Monthly Archives: November 2011

Petersburg Lawmaker Elena Babich: Gays Shouldn’t Be Seen (and Jews Should Keep Quiet, Too)

Confronted last week at a book signing in a downtown Petersburg bookstore by LGBT rights activists, Elena Babich, a deputy in the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly representing the so-called Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) and one of the most outspoken advocates of the anti-gay law proposed by Deputy Vitaly Milonov, was frank:

Babich said she had “very many” friends who are gay, but all of them led “covert” lifestyles, and advised that LGBT people should act so as not to be visible to the public. She then compared them to the Jewish community.

“It’s very important not to draw attention to oneself too much,” she said.

“One of the books that I have starts like this: The issue of same-sex love is somewhat like the Jewish problem. When there are too many Jews — in every field of management, on television, in the arts, everywhere — it ends badly for Jews themselves. They [Jews] always make efforts to regulate this aspect.”

Read the full story here.

 

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Filed under feminism, gay rights, Russian society

How can you help fight anti-gay laws in Russia? (international campaign)

"Deputies, start solving real problems!"

_____

www.gayrussia.eu

St. Petersburg:

How can you help fight anti-gay laws in Russia?

Join the international campaign

10,000 letters to the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations

Many of you have been asking us how you can help to fight the bill in the most effective way. This press release aims to answer your questions as well as shed more insight on the context.

In the last few days, GayRussia has been consulting with its activists, other Russian-based LGBT activist groups and legal specialists to think of how to best address the current circumstances.

First, you need to know that the bill is politically motivated: Russia’s parliamentary elections will take place on December 4 and targeting LGBT is a way to earn support from religious and nationalist organizations. The bill received support from Valentina Matviyenko, the former governor of the city who is now the speaker of the upper chamber of parliament. Politicians in Moscow have said that they are ready to implement a similar law in the Russian capital, as well as at the federal level.

Second, we want to stress that a ban on the promotion of LGBT rights in public spaces has de facto been enforced in Russia since 2005. Implementation of this law is only the materialization of what has been a sad reality for years. For several years, GayRussia has been denouncing the absence of freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of association for Russian LGBT. Over 300 public events for which GayRussia applied for permits have been banned, LGBT groups partnering with us have been denied registration by the government in several regions, and our activists have been often fined, arrested, convicted by courts and humiliated. They have brought twenty cases before the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations. Russian prosecutors have refused to open criminal investigations against Mufti Talgat Tadjudin, Oleg Betin, the governor of Tambov, and the former mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, for inciting hatred against or calling for the murder of LGBT. The Russian courts have even legalized the demeaning word “gomik” (faggot), which was used by Yuri Luzhkov when referring to gays.

Third, we see this law as a unique chance for the Russian LGBT community to re-mobilize itself, as it did in 2002, against an attempt to re-criminalize homosexuality, and in 2006, on the eve of the first Moscow Gay Pride event.

Russia’s LGBT community has historically been divided, and GayRussia would like to hope that today’s attacks by politicians in St. Petersburg will serve as a lesson for LGBT groups in St. Petersburg who have been appearing in the media since 2005 arguing that both gay pride events and gay marriage are provocations.

This anti-LGBT law is a chance for the Russian LGBT community to work against homophobic politicians and the government rather than to work against each other. Our enemies are the homophobes: LGBT rights campaigners should not attack each other. If we stand united, we have more chances than if we stand on two opposite sides where we only fuel the anti-gay rhetoric.

Fourth, the St Petersburg law is nothing new in Russia. Similar laws have already come into force in Ryazan (in 2006) and in Arkhangelsk (in 2011).  More frightening, it is being discussed in Moscow, and also in Ukraine. It has also been discussed in Lithuania in recent years.

GayRussia is the only Russian LGBT group which campaigned against the anti-gay law in Ryazan in 2009, when Nikolay Bayev and Irina Fedotova (Fet) were arrested and fined for holding up a banner in front of a local school stating that “Homosexuality is normal.” The Constitutional Court has already rendered a decision arguing that the law did not violate the constitution. The activists have lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and with the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva.

These two cases are today a chance to make anti-gay laws history not only in Russia but in the whole of Europe.

The faster the European Court of Human Rights considers the case of Nikolay Bayev vs. Russia, the faster we will get a decision. And this decision will be binding for Russia. More important, it will set a precedent that will apply to Ryazan, Arkhangelsk, Ukraine, Lithuania and other parts of Europe.

JOIN THE INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN!

At this stage, your support and your mobilization can help achieve a global solution to this problem, not only in St. Petersburg, but also in Ryazan, in Arkhangelsk, in Moscow, in Ukraine, and elsewhere.

By asking the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee to prioritize the case of Bayev and Fedotova, you can make a difference globally. GayRussia offers template letters that you can print and send. An envelope, a stamp, and a piece of paper is all you need!

If ten thousand of you write a letter to these two institutions, IT CAN MAKE A HUGE CHANGE. Each of your letters will be appended to the files of each case. The more letters are filed, the more chances we have of showing the importance of these cases.

Templates of letters to send are available here:

http://www.gayrussia.eu/en/campaigns/model_letters.php

It will then be up to us to do the job and ensure that we win the case. We assure you that our efforts to fight in court and win the case will be as tireless and unstoppable as our previous campaigns have been. Our aim is to defeat our Constitutional Court and our homophobic government. This year, GayRussia won the first-ever LGBT case in Russia (on the banning of the Moscow Pride event) in the European Court of Human Rights.

Today, GayRussia and other Russian LGBT groups — Equality St. Petersburg, Radio Indigo, Russian Community LGBT Grani, Marriage Equality, Moscow Pride Committee, Article 282, and Pride House Sochi — are launching the campaign

10,000 letters to the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations against Anti-Gay Laws in Russia

The campaign, which is launched under the patronage of the IDAHO Committee (France), has received support from the Kaleidoscope Trust (UK), Gay Liberation Network (USA), Outrage! and Peter Tatchell Foundation (UK). It has received media support from our longtime international media partners, Gay City News (USA), Yagg.com (France), UkGaynews.org.uk (United Kingdom), Queer.de (Germany), Gayby.net (Belarus), and will be chronicled on reporter Rex Wockner’s online networks.

