Tag Archives: David Riff

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under activism, contemporary art, critical thought, open letters, manifestos, appeals

Chto Delat, To Negate Negation (Wrocław)

www.bwa.wroc.pl


 Nikolay Oleynikov, mural at the show Chto Delat, The Urgent Need to Struggle, ICA, London, 2010. Photo  courtesy of Chto Delat

CHTO DELAT
To Negate Negation
April 29–June 16, 2013

April 29, 2013 (Monday):
5 p.m. – Discussion (in English) with Chto Delat (Dmitry Vilensky, Olga Egorova, Nikolay Oleynikov), Jan Sowa, and Jakub Szreder

7 pm. – exhibition opening 
Awangarda Gallery (Wita Stwosza Street, 32, Wrocław)

Curators: Alicja Klimczak-Dobrzaniecka and Patrycja Sikora

Download press materials here


Chto Delat, The Russian Woods. Installation at the show Lessons of Dis-Consent, Stadliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, 2011. Photo courtesy of Chto Delat

TO NEGATE NEGATION

Philosopher Georg Lukács once said that orthodox Marxists should not believe in this or that thesis, nor in the exegesis of a sacred book. On the contrary, orthodoxy refers exclusively to method. By method, Lukács meant dialectics as a means of analyzing and representing the whole of society as a totality of struggling contradictions.

To speak about dialectics makes particular sense at BWA Wrocław. Its architecture confronts the ruin of an old palace with a new modernist intervention, facing us with obvious conflicts between the classics and modernism, between the old functions of exclusive noble privacy and the modern public institution. The current exhibition responds to this living contradiction by presenting a survey of many old and newer Chto Delat projects in a specially developed dialectical display whose main point is to “negate the negation.”

All graduates of socialist schools and universities will remember this negation of negation as the third principle of dialectics, culled from Friedrich Engels’ Dialectics of Nature. What could this principle mean in art today? Confronted with a simple dumbly positive postulate of an artwork, the viewer reacts with a very basic question: why should I care? It looks like the artists are trying to brainwash me but for what reason? I won’t believe it, I’m not that simple; the characters are so conditional, it must be a Brechtian device. Why are they constructed in such a way? And why do they still give me aesthetic pleasure? Perhaps there is something beyond this simplicity? It is with such questions that the negation of negation begins.

We invite the visitor to a tour through a show where art works only communicate by calling one another into question, making complex things simple and simple things complex, as the work of negativity turns into the play of its own negation. But make no mistake. Art is never just a self-referential game. It always suggests further implementations and resolutions outside the gallery space in real life. As Mao once wittily remarked, “Theory (read also art) is the negation of practice while the opposite of practice is of course non-practice. In turn, only when theory is further negated in practical activity is a higher development of man’s knowledge of the world achieved.”

Dmitry Vilensky and David Riff (Chto Delat)

_____

The Dialetical Play of Opposite: About Chto Delat in the Institutional Framework

Chto Delat have embarked on a quest for a currently attractive, emancipatory potential of leftist ideas. Chto Delat strongly criticize the reality of contemporary political and social life in Russia, art institutions, and Western capitalism. Chto Delat flourish in the international institutional art market, operating in the convenient framework of the capitalist system. Chto Delat embody the dream of engaged Russian art in the Putin era, dreamed of by curators from the West. At the same time they rarely show up in the official salons in Russia. Each of the above statements is true: this is a conclusion one can draw upon a close inspection of the exhibition in Wroclaw, reading the numerous descriptions, theoretical and polemical texts, or studying the performances and documentation of actions published on the collective’s website.

To Negate Negation is a unique exhibition, as it is the first presentation of contemporary Russian art in the Wrocław gallery Awangarda after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is also the first exhibition of the group Chto Delat in Poland, presenting the whole panorama of its activity. As part of the show, we will find all themes characteristic of the artistic practice of Chto Delat, including, in particular, references to the Hegelian and Marxist dialectical struggle of opposites, inevitably driving social change. The title To Negate Negation already contains direct references to the terminology originally borrowed from the idealist dialectic of classical German philosophy, and specifically to one of the three universal laws formulated by Hegel’s dialectic – negation of the negation. In turn, individual projects of the collective shown in the exhibition relate to the dialectical principle of testing the reality which involves the disclosure of its existing contradictions, the study of the clash of these contradictions and the resulting changes, that is, in short, to the principle underlying the methodology of Marxism.

