Tag Archives: Ilya Budraitskis

Ilya Budraitskis: A Lone Red Flag

If the social upheaval that has just begun ends with the dismantling of the current regime — and I have no doubt that this will happen sooner or later — it will not only be Putin, United Russia, and Vasily Yakimenko and his lads who are sent to the rubbish heap. The final, irrevocable end will also come to the rotten political system built on the ruins of the parliament [the Supreme Soviet and Congress of People’s Deputies] that was executed in October 1993.

It was back then that this insulting set of false alternatives — Zyuganov, LDPR, Yavlinsky, and the “center-left” shit that constantly changes its dull leaders — was approved.  All of them have been an integral part of “managed democracy,” established by Yeltsin and brought to its present perfection by Putin over the past decade. And all of them must share with it responsibility for the privatization, impoverishment, and trampled rights and dignity of our unhappy, downtrodden population.

And of course, the most cynical and depraved part of this campaign has been the leadership of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF). The degree of their contempt for their own people, their thousands of honest, dedicated rank-and-file activists, and their millions of sincere voters is beyond belief. While United Russia and its predecessors falsified and stole votes from other parties, the Communist Party bosses sold the votes of their own supporters. They sold them for comfortable and predictable seats in the Duma, for the opportunity to huff and puff on TV while continuing to pose as the “only real opposition.” They sold them so as to avoid responsibility for anything whatsoever.

They did it in 1993 by running in the infamous elections on the ashes of the [Russian] White House [seat of the first post-Soviet Russian parliament]. They did it in 1996 by handing over their victory to Yeltsin and, in 2000, by submitting to Putin. And finally today, they are again ready to take their seats in the new Duma.

Yesterday, before going to Chistoprudny Boulevard [for the opposition rally] I went to the Communist Party rally, where rosy-cheeked mandarins were “recapping” the election results. It was like some incredibly perverse mockery of common sense. Half of our votes were stolen, they (Rashkin and Klychkov) said. There were gross violations [of election law] at almost every polling station. These elections are illegitimate, criminal. But even in these difficult conditions we have been able to increase the number of our seats in the Duma, and now we are ready to fight for the rights of working people with renewed vigor and even more effectively in the new parliament.

I stood there and thought about how doubly, triply disgusting this deal was, this deal carried out for the umpteenth time under the red flag, under the name “Communist Party,” which was deftly privatized in the wild nineties by a gang of petty grifters.

An hour later, already standing amidst the crowd on Chistoprudny, I suddenly saw a lone red flag shoot up, a flag emblazoned with the hammer and sickle, with the words “Communist Party.” And this struck me as genuinely important, for more than seeing Zyuganov and his accomplices before the tribunal of history, I would like to see the once-deceived rank-and-file members and supporters of the Communist Party alongside me on streets risen in rebellion.

Ilya Budraitskis is an activist with the Russian Socialist Movement.

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Vysočany Congress (Learning Film Group, 2008)

Vysočany Congress
Video film, 36:10, 2008
Learning Film Group (Nikolay Oleynikov, Yevgeny Fiks, and Ilya Budraitskis)

The Secret Vysočany Congress of the Czechoslovak Communist Party took place in August 1968, just two days after Soviet tanks invaded Prague. For this re-enactment, the artists found the actual place (the ČKD Factory in Vysočany, a suburb of Prague) where the congress took place. They interviewed the organizers of the event, workers who are still employed at the plant, and they invited artists, critics, historians, and leftist activists in the present-day Czech Republic to discuss the congress, its meaning and its impact.

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David Riff: Notes on Voina

David Riff
Notes on Voina

There are moments in life that make the fineries of art criticism seem inappropriate. Аesthetic differences are overshadowed by political choice: either yes or no, for or against. The arrest of two key artist-activists from the art group Voina is a case like that. On November 15, 2010, law enforcers detained Oleg Vorotnikov (aka “Vor” or “Thief”) and Leonid Nikolayev (aka “Lyonya the F*cknut”) for an action carried out two months before, in the course of which activists flipped a police car near the Mikhailovsky Castle in Petersburg, ostensibly to retrieve a child’s ball that was stuck under it, as a YouTube video – the actual artwork – shows. Though the damage was small, this was a step too far for the Petersburg police, who sent officers from Center “E” (a task force formed to combat “extremism”) on a special ops mission to Moscow to apprehend the culprits. They have been in custody ever since, on charges of aggravated criminal mischief. If they are convicted and given the maximum sentence, they face up to five years in jail.