It kicked off with an article by Nikolai Alekseev published in The Guardian.

QUOTES

“This campaign goes beyond Russia, our aim is to put a barrier to any attempts limiting freedom of speech for LGBT people in Europe,” said Nikolai Alekseev, founder of GayRussia and Moscow Pride.

“10,000 of you can make a change simply by buying a stamp and an envelope,” added Mr Alekseev.

“IDAHO stands united with our brothers and sisters in Eastern Europe to put an end to these anti-gay laws and we call on each of you to spend a few minutes of your time and write to the European Court and the UN to try to make a change,” said Louis-Georges Tin, President of the IDAHO Committee.

“The IDAHO Committee wrote to the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights committee asking both of these institutions to grant priority treatment to the case of Bayev and Fedotova and is calling on any LGBT organization and any individuals to do the same,” added Mr Tin.

“The Kaleidoscope Trust strongly supports this action and we are asking all our supporters to join this letter writing campaign. Politicians in all corners of the world like to attack LGBT people to win popularity. But we can take action now to demonstrate that our rights are as valid as everybody else’s and these legal challenges are a vital step,” said Lance Price, Director of the Kaleidoscope Trust.

“World leaders like Putin, Obama and Medvedev pretend they support human rights, but then support the violent suppression of ‘Occupy’ protesters, the murders of democracy activists in Egypt, and now, the escalation of attacks on the free speech rights of LGBTs and others in Russia.  It is our responsibility to forcefully denounce the hypocrisy of ‘our’ leaders, to directly organize against them, and to foil their plans for violence, exploitation and oppression by any means necessary,” said Andy Thayer, Gay Liberation Network co-founder.

“We are very proud to support Russia’s courageous, inspiring LGBT activists as they challenge these latest attacks on LGBT human rights and freedom of expression. We urge the European Union, United Nations and Council of Europe to ensure Russia’s compliance with the human rights conventions it has signed and pledged to uphold,” said Peter Tatchell from Outrage! in London.

What you should do right now:

  • Ask the European Court of Human Rights to give priority treatment to the case of Bayev vs Russia (67667/09). Use the template available here:

http://www.gayrussia.eu/en/campaigns/model_letters.php

  •  Ask the UN Human Rights Committee to give priority treatment to the case of Fedotova vs Russia (1932/2010). Use the template available here:

http://www.gayrussia.eu/en/campaigns/model_letters.php

Other things you can do:

  • Ask your minister of foreign affairs to raise the question of anti-gay laws with their Russian counterparts.
  • Ask Catherine Ashton (if you are a EU citizen) to remind Russia that LGBT rights are human rights and that anti-gay laws are unacceptable from a trading partner of the EU.
  • Ask the Council of Europe’s General Secretary to remind Russia of its obligation to strictly apply the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms that it ratified.

List of contact details if you want to take any action listed above

European Court of Human Rights

Fax: +33 3 88 41 27 30

Post: European Court of Human Rights, Council of Europe, 67075 Strasbourg, France

UN Human Rights Committee

Post: Palais Wilson, 52 rue des Pâquis, CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland

Thorbjorn Jagland

Council of Europe General Secretary

Phone:  +33 3 88 41 20 00

Post: Avenue de l’Europe , 67075 Strasbourg Cedex, France

Catherine Ashton

Vice President of the European Commission, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

Email: COMM-SPP-HRVP-ASHTON@ec.europa.eu

Phone:  +32 2 584 11 11

Post: European External Action Service, 1046 Brussels, Belgium

ATTENTION! At the site www.pamfax.biz/en/ you can send your fax to Strasbourg absolutely for free! Use this opportunity if you want to send a fax instead of a letter!

And also keep us informed of your efforts by writing to us at: media(at)gayrussia.eu !

_____

"Deputies, don't incite hatred and homophobia!"

Photos from this past Sunday’s flash mob action in Arts Square against the Petersburg anti-gay bill, organized by Coming Out, courtesy of Sergey Chernov.

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Filed under activism, feminism, gay rights, international affairs, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, protests, Russian society

The 1%: Marina Abramovic & Jeffrey Deitch

http://occupyduniya.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/abramovic-deitch/

The 1%: Marina Abramovic & Jeffrey Deitch

1) Sara Wookey: Open Letter from dancer who refused to participate in Marina Abramović’s MOCA performance
2) 50 Artists: Open Letter to Jeffrey Deitch

Sara Wookey’s Open Letter

I participated in an audition on November 7th for performance artist Marina Abramović’s production for the annual gala of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. I auditioned because I wanted to participate in the project of an artist whose work I have followed with interest for many years and because it was affiliated with MOCA, an institution that I have a connection with as a Los Angeles-based artist. Out of approximately eight hundred applicants, I was one of two hundred selected to audition. Ultimately, I was offered the role of one of six nude females to re-enact Abramović’s signature work, Nude with Skeleton (2002), at the center of tables with seats priced at up to $100,000 each. For reasons I detail here—reasons which I strongly believe need to be made public—I turned it down.

I am writing to address three main points: One, to add my voice to the discourse around this event as an artist who was critical of the experience and decided to walk away, a voice which I feel has been absent thus far in the LA Times and New York Times coverage; Two, to clarify my identity as the informant about the conditions being asked of artists and make clear why I chose, up till now, to be anonymous in regards to my email to Yvonne Rainer; And three, to prompt a shift of thinking of cultural workers to consider, when either accepting or rejecting work of any kind, the short- and long-term impact of our personal choices on the entire field. Each point is to support my overriding interest in organizing and forming a union that secures labor standards and fair wages for fine and performing artists in Los Angeles and beyond.