At the core of the exhibition lie projects commenting on the current situation, social and political events in various countries (Russia, Serbia, the Netherlands), petrified by allegorical methods and visualized primarily in film productions, the so-called Songspiels. The actors embody various sections of the society, represent various (age, professional, political) groups and their aspirations, interests and visions, as well as the existing opposition between them, building tension and conflict. Both these projects and other documentary and para-documentary recordings reveal interest in “classic” leftist work – the epic theatre of Brecht and Godard’s New Wave cinema. Apart from film showings, the arsenal of devices employed by Chto Delat consists of a few simple methods. Institutional space, annexed by the group in various parts of the world, is usually organized in a similar manner – by means of simple elements of stage design, reminiscent of home-made banners or mock-ups, as well as prints, murals, flags, posters and publications. These elements are often accompanied by on-site actions, meetings and discussions. Each of these devices is invariably associated with the language of propaganda and agitation, a message addressed to the widest possible audience. In each case, an institution turns into such a propaganda mouthpiece, becoming at the same time the (knowing) object of the collective’s genuine contempt. Yet the collective declares the aim of protecting the institution against the “economization, and subordination to the populist logic of the culture industry,” only to say: “That is why we believe that right now it would be wrong to refuse to work in any way with cultural and academic institutions despite the fact that the majority of these institutions throughout the world are engaged in the flagrant propaganda of commodity fetishism and servile knowledge. The political propaganda of all other forms of human vocation either provokes the system’s harsh rejection or the system co-opts it into its spectacle. At the same time, however, the system is not homogeneous – it is greedy, stupid, and dependent. Today, this leaves us room to use these institutions to advance and promote our knowledge. We can bring this knowledge to a wide audience without succumbing to its distortion.” Institutions inviting Chto Delat decide to play this game. This is the case this time as well. In Wroclaw, the game with the institution takes on another dimension – the game with the potential inherent in the relationship with the audience and with the surrounding reality. Thanks to Chto Delat the monumental windows of the Awangarda Gallery, overlooking a busy street, become stands. The gallery turns into the audience, and the street turns into a performance. There is a clear reversal of the viewer-institution relationship, ascribed to the building by the very architectural device of unveiling and glazing the top coat of the facade of the historic palace ruined during WWII – and, in this way, opening up its institutional interior to constant public view. The metaphor of game and the play of opposing forces present inside and beyond the institutional framework does not merely serve the purpose of turning the set relationship between an art gallery and the external world inside out, but rather of evoking a critical reflection on the observed reality, seen as a potential that can be offered to the viewer.

Patrycja Sikora

_____

CHTO DELAT (WHAT IS TO BE DONE)?

What is Chto Delat?

The Russian group Chto Delat is a platform that unites representatives of various areas of artistic and intellectual life: artists, philosophers, writers, activists, and social scientists. The group is guided by the principles of collectivism and self-realization. As described by its members, the core of the group is formed by a team of coordinators who cooperate closely with grassroots workgroups that share the principles of internationalism, feminism, and equality. Their activity represents the entire platform and provides a common context for interpreting their projects. Permanent activists of the collective include: Olga Egorova aka Tsaplya (artist, Petersburg), Artemy Magun (philosopher, Petersburg), Nikolay Oleynikov (artist, Moscow), Natalia Pershina aka Gluklya (artist, Petersburg), Alexei Penzin (philosopher, Moscow), David Riff (art critic, Moscow), Alexander Skidan (poet, critic, Petersburg), Oxana Timofeeva (philosopher, Moscow), Dmitri Vilensky (artist, Petersburg), and Nina Gasteva (choreographer).

Where did they come from?

Chto Delat was established on May 24, 2003, in the action “The Refoundation of Petersburg,” during which a group of artists, architects, and critics symbolically founded a new city centre on the city’s outskirts. Inspired by the pompous celebrations of the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg, the event was seen by the police as a disruption of the ceremony. Shortly afterwards, still unnamed, the group began to publish the newspaper Chto Delat, targeting the international audience. The name of the newspaper, and later of the collective, was borrowed from Nikolai Chernyshevsky (1828–1889), a philosopher, journalist, writer, and socialist, who in 1863 published the novel Chto Delat, one of the creative harbingers of the Russian Revolution. In 1902, Vladimir Lenin referred to the novel in his pamphlet bearing the same title, in which he presented a new look on the problems of self-organization of work groups. In this context, the artists and intellectuals working in the collective see themselves, by way of analogy, as a self-organizing group of “cultural workers.”

What do they do?

Chto Delat actions integrate different fields of intellectual activity: visual arts, literature, journalism, film, theatre, philosophy, and political thought. Created with a variety of tools, their work is a collective action, which means that it has a common context and stems from a deep theoretical reflection. The group realises its principles issuing a newspaper, creating movies, theatre, plays, installations, prints, murals, performing actions.

Program

Chto Delat are preoccupied with the issue of cultural autonomy, considered from the point of view of the artists who can’t perform in the post-Soviet Russia and create outside the mainstream, but also who are active in Europe. The group expresses its concern about art, today often perceived as a commodity or an element supposed to provide entertainment to the audience, a part of a system in which museums and galleries are instruments of power having monopolised presentation of art, while they should be institutions that help art search for truth about the world. The essence of art is to create the viewer’s awareness, to develop forms of critical perception of reality, and to be a tool for independent functioning in the world. This is a public activity, so that no authorities or institutions should have a monopoly over its “distribution.” In their projects Chto Delat discuss how culture functions in the machinery of western and post-Soviet capitalism, showing the culture’s dependence on the money, state, and ideology. Thus the emancipation of art guarantees human emancipation as such, and the role of artists and intellectuals is to expose the current situation and try to define the optimal conditions for the development of free creativity. For them a way to achieve these goals is to return to the original ideas of ​​the Left and fulfil them in a fresh combination of actions from the sphere of art, radical thought and politics.

