Category Archives: open letters, manifestos, appeals

This Blog Is Closed

Due to irreconcilable differences between the editorial staff of Chtodelat News and the Chto Delat work group, this blog is closed until further notice. Archival materials from the past five years will still be available here, but no new postings will be made from today.

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Breaking the Silence on the Art World: ArtLeaks Gazette Launch @ Brecht Forum (May 4th, NYC)

art-leaks.org

546092_490420224358441_679844155_nCredit: Zampa di Leone

We are happy to share with you the details of the official public launch of our ArtLeaks Gazette which will take place at the Brecht Forum in NYC on Saturday, May 4th from 7 PM!  Hope to see many of you there – we promise it will be  an exciting evening! Please help us spread the word by sharing this announcement!

ArtLeaks members would like to initiate an open discussion at the Brecht Forum in NYC on May 4th from 7 PM, around our upcoming ArtLeaks Gazette, focused on establishing a politics of truth by breaking the silence on the art world. This will be the official public launch of our gazette, which will be available online and in print at the beginning of May 2013, and will be followed by a series of debates in the near future.

Artleaks was founded in 2011 as an international platform for cultural workers where instances of abuse, corruption and exploitation are exposed and submitted for public inquiry. After almost two years of activity, some members of ArtLeaks felt an urgent need to establish a regular online publication as a tool for empowerment, reflection and solidarity. (More about us here: http://art-leaks.org/about.)

Recently, this spectrum of urgencies and the necessity to address them has come sharply into the focus of fundamental discussions in communities involved in cultural production and leftist activist initiatives. Among these, we share the concerns of groups such as the Radical Education Collective (Ljubljana), Precarious Workers’ Brigade (PWB) (London), W.A.G.E. (NYC), Arts &Labor (NYC), the May Congress of Creative Workers (Moscow), Critical Practice (London) and others.

Eager to share our accumulated knowledge and facilitate a critical examination of the current conditions of the cultural field from a global perspective, we are equally interested in questioning, with the help of the participants in the event, the particular context of New York City with its cultural institutions, scenes and markets.

The event will be divided in two parts. In the first, we will announce and present the forthcoming ArtLeaks Gazette. Focusing on the theme “Breaking the Silence – Towards Justice, Solidarity and Mobilization,” the structure of the publication comprises six major sections: A. Critique of cultural dominance apparatuses; B. Forms of organization and history of struggles; C. The struggle of narrations; D. Glossary of terms; E. Education and its discontents; and F. Best practices and useful resources (More here http://art-leaks.org/artleaks-gazette.) This publication gathers contributions from different parts of the globe, highlighting both historical initiatives and emerging movements that engage issues related to cultural workers rights, censorship, repression and systemic exploitation under conditions of neoliberal capitalism.

This also becomes an opportunity to bring up for discussion a series of questions that have defined ArtLeaks’ activity and that we would like to tackle anew in conjunction with local cultural producers in the second part of the event: What are the conditions of the possibility of leaking information concerning institutional exploitation, censorship, and corruption in the art world? What does it mean to speak the truth in the art field and to whom may it be addressed? What analogies and what models can we use in order to describe and operate within the conditions in which cultural workers pursue their activities? We aim to bestow a greater level of concreteness to these questions by inviting the participants to share its own concerns and experiences related to inequality of chances, structural injustice and forced self-censorship within the context of their work. We are also interested in discussing current collaborations and future alliances and projects that unite common struggles across international locales. Visual and scriptural material which documents the evening will be uploaded on the ArtLeaks platform.

Gazette Contributors: Mykola Ridnyi, Gregory Sholette, Marsha Bradfield & Kuba Szreder (Critical Practice), Fokus Grupa, Amber Hickey, Lauren van Haaften-Schick, Organ kritischer Kunst, Veda Popovici, Milena Placentile, Jonas Staal & Evgenia Abramova

Gazette Editors: Corina L. ApostolVladan Jeremić, Vlad Morariu, David Riff & Dmitry Vilensky

Editing Assistance: Jasmina Tumbas

Graphic Intervetions: Zampa di Leone

Facilitators of the event @ Brecht Forum: Corina Apostol & Dmitry Vilensky

The Brecht Forum has a  donation sliding scale of $6 to $15. We recommend registering for this event in advance here. Even if you are unable to make a donation, we still encourage you to come – we will not turn away anyone that wishes to participate in the discussions.