I refused to participate as a performer because what I anticipated would be a few hours of creative labor, a meal, and the chance to network with like-minded colleagues turned out to be an unfairly remunerated job. I was expected to lie naked and speechless on a slowly rotating table, starting from before guests arrived and lasting until after they left (a total of nearly four hours. I was expected to ignore (by staying in what Abramović refers to as “performance mode”) any potential physical or verbal harassment while performing. I was expected to commit to fifteen hours of rehearsal time, and sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement stating that if I spoke to anyone about what happened in the audition I was liable for being sued by Bounce Events, Marketing, Inc., the event’s producer, for a sum of $1 million dollars plus attorney fees.

I was to be paid $150. During the audition, there was no mention of safeguards, signs, or signals for performers in distress, and when I asked about what protection would be provided I was told it could not be guaranteed. What I experienced as an auditionee for this work was extremely problematic, exploitative, and potentially abusive.

I am a professional dancer and choreographer with 16 years of experience working in the United States, Canada and Europe, and I hold a Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance from the University of California, Los Angeles. As a professional artist working towards earning a middle class living in Los Angeles, I am outraged that there are no official or even unofficial standard practice measures for working conditions, compensation, and benefits for artists and performers, or for relations between creator, performer, presenting venue and production company in regard to such highly respected and professionalized individuals and institutions such as Abramović and MOCA. In Europe I produced over a dozen performance works involving casts up to 15 to 20 artists. When I hired dancers, I was obliged to follow a national union pay scale agreement based on each artist’s number of years of experience. In Canada, where I recently performed a work by another artist, I was paid $350 for one performance that lasted 15 minutes, not including rehearsal time that was supported by another fee for up to 35 hours, in accordance with the standards set by CARFAC (Canadian Artists Representation/Le Front Des Artistes Canadiens) established in 1968.

If my call for labor standards for artists seems out of bounds, think of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG, established 1933), the American Federation of Musicians (AFM, founded 1896), or the umbrella organization the Associated Actors and Artistes of America (the 4A’s, founded in 1919), which hold the film, theater and music industries to regulatory and best practice standards for commercial working artists and entertainers. If there is any group of cultural workers that deserves basic standards of labor, it is us performers working in museums, whose medium is our own bodies and deserve humane treatment and respect. Artists of all disciplines deserve fair and equal treatment and can organize if we care enough to put the effort into it. I would rather be the face of the outspoken artist then the silenced, slowly rotating head (or, worse, “centerpiece”) at the table. I want a voice, loud and clear.

Abramović’s call for artists was, as the LA Times quoted, for “strong, silent types.” I am certainly strong but I am not comfortable with silence in this situation. I refuse to be a silent artist regarding issues that affect my livelihood and the culture of my practice. There are issues too important to be silenced and I just happen to be the one to speak out, to break that silence. I spoke out in response to ethics, not artistic material or content, and I know that I am not the only one who feels the way I do.

I rejected the offer to work with Abramović and MOCA—to participate in perpetuating unethical, exploitative and discriminatory labor practices—with my community in mind. It has moved me to work towards the establishment of ethical standards, labor rights and equal pay for artists, especially dancers, who tend to be some of the lowest paid artists.

The time has come for artists in Los Angeles and elsewhere to unite, organize, and work toward changing the degenerate discrepancies between the wealthy and powerful funders of art and the artists, mainly poor, who are at its service and are expected to provide so-called avant-garde, prescient content or “entertainment,” as is increasingly the case—what is nonetheless merchandise in the service of money. We must do this not because of what happened at MOCA but in response to a greater need (painfully demonstrated by the events at MOCA) for equity and justice for cultural workers.

I am not judging my colleagues who accepted their roles in this work and I, too, am vulnerable to the cult of charisma surrounding celebrity artists. I am judging, rather, the current social, cultural, and economic conditions that have rendered the exploitation of cultural workers commonplace, natural, and even horrifically banal, whether its perpetrated by entities such as MOCA and Abramović or self-imposed by the artists themselves.

I want to suggest another mode of thinking: When we, as artists, accept or reject work, when we participate in the making of a work, even (or perhaps especially) when it is not our own, we contribute to the establishment of standards and precedents for our cohort and all who will come after us.

To conclude, I am grateful to Rainer for utilizing her position (without a request from me) of cultural authority and respect to make these issues public for the sake of launching a debate that has been overlooked for too long. Jeffrey Deitch, Director of MOCA, was quoted in the LA Times as saying, in response to receiving my anonymous email and Rainer’s letter, “Art is about dialogue.” While I agree, Deitch’s idea of dialogue here is only a palliative. It obscures a situation of injustice in which both artist and institution have proven irresponsible in their unwillingness to recognize that art is not immune to ethical standards. Let’s have a new discourse that begins on this thought.

Sara Wookey

***
Final Letter to Jeffrey Deitch and MoCA Regarding Annual Gala
11.12.11

After attending a rehearsal for the annual gala for the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Yvonne Rainer produced a final version of the letter to Jeffrey Deitch and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The story of the original letter, in which Rainer argues that Marina Abramović’s entertainment for the gala is exploitative of the performers, appeared on artforum.com yesterday.

The final version of the letter, along with a list of signers supporting its message, is reprinted below:

To Jeffrey Deitch:

After observing a rehearsal, I am writing to protest the “entertainment” about to be provided by Marina Abramović at the upcoming donor gala at the Museum of Contemporary Art where a number of young people’s live heads will be rotating as decorative centerpieces at diners’ tables and others—all women—will be required to lie perfectly still in the nude for over three hours under fake skeletons, also as centerpieces surrounded by diners.

