Monthly Archives: February 2009

Campaign against UK Home Office Restrictions on Non-EU Artists and Academics

The Home Office recently introduced new restrictions on international artists and academics visiting the UK for talks, temporary exhibitions, concerts or artists’ residencies. Visitors now have to submit to a series of arduous and expensive proceedures to get their visa, and then more bureaucratic controls when they are in the UK. Already a series of concerts and residencies have been cancelled.

The Manifesto Club is coordinating a campaign against these regulations. The campaign is led by Manick Govinda, artists’ adviser at Artsadmin, and has won support from artists, musicians, gallery directors, academics and students. Together we call for these parochial and suspicious regulations to be reconsidered, and affirm the vital contribution made by global artists and scholars to UK cultural and intellectual life.

The petition was launched with a letter in the Observer, signed by high-profile arts figures including artist Antony Gormley, Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery, and Nicholas Hytner, director of the Royal National Theatre. See the news story of the petition launch.

The regulations, which were officially put into effect on 27 November 2008, have meant a number of artists have been refused entry. Read testimonies below, and email to post a comment.

  • The Russian artist and academic, Dmitry Vilensky, was invited by The Showroom Gallery and Afterall Journal in London to give a seminar on his work on 17 January 2009. The gallery was forced to cancel the seminar when Vilensky’s visa application was rejected, on the grounds that he was not allowed to be paid a fee for participating in the seminar. A further appeal, with the proviso that he was not to be paid, was also rejected. Vilensky had never faced such restrictions on his many professional visits to other European countries.
  • The Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov’s show at the Barbican was cancelled because of the necessity for the new biometric visa. For years Sokolov was able to apply for his visa by proxy, but the new regulations meant he would have had to personally travel from Verona, where he lives, to Rome, to provide fingerprints. His replacement show, scheduled for April 2009 at the Royal Festival Hall also had to be cancelled, after he lost a year-long battle to agree a mobile visa solution.
  • Chinese artist Huang Xu was refused a visa to attend his exhibition at London’s October Gallery, due to open on 12 February 2009.
  • British artist Anne Bean was selected for the Visiting Arts and Delfina Foundation ‘artist-to-artist international scheme’, and she wishes to invite a young Kurdish-Iraqi artist to the UK. Yet the invited artist is required to travel 900 kilometres to Beirut in person to apply for her visa and ID card, and may have to stay there for up to three weeks to await the outcome of her application.
  • West African jazz band Les Amazones de Guinée had to pay £3500 to travel from Guinea to Freetown, Sierra Leone, to obtain fingerprints for their visas. This was a waste of time and money, however, since the band was refused entry to the UK.

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Tolerance, (United) Russia(n) Style

2009 is the “Year of Youth” in that mega-large hip-hop kingdom known as the Russian Federation. And what is more on the mind of today’s ultra-cool Russian youthsters than tolerance? The Year’s official website explains “what up” to the perplexed:

Outsiders come to study in Russian institutions of higher learning, although they cannot speak Russian clearly. Having arrived in our country as guests, they consider themselves the hosts. And in those places where they are visibly fewer they simply take our jobs. Ethnic conflicts arise. But we won’t solve these problems by grabbing a baseball bat. We beat them today in Moscow, and tomorrow they drive us out of Kazan, from the Caucasus, from the southern regions of our country. And the day after tomorrow we will be living in a country in which only [ethnic] Russians have remained, that is, in Russian within the bounds of the East European Plain—without oil, gas, territories, history. We have to solve this problem constructively!

logoThe Year of Youth is brought to you by the State Youth Affairs Committee, which is chaired by Vasily Yakimenko, the Sturmbannführer who previously hatched the Nashi movement. We think it’s going to be a winner.

Meanwhile, the mighty Russian state continues its titanic struggle against the bad eggs amongst the youth population. As Rabkor.Ru reports, a February 20 concert by the American group Strike Anywhere, organized by anti-fascist activists at Moscow club Plan B, became something of a bummer when the cops surrounded the place and began shaking down the estimated crowd of five hundred misguided music lovers.

But hey, no problem! After a similar recent raid at the Arctica Club in Petersburg, the city’s human rights ombudsman, United Russian Igor Mikhailov, told a gathering of stunned journalists that “police have the right to check people’s IDs, search and detain them, and take their photographs and fingerprints.” In order to make clear his total contempt for the rights he is supposed to uphold, he added: “We all watch with pleasure when [the police] check the IDs of migrant workers.” 


