Daily Archives: May 13, 2011

The Empty Plan/Theatre for a New Time (Oslo)

www.kunsthalloslo.no

Anja Kirschner and David Panos: The Empty Plan

Trine Falch: Theatre for a New Time

May 14 — June 26, 2011

The exhibitions open on the evening of Friday 13th May with a screening of The Empty Plan at 18.00 (78 min.)
Performance by Trine Falch at 19.30.

Kunsthall Oslo is pleased to present two projects concerned with performance and politics, contemporary artistic reexaminations of the theory and practice of radical theatre. 

The Empty Plan is a new feature-length film by Anja Kirschner and David Panos that centres on Bertolt Brecht’s time in exile in Los Angeles. Theatre for a New Time is an exhibition produced by performance artist Trine Falch, presenting scenes from the radical, collectivist early years of the 40-year-old Norwegian institution Hålogaland Theatre.

The Empty Plan
Part documentary, part historical reconstruction and part melodrama, The Empty Plan (2010, 78 minutes) interrogates the relationship between theory and practice in the theatre of Bertolt Brecht. The film contrasts scenes from Brecht’s exile in Los Angeles with productions of his play The Mother (1931) in the Weimar Republic, New Deal America and post-war East Germany, exploring different modes of performance and their relation to changing historical and political circumstances. The title comes from Brecht’s Messingkauf Dialogues, an unfinished theoretical work written during his exile, which considers the possibilities of ‘committed art’ and its practical, theoretical and formal limits at a time when revolutionary mass movements had been defeated and theatre was supplanted by Hollywood cinema as the dominant form of popular entertainment.

Through the figures of Brecht, his collaborator Ruth Berlau and his wife, the actress Helene Weigel, the film reflects on conflicting personal, artistic and political ambitions, raising questions about the nature of art and the unrealised dream of its supersession through revolutionary practice.

Anja Kirschner (b.1977, Munich) and David Panos (b.1971, Athens) live and work in London. Their long-form narrative films collide popular culture references, historical research and literary tropes, and address contemporary aesthetic, social and political questions. Their productions involve amateurs, actors and specialists from other disciplines in the creation of speculative histories and spectacular fantasies that comment on social reality.

Theatre for a New Time
Theatre for a New Time presents scenes salvaged from the archives of the 40-year-old Norwegian institution Hålogaland Theatre, uncovering its beginnings as a radical 1970s collective that sought to reinvent theatre ‘in the service of the people’. The company attempted to apply the principles of the revolutionary left to cultural production, and intervened directly in political conflicts in their adopted community. Their antagonistic productions intentionally polarised opinion, and the questions their early experiments raised remain uncomfortable and mostly unanswered today. In February this year, performance artist Trine Falch assembled the members of this first generation of Hålogaland Theatre to produce a new work, Allmannateater, in the form of a series of public meetings.

This project led to the exhibition Falch has made for Kunsthall Oslo, which reworks materials from the archives of the theatre’s first decade, accompanied by a new performance from Falch herself. Kunsthall Oslo will also screen the 1974 television production of the play ‘Det e her æ høre tel’ (‘Here is where I belong’), and a newly-commissioned film of the Allmannateater production from Dramatikkens Hus, Oslo.

Trine Falch has worked in live art and experimental theatre since the 1980s. She dropped out of the Theatre Studies course at the University of Bergen in 1986 to work with Verdensteatret, and in 1988 she joined the influential performance collective Baktruppen. Baktruppen gained an international reputation for performance work that explored the boundaries of the genre, emphasising ideas over traditional performance skills. Since 2007 Falch has been working independently on a series of productions rooted in an exploration of theatre history.

Kunsthall Oslo would like to thank Dan Kidner; Kai Johnsen and Dramatikkens Hus; the cast of the Allmannateater; and NRK for their assistance. Kaja Rastad has made the models and Hilde Honerud has made the film from Dramatikkens hus.

The Empty Plan film production was funded by Arts Council England through Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network, co-produced with City Projects and supported by Focal Point Gallery, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart and Kunsthall Oslo.

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Carlos Motta: We Who Feel Differently (Bergen/Oslo)

Carlos Motta
“We Who Feel Differently”
wewhofeeldifferently.info

Launch Events
May 19: Gallery USF, Bergen, 7 pm
May 20: Torpedo Books, Oslo, 7 pm

Ctrl+Z Publishing
ctrlz.noarne@ctrlz.no

Ctrl+Z Publishing and Gallery USF, Bergen are pleased to present “We Who Feel Differently”(wewhofeeldifferently.info) a new database documentary, book, and online journal by artist Carlos Motta.

