Monday, 7 March 2022

A few more thoughts on the cultural boycott

State Hermitage Museum

I follow intensely the news about the invasion in Ukraine, thinking of ways in which we could contribute and be useful, both as individuals and as professionals in the cultural sector. My starting point is that Culture is anything but apolitical and, within this context, one of the most controversial topics is that of the cultural boycott.

Things are moving fast. Just three days ago, I wrote that I wasn’t aware of any formal action to cancel Russian artists just because they were Russian or to remove Russian composers from concert programmes. Then, on Saturday I read Javier C. Hern├índez’s article in The New York Times about Russian artists being expected to “clarify their position” regarding Putin; about young pianist Alexander Malofeev’s concert being cancelled in Vancouver “for his own safety”; or the Polish National Opera dropping a production of Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov… This is definitely how things can get out of hand. Malofeev himself wrote on Facebook that “The truth is that every Russian will feel guilty for decades because of the terrible and bloody decision that none of us could influence and predict.” I wonder whether it was “satisfactory” enough…

Friday, 4 March 2022

Cultural boycott

 

Elena Kovalskaya. Screenshot from Facebook.

A few days ago, thousands of Russian artists signed an open letter denouncing the invasion in Ukraine. “On behalf of our professional community, it is important to say that further escalation of the war will result in irreversible consequences for workers in culture and the arts. Engagement with culture and the arts will be almost impossible in these conditions.”

It is impossible, for people on both sides and beyond; for all of us. It is impossible in the sense that the show can’t simply go on and it cannot be business as usual. It just cannot.