Daily Archives: September 18, 2010

Yevgenia Chirikova on Why We Should Support the Khimki Hostages

Yevgenia Chirikova, leader of the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest, on why we should demand the release of the Khimki hostages, Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov. To find out what you can do to support them and secure their release, go to khimkibattle.org.

I think that the way the authorities are treating Gaskarov and Solopov is needlessly harsh and cruel. It’s barbarism: it’s wrong to put people in a pretrial detention facility for two months for a few slogans [painted on a wall]. I think that this sort of “show of strength” is simply proof of the fact that the authorities are powerless to solve this problem. There would have been no attack on the Khimki town hall if the authorities had resolved the problem of the Khimki Forest in a timely and civilized manner. It’s not such a huge problem to build the highway so that it bypasses the forest.

I think that all these court hearings that are taking place now should not be held in closed chamber but should be open, that the system should be transparent to the public. And I think that the [demonstration on September 19 in Moscow in support of Gaskarov and Solopov] is important, that you come out for it. Any one of us can be grabbed like this and thrown into jail without a proper trial and investigation, and this is what we’re seeing now in the case of Gaskarov and Solopov.

We ourselves, the defenders of the Khimki Forest, have encountered the same approach: we have been detained without any legal grounds and thrown into the “monkey cage” at the 2nd police precinct in Khimki. And there was no way that we could prove that we were in the right. Honestly speaking, I just feel sorry for these people who are now in a pretrial detention facility. And I think that the demonstration on the 19th is important for every person who has clashed head on with the lawlessness of the authorities. We must demand that this case is reviewed normally and publicly.

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Thanks to antifa.ru for providing a transcript of the Russian text of this video.

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2nd FORMER WEST Research Congress (Istanbul)

Last seats available!

2nd FORMER WEST Research Congress

On Horizons: Art and Political Imagination
4–6 November 2010

Istanbul Technical University
Istanbul, Turkey

www.formerwest.org

On Horizons: Art and Political Imagination, the second in the series of FORMER WEST Research Congresses, takes place on 4–6 November 2010 at Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul. The Congress revolves around the theoretical notion of the “horizon” and its place within artistic production and political imagination today.

If, as it is commonly assumed, the global political and cultural changes of 1989 left the world bereft of a sense of politics as striving towards a future—a horizon as it were—then we are left with the perpetual caretaking of the existing state of things. Given this apparent endgame of liberal democracy, how can we insist that it is possible to imagine and to realize another world, to posit the horizon anew?

In this context, the project FORMER WEST is a proposition for speculating—in the field of contemporary art—about a possible horizon. For, can it not be argued that art works, exhibitions, and their discourses inherently set up a horizon, offering a proposal of what can and cannot be imagined? This horizon links aesthetics with politics, creates an image of possible futures, yet also marks a limit that cannot be surpassed as it recedes with each move toward it, offering a sense of both possibility and that which remains out of reach.

In the 2nd FORMER WEST Research Congress, a group of remarkable artists, curators, and scholars gather in Istanbul to engage in a conversation about these issues. On the first day, 4 November, lectures and dialogues by Julie Ault (artist and writer, New York), Boris Buden (cultural critic and writer, Berlin), Peter Osborne (philosopher and writer, London), Caglar Keyder (sociologist, Istanbul/Binghamton), and Simon Sheikh (curator and critic, Berlin) explore the notion of the horizon in art and critical theory, examine concrete artistic and discursive practices, and consider the particular context of the hosting city (Positing the Horizon in Art, Philosophy, and Political Theory).

Under the title Horizontality Enacted, contributors to the second day, 5 NovemberBeatriz Colomina (architecture historian and theorist, New York), Jodi Dean (political theorist and writer, Geneva, NY), Bülent Diken (social theorist, Lancaster), Vasif Kortun (curator and writer, director of Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center, Istanbul), Lisette Lagnado (curator and writer, São Paulo), Vivian Rehberg (art historian and critic, FORMER WEST research curator, Paris/Utrecht), and Shuddhabrata Sengupta (artist and writer, member of Raqs Media Collective, Delhi) deliberate on practices related to architecture, urban design, experimental geography, and spatial production in the framework of horizontality.