…People are not provoked by those who are different. What is more provoking is our insecurity: When you say, “I am so sorry but I am different.” That’s much more provoking than saying “I am different,” or “I have something to tell you, I can see something that you cannot see!”

With these words, Norwegian Trans activist Esben Esther Pirelli Benestad situates sexual difference as a unique opportunity rather than as a social condemnation. “Difference” is a way of being in the world, and as such it represents a prospect of individual and collective empowerment, social and political enrichment, and freedom. Freedom implies the sovereignty to govern oneself: Being human is being beyond parameters, being without sex or gender constraints.

Has this ideal been attained in the four decades of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer and Questioning politics?

“We Who Feel Differently” features Interviews (wewhofeeldifferently.info/interviews.php) with fifty queer academicians, activists, artists, radicals, researchers, and others in Colombia, Norway, South Korea and the United States about the histories and development of LGBTIQQ politics in these countries. The interviewees have been active participants in the cultural, legal, political, and social processes around sexual difference; they frame the debates and discuss the mainstream LGBT Movement’s agenda from queer perspectives. Interviewees include: Mx. Justin Vivian Bond, Douglas Crimp, Emily Roysdon and Edmund White (USA); Kim Friele, Esben Esther Pirelli Benestad and Åse Rothing (NO); CHOI Hyun-sook, MONG Choi and PARK Kiho (KOR); María Mercedes Gómez, Diana Navarro and Esteban Restrepo (CO).

The Book (wewhofeeldifferently.info/themes.php) (co-edited by Carlos Motta and Cristina Motta) presents five thematic threads drawn from the interviews and puts forth an assemblage of queer critiques of normative ways of thinking about sexual difference.

The Journal (wewhofeeldifferently.info/journal.php) is an online publication that presents in depth analyses of LGBTIQQ politics. The first issue, “Queerly Yours: Thoughts and Afterthoughts on Marriage Equality,” presents commissioned essays by activists and academicians: Bruno Bimbi (AR), Ryan Conrad & Jazmin Nair (USA), Shelly Eversley (USA), Kheven LaGrone (USA), Nick J. Mulé (CA), and Senthorun Raj (AU).

“We Who Feel Differently” attempts to reclaim a queer “We” that values difference over sameness, a “We” that resists assimilation, and a “We” that embraces difference as a critical opportunity to construct a socially just world.

Launch Events

Thursday, May 19, 2011, 7pm
Gallery USF, Bergen
Georgernes Verft 12; gallery-usf.no

Panel Discussion with: Deniz Akin (Gender Researcher), Tone Hellesund (Researcher, Uni Rokkan Centre), Carlos Motta, Annika Rodriguez (Intl. Advisor for The Norwegian LGBT Association) and Arne Skaug Olsen (Curator).

Friday, May 20, 2011, 7pm
Torpedo Books, Oslo
Trelastgata 3; torpedobok.no

Panel Discussion with: Heidi Eng (Professor, Diakonhjemmet University College), Carlos Motta, Esben Esther Pirelli Benestad (Trans Activist) and Arne Skaug Olsen (Curator).

Carlos Motta (b. Bogotá, Colombia, 1978) is an artist whose work has been presented in venues such as Guggenheim Museum, New York; MoMA/PS1, New York; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Museo de Arte del Banco de la República, Bogotá; Museu Serralves, Porto; National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens; and “X Biennale de Lyon.” Motta is a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow and a member of the faculty at Parsons The New School of Design and the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College.

Ctrl+Z Publishing is non-commercial and project based; its publications are made by artists, artists groups and curators. Ctrl+Z is part of the self-organized field, its profile is transient and its catalogue is not defined by one aesthetic, political or institutional program. Our goal is to investigate structural conditions for art production, art mediation and art discourse in the form of printed matter. ctrlz.no

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“Noblesse Oblige” as a Wrecking Ball (Paradny Kvartal, Petersburg)

Legality of Demolition of Historic Barracks Contested
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
May 11, 2011 (Issue # 1655)

Another planning controversy is developing in the city, as more historic buildings in the center were demolished last week to make way for luxury apartment and office buildings.

Built by architect Fyodor Volkov in the early 19th century, the demolished buildings on the corner of Paradnaya Ulitsa and Vilensky Pereulok are known as the Preobrazhensky Regiment’s Barracks and used to house one of the Russian army’s oldest regiments, formed by Peter the Great in the late 17th century.

