26 July 2021, Monday, 2:01
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Artist In Tokyo Dedicates His Art Action To Belarusian Political Prisoners

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Artist In Tokyo Dedicates His Art Action To Belarusian Political Prisoners

The message of the action is optimistic: fear will recede, fetters will be cut.

Illya Yarashevich, a Belarusian living in Japan, held an art action in the center of Tokyo. He put a sack on his head and, kneeling and tying a rope around his throat, began to read out the names of the then Belarusian political prisoners. The performance lasted over twenty minutes, writes nn.by.

“The action took place on the central street of Tokyo's Shibuya district. This is a very famous place, one of the ten most famous in Tokyo, - says Illya. - Nearby are the world's most populous pedestrian crossing and the Hachiko monument. People stopped and took pictures, no one expected such surrealism in a hangout place. The noise of the street eventually makes it difficult to hear what I read, but I thought that this is the concept, they say, life goes on, and in the meantime something outrageous happens, and few people notice it.”

According to the artist, the topic of Belarus has been heard in Japan since the beginning of the protests, but recently, especially after the landing of the Ryanair plane, it has been covered more and more often.

“There is a Belarusian community here that is trying to spread information, besides, we have many supporters among the Japanese, and they talk about Belarus in their circles. At first, we held ordinary rallies near the Belarusian embassy or just on the streets, and then we made an exhibition of protest art - and it received wide publicity. National television began to shoot stories about the activities of Belarusians in Japan and Belarus itself, they say, what is happening there, that people are still stubbornly protesting.”

The action dedicated to political prisoners was filmed in one take, journalists were present, and Illya's associates explained to passers-by what all this meant. This is not the artist’s first activity on the topic of Belarus: he creates protest art and works in the gallery space.

“I invented this action in the days when Vitold Ashurak died, 18-year-old Dzmitry Stakhouski committed suicide, Raman Protasevich was detained, and Stsiapan Latypau cut his throat in the courtroom. I was digesting all this, and I had to somehow pour out my emotions. Before the action, I read the names of political prisoners aloud at home - and the further I went down the list, the closer these people became to me, the more I realized the scale of the repressions, it even seemed that there was no end to the names ”.

Illya Yarashevich admitted that the take was long and he himself did not know how it would end, because it was hard to breathe.

“I did not calculate the strength and tightened the loop quite tightly, there was a bag on my head, my throat was dry - it seemed that I was about to lose consciousness. And when I cut the rope, the knife scratched my throat - I already thought that I would now sprinkle new blood on the flag. And the state flag behind the back, which is again symbolic, was waving in the wind all the time ”.

The message of the action is optimistic: fear will recede, the fetters will be cut, and each of those who are unjustly convicted will be able to breathe freely. According to Illya, people are tired and no one needs the negative now. Moreover, without faith in change, it would be difficult for him to continue to be engaged in creativity.