Jura Shust. Neophyte II

Jura Shust, Neophyte II (still), 2021. Dual-channel video.
Jura Shust, Neophyte II (still), 2021. Dual-channel video.

It is almost a year since the violent crackdown of the Uprising in Belarus. By now, the ongoing protests were forced to morph from the mass demonstrations of 2020 to clandestine partisan activities operating from within a dispersed underground. Secret gatherings, temporal displays of illegal opposition flags and establishing decentralized infrastructures of care, mobilisation and support have since taken center stage in maintaining the protest against an illegitimate regime.

With this ongoing political crisis as well as the Covid-19 pandemic as the given socio-political reality, the Belarusian-born, Berlin-based artist Jura Shust returned to Belarus to film a group of Zoomers hiding deep inside the forest where they find themselves in a parallel universe. Their precarious temporality rejects and escapes the present and instead freely mixes elements of past and future situations, hence becoming a dis-, as well as utopian community at the very same time.

In the artist’s new film Neophyte II, this group of young people go through a series of mysterious rituals that reference pagan myths as well as purposeless pastimes of contemporary youth. They aimlessly draw onto the soil, burn a dead tree stump, sing, dance, and beat each other with nettle to later decode their respective burns. In quiet and randomly appearing actions, they displace various natural matters such as fungi, nettles, wood, and bark to accumulate their transcendental qualities and abilities to influence a social and escapist current.

For the film’s protagonists, the forest becomes a shelter for magical and partisan forces, a space of non-linearity and freedom. As a temporal community, a brigade or a gang, they seek autonomy and protection against a hostile political order.

Excerpt from exhibition text by Aleksei Borisionok