Following a public outcry, Governor Valentina Matviyenko ordered an internal investigation into the legality of a construction permit issued by the St. Petersburg State Construction Supervision and Expertise Service (Gosstroinadzor). The agency is subordinated directly to Matviyenko.

Matviyenko’s orders were based on a memorandum sent to her by City Hall’s Heritage Protection Committee (KGIOP) after the last building was demolished on May 3.

Yulia Minutina, a coordinator of preservationist group Living City, said that Gosstroinadzor issued the construction permit that contradicted the protected zones law.

The local press suggested that the investigation may result in the dismissal of Gosstroinadzor’s head Alexander Ort. Preservationists and public figures such as film director Alexander Sokurov asked Matviyenko to dismiss Ort in a petition in January.

The developer failed to show the demolition permit, according to Minutina.

“Demolition is a separate type of work that requires a separate permit,” Minutina said Tuesday.

“Nevertheless, it was not presented to us, nor have they seen it at the KGIOP and I’m not sure it ever existed. Of course this is a violation.”

“Besides, buildings in the center can only be demolished if they are in a poor condition, but we haven’t seen any document stating that the building was in a poor state and impossible to restore either.”

Minutina said the demolition was one of the issues the preservationists are planning to raise during a planned meeting with Matviyenko on Thursday.

While the last building was being destroyed during the May Day holidays, the authorities did not react to the appeals of concerned residents. At the same time, police reportedly harassed activists who picketed the demolition site, rather than checking whether the developer had the necessary permits.

“We waited for two hours for the police to arrive,” Living City’s Pyotr Zabirokhin said.

“But instead of stopping the demolition, they started checking our passports, copying our placards into their notebooks and threatening to disperse us if we didn’t go away.”

St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly Deputy Sergei Malkov has written a complaint regarding the police actions to the St. Petersburg police chief Vladislav Piotrovsky.

The tactic of demolishing historic buildings during public holidays was recently used when a large portion of the 19th-century Literary House was destroyed on Nevsky Prospekt during the Russian Christmas holidays in January, Zabirokhin pointed out.

“It has turned into a bad tradition that not entirely legal cases of demolition start during or just before holidays, when people are not ready to get mobilized quickly, and while officials are on holiday and nobody can be reached,” he said.

According to the project’s web site, the area previously occupied by the Preobrazhensky Regiment Barracks will be home to an “exclusive” Paradny Kvartal, an isolated “mini city” of 16 office and residential buildings.

Call Now!

“The true adornment of the quarter’s center will be a square with a fountain, comparable in size with that in front of the Kazan Cathedral,” the web site said.

However, apparently as a result of the controversy, the site was no longer available on Tuesday, redirecting to the web site of the developer, Vozrozhdeniye Peterburga. The original site can be viewed as files cached in Google.

Anna Mironovskaya, the marketing director of Vozrozhdeniye Peterburga, a subsidiary of the LSR Group, said Tuesday her company was only a sub-investor and was not in charge of legal matters and permits, citing the Ministry of Defense as the project’s developer and the Pyotr Veliky Construction Company as the commissioner.

_____

http://paradny.ru/questions/

— Who acquires real estate in Paradny Kvartal?

One of the main advantages of Paradny Kvartal is the social homogeneity of [one’s neighbors]. Our buyers are people of high social status. That is why we will be able to create “our own world” in which it will be pleasant and comfortable to live.

[…]

— What does the phrase “noblesse oblige,” which is frequently applied to Paradny Kvartal, mean?

The well-known phrase has rightly become not just the slogan but the authentic motto of Paradny Kvartal. It translates as “[one’s] station obliges [one].” For in Paradny Kvartal each detail underscores the project’s elitism, its exclusivity.

_____

Photos courtesy of Zaks.Ru and Chto Delat.

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The Jet Set Junta

Buzz, buzz, go the brass electrodes as the flesh begins to peel…

OpenSpace.Ru
May 5, 2011
The Putin Style
Gleb Napreenko

Once, as I was walking along the Arbat after a discussion of Lacan’s ideas on the inevitable splitting of the human subject, I looked up and saw an enormous banner. In counterpoint to my own thoughts, the characters represented on the banner were marked by a perfect wholeness — and an equally perfect deadness.

A young man and young woman, both of them blond and beautiful, stand against a backdrop of neoclassical architecture. The girl is a figure skater, the boy, a snowboarder, and behind each of them is a snow-white sculpture of the appropriate sex, engaged in the corresponding sport. These statues as it were complete the mission of transforming man into cold, sterile perfection. Snow-capped mountain peaks are visible on the horizon.

