ground, then rips off the “Pahonia” coat of arms and breaks it – this performance, created by the government, refers to the analogues in the Soviet repressive traditions of the “Bulldozer exhibition”, and the history of a conflict between a state and an artist.
Ales Pushkin (born 1965, village Bobr, Belarus) – artist, activist, performer. Founder of the first Viciebsk private art gallery U Pushkina.
Lives and works in the village Bobr, Belarus.
Text: Sergey Shabohin, Olga Shparaga, KALEKTAR ©
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