No matter how skeptical one might be of Voina’s practices, it is impossible not to demand their immediate release. Russian law enforcers tasked with combating extremism go after artists who flip militia cars and paint phalli on bridges and charge them with hate crimes: “criminal mischief motivated by political, ideological, racist, nationalist or religious hatred or enmity against any social group whatsoever,” the social group, in this case, being the Petersburg police. This interpretation of the law stands in the same line as the application of Article 282 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code, a law designed to stop the “spread of national or religious discord,” but used to persecute curators and artists who broach Russian Orthodox religious taboos. And this while lethal right-wing extremism and national-religious fundamentalism go unchallenged, tolerated if not engineered by the state.

The perverse argument of victimization by representatives of the dominant culture will sound familiar; nationalists often construct their identitarian discourse on the “threat” by people from a “clashing civilization.” For example, when 5,000 neo-Nazi football hooligans held an unsanctioned demonstration in front of the Kremlin, their chief demand was for the state to protect them from people from Dagestan and other distant places, and law enforcers are inclined to concede to that demand to a point. Reviewing the footage of December 11, you can see Russian riot police holding back despite massive provocations and failing to protect migrants from getting beaten up, individual acts of heroism aside. According to one high-ranking law enforcement officer on TV, the police acted “loyally” until physically attacked. That is, they were “loyal” to the neo-Nazi football hooligans…

Another interesting slip of the tongue on the night of December 11 was when the head of the Interior Ministry, Rashid Nurgaliev, explained the violence as an eruption planned and inflamed by the radical left. Indeed, the so-called Centers “E” are known for harassing leftists of all ilk, including antifa activists, anarchists, and free trade unionists, as well as artists and intellectuals, simply because they are easy to raid, frame, and intimidate, though probably a little confusing to monitor. The chief instrument is that of any protection racket: undiscriminating, random violence. That is, masked Interior Ministry troops carrying automatic weapons and riot gear could bust down the door of a seminar held by leftist intellectuals, or confiscate editions of a newspaper where a libretto of a songspiel makes an unfavorable mention of Vladimir Putin. They could also randomly call in activists for questioning, and frame them with possession charges, if they prove uncooperative as in the case of Artem Loskutov in Novosibirsk, who was framed with marijuana possession charges and has been persecuted by law enforcers ever since.

Over the last years, such random violence has had a great effect, bringing home the overall securitization of Russian society (sometimes it seems like more than half of the male population work as security guards) to the art scene; it has produced a top-to-bottom system of self-censorship that runs all the way from printers and technicians, via editors, copywriters, PR specialists, and journalists to curators, critics, and artists, who collectively begin to enforce a system of taboos, if not to pander directly to those “silent majorities” that might potentially feel persecuted. Though there are not so many artists who seek permission from the Moscow Patriarchate to exhibit works with religious themes yet, the majority of Russian art professionals shies away from any politics beyond harmless spectacle, opting instead for a defense of “free art” and “autonomy,” which, under present conditions, can and should be understood as autonomy in a heavily guarded luxury ghetto (if the artist is lucky) or autonomy below the horizon of visibility or on the margins of society (if she or he is not lucky or really lucky, depending on how you see it). The right of artists to “live by their own laws” is predicated on the vast privileges of their patrons, and disappears once artists operate in the outer world in any visible manner.