On the face of it the above description might strike one as reminiscent of Salo, Pasolini’s controversial film of 1975 that dealt with sadism and sexual abuse of a group of adolescents at the hands of a bunch of postwar fascists. Though it is hard to watch, Pasolini’s film has a socially credible justification tied to the cause of anti-fascism. Abramović and MoCA have no such credibility—and I am speaking of this event itself, not of Abramović’s work in general—only a questionable personal rationale about the beauty of eye contact and the transcendence of artists’ suffering.

At the rehearsal the fifty heads—all young, beautiful, and mostly white—turning and bobbing out of holes as their bodies crouched beneath the otherwise empty tables, appeared touching and somewhat comic, but when I tried to envision 800 inebriated diners surrounding them, I had another impression. I myself have never been averse to occasional epatering of the bourgeoisie. However, I can’t help feeling that subjecting her performers to possible public humiliation and bodily injury from the three-hour endurance test at the hands of a bunch of frolicking donors is yet another example of the Museum’s callousness and greed and Ms Abramović’s obliviousness to differences in context and some of the implications of transposing her own powerful performances to the bodies of others. An exhibition is one thing—again, this is not a critique of Abramovic’s work in general—but titillation for wealthy donor/diners as a means of raising money is another.

Ms Abramović is so wedded to her original vision that she—and by extension, the Museum director and curators—doesn’t see the egregious associations for the performers, who, though willing, will be exploited nonetheless. Their cheerful voluntarism says something about the pervasive desperation and cynicism of the art world such that young people must become abject table ornaments and clichéd living symbols of mortality in order to assume a novitiate role in the temple of art.

This grotesque spectacle promises to be truly embarrassing. I and the undersigned wish to express our dismay that an institution that we have supported can stoop to such degrading methods of fund raising. Can other institutions be far behind? Must we re-name MoCA “MOUFR” or the Museum of Unsavory Fund Raising?

Sincerely,

Yvonne Rainer
Douglas Crimp
Tom Knechtel
Monica Majoli
Liz Kotz
Michael Duncan
Matias Viegener
Judie Bamber
Kimberli Meyer
Kathrin Burmester
Nizan Shaked
Alexandro Segade
David Burns
A.L. Steiner
Simon Leung
Moyra Davey
Taisha Paggett
Susan Silton
Silvia Kolbowski
Susan Mogul
Julian Hoeber
Catherine Lord
Zoe Beloff
Lincoln Tobier
Millie Wilson
Mary Kelly
Charles Gaines
Amy Sadao
Gregg Bordowitz
Andrea Geyer
Lucas Michael
Liz Deschenes
Ulrike Muller
Nancy Popp
Su Freidrich
Dean Daderko
Litia Perta
Ginger Brooks Takahashi
Stefan Kalmar
bell hooks
Julie Ault
Zoe Leonard
Molly Corey
Sharon Horvath
Rachel Harrison
John Zurier
Day Gleeson
Thomas Miccelli
John Yau
Ernest Larsen

Art Forum: full letter transcript

Yvonne Rainer: Marina Abramovic’s exploitative ”grotesque spectacle”

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Nikolay Oleynikov: Zero Gravity Revolt (Brussels)

NIKOLAY OLEYNIKOV
(Chto Delat and more)
ZERO GRAVITY REVOLT

A learning mural

Curated by Elena Sorokina; choreographed by Ula Sickle

in collaboration with young artists, dancers and students from Académie Royale des Beaux Arts de Bruexelles, La Cambre, Ecole de Recherche Graphique, HISK, Sint-Lukas Brussel, Sint-Lucas Gent, PHL Limburg (M.A.D. Faculty)

and with a programme of talks, cooking, and nightwatch film screenings performed by Rossella Biscotti (Amsterdam), Adela Jusic and Lana Čmajčanin (Sarajevo) and others (TBA).

December 16, 2011—February 11, 2012
Opening: December 15, 6-9 p.m.

Artists’ talk with guests Oxana Timofeeva (Jan van Eyck Academy) and Ils Huygens (curator at Z33) on Sunday, December 4th, at 3pm; open to the public.

Komplot
295 Avenue Van Volxemlaan
B-1190 Brussels
info(at)kmplt.be
+32 484 713 175

First Project Narrative
In early Soviet science fiction, revolutions happened all over the solar system – on Mars, on the moon, and of course on Earth. Full of vivid social imagination, its authors described cosmic class struggles and social upheavals booming in space – forceful and impetuous. The labor of revolution was, however, supposed to create the new future conditions of labor as the building blocks. And here the revolutionary dynamics often got stuck on a single question: How will future humanity work? Should it work at all?

The visionary writer Andrei Platonov proposed several contradictory options. In his novel Foundation Pit, the protagonists work to point of total exhaustion. In Chevengur, on the contrary, they stop working altogether as a programmatic and radical gesture. Finally, in Juvenile Sea, they become ceaselessly inventive, displaying an exuberant working creativity.

Many writers of the 1920-30s hesitated between the abolition of labor, its extreme technologization, and its hyper-acceleration or total creativisation. The text “In one thousand years,” written in 1927, opts for a creative non-labor and describes the inhabitants of the future as dancing, singing, painting creatures, who also regularly engage in unassisted flight. Like art, levitation and flight are considered a creative pastime that keeps the new humanity busy. All these activities – more or less virtuosic but decidedly unalienated – can be read as pure self-expression or cultural dissemination. What they don’t accommodate – and the author is absolutely certain about it – is labor. Neither painting, nor dance, nor levitation contain any “work”.

This opinion was disputed by some: levitation as labor was most prominently theorized by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, a great scientist but also a sci-fi writer. In his novels, people enjoy the low gravity on the moon while working on their research assignments. For Tsiolkovsky, the occupation of space by means of levitation is result of engineering labor and scientific work.