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Open Letter to Calvert 22 from Precarious Workers Brigade

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Open Letter to Calvert 22 from Precarious Workers Brigade

Dear Calvert 22,

We notice that you have recently advertised an unpaid gallery volunteer placement for your forthcoming exhibition “…how is it towards the east?”

Whilst we acknowledge that you are aiming to take the time and effort to train young people who want to work in the arts, we are concerned that the tasks described in your volunteer placement sound very much like work that should be paid: ‘invigilating the exhibition’, ‘assisting with Front of House duties’ and ‘working in the Calvert Café’, as well as ‘the option to help out with our diverse talks and events programme’. We are curious as to why this work is not paid? We know that it is possible for arts organisations to avoid legal problems with volunteer positions through using the exemption to the National Minimum Wage legislation designed for charities. We would hope however, that such weak legal frameworks for our sector do not act as our only ethical guide on such matters.

We are concerned that by not paying people to carry out these jobs, only those who can afford to work for free will be able to benefit from your placement scheme: such placements contribute to producing a cultural sector in London that is increasingly reserved for the privileged. Surely such exclusionary employment practices are in direct contradiction of your constitution as a charity, and to the Foundation’s stated mission of connecting the gallery to histories of political radicalism and activism in the local area of East End? We also note that the exhibition ‘examines modes of self-organisation’ focusing on the histories of those on the left who have struggled for worker’s rights, specifically on the 1st May 1886, when they called for 8-hour working day – a date which coincides with the opening of the exhibition. We find that the use of unpaid labour in this context to be particularly paradoxical.

Furthermore, we note from your website, Calvert 22’s partnership with VTB Capital. Whilst we find there to be an incredible contradiction between your partnership with the investment banking sector, and the stated aims of artistic programmes such as “…how is it towards the east?” we would at least hope that these kinds of partnerships would ensure that everyone who works on the programme is paid at least a Minimum Wage.

We raise these issues with you, not to single out Calvert 22 for such practices, but as our friends at Artleaks have succinctly expressed, to draw attention to concrete situations that:

“[…] underscore the precarious condition of cultural workers, and the necessity for sustained protest against the appropriation of politically engaged art, culture and theory by institutions embedded in a tight mesh of capital and power.”

Like Artleaks, we are concerned that:

“By co-opting cultural activity, these sponsors obtain social credibility, which they then proceed to misuse: by refusing decent conditions for cultural workers through oppressive measures – the same workers whose labor makes their subsistence possible.” 

The normalisation of practices of free labour through volunteer positions such as this, contributes to a situation where it is acceptable to abstractly question the role of sponsorship and free labour on panel discussions, but unacceptable to concretely act against them. Volunteers, speakers and artists are often subtly frozen out of the sector if they challenge this non-payment or under-payment, and thus feel coerced to prop up the system further.

We have been organising around issues of free labour and precarity in the arts and culture for several years, analysing corporate cynicism and the increasingly intense contradictions in our sector. In this climate of enforced austerity, brought about by investment banks, we encounter over and over again a culture of resignation and silence in art schools and art institutions. Do programmes such as “…how is it towards the east?” simply perpetuate the damaging paradox of providing a subject of discussion that is clearly not to be acted upon? Do they not in effect, simply add to this silencing? We wonder what Calvert 22 want to achieve in this exhibition and programme, what the motivations of the foundation are? We wonder what position the foundation wants to take in relation to its own workers, its own work culture and the community in which it is situated?

There are many guidelines available today that might help you develop a new and more equitable approach to work. Please see the links below:

Art Council England’s guidelines “Internships in the Arts”: http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/publication_archive/internships-arts

Counter Guide to Free Labour in the Arts: http://carrotworkers.wordpress.com/counter-internship-guide/

Intern Aware: http://www.internaware.org/about/why-unpaid-internships-are-wrong/

Artquest’s Intern Culture report: http://www.artquest.org.uk/articles/view/intern_culture

Interns: Volunteer or Employee? volunteernow.co.uk/news/item/61

We would like to ask the foundation to consider the ethics of offering unpaid volunteer placements in your organisation, and to hear your response to this open letter.