There are many of these banners in Moscow now. They are part of the advertising campaign for Gorki Gorod, a resort town under construction in Krasnaya Polyana for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The project is a public-private partnership: Sberbank has a 25% stake in the project, and its partners include the cities of Krasnodar and Sochi.  The advertisement was executed by Doping-Pong, a Petersburg “art group” (this is how they identify themselves). Doping-Pong is primarily a group of designers who work on commission, but they see themselves as major artists and adherents of Petersburg neoacademism. As Dmitry Mishenin, the group’s leader, told me, “Doping-Pong are in fact neoclassicists, the genuine heirs of beauty in Russian art.” Neoacademism’s fatal seriousness almost reaches the level of the grotesque in this conceit. However, as Mishenin himself admits, Timur Novikov, the leader of neoacademism, “cursed [him, Mishenin] before his death [in 2002].”

As everyone knows, the entourage of the president and prime minister are from Petersburg. Judging by new construction in Strelna [a suburb of Petersburg whose pompously restored Constantine Palace was the site of the 2006 G8 Summit] and other projects, we can surmise that this adherence to the “traditions of beauty” (to pluck an expression from the arsenal of the neoacademists) is to the liking of these folks who hail from the capital of Russian classicism. Like the design of its advertisements, the architectural commission for Gorki Gorod has been entrusted to two Petersburgers who are likewise neoclassicists — Mikhail Filippov and Maxim Atayants. Gorki Gorod is, at present, the largest of Filippov’s projects that will, apparently, be implemented.

However, beauty comes in different shapes, and even neoclassical beauty can have various ideological shades. Exactly what kind of beauty do the designers of the advertisement imagine themselves to be heirs of? Doping-Pong’s current creations are reminiscent of Nazi posters for the 1936 Olympics, official painting in the Third Reich, the sculptures of Arno Breker, and scenes from Leni Riefensthal’s films: the upward-turned gaze detached from the lower world, the Aryan statuesque beauty, the warrior-like bearing. Perhaps it is no accident that the project’s architects have themselves equated Krasnaya Polyana with an Alpine village.

However, in terms of architecture, Gorki Gorod is more likely to trigger memories of Stalinist ensembles in the minds of Russians, and in the video clip for the project we seen an enormous reproduction of an Alexander Deyneka painting placed on one of the walls of the town. But these are Stalinist ensembles that simultaneously imitate an old European mountain town: here, [faux-]historical stratifications are even reproduced in the juxtapositions of the buildings. All of this generates the scenery for a kind of averaged totalitarian style. The ubiquitous classical orders, the symmetrical plazas, and the axial street plan (one of whose compositional centers is an Orthodox church) reinforce the notion of a normalized beautiful life. The architecture only hints at all this, whereas the advertisement is maximally frank: it shows that preference has been given to the style of German (and, partly, Italian) fascism as something more European, more modernistically pure and attractive in comparison with the Asiatic, clumsily outdated, native Stalinist style.

All this might seem like conjecture were it not for the revelations made by the designers and architects. Here is a quotation from an interview with Atayants: “If everything works out, then in ten or fifteen years, when the trees grow a little, you’ll find old-timers who will say that this town has always been here. They’ll say that Krasnaya Polyana sprang up right here, and that Stalin visited the place. Such people will turn up, and that will be highest compliment for me and for all of us.” In a questionnaire published on the Italian web site Pigmag.com, when asked the question, “Who is Stalin?” Mishenin replied, with obvious sympathy, “The Fuehrer and Russian Il Duce.” Among other things, Doping-Pong’s web site is adorned with images of swastikas, and one of the group’s latest project is a series of erotic photographs in which the heroine, Fa (a young woman wearing a swastika-emblazoned t-shirt) wrestles with Antifa (another young woman) in a boxing ring (they’re naked, of course). In the end, Fa wins the bout and wraps herself in the Nazi flag. Another person who collaborates with the web site is commercial illustrator Katya Zashtopik — a pretty young thing who, from the looks of it, has publicly confessed her love for Hitler and Nazism, and whom the national-socialist community awarded a swastika-emblazoned ring for “propaganda of Nazi ideas.”

The designers of Doping-Pong assert on their web site that they “have been working for a long time, [work] very expensively, and are always right because they are the best.” This means that they are confident that the Nazi style sells well. Moreover, the patina of the totalitarian style makes a product more sellable. On the banner in question, there are two statues depicted in the background, but they are different: whereas the young woman on skates is a direct quotation from the world of Stalinist aesthetics, the snowboarder is a reference from a completely different context — contemporary mass media and advertising photos (such statues don’t exist in reality). But thanks to the marble (albeit illustrated marble), this advertising for winter sports is ennobled and raised to the level of high culture. And prices rise along with it.