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The War against Memorial (and Memory)

Tatiana Kosinova, “The Battle for Russia’s Past”

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Petersburg: Flying Demos and Illegal Flyers

This just in from our comrades in the Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement (DSPA):

At 7:00 p.m. today (February 20), outside the Akademicheskaya metro station in Petersburg, anarchists and DSPA activists carried out their latest action. This action, dubbed a “flying demo,” has long ago shown itself to be a eye-catching, effective, and safe way of bringing the revolutionary word to drowsy citizens and citizenettes.

dpp_38952Around a dozen young people suddenly appeared opposite the exit from the metro station. They quickly unfurled a banner bearing Kropotkin’s famous slogan and lighted flares. One of the activists mounted the pedestal of a non-functioning electronic advertising billboard and addressed bewildered city dwellers streaming from the subway. His fiery speech went something like this:

Citizens, stop! The economic crisis is advancing on our country. The authorities are lying to you. Assistance is going only to the capitalists. Prices are rising; a wave of layoffs is under way. Things are only getting worse for the common man. Enough of being patient! We must decide everything ourselves. We must unite in order to become a force: only then will we be able to change our lives for the better. Begin with little things. Don’t abandon your colleague who has been laid off. Help your hungry neighbor. Form mutual aid councils!

The action lasted around two minutes. The activists ended it by shouting, “Rights Aren’t Given, They’re Taken!” They then extinguished their flares and dispersed.

During the action, two activists handed out these flyers [in Russian] to startled bystanders.

News of this flying demo set off a minor mini-debate on the efficacy and purpose of such actions. Well-known Moscow anarchist and journalist Vlad Tupikin, in a post in his LiveJournal entitled “Two Minutes of Fame,” wondered aloud what could be accomplished in two minutes. He concluded that, far from explaining one’s stance to fellow citizens or persuading them to switch sides, all that the flying demonstrators managed to do was carry out a photo shoot and get their LiveJournal account of the action in Yandex’s top of the Internet charts rating. He called the action “pure PR.”

The following day (February 21), as if in confirmation of DSPA’s tactical stance that it is dangerous to assemble in one place for more than two minutes without permission, police detained Stanislav Rudenko, an independent candidate for the 62nd Municipal District (Piskarevka) in Saint Petersburg. As reported by a correspondent on the Legal Team’s LiveJournal, Rudenko was conducting an open-air meeting with potential voters at the intersection of Kondratievsky Prospect and Bliukher Street, when a police squad car pulled up. The policemen explained that that they had information that Rudenko’s campaign flyers were “incorrect.” They detained Rudenko and took him to the 21st Precinct. The correspondent added that, according to Russian law, candidates enjoy (theoretical) immunity from prosecution for the duration of election campaigns. 

Elections for Petersburg’s municipal councils take place March 1. As the journalistic cliché goes, the campaign has been marked by massive irregularities. Dmitry Gryzlov, son of State Duma speaker and United Russia torchbearer Boris Gryzlov, had his candidacy registered by the city’s elections board even after a district board had declared that 100% of the signatures he had gathered were fakes. Would that the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other independent candidates (from the city’s opposition parties and social movements) had such influential fathers. Their support petitions have been struck down en masse (although, in some cases, court challenges have got them reinstated), and now, it appears, police have been going door to door to intimidate some of the folks who signed those petitions. The tone for this latest blitzkrieg in defense of “sovereign democracy” was set on the eve of the campaign by Petersburg’s No. 1 gendarme, Vladislav Piotrovsky. At a local Interior Ministry collegium on January 19, he warned that, in connection with the economic crisis, local human rights organizations and social movements would step up their activities and that they would be helped in this task by the foreign spy services (of course!) that finance their “extremism.” Their primary short-term goal, Piotrovsky explained, would be to win as many spots in the upcoming municipal elections as possible.

After gutting every other remnant of political democracy in Russia, one of the Kremlin’s hobbyhorses in the past few years has been local self-governance (mestnoe samoupravlenie), as expressed (so they said) by (nearly powerless and totally underfunded) district councils and residential building co-ops (which have also been red-taped to death, when they haven’t been subjected to stiffer forms of repression). In fact, any kind of meaningful democracy is a hindrance to the plans of gangster capitalism (is there any other kind?) to turn Russia’s cities into backwater hellholes, its citizens into a docile population of (now no longer very powerful) consumers. So God forbid that a handful of “extremists” on “foreign payrolls” would get the chance to decide which streets in their neighborhoods get paved first.