Where do they work?

Defying the Russian cultural establishment and politics in general, the group operates outside the mainstream of the art world at home, on its outskirts. At the same time, Chto Delat is a very active group, constantly present and performing in the countries of Western Europe, the USA, or Australia. However, the “activity” and “existence” of the group can and should also be seen in a non-material way. Theoretical work, publishing an online newspaper, online meetings and lectures are just as important as the institutional dimension of their activity. The group’s projects have been shown in numerous group and individual exhibitions, including Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki (2004), Museum of the History of St. Petersburg (2004), Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel (2005), Centre for Contemporary Art in Moscow (2006), the 3rd Prague Biennale (2007), 11th Istanbul Biennial (2009), the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (2010), the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (2011), Smart Project Space, Amsterdam (2011), Gallery 21, St. Petersburg (2012). The collective’s works are exhibited in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade, National Museum Reina Sofia in Madrid, Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, KIASMA Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, the Library of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Chto Delat has participated in many conferences, seminars, open discussions, meetings, lectures, e.g., Documenta 12 in Kassel (2007),  Working Title: Archives at the Lodz Museum of Art (2009), and Former West in Berlin (2010, 2012).

Alicja Klimczak-Dobrzaniecka

Leave a comment

Filed under art exhibitions, critical thought

Where Has Communism Gone? A Learning Play (Open Call from Chto Delat)

Where Has Communism Gone? Open Call for Learning Play

POSTER COM GONE

OPEN CALL FOR PARTICIPANTS

Where Has Communism Gone?, a Learning Play initiated by Chto Delat as part of FORMER WEST: Documents, Constellations, Prospects (Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin).

The process takes place between March 16 and March 23, 2013. You are invited to participate in a four-day seminar led by the artist collective Chto Delat, and develop and perform the collective learning play Where Has Communism Gone? as part of  the main program of FORMER WEST: Documents, Constellations, Prospects, at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin from 18–24 March 2013.

Using playwright and director Bertolt Brecht’s model of the learning play, Chto Delat invite 25 participants to collectively develop an educational didactic performance. Centered on the question “where has communism gone?” participants are asked to work on and articulate their own positions throughout the process of acquiring and advocating for their attitudes towards this theme. The seminar consists of four subsequent sessions of collective discussions-rehearsals, which culminate in the staging of a Brechtian learning play on Thursday, March 21, at 21:24.

Dates 

Seminar: Saturday, March 16 & Sunday, March 17, 12:00–19:00 
Tuesday, March 19, and Wednesday, March 20, 19:00–23:00
Rehearsal: Thursday, March 21, starting at 10:00
Learning Play: Thursday, March 21, 21:24

Involvement is limited to 25 participants. Participants must commit to full attendance for all five days’ activities, including seminar, rehearsal, and the staging of the learning play. Each participant receives an honorarium of 150 euros and a week-long pass for FORMER WEST: Documents, Constellations, Prospects.

In order to participate, please send a motivational statement to Dmitry Vilensky dmvilen@gmail.com and Annika Kuhlmann annika.kuhlmann@hkw.de. Annika can respond to all organizational questions, and can also be reached by phone at +49 30 39787 224.

*** The application deadline is Sunday, March 10, 2013 ***

Where Has Communism Gone?

Where has communism gone? This question refers, firstly, to Russian revolutionary writer Andrei Platonov. The hero of his novel Chevengur suddenly awakes in the middle of the night after a dream asking where socialism is, searching for it as if it were an object, a thing which supposedly belongs to him. Following the line of thought in this passage, socialism or communism is communicated as an object of desire, and this kind of desire, as Marxist political theorist Fredric Jameson says, has not yet found its Sigmund Freud or Jacques Lacan. By posing the question about communism, we aim to explore the nature of this political desire, which, in spite of the demise of what is called “real socialism” or “communist regimes,” is still persistent, at least in the field of contemporary theory and art.

We are used to the reality principle of one-dimensional liberal propaganda, according to which nothing can be better than the present state of things, which in fact means the neoliberal economy accompanied by the rhetoric of human rights and legal democracy. They say that communism was a utopian project that ended in disaster, with violence and totalitarianism, and the only thing we have left to do is to forget all hope for a better future for society and focus on our individual lives, to enjoy this eternal present, to use our possibilities and skills to succeed in working our way up a pyramid built of money, trampling the heads of others as we climb.