This appeal to purchase real estate is primarily addressed to the younger generation, the children of the current elite. The choice of European fascism over Russian Stalinism thus has a purely commercial significance: the former is more attractive to the target audience. The associations with the Alps are likewise obligatory: they make the old Sochi-area resort capable of competing with Switzerland.

But there is also a more complex line of thinking behind all this: Stalinist (“Caucasian”) totalitarianism must become genuinely colonialist, colonialist in the western (and not Soviet) sense. In the quasi-historic development that Filippov has designed for the site and in Atayants’s dream of “old-timers” who perceive its architecture as native, dreams of reformatting history and re-educating the population with architecture shine through. Although Atayants does mention Stalin, the approach here is not at all Stalinist (that is, “national in form, socialist in content” — OpenSpace), and the advertisement is, once again, much more frank about this: the fact that this is being built in the Caucasus — not in some abstract mountains, and not in the Alps — is ignored. In the illustrations and video clips for the project we see the white-skinned proprietors of this world, the colonizers; we do not see any Circassian girls with vases on their heads dancing on command, as in Stalinist friezes. In its standardized classicism, the architecture also reminds us of a city of colonizers. It is worth noting that, in another interview, Atayants says, “Petersburg is a purely colonial European city on Russian soil.” He goes on to complain that its population has the same attitude to architecture as the inhabitants of Algeria and Libya have displayed since the countries were liberated from colonialism: they do not understand the virtues of the French- or Mussolini-era buildings and ruin them with their own utilitarian modifications. Atayants also quotes [Moscow architecture critic] Grigory Revzin, who said that “the Russian powers that be are always engaged in colonizing their own territory.” Atayants apparently believes that they should continue this colonization.

I was being ironic, of course, when I titled this article “The Putin Style”: the powers that be do not have the moxie to produce a major style that would be analogous to what Boris Groys has dubbed “the Stalin style.” The Stalinist period was utterly theatricalized: it was presented as a spectacle in which the entire nation were participants. Nowadays, such a synthesis is also taking shape, but on a minor stage. This stage is not secured by political power and certainly not by the myth of complicity in a great cause, but rather by money and the pleasure it brings. Gorki Gorod is a project for the elites, and as if in affirmation of its elitism, the project has been situated amidst mountain tops. The name itself, Gorki, also refers to the president’s official suburban residence and the [eponymous] village on the Rublevskoye Highway [outside of Moscow].

The choice of an elite stage, as opposed to Stalin’s nationwide stage, is manifested in its banishment of the theme of labor, which was central for the Stalinist age. In the world of Gorki Gorod, there is no such thing as exertion. Labor goes on somewhere in the lower world: here there is only the delectation of idleness. Hence, as Atayants puts it, there is something “facile and even amusing” in the development’s architecture. And as the ad campaign demonstrates, the town’s new inhabitants and new athletes do not strain themselves: for them, sports are a pleasant pastime. None of the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century treated this subject so hedonistically. The Putin regime has here hit upon its own proper note.

_____

The new, improved “popular front,” Putin-style:

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has proposed creating a “broad popular front” ahead of Russia’s parliamentary election, in an apparent attempt to counter growing public discontent with his political party and solidify support.


Putin’s United Russia has a majority in Russia’s parliament and is the dominant party in regional legislatures and governor’s offices across the country. Polls, however, show its support declining as Russians increasingly associate the party with a corrupt bureaucracy.

Russia holds a parliamentary election in December that will set the scene for a presidential vote three months later in 2012. Putin, who stepped down as president in 2008 after serving two terms, has not said whether he will run, but his actions increasingly signal that he intends to reclaim the presidency.

Speaking Friday before hundreds of party members in the southern city of Volgograd, Putin said the new front should include not only United Russia but also other political parties, trade unions, women’s organizations, youth groups and veterans’ associations.

“It is important that everyone should have the possibility and the right not only to formulate their ideas and proposals for how best to develop Russia, but should be able to suggest their candidates, who would be able remain as independents but would be able to enter parliament on the United Russia ticket,” he said in the televised address. Party members responded with raucous applause.

The ultimate goal, as his spokesman later made clear, is to solidify support for Putin across all segments of the Russian population.

The popular front will be formed “not on the basis of the party but more likely around Putin, the author of this idea,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian reporters traveling with the prime minister.

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