Thus, it seems very tempting to defend Voina by demanding the impossible and asserting artistically motivated hooliganism’s right to offend. Andrei Erofeev, one of the defendants in the “Forbidden Art” trial and Voina’s principle supporter, makes such an argument, likening the group to firemen who break down the doors of burning buildings. This line of argumentation claims that artists should have a certain immunity from prosecution because they follow their own law, which includes the right to exercise satire and provocation, designed for minimal material damages and maximal social effect. In this argumentation, the action is obviously not motivated by political, social, national or religious hatred but by the experimental drive of the artist (in this case, the collective artist Voina); outrage and material violence (more of a threat and a taunt than a reality) are artistic devices, actor’s ploys, justifiable means subordinated to positive aesthetic and political ends. That is, Voina lays claim to a specific type of aesthetic violence that redefines art from outside its normative shell; it’s an old Dadaist method redeployed again and again throughout the twentieth century, and it only works when the transgression of aesthetic law coincides with that of administrative law, when the threat of violence and sanction are real and become self-evident, when the apparatus reacts with all its overwhelming stupidity. The apparatus’s reaction is a part of the artwork, in other words; the arrest becomes an aesthetic device, not so much a means as an ending.

What disappears, unfortunately, is the possibility to criticize Voina’s actions as art or to see them as art at all; solidarity with political prisoners requires that any discussion of their work be reduced to the level of supportive political commentary. They don’t need analysis, as long as it doesn’t directly serve the cause of vindicating them. As Ilya Budraitskis, one of the organizers of the rally held in support of Voina in Moscow on December 18, put it, “The time for aesthetic discussion about Voina was over once the activists were put in jail,” arguing that any aesthetic criticisms would, at this point, add to their predicament. Artist and theorist Anatoly Osmolovsky takes a diametrically opposed position: he writes that Voina was uninteresting to him until the arrest, and then launches into an attack on the group’s actions as a rehash of actionist strategies that he himself helped to pioneer. Osmolovsky’s article expresses a widespread sentiment that curator Oxana Sarkissian sums up: “I can’t support Voina’s artistic strategies, because they are inappropriate to our time.” Meaning: ten years of “normalization” under Putin have made radical public art impossible, and Voina, effectively, proves it yet again.

Art can only be “political” when it is criticized, attacked and/or endorsed by an art community and a broader audience, but it can only be art when the audience can appreciate, discuss, and criticize it without being held to a question like “do you want them to go to jail or not?” The point is that in the nineties, this was possible: Osmolovsky’s performance of laying out the word khui (“dick”) in human letters could be interpreted precisely because its then-still anonymous authors could successfully evade any punishment, because politics had not been silenced, but, on the contrary, was going up in flames. Moscow Actionism, one could see, was predicated on a strange power vacuum in the period of shock privatization and its political failures, a theater that unfolded in failed pubic space and an as yet uncontrolled no man’s land: it famously took the police over an hour to respond in any way to the barricade Osmolovsky built in 1998 down the road from the Kremlin. The early 2000s changed all that, redefining all the fields of visibility in Russian society, and effectively banishing artists to their autonomy zones.

Voina has flaunted those new conventions, but its actions were only art for as long as they created and exploited those new vacuums that have been arising within what outwardly seems quite forbidding and total, for as long as they evaded arrest. Of course, the risk of arrest was always part of the game; in fact, in one YouTube video, Vorotnikov taunts an employee of Center “E” and admonishes him for shaking down another activist. But arrest does not necessarily mean a cold New Year’s in prison, with the prospect of broken families. Voina was actually famous for caution, for “smart activism,” for flaunting the law without ever actually risking more than a misdemeanor. Many of my students dismiss their work not because it is risky or breaks taboos, but because it seems too calculated, planned as a spectacle with actors playing clearly defined theatrical roles, too close for comfort to the spectacular nature of football hooligan politics under Putin. One student actually said that his contacts on the radical right were big fans of Voina and saw them as brave allies in the battle against the police, obsessed with protecting its own interests (as a minority), instead of the interests of the (equally persecuted) Russian majority.