All these observations bring us to the central question of our project: How can we see the relation between work and levitation today, in the times of our precarious present and the prevailing conditions of groundlessness? Analyzing different types of labor as they were depicted in early Soviet sci-fi, we will investigate possible links between the levitating proletariat and today’s groundless precariat, which is trying to gain some leverage in occupying space and spaces. Keeping in mind Google Earth and surveillance technologies, we will try to imagine ourselves levitating while working. Finally, we will take this opportunity to look back to at the role models of the “working artist”, “managing artist” and the “artist trying not to work” and ultimately, we will ask how artistic labor today resonates with these ideas.

Method
About three years ago Oleynikov initiated a series of projects grounded in collective creative living. Since then, bringing together practitioners from different fields and organizing temporary communities in constant dialogue has become one of the essential elements of his artistic practice. This initiative was immediately taken up by several collectives, and was adopted as experimental non-stop seminars, congresses-communes or learning plays which have been recently presented at the ICA in London, Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, and at SMART and SCOR in Amsterdam, among other venues.

For Zero Gravity Revolt the artist and curator will conceive a specific temporality for the upcoming learning mural. The process will take 15 days, from the first brainstorming sessions to its actual “visible” result. This period of time will be filled with testing the ground, enacting the characters to be featured (flying proletariat as much as levitating bankers), training in levitation, screenings, talks, and informal exchanges. All this will result in the collective writing of a program for the mural, which might take a fictional form, and its ultimate completion.

Expected Results of the Project
On December 15, 2011, at the opening of the show, the spectator can discover the following. There is a high degree of probability that a mural, executed by all the participants of the project, will stand. It is not impossible that a performative action will be presented. A curatorial opening speech has serious potential to take place. And depending on the outcome of discussions, there might be a screening of a film, introduced by an artist. Finally, it is almost certain that a guided tour will be given by the artists and/or curator and the final press release written for the occasion.

Artist
Nikolay Oleynikov (born 1976) is a Moscow-based artist and activist, member of Chto Delat, editor for Chto Delat newspaper, member of the editorial board of Moscow Art Magazine, co-founder of the Learning Film Group, and the May Congress of Creative Workers. Known for his didactic murals and graphic works in the tradition of the Soviet monumental school, comics, surrealism, and punk culture. Represented worldwide by his solo projects as well as by a number of collective activities, Oleynikov has had numerous international shows at such venues as Mala Galerija, Ljubljana; ICA, London; Welling School, London; State Tretyakov Gallery and Paperworks Gallery, Moscow. His work has also been shown at Fargfabriken, Stockholm; New Museum, New York; Musée d´Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (MAM/ARC), Paris; Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella; and the X Baltic Triennale in Vilnius.

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Filed under art exhibitions, contemporary art

The “Pepper Spray Incident” and the Inevitable Radicalization of the UC Student Body

occupyeverything.org
The “Pepper Spray Incident” and the Inevitable Radicalization of the UC Student Body
Written by Eric Lee
November 22nd, 2011

When I watched Lt. John Pike and the University of California Davis Police Department violently attack our peaceful demonstration against social inequality and austerity on Friday, I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation.

There is no dearth of personal recollections of this weekend’s events circulating the internet as the “pepper spray incident” and Chancellor Linda Katehi’s “walk of shame” have made UC Davis the center of international attention and outcry. In light of this, it is more important to consider the implications of these events and what they mean for the growing global movement against social inequality. Particularly, it is important to recognize the historical importance of the past week’s profound radicalization of students in the UC system and across the nation. The entrance of an organized student movement into the current social situation has deep implications, and they should be considered as the movement goes forward.

The video that has now gone viral speaks volumes and there is no need to romanticize the moments in great detail. My friends and I were approached by a small army of thugs, who violently attacked some of the kindest, most intelligent, most caring people I have ever met. I was not as brave as my friends who made history by refusing to yield to the police goons, and I have to admit that after watching their bodies react, I do not regret falling back. I saw hard working, compassionate students and teachers violently vomiting, weeping, and holding each other as that disgusting orange goo ran down their teary faces. I saw hundreds of students pour out of classrooms and the library to come to our defense. I saw the police turn tail and flee after seeing the looks of fury in our eyes. I saw the looks in their eyes, too—looks of genuine fear. I’d never seen that before in a police officer’s eyes.

So, what role will California college students play in the Occupy movement? As the worldwide revolt against social inequality continues despite the deeply disturbing intentions of the wealthiest among us to suffocate the movement, the students now have an incredibly important role to play. With the original occupiers on the East Coast forced by the cold weather and brutal police raids to reclaim less visible, unused property, the West Coast is responsible for sustaining and building the movement until spring.

And UC and CSU students are ready to rise to the occasion. 10,000 of us gathered in Berkeley last Tuesday, 2,000 here in Davis on the same day, and an Occupy camp has been set up at UCLA. Hundreds of UC students converged in downtown San Francisco last week and succeeded in shutting down a Bank of America. CSU students forced the CSU Board of Trustees to secretly flee their original meeting spot before passing another round of fee increases. UC leadership cancelled the UC Regents’ meeting last week out of fear that it would be shut down by student protestors.

The participation of thousands of students across the state in the anti-Wall Street movement represents the rapid radicalization of California students, which in itself is indicative of the quick move to the left by millions of movement sympathizers. The radicalization of the students manifests itself on the busses, in the restaurants, and in the coffee shops on and around my campus, where discussion of political strategy dominates. Of course, these anecdotes mean relatively little—but the politicization of the student body is significant nevertheless. Though the process of politicization is experiencing its birth pangs, it is emotionally moving that the process has finally begun.

This radicalization must continue to be channeled into a starkly anti-capitalist political tendency. Objective material conditions are ensuring that liberal elements of the student body will be drowned out. This is a huge break from the Free Speech Movement of the mid-60s, and even from the anti-Vietnam War movement that followed. Youth unemployment in the United States is above 20% – higher than in some “Arab Spring” countries. We’ve seen the statistics about wealth inequality: the top 1% controls the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90%. Only 40% of college students graduate, and for those that do, they enter the workforce with an average debt-load just under $30,000.