Rights aren’t given. They’re taken.

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Filed under activism, political repression, protests, Russian society

NYU Occupation

img_0856The official campaign website

The demands of the occupiers

Scenes of a struggle? (A dispassionate eyewitness account)

Da Man speaks (NYTimes dispatch)

Live and archived video

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Filed under activism, alternative education, protests, student movements

Iran: Drop Charges against Jailed Unionists

Act NOW!

Iran: Drop charges against jailed union leaders

Ali Nejati, Feridoun Nikoufard, Mohammed Heydari Mehr, Ghorban Alipour and Jalil Ahmadi are leaders of the trade union of workers at the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Plantation and Industry Company in Shush, an affiliate of the IUF. 

The 5,000 workers at Haft Tapeh have had to resort to repeated strike action over the past two years over failure to pay wages and in support of basic workplace rights. They have been ceaselessly harassed and victimized, with suspected militants subject to frequent arrests and public whippings.

On 20 December last year, the five leaders were charged with “acting against national security” as a result of their trade union activity. They face potentially lengthy prison sentences.

Click on the linked headline (above) to sign a letter in support of the jailed unionists.

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Filed under activism, international affairs, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, trade unions

Helsinki University Occupied!

UPDATE! Overnight Student Sit-in Ends at Helsinki University

img_8348-300x223Spread the Word

University students, researchers, professors and staff are currently occupying the director’s floor in the building of the university administration of Helsinki University in Finland. This happened as an offshoot of a demonstration against a new draconian “reform” soon to be presented to the Finnish parliament. The new laws (more below) would change the choice of the governing councils of the university, essentially depriving the universities of autonomy, likely putting non-university board members in key positions (business people and politicians) and importantly, introducing the possibility of charging fees for non-EU students, which in Europe is used as a back-door precedent followed by demanding tuition fees from everyone—the failed free-market model.

Many words were heard in reference to other movements to Greece, France, Italy, India. And then the news came in that students at New York University ( are practising direct democracy of the same sort.

Below is the statement from Helsinki.
Solidarity from the University of Helsinki to the occupants at NYU

Today on Thursday, February the 19th, we occupied the administration building of our university.

This took place after our demonstration against the new Universities Act proposed by the Finnish government. The parliament will decide about the law this Spring. We demand the law to be withdrawn. We want to reform our university from a totally different, more democratic perspective.

We are also protesting against the university leadership which has given its support to the law despite our opposition.

The law we are opposing would significantly increase the influence corporations have on our university and thus our science. We are defending the autonomy of knowledge and the freedom of research. We are also defending the free access to higher education as stated in the Finnish Constitution. We are not defending our university as it is, we want to create autonomous spaces for producing and sharing information.

Our demonstration today was participated by 1500 people. It was organised autonomously by students and university staff, independently of their unions. After the demonstration, a group of more than 100 demonstrators occupied this building. Today we have made our voices heard and we will keep doing so until we win!

We want to send you our solidarity. We share your struggle!



Filed under activism, alternative education, international affairs, protests, student movements

Watch What You Sign (Police Intimidate Municipal Election Petition Signers in Petersburg)

The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1450 (12)
Friday, February 20, 2009
Police Said To Have Intimidated Opposition
By Sergey Chernov
Staff Writer


The local political opposition says the authorities are increasing the pressure on them as the March 1 municipal elections approach. City Hall refused to authorize a meeting that the Solidarity democratic movement was planning to hold on Saturday, and policemen were reported to have visited the homes of people who support oppositional candidates and asked them to retract their signatures.

Solidarity was planning to hold meetings against the deterioration of the social-economic situation both in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but while the meeting was authorized by the mayor’s office in Moscow, St. Petersburg’s City Hall said it was not possible to hold a rally at any of the six locations suggested by the organizers.

According to a press release sent out last week by Yabloko Democratic Party, some of whose members are also members of Solidarity, City Hall said there would be maintenance work on Arts Square, a “military-patriotic meeting” on the Field of Mars and a “sports event dedicated to Defenders of the Fatherland Day” at the time of the planned opposition rally.

Three other sites subsequently suggested by the organizers — Ploshchad Lenina, Pionerskaya Ploshchad and Ploshchad Sakharova — were also rejected by City Hall on Wednesday.

