National pavilion of the Republic of Belarus at 56th Venice biennale

War Witness Archive
War Witness Archive is an artistic inventory of memory about world wars. The project has started as the research of photographic archive related to the World War I history and is now developing in contrast to the World War II photographic archive. The Archive forms its body collecting testimonies about past events stored in the memory of contemporaries. The Archive constantly memorizes new states and directs the knowledge obtained on the work with its content - the unconcious nature of world catastrophies. And inside the Archive appears a space for dialogue concerning understanding and the possibility of witness's voice to be heard. 
Chapter 1. Theatre of war
This topic directs us to the caption At Theatre of War on the franking of stamps of  postcards sent from places of hostilities. Similar to it is the caption From the Serving Army. Noteworthy is the very formulation associating warfare with a show, as well as with the theatres of the absurd and of cruelty, and the sophisticated grimacing of actors. A comparison of war with theatre, theatrical war in a sense, prepares future spectators for war as a reality show and the news lines of media channels.

Tables with books, chapters of the Archive. Screens and papers for visitors' impressions and reactions

Chapter 2. In the face of death
This topic researches our ability (sensitivity) to empathize. Is there a minimal threshold of pain or sufferings that drives a person to decisive actions such as to stop, help or prevent? On the other hand, is there a ceiling after which pain simply causes numbness and the wish to empathize changes into a wish to forget. What is the role of photography in forming a person’s reaction to another’s pain and sufferings? Can the image seen move a person to empathy in a case where he/she hasn’t experienced this reality him/herself? All the more so, if the photograph is over a hundred years old.

Blank sheets of paper for visitors' impressions and reactions

Visitors' Impressions and reactions
Drawings and notes that was created by the visitors of the pavilion, their reactions on the chosen photograph
Chapter 3.  Mark of military valour
This topic considers the signs that demonstrate a man's predatory behaviour, a characteristic that is constantly in need of proof of prowess, superiority and strength. Is there a notion of trophy emerging in the everydays of both war and peace? Can a photograph itself become a trophy displaying strength and prowess?

Enlarged copy of photograph from Archive. Photographer: Vladislav Pavlukovsky, Eastern Front, v.Uglyany (Grodno region), July 1917

Photoalbum of the German soldier. Eastern Front, 1915-1916. Original

Original photoalbum of a German soldier and museum copies of photographs from Archive. Western Front. 1915-1918

Photoalbum of a german soldier signed as: “Russland. 1915/1916”. Unknown photographer. v. Shemetava suburbs (?) (today Miadzel district, Minsk region)

Chapter 4. Identity occupation
Within this topic the essence of war is investigated as a manifestation of aggression that transforms nature, place, understood as human habitat, and the nature of man himself. Noteworthy is the question of whether occupation, imposing unnatural behaviour through fear and pain, can become a strength when directed against those who impose it?
Chapter 5. On a background of war
Even while at war, routine puts events in order. Mass displacements of people, destruction and death take place side-by-side with habitual activities, such as meals, washing, and life in a dug-out, trench or village house. Only at a distance where war becomes the background do the features of daily life become visible. This topic lets us reflect on the question of the ability to maintain an alertness to signs of alarm and to ask ourselves "whether we are capable to distinguish against the background of the present time signs of alarm. Are we able to overcome the burden of the habitual course of life other than through the shake-up of war?”

Enlarged copy of photograph from Archive. Unknown photographer. Eastern Front, 1915–1916

Way to the room with video installation Forest by Konstantin Selihanov

Video installation by Konstantin Selikhanov ‘Forest’ is white noise, a pause, the discontinuation of the internal environment of the War Witness Archive, and also in opposition to the contemplative archive space and to the "discharged monotone" of the natural landscape.
Credits: Story

With the patronage of:
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Belarus

Commissioner: Natallia Sharanhovich
Assistant Commissioner: Alena Vasileuskaya, Kamilia Yanushkevich

Project team

Author and curator of the WWA project: Aleksei Shinkarenko
Co-curator of the WWA project: Olga Rybchinskaya
Videoinstallation: Konstantin Selikhanov
Scientific adviser: Dmitry Korol
Project mediation: Daria Amelkovich, Ilona Beliatskaya
Graphic design: Julia Kondratyuk
Computer interfaces design: Taras Kaliahin, Studio Gonzai
Programming: Sergei Jeihala, web-development company Atmatic
Video documantation: Maksim Bogdanovich
Editing: Sheena Macfarlane, Benjamin Cope
Fundraising: Serge Kharytonau
PR and communication: Hanna Samarskaya
Technical assistant: Aleksandr Stasevich
Furniture production: Denis Lobachev, Design studio Coordinate
Special thanks to
Uladimir Bahdanau, Oleksandr Mikhed, Sergei Shabohin, Serguei Oushakine, Pavel Voinitski, Nadezhda Savchenko, Oleg Ryzhkov, Dmitry Ragel, Olga Shparaga, Olga Romanova, Aleksei Bratochkin, Victor Makovchuk, Konstantin Tokarev

Center of Contemporary Arts, Belarus
Minsk Center of Photography

With the support of:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus
Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in Italy
Museum of modern Fine Art

National History Museum of the Republic of Belarus,
Grodno State Historical and Archaeological Museum,
Lida Historical and Art Museum,
Kobrin Military History Museum named after Alexandr Suvorov,
Slonim Local Lore Museum named after Iosif Stabrouski,
Belarusian State Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Lifestyle,
Central Scientific Library named after Yakub Kolas of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus,
Bahdanau Uladzimir, private collector

Judicial assistance:
VMP Vlasova Mikhel & Partners

Sponsor of participation in 56th Venice biennale:
Mobile telesystems

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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