Daily Archives: December 12, 2011

Pioneer Square, December 10, 2011 (Petersburg)

Pioneer Square, Petersburg, December 10, 2011. Rally for Fair Elections

“You can’t even imagine (represent) us”

ethnomet.livejournal.com

dspa.livejournal.com

Ksenia Yermoshina, student activist:

The BBC’s Richard Galpin spoke to Danil Klubov, a student, who said he joined the protesters in St Petersburg because he was “tired of all the falsehoods and lies.” Mr Klubov also said that many of those who took to the streets wanted President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to stand down.

Here is a 35-minute video from the rally that opens, alarmingly, with an appearance by someone identified by emcee Sergei Gulyaev as “Semyon Pikselyov, National Democrats.” Semyon begins his speech with the words, “Glory to Russia!” Unaccountably, Pikselyov is followed on stage by Artemy Troitsky, rock music critic and promoter, who appeals for prominent Petersburg cultural figures such as Boris Grebenshchikov and Mikhail Piotrovsky (director of the State Hermitage Museum, who ran as a “steam engine” on United Russia’s party list during the scandalous elections, but then promptly declined his mandate a couple days later) to go over to the opposition. Interestingly  for someone who shared the stage with a “national democrat” (i.e., a fascist), Troitsky is the son of Kiva Maidanik, who was a prominent Soviet and Russian expert on Latin America, and a friend of many Latin American leftist revolutionaries. [Correction: Although the “national democrat” in question was clearly identified by Gulyaev as “Semyon Pikselyov” and is also named as such in the annotation to the video linked to, above, a reader has pointed out that his real name is Semyon Pikhtelyov. Pikhtelyov is the leader of the Petersburg branch of DPNI, the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, a radical nationalist group. An article in yesterday’s edition of Kommersant Saint Petersburg claims that during the “march” from site of the originally planned “illegal” demonstration, Insurrection Square, to the venue for the “authorized” rally pictured here, the largest group (“approximately half a thousand people”) was led by Pikhtelyov. This group allegedly chanted “All for one, and one for all!” and “Onward, Russians!” (that is, “ethnic” Russians, not citizens of Russia) as they marched.]

sergey-chernov.livejournal.com

Demonstrators make their way to the rally from Insurrection Square, site of the “illegal” demo originally planned (via the social network VKontakte) for the day.

alert-dog.livejournal.com

sergey-chernov.livejournal.com

“There is no freedom of speech”

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Filed under film and video, protests, Russian society

English Defence League Strategists Exposed as Tycoons

Unite Against Fascism

December 11, 2011
EDL: secret strategists ‘Lake’ and ‘Gaia’ exposed as tycoons

Alan Lake, the mastermind behind the racist and fascist English Defence League has been exposed as the rich director of a City investment fund – and his real name is Alan Ayling.

Lake is the strategist who boasted of how he has brought football hooligan firms together to create the EDL’s army of racist street thugs.

He is a vicious anti-Muslim racist and open in his support of fascist organisations such as the Sweden Democrats and Hungary’s Jobbik party, whose uniformed paramilitary organisation terrorises Roma communities.

Lake described the massacre of 69 innocent people in Norway by fascist Anders Behring Breivik as “chickens coming home to roost”.

And on his 4Freedoms website, he has discussed the merits of killing prime minister David Cameron, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams.

He has admitted funding the EDL, telling Norway’s TV2 channel: “I have given some money to help some EDL things happen.”

City fund

Lake’s real name is Alan Ayling and he was, until January, a director of City fund Pacific Capital Investment Management, the Sunday Times reported. The fund was wound up in August.

Ayling, born in March 1954, lives in a luxury £500,000 flat in London’s Barbican Centre, where the founding meeting of the EDL was held in 2009.

That brought together Stephen Yaxley Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson), now the EDL’s leader, and members of the shadowy “counterjihad” network of vicious anti-Muslim racists of which Lake/Ayling is a key part.

Ayling has now been quizzed by police as part of the investigation into the Breivik massacre.