Such interpretations underscore the importance of art criticism, which suddenly seems more than appropriate, simply to avoid confusion and to keep Russian neo-Nazis from claiming Voina for themselves. Once they are released, we can discuss what might be wrong with Voina’s general pose, whether it is romantic or cynical or crazy or all of the above. We can talk about why the political motives are intentionally vague. We can wonder why Voina (and everyone else) is so clear about anti-authoritarianism but not much else. Why this obsession with the state and the elite? Isn’t it Bakuninist? Power, imagined in overly abstract terms, and countered with overly abstract means? This is typical for post-communist politics, and one of the reasons why Voina’s actions resonate so broadly. There is also a counter-tendency in Voina that seems more promising: one that addresses the dispersed violence in the everyday, as present in a nightclub frequented by neocons as in your average megamall. This could be one point to begin the discussion; another is that a lot of Voina’s work is conscious trash and camped-up kitsch, briefly captivating, but very much calculated for intermedial scandalizing effect. The rather traditional transgressive image of the romantic bohemian commune, having pregnant group sex in a zoological museum, does little to hold up the spread of fascism through the everyday, just as releasing roaches in a courtroom cannot stop yet another biased court from reading its verdict. The court can, however, stop us from ever discussing any of those topics and from seeing Voina’s actions as art, simply because it is unethical to attack them while they are in jail. In Russia, verdicts take a long time to read, and even longer to write.

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Editor’s Note. To find out more about the work and history of the Voina group, the story of their arrest and updates in this case, and how you can help the arrested activists with their legal defense and in spreading the word, go to Free Voina.

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Court Experiment (Kyiv)

http://vcrc.ukma.kiev.ua/en/actual/court-experiment

Visual Culture Research Center, the Center for Social Research, and Hudrada Curatorial Union in cooperation with tranzit.at

12 October – 12 November 2010, Kyiv

Court Experiment

Court Experiment is a statement against the judicial prosecution of Ukrainian activists for expressing disagreement with existing injustices. It is an action of solidarity with prosecuted activists Yevgenia Belorusets, Andriy Movchan, Serhiy Movchan and Olexandr Wolodarsky, whose trials have been going on for years. The project started with visits to the court hearings by people who wanted to express their support for the accused activists. Among them were activists, journalists, academics, and artists.

Court Experiment is an attempt to attract public attention both to these concrete cases of prosecution and more generally to the judicial system, which as part of the capitalist economy is an instrument of violence and injustice. The second important goal of the exhibition is to reveal the real things against which the activists protested – the destructive expansion of capital in the social sphere and the increase of moral censorship as an authoritarian symptom – framing them in the wider context of the political, cultural, and social circumstances inherent to post-Soviet society.

The exhibition consists of works by artists and documentation of the court hearings, which has been made collectively. Only documentary materials will be presented at the opening; later, the space will gradually fill with individual works by artists. The process of filling the space will be accompanied by discussions, screenings, performances, and seminars. Court Experiment is an installation-in-process, which by imitating the cyclical unfolding of the trials against the activists addresses the subjects of political action within the field of articulation between art, knowledge, and politics.

The exhibition presents works by Yevgeniya Belorusets, David Chichkan, Ksenia Hnylytska, Nikita Kadan, Yulia Kostereva, Yuriy Kruchak, Vasyl Lozynskyy, Lada Nakonechna, Mykola Ridniy, Oleksiy Salmanov, Oleksandr Wolodarsky, and Anna Zvyagintseva. The court drawings, photos, and installation of documentary material have been produced by Anatoliy Belov, Yevgeniya Belorusets, Oleksandr Burlaka, Nikita Kadan, Dmytro Myronchuk, Viktor Wolodarsky, and Anna Zvyagintseva. The exhibition is organized by the Hudrada Curatorial Union.

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Khimki: Territory of Lawlessness

Background information in the English-language press about the campaign to save the Khimki Forest:

Eco-Defense website (in Russian)

In the following video, Yevgenia Chirikova, leader of the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest, explains (in Russian) how the planned toll highway could easily be rerouted to bypass the Khimki Forest and how she was recently attacked by a man driving a car with Petersburg license plates.

____________

www.ikd.ru/node/14200

Khimki, Territory of Lawlessness: Khimki Forest Defenders Arbitrarily Detained at Bus Stop

It seems that in Khimki law enforcement officials have decided to ignore even the appearance of abiding by the law.