On 6 November, the concluding day of the Congress, entitled Reclaiming a Horizon—Art as Political Imagination, the question as to how the horizon is imagined, speculated upon, visualized, and materialized through contemporary art will be unpacked by TJ Demos (art historian and critic, London), Ernesto Laclau (political theorist, Buenos Aires/London), Gerald Raunig (philosopher and art theorist, Zürich), Robert Sember (artist and activist, member of Ultra-red, New York), Hito Steyerl (filmmaker and writer, Berlin), and Dmitry Vilensky (artist and activist, member of Chto Delat/What is to be done?, St. Petersburg).

The 2nd FORMER WEST Congress is part of a series of public forums aimed at rendering visible and furthering the artistic, curatorial, and academic research in which the project FORMER WEST is grounded. The Congress is developed by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht and SKOR, Foundation Art and Public Space, Amsterdam and co-curated by FORMER WEST research fellow Simon Sheikh. It is realized in collaboration with IKSV Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts Istanbul and hosted by Istanbul Technical University.

The language of the Congress is English; simultaneous translation into Turkish is provided. Admission to the Congress is free, however registration is required due to limited seating. A Registration Form is available online at: www.formerwest.org. Please submit the completed form no later than 3 October 2010 to info@formerwest.org. Program updates can be found on our website. Congress proceedings can be followed via live stream, and will be archived on the FORMER WEST digital platform.

FORMER WEST is a contemporary art research, education, publishing, and exhibition project (2008–2013) aimed at a critical reinterpretation of our recent post-1989 histories and at speculating about our global future by casting new light on contemporary art in relation to developments in society and politics. It is realized with a dense international network of researchers and institutional partners and curated by Charles Esche (curator and writer, director Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven), Maria Hlavajova (curator and writer, artistic director BAK and FORMER WEST), and Kathrin Rhomberg (independent curator, Vienna).

The 2nd FORMER WEST Research Congress has been made possible by support from the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam; ERSTE Stiftung, Vienna; and the Consulate General of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, Istanbul.

Image above:
Design by Mevis & Van Deursen.

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International Solidarity with the Khimki Hostages: Where and When

Here is some information about international solidarity actions in support of the Khimki hostages, Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov. Be there or be square!

London

Picket the Russian Embassy, 13 Kensington Palace Gardens, from 5:45 p.m., Monday, September 20. Gather at High St Kensington tube at 5:30 p.m. Banners and placards welcome. Called by Green Left, Socialist Resistance, and Chto Delat. Contact: Andrew Kennedy, tel: 0790 644 6137. See the call on the Socialist Resistance web site.

Paris

7:00 p.m., Monday, September 20, action at the Russian Embassy, 40-50 Boulevard Lannes, Paris, 16th Arrondissement.

Yesterday, Friday, September 17, Radio Libertaire in Paris broadcast a program dedicated to the Khimki hostages featuring a participant in the Campaign for the Release of the Khimki Hostages. You can listen to it (in French; along with some inspiring music) here.

Hamburg

7:30 p.m., Monday, September 20, in front of the Russian Consulate, Am Feenteich 20, Hamburg. Gather at S-Bahn Sternschanze at 6:30 p.m. The action is organized by the Hamburg Autonomous and Antifascist Group:

http://antifahamburg.blogsport.de/2010/09/13/mo-20-09-antifa-soli-fuer-russland/

NYC

Monday, September 20, at the Russian Mission at the United Nations. E-mail beactive.nyc@gmail.com for details.

Berlin

5:00 p.m., Monday, Russian Embassy, Unter den Linden. Details (in German) here.

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Actions are also planned for September 20 in Budapest, Mexico City, Saloniki, and Athens. We will update this post as and when we get more details about these solidarity actions.

Solidarity actions in support of Maxim and Alexei have already taken place in NYC, Seattle, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Bochum, Dusseldorf, and elsewhere.