However, today, after decades of excessive ideological overproduction of the monstrosity of communism, a general anti-communist phobia has ended in a new disappointment. The liberal utopia, based on the notion of free individuals freely operating in a free market, was demolished by a global economic, political, and ecological crisis. From this perspective, all the debates about communism became valuable and actual again, not only with communism as a valuable experience from the past, but also as an alternative for the future.

The only problem is nobody really takes it seriously.

Neoliberal institutions easily give their money to any kind of creative and sophisticated critic of the present, taking for granted that all these debates are based on market exchange, and that all the ideas discussed have their own nominal values. The ghost of communism still wanders around, and to transform it into a commodity form seems a good way to finally get rid of it. Conferences and artistic events dedicated to the idea of communism go on one after another, speakers are paid or not paid, advertisement production machines function well, and the globe turns round as before.

But beyond this exhausting machinery of actualization and commodification, we still have as a potentiality this totally new desire of communism, the desire which cannot help but be shared, since it keeps in itself the “commons” of communism, the claim for togetherness, so ambiguous and problematic within the human species. This claim cannot be privatized, calculated, and capitalized since it exists not inside individuals, but between them, between us, and can be experienced in our attempts to construct this space between, to expose ourselves inside this “commons” and teach ourselves to produce it out of what we have as social beings.

We invite you to think, discuss, and live through these issues together at our seminar and try to find a form of representation for our debate.

—Chto Delat

During this seminar the platform is represented by Olga Egorova (Tsaplya), Nina Gasteva, Artemy Magun, Alexei Penzin, Natalya Pershina, David Riff, Oxana Timofeeva, Alexander Skidan, and Dmitry Vilensky.

About FORMER WEST: Documents, Constellations, Prospects

FORMER WEST: Documents, Constellations, Prospects consists of artworks, talks, discussions, rehearsals, and performances in various constellations of documents and prospects that offer a multitude of encounters with the public for negotiating the way of the world from 1989 to today, and thinking beyond. The seven-day period is guided by five currents that feature contemporary negotiations on Art Production, Infrastructure, and Insurgent Cosmopolitanism, with Dissident Knowledges contributions offering dynamic interventions into the ongoing program with artworks, performances, and statements. Finally, Learning Place operates alongside the full program involving students in workshops and inviting them to engage in the week of discussions.

Conceptualized by Maria Hlavajova and Kathrin Rhomberg in collaboration with Boris Buden, Boris Groys, Ranjit Hoskote, Katrin Klingan, and Irit Rogoff. FORMER WEST: Documents, Constellations, Prospects is a joint project by Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin and BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht.

For the full program, complete list of contributors, and live streaming, as well as full project archive, please visit the FORMER WEST Digital Platform at www.formerwest.org.

FORMER WEST (2008–2014) is a long-term research, education, exhibition, and publication project initiated by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht and aimed at a critical reinterpretation of post-1989, post-Cold War histories around an artistic imaginary of “formerness,” countering the persistent hegemonies of the so-called West within a global context.

2 Comments

Filed under contemporary art, critical thought, open letters, manifestos, appeals

On the Urgency of Launching the ArtLeaks Gazette (London)

Presentation of the international platform ArtLeaks
On the Urgency of Launching the ArtLeaks Gazette

Wednesday, 7 November 2012
19:00-22:00
Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies), University of London

This is part of the 9th Annual Historical Materialism Conference ‘Weighs Like a Nightmare’, London, November 7th-12th, 2012

ArtLeaks is an international platform for cultural workers where instances of abuse, corruption and exploitation are exposed and submitted for public inquiry. ArtLeaks’ mission is to create a space where one could engage directly with actual conditions of cultural work internationally – conditions that affect those working in cultural production as well as those from traditionally creative fields. Furthermore, ArtLeaks is developing in the direction of creating transversal alliances between local activist and cultural workers groups, through which we may collectively tackle repression and inequality.

While building on previous models that emerged in the highly politicized milieus of the 1970s and 1980s, such as the institutional critique practice of left-wing collectives, ArtLeaks seeks to expand the scope of these historical precedents towards international geopolitical engagement. One of the outcomes of ArtLeaks working assemblies and workshops was the establishment of alliances with international groups such as W.A.G.E. (NYC), Occupy Museums (NYC), Arts & Labor (NYC), Haben und Brauchen (Berlin), the Precarious Workers Brigade (London), Carrotworkers’ Collective (London), Critical Practice (London), and The May Congress of Creative Workers (Moscow). It is our strong belief that only an internationally coordinated movement would be able to expose and denounce exploitation and censorship in contemporary culture, and collectively imagine new types of organizational articulations.

For the 2012 Historical Materialism Conference, members of ArtLeaks will present the outcome of their previous working assemblies which took place this year in Berlin, Moscow and Belgrade, and bring up for discussion the urgent need to establish the ArtLeaks Gazette (forthcoming 2013). This regular, online publication aims to be a tool for empowerment in the face of the systemic abuse of cultural workers’ basic labor rights, repression or even blatant censorship, and the growing corporatization of culture that we face today.

