Since the rigged presidential elections in Belarus in 2020, more than 40,000 Belarusians have come to Lithuania – most of them to Vilnius. Having become masters of self-organization due to the circumstances in their own country, the people from Belarus have also created structures in Vilnius: co-working spaces and self-help groups, crowdfunding campaigns for urgent evacuations from Belarus, and now also support for Ukraine. But Vilnius, once a spiritual capital that twice became the intellectual center of the Belarusian nation in the 20th century, quickly lost its symbolic character for many and became a real place with worries and problems, with a migration office and parking tickets. And the outside perspective on the new arrivals also changed: With the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, many Belarusians no longer experience only solidarity, but sometimes also scepticism as citizens of a satellite state of the aggressor. But since then, the incredulous looks that made mutual trust difficult have also become rarer. The knowledge of the violence that the Belarusians carried with them is now on every screen.
With the exhibition ‘За Свабоду’ (‘For Freedom’), Christina Stohn provides an insight into the living conditions and collective identities of exiles from Belarus. The portraits are found in the foreign interiors of the provisional shelters. If viewers suspect torture, blackmail or imprisonment of family members behind one or the other face, they are not entirely wrong. And yet they are peaceful portraits in Vilnius, a city that heals wounds. Which is like home, only a little different. Behind the scenes, the photographer asks many questions. One of them is: How does one decide whether to leave for Warsaw or Vilnius? The answer is obvious: Vilnius is the fastest way back.
Christina Stohn grew up in the Black Forest where she trained and worked as a commercial photographer for Studio Gieske, specialising in interior and still life photography. Subsequently, she spent eight years in London working as an artist. In 2014 she graduated from the University of Westminster with a BA in Photography. She also completed an MA in Integrated Design which encompassed both photography and graphic design at the HfK Bremen in 2018.
Christina is currently based in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. Working as a freelance photographer, she is commissioned for editorial and commercial work. Her personal portfolio is project-based focusing on themes of collective identity with a particular interest in book design.
Opening at 20 September, 6 PM.