And then what? A minimum wage Starbucks job at $8.50 an hour? Perhaps most importantly, though, is the current rollback of nearly every major social gain won by the working class since the 1930s. Even in the midst of the Vietnam War, after all, President Johnson’s “Great Society” at least recognized that social inequality existed and that the most impoverished Americans were worthy of minuscule levels of government support.

At least our parents got “Guns and Butter”. Now we’re stuck with just the guns.

Today, the contrasts couldn’t be starker. President Obama has escalated the war on the working class by continuing the decades-long trend of drastically slashing social services. In fact, Obama has promised to out-do the GOP in the race to see who can slash more services to deal with the massive debt our country has accumulated from years of war and tax breaks for the wealthy. He has proposed gutting services that tens of millions of Americans rely on for survival: Social Security, Medicare, SNAP, WIC, etc. The cynical Manipulator-in-Chief has invaded new countries, illegally murdered American citizens abroad, and expanded the War on Terror into Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

I spent a year working as a volunteer on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. I was drawn to his candidacy by his promises to serve “Main Street, not Wall Street”, to close Guantanamo Bay, to end the wars, to stop the mass deportation of undocumented families, and to roll-back the PATRIOT Act and the rest of the unconstitutional post-9/11 national security apparatus. I, like many in my generation, naively thought that a candidate that was backed by Wall Street could still make “change”.

Barack Obama has delivered on exactly none of these promises. In fact, the ruling class could hardly ask for a better leader. Corporate profits have soared during his presidency, as unemployment remains stiflingly high with no signs that the economy will add jobs at a rate quick enough to keep up with population gain. It makes me furious that the candidate to whom I dedicated a year of my life has turned on me. I take it very personally. I am not the only 21-year-old who feels this way. I also served the President’s political party for a year following his election. I was an elected delegate to the California Democratic Party, and was a staffer for a statewide Democratic campaign. But the Democratic Party is leading the attack on working people across America.

Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown, for example, seems like he’s trying to out-do Scott Walker in imposing austerity on the indigent and the young. Democratic mayors across the country are ordering riot police on their own peaceful protesters. In the bay area, “progressive” Democrats like Jean Quan and Ed Lee have ordered riot police to evict occupiers on multiple occasions. These liberal champions ordered police to beat Iraq War Veterans Scott Olson and Kayvan Sabehgi.

Today, no solution to the social crisis can be found through either of the two big-business parties. This is why the burgeoning student movement in California represents a great hope for the anti-capitalist position. In light of this, demands for Chancellor Katehi’s resignation should be considered only as a show of our power. In reality, even if we are to succeed in ousting Katehi, her replacement would be no different.

We students can re-shape the future of public education in California only by abolishing the UC Regents, CSU Board of Trustees, and their respective police forces. Democratic student, worker, and faculty control of the entire decision-making process is needed to reverse the trends towards privatization, debt, and austerity.

And we should also remember that the crisis in higher education is a symptom of the crisis of capitalism. The American student movement of the late 60s, for example, failed to prevent the attack on the working class that has been carried out by Democrats and Republicans throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, and 2010s because it failed to self-consciously establish itself as a movement against capitalism.

This belies the issue of “no politics” that is such a popular refrain for liberals taking part in the Occupy movement today. “No politics” has been our strategy for 40 years, and look what it has gotten us! Back to UC Davis — I have read multiple accounts on the events of the past days that emphasize how UC Davis is a turning point for the Occupy movement. Images of the blatant police brutality and the powerful silence that met the Chancellor when she left her botched press conference have terrified and inspired millions. But this isn’t an unprecedented show of violence, and police brutality isn’t a new phenomenon. The events of the past days are a glimpse of reality, not a break from the past. Though it has taken a viral video to make this clear to many, it is an important fact to remember.

The images from Davis, Berkeley, Chapel Hill, New York, Oakland, Denver, and countless other cities and towns across the country have galvanized support for the movement and have even further embedded Occupy Wall Street as a facet of American political life. The images have also revealed democracy in America for just what it is: a façade.

In light of this, students at UC and across the country must prepare ourselves for the coming struggle. The police attacks will not abate—they will only grow in intensity. Our debt load will grow, unless we reject the concept of debt as required by capitalism. Fee hikes will continue until we reject the very idea of paying for school. We should fight for something radically different—a society where production is managed based on social need and human rights to housing, food, education, transportation, and physical security. One where our friends, brothers, sisters, and parents aren’t sent off to die in unnecessary wars. One where speculators and bankers are treated like the criminals they are.

The lines in the sand are being drawn on my campus and across the country. Students, ask yourselves: Which side are you on?

[Point of clarification: I write this as an individual and in no way as a spokesperson for any group.]

Eric Lee is a 4th year undergraduate at the University of California, Davis.

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Vitaly Milonov, Petersburg Lawmaker

Vitaly Milonov

Kommersant Saint Petersburg
November 24, 2011

[…]

According to Vitaly Milonov, [consideration of the bill he introduced into the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly, which would make “promotion of homosexuality” an administrative offense punishable by fines] was postponed “due to legal ambiguity.” “There are certain slippery aspects in the wording of the bill that might hinder its implementation. Basically, these are terminological ambiguities. For example, the concept of ‘lesbianism.’ It could happen that residents of the Greek island of Lesbos who promote their own lifestyle would be subject to fines,” Mr. Milonov explained to Kommersant. In addition, there is no clarity in how the concept of ‘promotion’ [literally, “propaganda” of homosexuality] would be applied, which the legislative assembly’s legal office also pointed out. Vitaly Milonov admitted that his committee is now considering a legal analysis of the text of the bill prepared by the NGO Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms, which “the homosexualists sent” to Mr. Milonov. The multi-page text of the opinion (which Kommersant has obtained a copy of) concludes that the proposed bill is unconstitutional, contradicts a number of international conventions, and “also contains significant shortcomings [from the standpoint] of legal procedure.” Deputy Milonov had to agree with the legal experts and the sexual minorities, saying that now all amendments [to the bill] are being “put in order.”