After these brief introductions, we will break into four working groups, each focused on a different theme outlined in our Gazette. These will be:

1) Critique of cultural dominance apparatuses

Here we will address methodological issues in analyzing the condition of cultural production and the system that allows for the facile exploitation of the cultural labor force. We will try to relate methodology with concrete case studies of conflicts, exploitation, dissent across various regions of the world, drawing comparisons and providing local context for understanding them.

2) The struggle of narrations

This working group will develop and practice artistic forms of narration which cannot be fully articulated through direct “leaking”. Our focus will be finding new languages for narration of systemic dysfunctions. We expect these elaborations to take different forms of artistic contributions, such as comics, poems, drawings, short stories, librettos, etc.

3) Education and its discontents

The conflicts and struggles in the field of creative education are at the core of determining what kind of subjectivities will shape the culture(s) of future generations. It is important therefore to analyze what is currently at the stake in these specific fields of educational processes and how they are linked with what is happening outside academies and universities. Here we will discuss possible emancipatory approaches to education that are possible today, which resist pressing commercial demands for flexible and “creative” subjectivities. Can we imagine an alternative system of values based of a different meaning of progress?

4) Best practices and useful resources

In this working group we invite people to play out their fantasies of new, just forms of organization of creative life. Developing the tradition of different visionaries of the past we hope will trigger many speculations which might help us collect modest proposals for the future and thus counter the shabby reality of the present. This also includes practices which demonstrate alternative ethical guidelines, and stimulate the creation of a common cultural sphere.

At the end of the working group session, we will present our findings to each other and come together for some final conclusions and future common aims.

Facilitators of the event: Corina L. Apostol, Vlad Morariu

The editorial board for the first issue of the Gazette will consist of Corina L. Apostol, Vladan Jeremić, Vlad Morariu, David Riff and Dmitry Vilensky.

More about the ArtLeaks Gazette: http://art-leaks.org/artleaks-gazette/

More about Historical Materialism: http://www.historicalmaterialism.org/about-us

Thanks to Historical Materialism for hosting us!

1 Comment

Filed under censorship, contemporary art, international affairs

Launching the ArtLeaks Gazette (Call for Papers)

art-leaks.org

On the urgency of launching the ArtLeaks Gazette

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 over a year of activity, we, members of the collective ArtLeaks felt an urgent need to establish a regular on-line publication as a tool for empowerment in the face of the systemic abuse of cultural workers’ basic labor rights, repression or even blatant censorship and growing corporatization of culture that we encounter  today.

Namely: radical (political) projects are co-opted under the umbrella of corporate promotion and gentrification; artistic research is performed on research hand-outs, creating only an illusion of depth while in fact adding to the reserve army of creative capital; the secondary market thrives as auction houses speculate on blue chip artists for enormous amounts of laundered money, following finance capitalism from boom to bust, meanwhile, most artists can’t even make a living and depend on miserly fees, restrictive residencies, and research handouts to survive; galleries and dealers more and more heavily copyright cultural values; approximately 5% of authors, producers and dealers control 80% of all cultural resources (and indeed, in reality, the situation may be even worse than these numbers suggest) ; certain cultural managers and institutions do not shy away from using repressive maneuvers against those who bring into question their mission, politics or dubious engagements with corporate or state benefactors; and last but not least, restrictive national(ist) laws and governments suppress cultural workers through very drastic politics, not to mention the national state functions as a factor of neoliberal expression in the field of culture.

Do you recognize yourself in the scenarios above? Do you accept them as immutable conditions of your labor? We strongly believe that this dire state of affairs can be changed. We do not have to carry on complying to politics that cultivate harsh principles of pseudo-natural selection (or social Darwinism) – instead we should fight against them and imagine different scenarios based on collective values, fairness and dignity. We strongly believe that issues of exploitation, repression or co-optation cannot be divorced from their specific politico-economic contexts and historical conditions, and need to be raised in connection with a new concept of culture as an invaluable reservoir of the common, as well as new forms of class consciousness in the artistic field in particular, and the cultural field more generally.

Recently, this spectrum of urgencies and the necessity to address them has also become the focus of fundamental discussions and reflection on the part of communities involved in cultural production and certain leftist social and political activists. Among these, we share the concerns of pioneering 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) and others (see the Related Causes section on our website). The condition of cultural workers has also recently been theorized within the framework of bio-politics, in which cognitive labor is implicitly described as a new hegemonic type of production in the context of the global industrialization of creative work.

The question then emerges, what is creative work today? To structure this undifferentiated categorizations, we will begin by addressing in our journal all those “occupied” with art who are striving towards emancipatory knowledge in the process of their activity. As the contemporary art world more and more envelops different areas of knowledge as well as the production of events, we considered it a priority to focus on this particular field. However, we remain open to discussing urgencies related to other forms of creative activity beyond the art world.

