Why the centre of Europe is really hard to pinpoint

 

performance and a guided tour

2015-2016

 

The performance explores the notions of self-exoticism and colonialism, state mythologies and power.
 Belarus as one of the post-communist Eastern European countries is inscribed in postcolonial discourses both being part of the USSR in the past and entering a contemporary neo-colonial situation in relations between Western and Eastern Europe, and between Russia and former socialist states. Eastern Europe is the ‘inner Other’ of Europe, a less civilized and developed than Western Europe. After the collapse of USSR and end of Cold War, EU still maintains systems of dominance and control (economical, political, cultural) and structures of inclusion and exclusion.
Exhibiting oneself ‘as a Belarusian’ in the historical or ethnographic museum I attempt to challenge the stereotypes and the exoticising gaze.
Explicitly representing oneself as a museum object, as the Other, on one side I try to be attractive and entertaining by bringing the spectacular and familiar movements. At the same time referring to the Judith Butler’s concept of performativity I am articulating and making visible the process of identity formation through exaggeration and repetition, stressing effort and technique, balancing between spectacularity and boredom. I try to introduce estrangement (Brecht) and defamiliarisation (Shklovsky), not only to the audience but also to myself.
In the today of globalization, multiculturalism, precarity, instability and etc. one might ask – when (why) do I need to state my identity? Performing a Belarusian I am forced to establish my identity when the state interpellates me. In a today’s globalized world Schengen system and visa regime dissolves inner EU borders while enhancing and militarising outside ones. My identity is constructed, for example, when I am addressed by a foreign state in a visa application process.
However playing with exoticism one need to ask – what does it mean to be in control of one’s representation? Who can represent whom? Am I not falling into a ‘postcolonial exotic’ – a displacement of multiplicity of lived experiences? And is it enough to reveal these mechanisms to challenge them?