However, a source in the Legislative Assembly has told Kommersant that deputies are unlikely to consider the bill on fines for gay agitators even at their final session [before the December 4 elections]. “We didn’t expect such a violent reaction in the press. The bill, which is Vitaly Milonov’s pet project, ended up on the agenda through a strange turn of events: United Russia thought that it might generate [positive] ‘campaign buzz’, winning over the conservative part of society. But now we see the opposite effect: the entire country has learned the names of the ‘main homophobes in Russia’ — Milonov and Babich. (LDPR deputy Elena Babich is an active supporter of punishments for gay propagandists.)  This might have a negative impact during the upcoming elections. The next  Legislative Assembly can decide what to do with this foul-smelling story,” the source in the Legislative Assembly told Kommersant.

The gay community notes with satisfaction the contrary effect [generated by] the United Russia initiative. Igor Kochetkov, director of the LGBT organization Coming Out, told Kommersant that if the bill becomes law he will “be the first to have it applied.” “As soon as the law takes effect, I’ll go right to the city prosecutor’s office and demand that Milonov and Babich be prosecuted for promotion of homosexuality,” Mr. Kochetkov promised. “You can’t imagine how people’s attention to our problems has grown after their public statements. We’ve literally been flooded with letters and calls of support. In Russia alone, we’ve collected over ten thousand signatures on a petition against passage of the law.”

Natalia Yevdokimova, secretary of the Petersburg Civil Rights Council and former three-time Legislative Assembly deputy, notes the “extreme illiteracy” of the amendments drafted by Mr. Milonov. “It’s bad enough that he uses non-legal terms, but ‘apples and oranges’ are also mixed up in this document. They want to cram a criminally punishable offense — promotion of pedophilia — into the law on administrative offenses, but pedophilia is purely a matter for the Criminal Code. And I’m confident that any court would immediately toss out these amendments for their flagrant illiteracy,” said Ms. Yevdokimova. It was unclear to her why this bill has appeared on the eve of the elections: “The pre-election stress is bad enough as it is in the entire city, in the country. It is unclear why United Russia wants to add fuel to the fire. It’s just stupid.”

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www.zaks.ru/new/archive/view/67190
March 8, 2010

[…]

Moreover, Milonov noted that former US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice “behaves like a monkey.” “Everyone in United Russia knows that Condoleeza Rice has monkey brains,” Milonov said.

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The following was posted on November 21, 2011, on the LiveJournal blog of Sergei Shestakov, a deputy in Petersburg’s Avtovo municipal district council and a candidate in the upcoming elections to the Petersburg Legislative Assembly. A member of the A Just Russia party, he is running in the same electoral precinct as Vitaly Milonov.

Today I was informed that Vitaly Milonov was again buying off voters — this time not at his constituent outreach office, but at the Orbita movie theater. I decided to find out how much money from the budget Vitaly Milonov had blown on buying food packages.

A very long queue of dozens of people who had braved the cold after hearing about United Russia’s incredible generosity had formed outside the building.

In the Orbita theater itself, people who came were handed food parcels to the tune of six hundred rubles each. The plastic bags, emblazoned with the inscription “All-Russia Popular Front” and [the organization’s] emblem, each contained a tin of caviar, a box of candies, a cake, canned peas and corn, coffee, and other products. United Russian and Milonov campaign brochures had been carefully planted in each parcel. The people in [United Russia] scarves [who handed out the parcels] did not specify how to eat [the brochures].

When my campaign agent asked the staff (the women handing out the presents, who walked around in United Russia scarves) whether they thought this was bribery of voters, they confidently replied that it was the social security department that was handing everything out. The Milonov Social Security Department was generous: all the rooms were filled with boxes, and it was hard to elbow one’s way past them.

People stood outside in the light frost, waiting for rations, as if this were still the time of the Siege [of Leningrad, during WWII]. The fact that the products purchased were the cheapest, and not very fresh, hardly bothered them at all.

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Free Matvei Krylov!

Water Stunt May Earn 2 Years in Jail
01 November 2011
Alexey Eremenko
The Moscow Times

An opposition activist faces two years in jail for splashing water in the face of a prosecutor who jailed his comrades and allegedly threatened to kill him, the Agora rights group said Monday.

Dmitry Putenikhin, a member of The Other Russia, attacked Alexei Smirnov outside Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court on Friday shortly after it jailed five people, including three fellow activists, for participating in Manezh Square rioting last December.

The verdict has raised eyebrows because the riots were racially charged, while The Other Russia is not a nationalist group. Critics say the authorities chose the organization as a scapegoat.

Putenikhin, also known under the alias Matvei Krylov, did not flee after the attack, explaining to journalists that his actions were “improvised.” A video released by RIA-Novosti showed police brutally detaining him and three other people minutes after the attack.

Putenikhin, who remains in detention, was initially charged with petty hooliganism, but over the weekend, police reclassified the charge to threatening an official on duty.

Police acted on a complaint by Smirnov, who said Putenikhin shouted “death to prosecutors” when splashing the water on him, Interfax reported, citing an Other Russia spokesman.

Putenikhin’s lawyer, Svetlana Sidorkina, said her client never threatened Smirnov, only telling him “we won’t forget, we won’t forgive,” which does not qualify as a death threat, Agora said in a statement.

The video of the incident shed no light on the matter because it included neither statement. No date for a court hearing had been set Monday.

Nationalists rallied on Manezh Square in December to protest an allegedly botched probe into the death of a football fan, killed in a brawl with Dagestani natives, six of whom were jailed last week.

The twin rulings in the Dagestani and Other Russia trials were widely seen as a means to placate nationalists ahead of their Russian March rally on Nov. 4. City authorities have sanctioned the event to take place in the suburb of Lyublino, but a co-organizer told Interfax on Monday that the maximum number of participants has now been ordered slashed from 10,000 to 3,000.