Through our journal, we want to stresses the urgent need to seriously transform these workers’ relationship with institutions, networks and economies involved in the production, reproduction and consumption of art and culture.  We will pursue these goals through developing  a new approach to the tradition of institutional critique and fostering new forms of artistic production, that may challenge dominant discourses of criticality and social engagement which tame creative forces. We also feel the urgency to link cultural workers’ struggles with similar ones from other fields of human activity – at the same time, we strongly believe that any such sustainable alliances could hardly be built unless we begin with the struggles in our own factories.

Announced Theme for the first issue: Breaking the Silence – Towards Justice, Solidarity and Mobilization

The main theme of the first issue of our journal is establishing a politics of truth by breaking the silence on the art world. What do we actually mean by this? We suggest that breaking the silence on the art world is similar to breaking the silence of family violence and other forms of domestic abuse. Similarly as when coming out with stories of endemic exploitation form inside the household, talking about violence and exploitation in the art world commonly brings shame, ambivalence and fear. But while each case of abuse may be different, we believe these are not singular instances but part of a larger system of repression, abuse and arrogance that have been normalized through the practices of certain cultural managers and institutions. Our task is to find voices, narratives, hybrid forms that raise consciousness about the profound effects of these forms of maltreatment: to break through the normalizing rhetoric that relegate cultural workers’ labor to an activity performed out of instinct, for the survival of culture at large, like sex or child rearing which, too are zones of intense exploitation today.

Implicit in this gesture is a radical form of protest – one that does not simply join the concert of affirmative institutional critique which confirms the system by criticizing it. Rather, breaking the silence implies bringing into question the ways in which the current art system constructs positions for its speakers, and looking for strategies in which to counteract naturalized exploitation and repression today.

At the same time, we recognize that the moment of exposure does not fully address self-organization or, what comes after breaking the silence? We suggest that it is therefore important to link this to solidarity, mobilization and an appeal for justice, as political tools. As it is the understanding of the dynamic interaction between the mobilization of resources, political opportunities in contexts and emancipatory cultural frames that we can use to analyze and construct strategies for cultural workers movements.  With summoning the urgency of potentia agendi (or the power to act) collectively we also call for the necessity to forge coalitions within the art world and beyond it – alliances that have the concrete ability of exerting a certain political pressure towards achieving the promise of a more just and emancipatory cultural field.

Structure of publication

The journal would be divided into six major sections.

A. Critique of cultural dominance apparatuses

Here we will address methodological issues in analyzing the condition of cultural production and the system that allows for the facile exploitation of the cultural labor-force. Ideally, though not necessarily, these theoretical elaborations would be related to concrete case studies of conflicts, exploitation, dissent  across various regions of the world, drawing comparisons and providing local context for understanding them.

B. Forms of organization and history of struggles

Cultural workers have been demanding just working conditions, struggling over agency and subjectivity in myriad ways and through various ideas about what this entails. In this section we will analyze historical case-studies of self-organization of cultural workers. Our goal is not to produce a synthetic model out of all of these struggles, rather to examine how problems have been articulated at various levels of (political) organization, with attention to the genealogy of the issues and the interaction between hegemonic discourses (of the institution, corporation, the state) and those employed by cultural workers in their respective communities.

C. The struggle of narrations

In this section we will invite our contributors to develop and practice artistic forms of narration which cannot be fully articulated through direct “leaking”. It should be focused on finding new languages for narration of systemic dysfunctions. We expect these elaborations can take different form of artistic contributions, including comics, poems, films, plays, short stories, librettos etc.

D. Glossary of terms

What do we mean by the concept of “cultural workers”? What does “gentrification” or “systemic abuse” mean in certain contexts?  Whose “art world”? This section addresses the necessity of developing a terminology to make theoretical articulations more clear and accessible to our readers. Members of ArtLeaks as well as our contributors to our gazette will be invited to define key terms used in the material presented in the publication. These definitions should be no more that 3-4 sentences long and they should be formulated as a result of a dialogue between all the contributors.

E. Education and its discontents

The conflicts and struggles in the field of creative education are at the core of determining what kind of subjectivities will shape the culture(s) of future generations. It is very important to carefully analyze what is currently at the stake in these specific fields of educational processes and how they are linked with what is happening outside academies and universities.  In this section we will discuss possible emancipatory approaches to education that are possible today, which resist pressing commercial demands for flexible and “creative” subjectivities. Can we imagine an alternative system of values based of a different meaning of progress?

F. Best practices and useful resources

In this section we would like to invite people to play out their fantasies of new, just forms of organization of creative life. Developing the tradition of different visionaries of the past we hope that this section will trigger many speculations which might help us collect modest proposals for the future and thus counter the shabby reality of the present. This section is also dedicated  to the practices which demonstrate  alternative ethical guidelines, and stimulate the creation of a common cultural sphere. This would allow cultural workers to unleash their full potential in creating values based on principles of emancipatory politics, critical reflections and affirmative inspiration of a different world where these values should form the basis of a dignified life.