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Boris Kagarlitsky on Why We Should Support the Khimki Hostages

Russian sociologist and leftist activist Boris Kagarlitsky on why we should demand the release of the Khimki hostages, Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov. He is shown signing a postcard addressed to President Medvedev demanding the release of Maxim and Alexei. The video also contains an appeal to attend a rally at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow, September 19, at the monument to Griboyedov near the Chistye Prudy metro station in Moscow.

To find out what you can do to support them and secure their release, go to khimkibattle.org.

Today, many people — both in power and within the social movements — have the tendency to say that there are good, loyal people in the movement to defend the Khimki Forest who use nonviolent methods, and then there are the extremists, the irresponsible people who attacked the Khimki town hall, who carried out this violent action and so on. People who argue this way fail to notice two things. First, violence was used by those who were attempting to stop the protest campaign. We all know about the violent attack against the environmentalist camp in the Khimki Forest. And this attack took place with cover from the local authorities — or, at very least, the local authorities did nothing to prevent it. We haven’t heard that the attack against the camp has been investigated. We haven’t heard that the Khimki police have punished the guilty parties. We haven’t heard that the local or federal authorities were angered or outraged by this ugly incident.

And after this it is quite clear that this kind of inaction on the part of the authorities, this passive encouragement of violence by those ultra-rightwing gangs provoked violent actions from the other side. But keep in mind that the violence of the ultra-rightwingers was directed against people. As far as the damage done to the Khimki town hall is concerned, not a single person was injured.

We have no grounds to believe that the two people who are now being held in the pretrial detention facility are responsible for what happened. The only thing we do know for sure is that they were in Khimki at that moment and participated in the action.

It was precisely Alexei and Maxim who advocated moderate, nonviolent actions. And they advocated these views publicly. Note that many [antifascists] cover their faces and conceal their surnames. But Alexei and Maxim didn’t conceal their surnames: they acted publicly, openly. By the way, they reported voluntarily to the police when they were summoned. That is, they behaved like loyal, law-abiding citizens.

In other words, even if we believe that someone should be punished for those four broken windows [in the Khimki town hall] — and someone probably should pay [to have them replaced]: this is the whole extent of the problem — then it is not at all obvious that this should be Maxim and Alexei.

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Watch other videos in this series of appeals for solidarity with the Khimki hostages here.

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State-Sponsored Queer Bashing in Saint Petersburg

The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1610 (71), Friday, September 17, 2010
QUEERFEST CLAIMS PRESSURE FROM CITY HALL
By Sergey Chernov, Staff Writer

The St. Petersburg authorities kicked a gay art exhibition out of the high-status Union of Artists Exhibition Center, where it was scheduled to open Thursday, organizers said Wednesday. City hall’s culture committee denies any involvement.

The Union of Artists Exhibition Center was one of the venues where Queerfest, organized by LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender) rights organization Vykhod (Coming Out), was due to be held.

Vykhod director Igor Kochetkov said the culture committee put pressure on the venue to cancel the exhibition.

“We had two phone conversations with the Exhibition Center’s director, who said he got a call from the culture committee stating categorically that the exhibition shouldn’t be opened,” said Vykhod director Igor Kochetkov.

Kochetkov said that in the official cancellation letter the Exhibition Center listed “complaints from certain public organizations and potential visitors” as the grounds for the decision.

“It’s not only a breach of the agreement, because the agreement can be broken only by force majeure, but it’s also not clear how there could be complaints if nobody has yet seen the exhibition and we haven’t yet placed the works there,” Kochetkov said.

Culture committee press officer Irina Nacharova denied her committee had anything to do with the cancelation.

“The culture committee is absolutely loyal to LGBT festivals and events,” she said.

“The Union of Artists is an independent public organization, and it’s absolutely their decision what kind of exhibitions to hold, when and what to cancel. “

“The only thing is that the plan was to hold a children’s exhibition and this kind of exhibition at the same time, which is perhaps not quite appropriate. But there weren’t and couldn’t be any bans, because it’s a public organization and it takes its decisions independently.”