“They’re afraid of everything,” said Olga Kurnosova, the local leader of Garry Kasparov’s United Civil Front (OGF) and a member of Solidarity’s Federal Political Council.

Solidarity is considering holding an unauthorized “art event” on Arts Square instead, Kurnosova said by phone on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Kurnosova won a case against the Chyornaya Rechka municipal district’s election commission, which had refused to register her as a candidate, claiming that the signatures she had collected had been fabricated. On Tuesday the judge ruled that the commission should register her as a candidate, but after a protest from the prosecutor’s office, the case will be heard at the city court next week.

However, three OGF activists who also initially failed to be registered as candidates won their cases in court this week, she said.

Olga Tsepilova, the deputy head of the Green Russia faction in Yabloko, made a complaint to the prosecutor’s office about policemen allegedly visiting and intimidating those who had signed documents supporting the candidates of ecological and preservationist groups in the Yuntolovo municipal district within the Primorsky district in the northeast of St. Petersburg.

“During the past two days there has been a massive police check,” Tsepilova said by phone on Thursday.

“It turns out that two days ago, the chairwoman of the Yuntolovo election commission wrote a complaint to Police Precinct 53 that all of our signatures were false. It’s amazing — two weeks after the checking of signatures was completed,” she said.

According to Tsepilova, the policemen visited people who had given their signatures at home, often late in the evening. According to her, it is a direct violation of the law.

“They took people’s signatures, asked them if they had signed their names themselves, showed them the collected signatures, and told them that they supported unworthy people who were trying to break into power, while they should support totally different people and retract their signatures, or say that the signatures were not theirs,” she said.

“There are people who are ready to confirm this, although most were simply intimidated. There were calls from people who said they had not thought that giving their signature would have such consequences.

The police visits lasted until late evening on Wednesday, she said.

“One person called us at 11.30 p.m. saying he had just been visited by the police,” she said. “At 11.30 p.m. you are visited by two policemen, who sternly ask you if you took part in such an activity… Many got scared and told us, ‘We’ll never sign anything again for the rest of our lives.’”

A police spokesman declined to comment when called on Thursday evening, but said he would have information on Friday.

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No More Reality [Crowd and Performance] (Istanbul)

No More Reality

DEPO, Istanbul
Tütün Deposu Lüleci Hendek Cad. No.12, Tophane 34425/ İstanbul
January 31–March 5

Artists: Fia Backstrom [Sweeden/U.S.], Johanna Billing [Sweden], Susanne Burner [Germany], Chto Delat [Russia], Marcelo Exposito [Spain], Claire Fontaine [France], Igor Grubic [Croatia], Sharon Hayes [U.S.], Inventory[UK], Olga Kisseleva [France/Russia], Ligna [Germany], Ciprian Muresan [Romania], Marta Popivoda/Illegal Cinema [Serbia], Radek Community [Russia], R.E.P group [Ukraine], Revolution Will Not Be Televised [Brazil]. 

Lecture by Brian Holmes: Ecstasy, Fear & Number: From the “Man in the Crowd” to the Self-Organizing Multitude.

From the popular settings of art history we can recall two faces of the crowd: the first, recognized as the holder of political will (demonstrations or revolutionary masses), appearing in many historical or allegorical paintings, and the second one—more neutral and more dispersed, usually connected to the representation of the city, modernity and urban life. Of course, the crowd is never neutral…  Apparently nameless bodies, anonymous minds and ordinary settings are always producing narratives and images related to the dominant politics of public spaces.

The No More Reality [Crowd and Performance] exhibition examines the different models of collective acting. It is a theoretical-practical platform, which gathers a group of artists, activists, theorists, curators, magazines and radio broadcasters, investigating performative aspects of the crowd in the streets and the political implications of body practices in the public space.
No More Reality [Crowd and Performance] develops in stages starting from 2005. Exhibitions, publications and discussions accompanying this process are conceptualized as fragmentary situations and steps in the research, rather than the final projects with the fixed and definite conclusions.
For more details, please see attached .pdf file.

Curators: Claire Staebler and Jelena Ves
Exhibition Producer: Vladimir Jerić Vlidi
Production: Depo-Istanbul and Anadolu Kültür
Exhibition Managers: Asena Günal and Balca Ergener

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What It Means to Be a Public Intellectual

George Monbiot: An open letter to Hazel Blears MP, secretary of state for communities and local government.

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