On Practicalities

Our open call addresses all those who feel the urgency to discuss the aforementioned-issues. We look forward to collecting contributions until the 31st of December 2012. Contributions should be delivered in English or as an exemption in any language after negotiations with the editorial council. The editorial council of Artleaks takes responsibility of communicating with all authors during the editorial process.

Please contact us with any questions, comments and submit materials to: artsleaks@gmail.com. When submitting material, please also note the section under which you would like to see it published. 

The online gazette will be published in English under the Creative Commons attribution noncommercial-share alike and its materials will be offered for translation in any languages to any interested parties.

We will publish all contributions delivered to us in a separate section. However, our editorial council takes full responsibility in composing an issue of the journal in the way we feel it should be done.

Editorial council for the first issue will consist of: Corina L. Apostol, Vladan Jeremić, Vlad Morariu, David Riff and Dmitry Vilensky.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under activism, contemporary art, critical thought, open letters, manifestos, appeals, trade unions

1st ArtLeaks Working Assembly 2012 (June 3, Berlin)

art-leaks.org

ArtLeaks invites you to a public working assembly around the issues that are at the core of the group’s mission – exposing instances of abuse, corruption and exploitation in the art world. This is the official public launch of our platform, which began to operate in September 2011, and will be followed by a series of debates and workshops in the near future. These present a unique opportunity to engage more directly with conditions of cultural work that affect not only artists but creative workers in general: those from the traditionally creative fields as well as those generally involved in cultural production.

Members of ArtLeaks will present on the problematic politics of sponsorship in contemporary culture, the intense exploitation of cultural labor, the marketization of public space dedicated to so-called independent initiatives, the appropriation of culture under the umbrella of disreputable corporation and last but not least, what possibilities we may envision for transversal alliances and activism against cases of abuse and corruption of cultural managers and institutions.

We invite to the discussion all those of you who have experienced abuses of your basic rights to be paid for your work, those who have struggled against subjugation under the dictates of galleries who cater to a wealthy minority, those who regularly take on other jobs to finance projects that may never be realized. Join us in forwarding the conversation from a critique of the status quo to formulating strategies on how to make real changes in the system – changes that would benefit the vast majority of creative workers, allowing them to unleash their full potential to bringing about a better world.

To this end, the evening will be divided between a first part dedicated to interventions by members of ArtLeaks, while in the second we would like to engage the public in a conversation and brainstorm on solutions, models and positions in response to concrete problems, concerns, urgencies.

Currently ArtLeaks is working on formulating a new regular publication entirely dedicated to issues of cultural workers’ rights and related struggles. This journal will be unique in focusing specifically on the challenges we face in the field today, related to wide-spread mistreatment, (self)exploitation and corruption and how these may be over-come through strategies of self-organization, solidarity and collective action. ArtLeaks will launch a call for papers at this public meeting.

ArtLeaks members that will facilitate this working assembly: Corina Apostol, Vlad Morariu, David Riff, Dmitry Vilensky, Raluca Voinea. We will have interventions via Skype from Vladan Jeremic and Société Réaliste.

Berlin, Sunday, June 3rd, 19:00h, Flutgraben

Address:
Am Flutgraben 3
12435 Berlin
+49 30 5321 9658
www.flutgraben.org

Directions to Flutgraben: http://www.kunstfabrik.org/Anfahrt_Kunstfabrik_engl.pdf

Leave a comment

Filed under activism, contemporary art, open letters, manifestos, appeals

Auditorium Moscow: A Sketch for a Public Space (Moscow)

auditorium-moscow.org

Auditorium Moscow. A Sketch for a Public Space
September 16 – October 16, 2011
Bielie Palaty, Prechistenka 1/2, Moscow

With 14 million inhabitants and 101 billionaires, Moscow is Europe’s biggest city, and perhaps its most contradictory. The blueprint used to rebuild the former capital of the socialist world is brutal. Fueled by a burgeoning resource economy, the city goes global, with financial and cultural involvement in all the other global capitals, and with massive migration of cheap labor from Central Asia. But at the same time, Moscow refuses to see its problems and its possibilities. It isolates itself from the world to which it belongs, constantly in danger of becoming a provincial megalopolis. The lack of a real public sphere – both in literal, spatial and figurative senses – is part of the problem. The vast open spaces left behind by communism almost never become places for people. Yet despite all the authoritarian governance and the much-lamented absence of politics, people realize that there can be no civil society on the basis of movie theaters, shopping malls, condominiums and fancy cafes alone.

The city’s messages remain intense. Its history is still intriguing as an alternate modernity, and its current transformation continues to generate new subjects, new social structures, new fields for experience, new conflicts, and new spaces of hope. Moscow’s counterparts are not just New York, London, and Dubai, but the other capitals of the former socialist world, where people face some similar challenges in taking over those open spaces which can be places for people. So what is to be done? Most of the answers to this classical question are virtual, either online, or, more interestingly, locked into anabiosis in the urban fabric that surrounds us.