With best regards,
Precarious Workers Brigade

precariousworkersbrigade.tumblr.com

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Statement by the Zhukovsky People’s Council on Alexei Gaskarov’s Arrest

zhukvesti.info

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On April 28 in Moscow, Alexei Gaskarov, a member of the Zhukovsky People’s Council, was arrested on the street. After being questioned as a witness at the Investigative Committee, his status was changed to that of a suspect and he was charged with violation of Article 212, Part 2 (involvement in riots) and Article 318, Part 1 of the Criminal Code (use of violence against the authorities) as part of the criminal case surrounding the events on May 6, 2012, on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow.

During elections to the Zhukovsky People’s Council, over a thousand residents of Zhukovsky (Moscow Region) showed their confidence in Alexei Gaskarov. And that was quite natural, as Alexei has consistently spoken out for justice and defended the interests of its citizens over the years. He has been a defender of the Tsagovsky Forest, a grassroots observer of elections at all levels of government, and an opponent of infill construction in the town of Zhukovsky.

Gaskarov has been actively involved in the work of the Zhukovsky People’s Council, initiating new projects for developing the town. He was directly involved in shaping the concept for the “Zhukdor” movement for renovating the town’s residential courtyards and adjacent territories. Gaskarov is also one of the authors of a white paper on urban development in Zhukovsky that has been submitted to the town administration. Gaskarov has also been actively engaged in programs encouraging the personal development of young people in the town of Zhukovsky. In particular, he has organized a series of free seminars that featured screenings of documentaries on topical social issues.

We, the members of Zhukovsky People’s Council, earnestly declare that Alexei Gaskarov is a sober-minded, law-abiding person and an advocate of the peaceful reform of our country’s social and political system.

We believe there is no justification for remanding Gaskarov to police custody and are willing to vouch for the fact that, if released, he will not conceal himself from investigators or hinder the investigation.

We are outraged by the charges, and believe they discredit law enforcement agencies in the eyes of the public and have nothing to do with the observance of the law in a state governed by the rule of law.

People like Alexei Gaskarov are the best part of civil society, a society based on justice and decent lives for its citizens, a society that will surely be created in our country.

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The Argument Nadezhda Tolokonnikova Wasn’t Allowed to Make at Her Parole Hearing

[Originally published by The Russian Reader]

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Yesterday, April 26, 2013, a district court in Zubova Polyana, Mordovia, denied imprisoned Pussy Riot activist Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s request for parole. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Judge Lidiya Yakovleva agreed with arguments made by prison authorities that it would be “premature” to release Tolokonnikova given that she “had been cited for prison rules violations and expressed no remorse,” and had not participated in such prison activities as the “Miss Charm Prison Camp 14 beauty contest.” Judge Yakovleva made her ruling without allowing the defense to make a closing argument, thus allegedly violating the Criminal Procedure Code. Tolokonnikova had written her statement out in advance. The translation below is of the Russian original as published in full on the web site of RFE/RL’s Russian Service (Radio Svoboda). Photos courtesy of the Free Pussy Riot Facebook page.

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“Has the convict started down the road to rehabilitation?” This is the question asked when a request for parole is reviewed. I would also like us to ask the following question today: What is  this “road to rehabilitation”?

I am absolutely convinced that the only correct road is one on which a person is honest with others and with herself. I have stayed on this road and will not stray from it wherever life takes me. I insisted on this road while I was still on the outside, and I didn’t retreat from it in the Moscow pretrial detention facility. Nothing, not even the camps of Mordovia, where the Soviet-era authorities liked to send political prisoners, can teach me to betray the principle of honesty.

So I have not admitted and will not admit the guilt imputed to me by the Khamovniki district court’s verdict, which was illegal and rendered with an indecent number of procedural violations. At the moment, I am in the process of appealing this verdict in the higher courts. By coercing me into admitting guilt for the sake of parole, the correctional system is pushing me to incriminate myself, and, therefore, to lie. Is the ability to lie a sign that a person has started down the road to rehabilitation?

It states in my sentence that I am a feminist and, therefore, must feel hatred towards religion. Yes, after a year and two months in prison, I am still a feminist, and I am still opposed to the people in charge of the state, but then as now there is no hatred in me. The dozens of women prisoners with whom I attend the Orthodox church at Penal Colony No. 14 cannot see this hatred, either.

