Me-gration (Moscow) // “Conspiracy” (Olga Zhitlina)

Me-gration

A video presentation and roundtable discussion (“How to Work with Migrants? Ethics and the Politics of the Image”)

Olga Chernysheva, Ekaterina Lazareva, Haim Sokol, Olga Zhitlina, and Chto Delat

with Activist Film Studio 

December 18, 2011, 2:00 PM 

Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center

Ul. Zemlyanoy Val, 57, Str. 6

Moscow, Russia, 105120

The participants will present their works dealing with the theme of migration and human rights in today’s Russia, and discuss ethnic and political aspects of their engagement. The title Me-gration contains an intended error, alluding to the pronunciation of the word “migration” common to both native Russian speakers and the country’s multilingual population. It also emphasizes the artists’ personal relation to the issue and migrant status of some of them.

The organizers state:

We artists usually work with images. Should we leave the territory of visual arts and cross into politics? Can we make images become political tools? We do not have much practical experience yet, as Russian art has turned to the theme of migrant rights relatively recently. The artists who have started raising this issue—Alexey Kallima, Irina Korina, Olga Chernysheva, and the Chto Delat collective—were recently joined by a younger generation: Sasha Auerbach, Ekaterina Lazareva, Vika Lomasko, Haim Sokol, and Olga Zhitlina. 

Migration issues seem to be yet another territory of life that art is trying to seize. Migrants receive an entry visa into the art world only as a labor force, or as the Other, having to undergo aesthetic disinfection first. But, we ask, perhaps it is time to unlock the bunkers of galleries and museums and come out to face reality? It is especially important now, when Russia’s political situation is so threatening: the recent nationalist riots on Manezh Square in Moscow, the so-called Russian Marches with thousands of supporters, politicians’ calls to “vote for Russians,” and official statements of Russia’s Ministry of Health authorities on “hygiene politics” all contain echoes of the Warsaw Ghetto. 

We are joining Immigrant Movement International, led by Tania Bruguera, in solidarity with December 18, International Migrants Day. For us, this is a first step toward bringing our collective efforts together. We are artists, cultural critics, activists, representatives of migrant organizations in Moscow, and all those who care about the issue.

Me-gration is organized by the Moscow-based artists Ekaterina Lazareva and Haim Sokol in parallel with the exhibition Haim Sokol: Barter at PROEKT_FABRIKA, December 15—25, 2011.

Me-gration is part of the December 18th International Migrants Day Action:

http://immigrant-movement.us/december18/

Both events are concurrent with December 18, International Migrants Day, a project launched by Immigrant Movement International, Queens Museum of Art, and Creative Time in New York.

Contact: Anya Pantuyeva, me.gration@gmail.com

Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center: http://www.sakharov-center.ru/ 

Free and open to the public. 

Participating Artists and Works 

Olga Chernysheva is one of the first artists in Russia who turned to the image of migrant worker, for example, in her photographic series Highway Number 8 (2007) featuring workers from Central Asia, and in her recent film, Garbage Man (2011).

Ekaterina Lazareva in her video Migrants (2011) deals with migration but incorporates lyrical and poetic components in her work. She structured her video shown in this project using the soundtrack from a popular French film, Le Peuple Migrateur.

Haim Sokol’s video Oath of Loyalty (2011) problematizes the interaction between artist and migrant worker: workers swear an oath of loyalty on the “Bible of the avant-garde,” Kazimir Malevich’s Manifesto, without understanding their act and remaining a labor force to be used by the artist.

Olga Zhitlina’s recorded performance Conspiracy (2011) stages an exchange of clothes between migrants and local youth in Saint Petersburg.

The Chto Delat collective, in collaboration with Activist Film Studio, will present “The Voice of Power” episode from their film Russian Sounds (2011). The artists create an image of Russian politicians that is simultaneously grotesque and naturalistic.

_____

For those readers not able to attend tomorrow’s event in Moscow, here is a brief sneak preview Olga Zhitlina’s Conspiracy, a performance presented in the garden of the Anna Akhmatova Museum this past summer in Petersburg.

Recently, a new trend has emerged in St. Petersburg. In the morning, young men wearing the latest fashions, mostly natives of the town, members of the creative professions, meet with migrant workers at secret locations. They swap clothes with each other and then part ways, each going about his own business. Every day, their ranks are growing.

Initially, this idea arose in response to the threat of nationalist attacks, flagrant racism and the corruption of police officers who check documents ten times a day to extort bribes from migrants, who are often poorly informed of their rights. The young men dress in each other’s clothes in order to scramble the visual codes that make it easy to tell “Russians” from “non-Russians,” “locals” from “newcomers,” and “workers” from “intellectuals.”

By dressing in worker’s clothes, the members of what is now customarily called the creative class reject the enunciation of their identity through consumption and declare their intention to produce a culture without class and racial divisions, thus overcoming the opposition between creative and physical labor.
This is something like a tacit conspiracy among migrant workers and designers, artists, and ad agency employees — the people who produce visual culture (fashion, brands, labels — the window dressing of our reality) — against this system of organizing the environment. Those who produce design — this powerful tool for labeling and dividing — who devise the shape of buildings, objects, and clothes, have decided to steal it and use it in common with those engaged in the material realization of all these projects.

These clothes swaps began in one district of Petersburg, but they have quickly spread throughout the city. If there is no such group in your neighborhood yet, no one is stopping from you from organizing one yourself.

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Filed under contemporary art, film and video, immigration, racism, nationalism, fascism, Russian society

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