Union of Artists Exhibition Hall director Alexander Saikov denied getting a call from the culture committee when he spoke by phone on Thursday.

“The thing is that we have an exhibition of children’s works in the next room, almost 800 participants, and because the organizers published their information on Internet, people found out about this and started to write complaints to state bodies and us as well demanding not to open this exhibition,” he said.

“Later, it turned out that, when we had talks on Aug. 8, we were shown one sort of exhibition materials, but in reality it turned out to be entirely different. If I had known that the content of the exhibition would be like this, we wouldn’t have even planned to hold it, for sure.”

However, an employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed Thursday that the ban came from the culture committee.

The exhibition and the opening were hastily moved to a new location – the Vegan Club on 50 Ligovsky Prospekt, and journalists were asked not to disclose the site until 6 p.m. Thursday, in case the authorities attempted to shut it down there as well.

Queerfest, which is being held for the second year in a row, has not had any problems before.

“It went quietly last year because we consciously played down the fact that it was promoted by an LGBT organization,” organizer Kochetkov said.

“This year, the concept of the festival is devoted to equal rights of self-expression for all the people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. As far as I understand, that’s what caused this pressure.”

Queerfest has been supported by a number of international figures, including Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit, Belgian-Italian singer Lara Fabian, British author Sarah Waters and U.S. film director John Cameron Mitchell.

“I cannot tell you how proud I am to have so many Russian followers, readers and friends. That many of them are gay, lesbian or transgender gives me especial pleasure,” wrote British actor and writer Stephen Fry.

“It has not been easy to be out and proud in Russia of late and it takes a very special kind of courage to stand up for yourself in such an atmosphere of enmity and ignorance. I think it is a very Russian quality to be so brave, to have such integrity and such a proper sense of pride and self.”

In 2008, the Side by Side gay film festival was thwarted by the St. Petersburg authorities when two film theaters broke their agreements and canceled the events.

Queerfest runs through Sept. 25. Check www.queerfest.ru for updates.

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Here is a translation of the official statement made by Queerfest organizers:

The opening of the International Queer Culture Festival in Saint Petersburg has been threatened with cancellation. The directors of the exhibition center of the Saint Petersburg Union of Artists, where the opening and several other festival events were to have taken place, unexpectedly informed festival organizers that they were canceling their rental agreement with us. We were told by telephone that the reason for this was an insistent recommendation made by the Saint Petersburg administration’s culture committee that the exhibition center not permit the event, which the committee regards as “propaganda of homosexualism.”

If the culture committee really did make such a recommendation, then we regard this an act of censorship, which is forbidden by the Russian Federation Constitution. There are no legal grounds for government officials to interfere with the holding of the festival.

We have underscored on several occasions that the International Queer Culture Festival poses no threat to national security and public order, to the health and morals of the population. The fact that certain people, by virtue of their personal convictions, are unhappy with any social and cultural activity on the part of open gays and lesbians, cannot be grounds for arbitrary bans. In fact, it is the government’s duty to ensure that all citizens enjoy an equal right to voice their opinions and express themselves culturally in any manner not proscribed by law.

We call on the Saint Petersburg authorities to refrain from actions and statements that encourage the violation of human rights and Russian law.

You can find more detailed information about the festival program on our official web site: http://www.queerfest.ru

Press materials: http://queerfest.ru/index.php/mass-media-2/for-the-press/?lang=en

Contact us:

queerfest.spb@gmail.com

Igor Kochetkov, director, Vykhod (Coming Out): +7 911-902-1193

Polina Andrianova: +7 904-609-9706

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For our own part, we think it would be more than appropriate for you to let the “loyal” folks at the culture committee know what you think about all this. Here are their contacts:

Telephone: +7 (812) 312-2471
Fax: +7 (812) 710-5515

Press Office
Telephone/fax: +7 (812) 571-0589
press@kkult.gov.spb.ru

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Filed under art exhibitions, censorship, feminism, gay rights, open letters, manifestos, appeals, Russian society