What else do I do in the colony? I work: soon after I arrived at Penal Colony No. 14, they put me behind a sewing machine, and now I am a sewing machine operator. Some believe that making political-art actions is easy, that it requires no deliberation or preparation. Based on my years of experience in actionism, I can say that carrying out an action and thinking through the artistic end-product is laborious and often exhausting work. So I know how to work and I love to work. I’m no stranger to the Protestant work ethic. Physically, I don’t find it hard to be a seamstress. And that is what I am. I do everything required of me. But, of course, I cannot help thinking about things while I’m at the sewing machine (including the road to rehabilitation) and, therefore, asking myself questions. For example: why can convicts not be given a choice as to the socially useful work they perform while serving their sentences? [Why can they not chose work] in keeping with their education and interests? Since I have experience teaching in the philosophy department at Moscow State University, I would gladly and enthusiastically put together educational programs and lectures using the books in the library and books sent to me. And by the way, I would unquestioningly do such work for more than the eight hours [a day] stipulated by the Russian Federation Labor Code; I would do this work during all the time left over from scheduled prison activities. Instead, I sew police pants, which of course is also useful, but in this work I’m obviously not as productive as I could be were I conducting educational programs.

In Cancer Ward, Solzhenitsyn describes how a prison camp detective stops one convict from teaching another convict Latin. Unfortunately, the overall attitude to education hasn’t changed much since then.

I often fantasize: what if the correctional system made its priority not the production of police pants or production quotas, but the education, training, and rehabilitation of convicts, as required by the Correctional Code? Then, in order to get parole, you would not have to sew 16 hours a day in the industrial section of the colony, trying to achieve 150% output, but successfully pass several exams after broadening your horizons and knowledge of the world, and getting a general humanities education, which nurtures the ability to adequately assess contemporary reality. I would very much like to see this state of affairs in the colony.

Why not establish courses on contemporary art in the colony?

Would that work were not a debt, but activity that was spiritual and useful in a poetic sense. Would that the organizational constraints and inertia of the old system were overcome, and values like individuality could be instilled in the workplace. The prison camp is the face of the country, and if we managed to get beyond the old conservative and totally unifying categories even in the prison camp, then throughout Russia we would see the growth of intellectual, high-tech manufacturing, something we would all like to see in order to break out of the natural resources trap. Then something like Silicon Valley could be born in Russia, a haven for risky and talented people. All this would be possible if the panic experienced in Russia at the state level towards human experimentation and creativity would give way to an attentive and respectful attitude towards the individual’s creative and critical potential. Tolerance towards others and respect for diversity provide an environment conducive to the development and productive use of the talent inherent in citizens (even if these citizens are convicts). Repressive conservation and rigidity in the legal, correctional, and other state systems of the Russian Federation, laws on registration [of one’s residence] and promotion of homosexuality lead to stagnation and a “brain drain.”

However, I am convinced that this senseless reaction in which we now forced to live is temporary. It is mortal, and this mortality is immediate. I am also certain that all of us—including the prisoners of Bolotnaya Square, my brave comrade in arms Maria Alyokhina, and Alexei Navalny—have the strength, commitment, and tenacity to survive this reaction and emerge victorious.

I am truly grateful to the people I have encountered in my life behind barbed wire. Thanks to some of them, I will never call my time in prison time lost. During the year and two months of my imprisonment, I have not had a single conflict, either in the pretrial detention facility or in prison. Not a single one. In my opinion, this shows that I am perfectly safe for any society. And also the fact that people do not buy into state media propaganda and are not willing to hate me just because a federal channel said that I’m a bad person. Lying does not always lead to victory.

Recently, I got a letter containing a parable that has become important to me. What happens to things different in nature when they are placed in boiling water? Brittle things, like eggs, become hard. Hard things, like carrots, become soft. Coffee dissolves and permeates everything. The point of the parable was this: be like coffee. In prison, I am like that coffee.

I want the people who have put me and dozens of other political activists behind bars to understand one simple thing: there are no insurmountable obstacles for a person whose values  consist, first, of her principles and, second, of work and creativity based on these principles. If you strongly believe in something, this faith will help you survive and remain a human being anywhere.

I will surely use my experience in Mordovia in my future work and, although this will not happen until completion of my sentence, I will implement it in projects that will be stronger and politically larger in scale than everything that has happened to me before.

Despite the fact that imprisonment is a quite daunting experience, as a result of having it we political prisoners only become stronger, braver, and more tenacious. And so I ask the last question for today: what, then, is the point of keeping us here?