“Lake” had a falling out with the EDL back in August.

Property tycoon

But his fellow “counterjihadist”, a woman known by the pseudonym “Gaia”, is still closely connected to the EDL – and part of steering it in the direction of its recent alliance with the British Freedom Party, a fascist group that splintered off from the British National Party.

The BFP-EDL tie-up brings together the two elements of a classic fascist organisation – an electoral, suit-wearing BFP wing and the EDL’s army of street thugs – in an open alliance of linked organisations.

“Gaia” – named in the Sunday Times as buy-to-let property tycoon Ann Marchini, who lives in a £1.6m Highgate mansion – is also understood to have been at the 2009 founding meeting. She is reported to also use the alias Dominique Devaux.

BFP tie-up

Gaia was also at the EDL’s 19 November “Way forward” meeting, where the street thug cadre assembled to hear news of the tie-up with the BFP, and reported on the event for both the EDL and BFP websites.

Marchini and the counterjihadist clique, who have substantial international connections, believe that “going political” with the BFP will help bring money into the organisation.

A lawyer for Marchini told the Sunday Times: “Ann Marchini does not operate under the alias of either Dominique Devaux or Gaia. She is a member of British Freedom but joined only to support her personal friend Paul Weston.”

Weston is the former UKIP candidate hurriedly shunted into the position of BFP chair last month, when the fascist group carried out a cosmetic clean-up, moving its most prominent former BNP leaders discreetly off its executive committee.

Ann Marchini’s name and address in London N6 (a Highgate postcode) appear on a list of EDL donors released after the EDL’s website was hacked last year.

Thanks to Comrade Agata for the heads-up.

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Filed under anti-racism, anti-fascism, racism, nationalism, fascism

Artists Challenge the “True Finns”

www.kunstkritikk.com
December 9, 2011
Challenging the Finns
By Taru Elfving

Fatmir Mustafa-Carlo, Muharremi, Muharremi, Xhaferi, Bajrushi, Xhyla, Shkurija, Hava, Nurije, Halimja, Rifadija, Faiki, Bashkimi, Besijana, Fatlumja, Marigiona, Zarifja, Valbona, Shpresa, Kujtesa, Enesi, Altina, Endriti, Olsa and Lejana, 2011

Birdhouses modeled after European detention centers for asylum seekers by Otto Karvonen. A large photographic portrait of his extensive Kosovan family displayed in the busy heart of Helsinki by Fatmir Mustafa-Carlo. A refugee camp set up at the city centre as a live action game by Johanna Raekallio, JP Kaljonen and Haidi Motola.

These artists’ projects were powerful and urgently needed contributions to the public debate in Finland this Autumn following the parliamentary elections that shook the country in April 2011. The right-wing populist party The True Finns hijacked media attention. Their election programme posited culture as the first main topic, before social welfare, EU, taxation etc. They demanded an end to the public funding of “postmodern fake art”: art should be supporting national identity. Finnish intellectuals pointed out all the weaknesses in these arguments and laughed. The party then won by a landslide to become the third biggest party in the parliament with about 20% of the votes (up from 4% in the previous election).

Otto Karvonen, Birdhouse

How have the arts responded to this party, which recently changed its English name simply to The Finns, in line with their claim to represent the “people”? The election has been followed not so much by changes in arts funding but considerable toughening of the public discourse on immigration and multiculturalism. Research recently published in the main newspaper Helsingin Sanomat shows that people are aware of increasing racism, yet it seems that many do not recognize the racism underlying their own beliefs (14% admit to racist attitudes yet a whopping 29% agree at least partly that certain races do not fit into modern societies). Meanwhile Finland continues to have extremely low refugee quota and minimal immigration compared to most European nations.

Yet not many voices have been raised in the field of contemporary art here in Helsinki. In anticipation of the election, a large cross-disciplinary festival, Rappiotaide (“degenerate art”), and the Fake Finn Festival of experimental live art gathered a multitude of critical voices this spring. Since then the debate has been mainly in the hands of individual artists who have tackled issues of nationalism and multiculturalism for some time already, such as Kalle Hamm and Dzamil Kamanger, Minna Henriksson and Sezgin Boynik, Pekka Niskanen, and Ykon group, to name but a few.

