“The Belarusian Union of Designers” Public Association
Location: Belarus, all country
Implementation period: April 2016 – May 2017
Coordinator: Dmitry Surski
Context: Problem Solved by the Project
The project topic is chosen not casually, of course. The poster is a special art genre, frequently a work of art, and a documentary and visual marker of its time. The Belarusian poster has world recognition – there are numerous, but private examples: more than 100 posters have received awards at prestigious international competitions; more than 300 copies are in the best collections of the world. The greatest peak of the popularity of the Belarusian poster is the recent times – since Perestroika till the present day. Still, as a phenomenon, the national school of this special genre of the art and socio-political statement is not present either in the mass media, or in educational environment. It is because the information on our poster artists’ works is scattered and segmental.
Concrete names and historical landmarks of Belarusian poster development deserve much more attention, systemization, and representation. We have tried to fill this lack of attention. Thus, the project reveals the full history of the Belarusian poster: from the origin of the press and typographical art in Belarus in the early 16th century, the first playbills – to not published before posters of the Belarusian artists Y. Drazdovich, F. Rushchyts, H. Zmudzinski, A. Kashkurevich, H. Paplauski, and B. Zaborau – up to the well-known in the world modern Belarusian poster artists L. Gor, E. Kitayeva, U. Tsesler, and A. Shelyutto. Also, we revived the interest in UNOVIS as a world phenomenon, which took place in our history, and opened the names of artists of the 1910s-1930s, little-known or forgotten not only in the world, but also in the Belarusians’ mass consciousness.
The project underlines Belarus’ multiculturalism – poster art has been influenced by Polish, Russian, Jewish, and other cultures. The poster fixes the history of daily life and its visual culture, significant events in society’s life.
Being guided by the principles of universality and multi-instrumentalism, we worked on three basic products: the digital archive, the web-site, and the book, – as well as exhibitions in Minsk and regional cities. All these tools are interconnected and work for the overall aim. The digital archive and the collection of posters have their own value already now and in the future they can become a base for a museum of the Belarusian poster, new publications and thematic exhibitions.
– The digital archive, i.e. a hard disk and a cloud (Google disk), includes about 2,500 works created by more than 350 authors (about 300 posters have no authorship).
We have collected the greatest possible volume of the data concerning the Belarusian poster. Our own collection, collections of establishments in Belarus and abroad, private collections, and the Internet were our sources. The Hrodna Historical, National Historical, and Baranavichy Regional Museums, the World War II Museum, the P. Brouka Literary Museum, the Belarusian Statehood Museum, the National Library of Belarus, and the Book Chamber of Belarus presented digital copies. The web-site plakat.ru presented one poster created in Hrodna in the 19th century. We received posters from members of our union, authors of posters, and tutors. In the Russian State Library, we managed to receive pre-war posters published on the territory of Belarus: posters from Hrodna made during World War I, posters by A. Bykhouski (Homiel), and H. Zmudzinski’s poster. There is a preliminary agreement to receive a digital copy of F. Rushchyts’s poster of 1913 – the first poster in the Belarusian language.
– The web-site of posters plakat.unid.by is created on the basis of the digital archive; its contents are constantly growing. It has the categories “Author”, “Title”, and “Year”. We have our own thematic classification – three basic kinds of posters: social, cultural, and commercial. As for the artistic touch, posters are: font, illustrative/figurative, and formal/abstract. The following kinds of techniques are used: graphics, paintings, photos, collage, and computer graphics. There are relief printing, lithography, offset, silk-screen printing, and digital printing. Styles search is provided. There are also tags describing visual and semantic contents of posters. The web-site has thematic articles, too.
– The book-album reveals the basic, most prominent aspects of the Belarusian poster that have to do with its formation and further development, technologies and ways of creation. In the book, we refused a catalog presentation in a strictly chronological order or by authors as this information is on the web-site. First of all, we wanted to show the social, historical-cultural, and technological context of the appearance and functioning of this genre and its transformation in an independent art form. It was important for us to present the brightest representatives of the Belarusian poster school. Thus, autobiographical essays, interviews, and memoirs reveal a secret part of the process of creating posters, which often remains behind the frameworks of dry art criticism researches.
– Exhibitions in Minsk and regions are a powerful tool of public dialogue, popularization of the historical heritage of the poster. The unique poster collection of the Belarusian Union of Designers allows us to form various thematic collections to be exhibited in the future. Also, we have printed several rare posters, which originals are outside of Belarus. We have had exhibitions in regional centers, which became a stimulus for the development of local art platforms and communication of local communities. The exhibitions have received a resonance both in the state-run and independent mass media.
The Belarusian poster is an open project and its completion within the scope of CHOICE does not mean its purpose is achieved – the collection, the digital archive, and the web-site will keep growing. All project activities are aimed at motivating the public and professional interest in this genre. The web-site became an excellent resource for art criticism work, creation of new posters, a tool of interaction of authors and potential customers, and a platform of fast reactions to important social phenomena. The site is universal; the general public, professionals, and potential clients (official bodies, theaters) are interested in it. It has made the project alive and dynamic because today it is the unique platform for poster artists, a source of information for the mass media and researchers.
All these help to preserve and revive poster art, to prepare the public for the idea of creating the Belarusian Poster Museum; it strengthens the image of the Belarusian poster as a special phenomenon abroad. We are proud of our contribution to these processes; however, we realize that all of them require time to turn into more significant and appreciable events.
Throughout 20 years the Belarusian Union of Designers has been rather an important and recognized subject of the cultural policy – it has helped our activity during the project, rather than being its result. At the same time, the authority of the organization has increased thanks to this topic. We have confirmed our status of a competent organization and our professional community has become more consolidated: many graphic designers and artists have joined the work on the archive and the web-site as authors; designers-teachers have shared their students’ works in the field of the poster.