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Kazakhstan: Hands Off Roza Tuletaeva! (solidarity appeal)

campaignkazakhstan.org

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Roza Tuletaeva starts hunger strike as prison regime refuses medical aid

April 24, 2013 

On 22nd April, Roza Tuletaeva, one of the activists from the Zhanaozen oil workers’ strike, started a hunger strike. She has taken this extreme step because she has been refused essential medical aid at the women’s prison colony in Atyrau, where she is currently serving a lengthy jail sentence. She was arrested after the notorious massacre of Zhanaozen oil workers’ by government forces in December 2011 and sentenced to seven years in prison (later reduced to five, on appeal), on the charge of “organising mass disorder.”

According to friends and relatives of Roza, she is suffering from chronic liver disease. The refusal to provide suitable treatment appears to be intentional revenge by the authorities. It is a form of torture against this political prisoner, who refused to accept that she was guilty as charged.

During her court trial, Roza experienced torture and sexual harassment at the hands of the state security police (KNB), and the lives of her children were threatened. Nevertheless, she refused to give evidence against herself and her co-strikers, refused to give evidence against Vladimir Kozlov, leader of the Party Alga (who was later sentenced to a prison sentence), and exposed the methods of the investigators during her trial.

Local human rights organisations have demanded the immediate provision of medical assistance to Roza Tuletaeva and have also demanded the right to visit her to make a proper assessment of her health. Clearly she is in danger, her health is already undermined and now her life is at risk. The hunger strike is eroding her health even further.

Campaign Kazakhstan calls for protest messages against these further attempts at torture, which are organized by government forces with the aim of breaking the will of Roza and her comrades and of anyone else prepared to resist the authorities. By attempting to physically annihilate Roza Tuletaeva, they are trying to scare all oil workers, and those who live in the Mangystau region, from further protest actions.

Hands off Roza Tuletaeva!

Freedom to the arrested oil-workers and political prisoners in Kazakhstan!

Please send urgent protests to the Embassy of Kazakhstan in your country (a list can be found here) and copies to kazakhstansolidarity@gmail.com and campaignkazakhstan@gmail.com.

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Ragpickers Assembly (open call)

http://ragpickers.tumblr.com/

Open Call

RAGPICKERS GANG invites current interns, volunteers and casual workers to participate in RAGPICKERS ASSEMBLY, a collective project that is dedicated to the problems of unpaid labour and exploitation in the contemporary art field.

RAGPICKERS ASSEMBLY aims to blur the difference between the artistic and forensic by taking the format of a quasi-exhibition. As such it is meant to display ‘artefacts’—be it material traces, residues or recorded testimonies—supplied by unpaid interns that testify to the tasks they have to undertake within art organisations. All the materials in the exhibition will be shown in a manner similar to a typical gallery display and are ‘curated’ by the participants.

Employing the strategy ‘fight-enemy-with-its-own-weapon’, the project aims to raise a wider public awareness and draw media attention to the exploitation and discrepancies that lie at the core of the current state of the art system. Simultaneously, it would become a space of exchange of personal experience, ideas, and knowledge between art world participants united by a desire to fight for their own rights and to dissent from what has become a modus operandi.

We look forward to receiving your submissions that may include both physical items and information, which are intended to be shown under traditional categories such as art objects, video/sound art, installation, artistic research, documentary, etc.:

1. Forensic evidence:  anything left from (de)installation of a gallery show or a private view: crumbled walls, empty bottles, etc.

2. Testimonies of immaterial labour: photocopies, shredded papers, files, CVs, schedules press-releases, artists files, databases, invoices, etc.

3. Audio, visual, photo or written documentation of day-to-day assistance in running a gallery space.

4. Art ‘gossip’: anything ‘important’ that you might hear at an opening or in the office.

5. You can also fill our mock application forms where you can state your real qualification, experience and goals.

Please send us an email indicating what material you would like to show and we would arrange a meeting to collect it or record your testimony. If you have any ideas or questions, please, do not hesitate to contact Ragpickers at this e-mail: 
ragpickersgroup@gmail.com

Ragpickers Gang is a London-based collective platform that unites people who share a strong feeling of dissent and dissatisfaction with the exploitation, hypocrisy and corruption in the contemporary art sector. We name ourselves ‘ragpickers’ because it represents our social and professional position: a multitude of recent unemployed graduates. We are ‘drop-outs’ and ‘outcasts’ of the art world who have to do some unpaid though ungrateful job during our free time and find money to sustain our living.

We are a unanimous group and we are open to new participants who sympathize with our ideas.

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Mark Knopfler, “Ragpicker’s Dream”

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