Feature Interview: Hanna Zubkova (I/II)

Posted to develop her artistic intervention in a disused brothel in Amsterdam’s Red Light District (De Wallen), Hanna is set to work with a diversity of Netherlands-based sex workers unions and self-support groups. She will proceed by navigating the intricacies of female sex work, reproductive/health rights and shifts in urban topographies.

Hanna Zubkova, Portrait © Juan Aguirre Fernández-Bravo

Hanna Zubkova, Portrait © Juan Aguirre Fernández-Bravo

What drove you to get on board the AFEW Culture Initiative artist displacement programme in the first place?

I was introduced to the AFEW Culture Initiative’s programme by Paris-based curator Sasha Pevak, with whom I have been working on a project titled Taking Places. It deals with performative practices, activism/artivism or — generally speaking — with how art becomes interlinked with life and broader political contexts through public spaces, collaborative activities and the engagement of institutions.

The ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, in a similar fashion to other politically-mediated 'catastrophes', functions as a mirror of the pressing issues facing today's society. It highlights the problematics of navigating bodies-politics, facts-ethics, sexualities-beliefs, pasts-nows, cultures-natures. It allows us to re-examine the state of things and possibilities for change.

This residency represents an opportunity to work outside the “white cube” framework and interact with public audiences and professionals involved in Public Health and advocacy spheres. It is a chance to articulate my reflections through a variety of input(s), all of which require particular sensitivity on my part.

Do you feel like there is a need to shift public representation(s) of Belarus, as they are currently projected onto Western audiences?

I don’t have a specific "task" when it comes to changing representations of Belarus, since I can’t claim to be a spokesperson for any kind of social paradigm, whether in “East” or “West”. Rather, I harbour personal ideas, feelings and memories which inevitably tie me to Minsk and Belarus. This is precisely what I would love to share through this residency, as a means to spark new and interesting conversations.

How do you feel, in broad terms, about joining a programme dealing with 'Eastern Europe and Central Asia' (EECA), as a Belarusian resident in the Netherlands?

The given geographical framework, “Eastern Europe and Central Asia”, does sound like a Western construct to me, since I’ve never heard of it outside the Netherlands or international Public Health circles. I have, for instance, never been to Central Asia before, nor do I feel a sense of belonging to this “hybrid” of regions just because I come from Belarus.

I recognise, however, that the term might be a manifestation of a political and historical reality. It is interesting to investigate how territories are mapped and named, and how their mapping and naming interacts with social perceptions of spaces and communities. There are indeed many aspects to think about when it comes to “EECA”. We will soon see where things go from here.

[Text by Hanna Zubkova and Juan Aguirre Fernández-Bravo]

Part II/II coming soon!