KONTAKT: contemporary art in
a Belarusian rural settlement
Volunteer project and artist residency in the village of Novy Dvor on the territory of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha natural reserve
The so-called "agricultural town" (agrogorodok) Novy Dvor in the Grodno region of Belarus was flooded with aliens. For a week, 20 volunteers and artists from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Minsk, Molodechno, Smorgon and Berlin painted, sewed and danced with local inhabitants. The idea of the organizers of the program - the Brest organization Earth Time, Minsk Bagna and the Dekabristen e.V., was to work with a settlement situated in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha natural reserve. The goal was to study the interaction of local residents and the park in order to understand what the park is doing for the communities living on its territory and how non-profit projects can help it. The less-visited part of the Pushcha in the Svisloch district of the Grodno region was chosen as the place for KONTAKT residency.
The residence tried to take a broader look at the concept of ecology. What is the relationship between man and nature? How do residents of the village interact with the nature reserve and its inhabitants? The reflection of the intricacies of this coexistence is expressed in the audio project of Moscow artists Pavel Bulgakov and Katya Bondar. This feeling of disturbing mystery and insignificance of the human actor created by the proximity of the ancient forest is also conveyed in their performance.

During research and workshops, participants of the residence were able to establish contact with many residents of the village. By talking with local teenagers, artists tried to understand the life of Novy Dvor. Old residents spoke about the traditions of the village. A feature of the New Court turned out to be the historically determined alertness of local residents to visitors who were called "navolochi". In the villages around the peasants were serfs, but the inhabitants of Novy Court were all free - thus, there wasn't much willingness to create bonds with the outsiders.

In addition, an almost forgotten tradition of "karavainitsy" turned out to be an important part of the local memory. A compulsory component of any Novy Dvor's wedding included two girls in embroidered shirts and wreaths with ribbons walking around the whole village to invite the villagers to the celebration. The artists Nadia Sayapina, Varvara Sudnik and the curator of the residency Bazinato restored the forgotten ritual - having dressed in authentic costumes of "karavainitsy", they walked through the village, inviting local residents to the festival that took place on the last day of the residency.
Impressions from being in Belovezhskaya Pushcha and interaction with local people were reflected in art projects - Stas Bohdevich made a series of works that combined archival photographs with the contemporary views of the village. Nadya Sayapina installed prints with local sayings in urban space. The curator of the residence Bazinato left the work "Guardian of the Forest" on the wall of a building. On the school grounds, program participants, along with local children, converted the decommissioned school bus into a recreation area and decorated it with the inscription "Follow your rainbow". A magical forest of sketches drawn by kids appeared in the school corridor. Lena Aharelysheva opened a workshop in one of the classrooms, where anyone could come to repair clothes and talk about the most urgent issues. Nadya Sayapina also held a public workshop at a local market space.

Within the framework of the project, a close-knit team emerged that began a dialogue in Novy Dvor on the subjects of environment, human rights and tolerance. Parallel to the artistic practices, a team of volunteers prepared the territory of an eco-center of Belovezhskaya Pushcha for the festival and convened objects on the forest paths between the eco-center and the village.
Participants of the residence: Stanislav Bogdevich (Smargon), Dmitry Pilipiv (Brest), Varvara Sudnik (Minsk), Alexandra Rybalko (Minsk), Timofey Evseev (St. Petersburg), Pavel Bulgakov (Moscow), Ekaterina Bondar ( Moscow), Nadya Sayapina (Minsk), Elena Aharelysheva (Minsk), Kirill Horoshko (Minsk), Olga Palunisa (Molodechno), Julia Romanyuk (Brest).
Coordinators: Grigory Tserentsyeu (Brest), Konstantin Chukalau (Molodechno), Victoria Kravtsova (Berlin).
Curator: Bazinato (Molodechno).

The residence ended with a festival where one could see the works done during the residence, take part in discussions and master classes from the participants of the residence, mysa.bag and drawbrest, listen to the performances of Lepestok and Mustelide and watch films from the "Planetary" film festival. More information about the residence can be read in Russian and Belarusian.