Institutions may not be able to react with the same speed, yet the anti-immigration climate has been felt for some time now. The Photography Museum did act swiftly in response to the election, when it focused the profile of its project space on multiculturalism for the year 2012. The opening of the large recurring international exhibition ARS 2011 at the Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum coincided with the election and thus gained unanticipated political resonance with its focus on Africa. It offered myriad perspectives on the vast continent with an emphasis on the interwoven historical and contemporary migrations. Take, for example, the intense stare of the young man in Ghana amidst the landscape of burning electronic waste from the West in Pieter Hugo’s photographs and videos: Seen in this context the work echoed a famous Finnish national romantic painting of poor peasants burn-clearing. Viewers were thrown between the unequal distribution of global wealth today and Nordic post-colonial myths.

The haunting encounter may well deepen the understanding of our own implication in global economy and mobility. Yet why did this, or the topical discussions organised alongside the exhibition, not enter a wider public debate? Why is it that art here rarely does?

Kiasma’s URB11 festival, Dublin 2
Kiasma’s URB11 festival, Dublin 2

The most visible of the recent art projects addressing the immigration debate broke out of the limitations of the museum walls. The weekend-long live game Dublin 2, part of Kiasma’s URB11 festival programme in August, staged a refugee camp at the heart of Helsinki, next to a busy shopping mall. It allowed the participants and passers-by to deal with the day-to-day struggles of asylum seekers through role-play. The unease caused by the privilege of play laid bare the problems of information and identification both in activism and in art.

The game touched some of the same raw nerves as the emergence of Romanian Roma beggars on the streets in Helsinki during the past few years. This has led to an outcry and calls for a ban on begging in the city. It has also reinforced preconceptions against the Finnish Romas. Of the minority groups the Roma are, according to the above-mentioned study, facing the most negative attitudes. In October, Helsinki International Artist Programme (HIAP) presented a project by the Serbian artist Vladan Jeremic, who has researched the topic across Europe and thus offered a wider perspective beyond the specificities of the local case. In a two-day seminar at the Ateneum Art Museum, Jeremic brought together policy makers, artists and activists to discuss not only the severe human rights issues concerning the Roma, but also innovative solutions for the problems facing all migrant workers in need of temporary social housing.

Kiasma’s URB11 festival, Dublin 2

The project by Jeremic emphasises how the question of Romas not merely concerns ethnicity but also reflects changes in contemporary global economic and political conditions. Art and its institutions are not untouched by these challenges, as was made clear by two lively public debates that coincided a couple of years ago: One had to do with the legal cases of a Russian and an Egyptian grandmother being sent back to their home countries despite the fact that their children lived in Finland and wished to take care of them here. According to Finnish law, grandparents are not part of the immediate family unit. This is in stark contrast to, for example, Mustafa-Carlo’s family portrait. The other case began to unfold, but quickly lost its poignancy, as an international applicant to the position of the museum director at Kiasma questioned the relevance of the museum in a newspaper interview. He did not stand a chance of getting a job interview since, according to the legislation, the director has to speak both of the nation’s official languages, Finnish and Swedish.

These two cases are interwoven in the paradoxical coexistence of the desire for internationalisation (in the arts and business alike) and the anxiety over multiculturalisation. This contradiction has been tangible also in the one-way model of the art export policies. Finnish artists are well supported to travel, but more in-depth and complex modes of exchange are needed, together with the recognition of the increasing multicultural presence in the arts and in the society at large. Otherwise the arts can hardly rise up to the challenge of the Finns.

Eero Järnefelt, Under the Yoke (Burning the brushwood), 1893
Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery, Central Art Archives / Hannu Aaltonen

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Filed under activism, art exhibitions, contemporary art, critical thought, immigration, racism, nationalism, fascism