______

Matvei’s numerous comrades, friends, colleagues, and admirers have organized a vigorous public campaign for his release. The campaign’s virtual headquarters is the web site http://plennik.org/ru/.

There you’ll find information (in Russian) about Matvei’s case, his biography, and suggestions on how to help him gain release from police custody, fund his legal defense, and publicize his story.

If you would like to join the campaign by organizing solidarity actions in your own country or city, or want to know how best you can help Matvei and the campaign from outside Russia, please write to: plennik.org@gmail.com.

Campaigners have already help a number of events and protest rallies in Matvei’s defense and more are scheduled for the coming days, including a rally/concert at 2:00 p.m. on November 27 on Chistye Prudy in central Moscow:

and a group art show at 5:00  p.m. on November 26 at the Zverevsky Center in Moscow (Metro station Baumanskaya; ul. Novoryazanskaya, 29):

Matvei has played a key role in reviving and organizing the sixties tradition of open-air poetry readings at the Mayakovsky monument in central Moscow, as reflected in this article from last year:

Poets rediscover Moscow platform to oppose leaders
AFP, MOSCOW
Fri, Sep 17, 2010

Matvei Krylov perched on a barricade in a central Moscow square and began reciting a poem by a ­Soviet-era dissident as a rag-tag audience, from goths to a headscarfed pensioner, gathered to listen.

Every month a group of left-wing activists and amateur poets gathers to riff on Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and problems such as the deadly August forest fires in a rare outlet for criticism of the Russian authorities.

The readings take place on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, also the scene of regular attempts to hold unsanctioned protests on the 31st day of the month, to demand constitutional rights, which are roughly put down by riot police.

Police have also tried to stop the poetry readings and asked that they avoid swearing or mentioning politics, organizers said.

Under the shadow of an immense statue of the great Soviet poet of the 1920s, Vladimir Mayakovsky, famous for his explosive rhymes, the readings recall the dissident poetry of the 1960s that rattled the Communist authorities.

“The police have an order to put a stop to any politics. They warn us not to talk about Putin,” said poet and left-wing activist Vladimir Koverdyayev, a member of the banned National Bolshevik party.

“Last time they tried to detain us, we had to explain for a long time that it’s not political,” said Krylov, a member of the same party. “For them, any gathering of people is a meeting, a protest. It’s extremists, potential enemies.”

At the latest reading, around 50 people, most in their 20s, gathered on a drizzly evening. Some drank cognac and ate chocolate as poets stepped up with typed pages to an improvised oil drum rostrum.

Two curious policemen looked on grinning. One asked a journalist how long the readings would last, but both drifted off after listening to a few lines.

Despite the ban, references to Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev abounded.

Koverdyayev, 36, read a poem that ridiculed the police rules.

“It’s not allowed, but I don’t give a fuck/ I mean I don’t give a toss,” he read.

“It’s high time for Dima and Vova to be sent for a rest,” he said, using the nicknames for Medvedev and Putin.

Another poet, Vladislav Tushnin, mocked Putin’s televised appearances during last month’s forest fires.

“Putin takes a ride on a speed boat/ He and [emergency minister Sergei] Shoigu are raking in the dough/ We’re sick of this, Putin/ We have had enough of this television circus,” he read.

Arseny Molchanov read a protest poem called Country — and almost all the audience joined in with a word perfect recitation.

“Turn on rag-doll Channel One/ Turn it on for even a minute/ The premier says the conveyor lines are working great/ The minister says everything is cool in the army,” he said.

“And my country … she only hears the great songs of Dima Bilan/ She breathes through the scars of Kursk, Nord-Ost, Chechnya and Beslan,” he said, juxtaposing the Eurovision song winner with Russia’s worst modern tragedies.

Some of the poetry is doggerel, but some is powerful. Molchanov is the best known figure, a kind of rock ’n’ roll poet who regularly performs his poetry with musicians at Moscow clubs.

Last month the readings were visited by British poet Alan Brownjohn.

Koverdyayev and Krylov both have plenty of experience of political combat.

Boyish-looking with floppy hair, Krylov risks jail if he gets in trouble with the police since he is serving a suspended sentence for breaking into the foreign ministry’s lobby last year in an attempted protest.

Koverdyayev, dressed smartly and carrying a leather case, leads the National Bolsheviks in the Moscow region. He was briefly held in a psychiatric hospital in 2008 after he was detained on drugs charges. He was later pronounced sane and fined for drugs possession.

Krylov opened the latest reading with a poem by a Soviet dissident who died in a prison camp, Yury Galanskov.

“Beaten to the ground, I spit on your iron city, packed with money and dirt,” Krylov shouted on the square, which has been barricaded off by the Moscow city authorities in an apparent move to deter protests.

Titled the Human Manifesto, the poem became the unofficial anthem of poetry readings on the same spot during the Khrushchev-era thaw. Galanskov and other dissidents including Vladimir Bukovsky were the initiators.

Those readings came to an abrupt end in 1961 when the authorities cracked down on the poets and brought five of them to trial. The new generation of poetry readers sees parallels.

“I think it is approximately the same time,” Koverdyayev said. “People aren’t able to express their opinion openly. People are uniting.”

Watching the poetry reading was a 70-year-old math teacher, who gave her name as Lyubov Alexeyevna, who said she remembered the Soviet-era gatherings although she never went along herself.

But she traveled from a suburb for this event after hearing about it on the Echo of Moscow radio.

“I’m very worried about what is going on in our country,” she said, citing plans to build a highway through forest near Moscow and rising food prices.

“It’s really great. I see they have bright faces, not beaten down,” she said. “I did not expect that so many young people would come along. Now they have revived the readings, good for them.”

______

Finally, here is a short video about Matvei’s life and case (in Russian):

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Filed under activism, art exhibitions, film and video, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, protests, Russian society