“Everything changes the world – little by little”

Interview with Anastasia Klevets, organiser of an exhibition about violence against LGBT people in Russia


Hello Anastasia, thanks for agreeing to talk to us. Could you start by introducing yourself.

Hi. My name is Anastasia, I am the organizer of the Veshchdok exhibition. By profession I am a historian and guide, an activist of Quarteera – an organization that unites Russian-speaking LGBT+ people in Germany.

Why should people go to the exhibition “Veschdok”?

To feel that violence against queer people is not something distant and special. And that this violence has a very usual character, we have objects that surround us in everyday life. And violence can happen at any time, it does not require special preparation and special time. And then you can feel this constant background fear of LGBT+ people in Russia, who know that violence against them can happen at any moment.

The exhibition shows sketches of different tools which have been used to violently attack and kill LGBT people in Russia – from axes and broken bottles to forks and a pair of socks. Should art be beautiful and comfortable?

Quite the opposite I believe. Nowadays, after all, art doesn’t have to meet any expectations. But I would say the art leaves a trace when it takes you out of your comfort zone – it expands your understanding of the world, adds new facets and changes perspective. I doubt that nice and comfy art is able to do that.

What is the current state of LGBT rights in Russia today? What has been the effect of the 2013 law criminalising “propaganda for non-traditional sexual relationships between minors”?

The adoption of this law showed that discrimination against LGBT+ people is becoming a state policy. Because under this law you can attack anything – from a simple hand-holding and telling about yourself – to the release of educational brochures. LGBT+ people are persecuted by activists of radical right groups,. These groups seek the dismissal of LGBT+ people, and threaten to take away their children. The number of attacks on queer people is constantly growing, and the police virtually do not react, very rarely do they even start an investigation. And thanks to the law LGBT+ people are second-class people, and the use of hate speech against them is justified – even at the official level.

At this evening’s Q&A, artist Polina Zaaslavskia spoke of her problems with the term “Queer-Feminist Art”. Can art be feminist? Should it be?

Art can be classified by different criteria – by style, period, or by the themes that a piece raises. Therefore, technically something can be called queer-fem art, if it’s more convenient, of course. But good art is universal. Doesn’t violence concern everyone? And discrimination? After all, we do not know what can cause violence; with what ideas one can try to justify dividing people into groups and declaring that some group is worse than another and should be punished.

Do you think that art can change the world?

I would like to believe that yes! Everything changes the world – little by little, not always immediately noticeable. But the subtlest elements come together and become the driving force that transforms the world. One reed may not stand up, but there are a huge number of reeds in the world who dream of the same. The main thing is for us to unite.

How and when can people view the exhibition?

The exhibition is open daily from 12:00 to 17:00, admission is free, 3G rule. And you very welcome to the finissage of the exhibition on November 25 when we will be talking with the authors of the study that inspired the artist for her series of works.

Do you have any projects planned after this?

For now we are closing our projects for this year. But stay tuned for the events starting from January.

You can see the Veschdok exhibition at the BAS CS Gallery, Soldinerstr. 103.