It is the same in contemporary art. So many new institutions promise a new public sphere and new contacts to the international scene. But they all too often ignore the real conflicts upon which that public sphere would be founded. For now, like in the shopping malls, their owners are out to sell audiences routines of fast, passive-aggressive consumption and mass tourism, in which it is hard to really engage with the art and the artists that make it. Inequalities and conflicts are carefully hidden. A more relevant public art, too, remains virtual, ephemeral. But maybe it is possible to do things otherwise?

In the project “Auditorium Moscow,” the curators will test the hypothesis of a new public platform for contemporary art at the very center of the city and at the heart of its contradictions. Drawing upon the experiences and the collection of the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art, it projects a school, a club, and an exhibition that will unfold not only in space but also in time. Over the course of four weeks, “Auditorium Moscow” will offer a dense program of workshops, screenings, and roundtables with artists and theoreticians from Poland, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, and Latin America, examining the question of public spaces and the constituencies that inhabit them, in both urbanism and art. A special group of students will accompany and help to realize the project, recruited mostly from Moscow’s two emerging art schools, the Moscow Rodchenko School for Photography and Multimedia, and the Institute for Problems of Contemporary Art (IPSI).

The exhibition will change over time, combining pieces from the collection of the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art with newly commissioned work, including video installations and films by Aernout Mik, Artur Zmijewski, and Yael Bartana, and Russian artists Sergei Bratkov, Olga Chernysheva, and Chto Delat. Polish Artist Zbigniew Libera will present new photographs of his view of contemporary Moscow. The project’s main discussion space will feature a specially designed auditorium by Slovenian-born artist Tobias Putrih. “Auditorium Moscow” will open with a mini-conference on “Institutions, Cities, and Political Culture,” featuring Charles Esche (Vanabbe Museum Eindhoven), and Krytyka Polityczna (Warsaw). Miguel Robles-Duran will hold a workshop on the problems of gentrification in Latin America. Dutch artist Matthijs de Bruijne will attempt an artistic cartography through the eyes of Moscow’s migrant workers, and report on the Migrant Worker Museum in Beijing. Berlin-based composer and filmmaker Christian Von Borries will hold a workshop on auditory violence and urban soundscaping. Polish artist and curator of the forthcoming Berlin Biennial Artur Zmijewski will hold a discussion of activists from Moscow and Petersburg. In the days of the Moscow Biennial’s opening, Cuban artist Tania Bruguera will show a performance.

“Auditorium Moscow” is the first project at the historical location of the Belie Palaty, a 17th century townhouse located at the very beginning of the city’s so-called Golden Mile. This neighborhood has undergone a fundamental gentrification over the last ten years, but the building’s gates have been closed for the last 20 years. On its steps, there is an improvised memorial for human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova, who were assassinated by neo-Nazis here on January 19, 2009. On the house across the street, a memorial plaque notes that this was the seat of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, whose head Solomon Mikhoels was killed in 1948. A monument to Friedrich Engels sadly peers over to the reconstruction of Christ the Savior Church, where the Palace of the Soviets was never realized. This is an intriguing location that will continue to host projects dedicated to contemporary art in its urban surrounding.

The project “Auditorium Moscow” was initiated by the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw in cooperation with curators Ekaterina Degot and David Riff. Established in 2005, the Museum is located in temporary premises and its building is in the process of construction. The program of the Museum at the moment is very much defined by the social changes in former Eastern Europe, therefore the initiation of the public debate is the Museum’s main focus. For this reason the Museum is  interested in sharing its knowledge in defining public space and at the same time would like to understand how the notion of public space is reformulated in other societies under transformation.

Curators: Ekaterina Degot (Moscow), Joanna Mytkowska (Warsaw), David Riff (Moscow-Berlin)

Architect: Katya Bochavar

Coordinators: Andrey Parshikov (Moscow), Katia Szczeka (Warsaw)

Participants: Yael Bartana, Christian von Borries, Sergei Bratkov, Tania Bruguera, Matthijs de Bruijne, Olga Chernysheva, Chto Delat, Phil Collins, Galit Eilat, Charles Esche, Aleksandra Galkina, Sharon Hayes, Polina Kanis, Yakov Kazhdan, Krytyka Polityczna, Learning Film Group, Yuri Leiderman, Zbigniew Libera, Renzo Martens, Adrian Melis, Deimantas Narkevicius, Tobias Putrih, Miguel Robles-Duran, Andrei Silvestrov, Sergei Sitar, Haim Sokol, Hito Steyerl, David Ter-Oganyan, Artur Żmijewski

The project is realized as part of the International Cultural Programme of the Polish EU Presidency coordinated by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. The project is co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.

Leave a comment

Filed under activism, alternative education, art exhibitions, contemporary art, critical thought, urban movements (right to the city)