Today, August 2, at 12 noon, defenders of the Khimki Forest – approximately 50 peaceful citizens – arrived by bus at the Starbeyevo stop, where they were planning to monitor whether illegal clear-cutting was going on in this area. They had not even managed to assemble when police began detaining them. The first to be arrested were Yabloko party leader Sergei Mitrokhin and Left Front and Mossoviet leader Sergei Udaltsov (whom policemen seized with cries of “Let’s get Udaltsov!”).

IKD received this information from Ilya Budraitskis (Vpered Socialist Movement). As he was talking to us by telephone, he was also detained. He is now being taken to an unknown destination along with three other activists. Police have given them no explanations for their arrests.

Around nine or ten people total have been detained – for no reason whatsoever. These people were at the bus stop, far from the alleged site of the logging. Police have blocked the road into the forest. The Khimki Forest has become a territory where lawlessness reigns.

We remind readers that after an official request by Russian State Duma deputy Anton Belyakov, the Prosecutor General’s Office ordered that logging be halted and is conducting a review of the case. However, Teplotekhnik, Inc., the subcontractor, continues its destruction of the forest to make way for a Moscow-Saint Petersburg toll highway, although it does not have all the necessary permits for this work. As the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest informs us, this firm, subcontracted by the federal corporation Roads of Russia, is headed by Alexander Semchenko, a bishop of the Baptist church and a former adviser to Putin on cooperation with religious organizations.

Moreover, the Russian federal government decree on the clearing of the Khimki Forest, dated 5 November 2009, was not ratified with the Moscow city government, which was obligatory insofar as the forest is part of the capital city’s green belt.  Alexander Muzykantsky, Moscow human rights ombudsman, has filed an appeal in this connection with the prosector’s office, which is reviewing the matter.

The logging of the forest continues all the same, and soon it will reach the homes of Khimki residents. Activists have brought a temporary halt to the razing several times insofar as Teplotekhnik does not have all the necessary permits. At present, the Prosector General’s office is reviewing the legality of its actions. But Teplotekhnik continues to fell the Khimki Forest because they want the money.

Call the Khimki police stations where activists are being held and ask why they have been arrested and when they will be released:

  • Khimki Department of Internal Affairs: +7 (495) 573-0202
  • Khimki Police Precinct No. 2: +7 (495) 573-3747

_________________

STOP POLICE REPRISALS AGAINST ANTIFASCISTS IN RUSSIA!

On July 30, Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov, two antifascist activists, were arrested in Moscow without formal charges of any kind. Maxim and Alexei are well-known public spokesmen of the growing movement of young people against neo-Nazi violence, and in recent years they have done much to expose the connections amongst government agencies, the police, and ultra-rightists in Russia.

Their arrests came on the heels of a series of dramatic events that unfolded in July around protests against the destruction of a forest in Khimki, outside of Moscow. Because they have a stake in clear-cutting the forest to make way for a multibillion-dollar toll highway between Moscow and Petersburg, big business and state bureaucrats have unleashed a full-scale campaign of violence against the local residents and environmentalists who make up the protest group. On July 23, their peaceful camp in the forest was brutally attacked by private security guards and a gang of ultra-rightist football hooligans hired by the construction company, while the police stood by, demonstratively refusing to intervene. The attacks against protesters continued during the week of July 26, along with the clear-cutting of the Khimki Forest, one of the largest green belts near Moscow.

On July 28, a group of radical antifascists estimated to number around 400 staged a symbolic action against corporate, police and neo-Nazi lawlessness by throwing smoke bombs at the building of the Khimki municipal administration, which bears direct responsibility for the situation that has developed around the forest.

The action was carried out in a matter of minutes, and so police were unable to respond in time and arrest any of the attackers. Despite the fact that they had no information about the identities of the people who participated in the action, the following day the police detained and searched the flats of people whose only crime is that they publicly express their antifascist and anti-capitalist stance. In addition, two journalists who photographed and videotaped the action on July 28 were also detained.

According to press reports, “solving” the case of the attack on the Khimki administration building has been made a priority at the very top, by the Russian Presidential Administration, which will now attempt to find the guilty parties whatever the cost. Knowing the tactics of the Russian police and secret services, we have no doubt that psychological and physical methods of coercion, including torture, might well be used in the current investigation, especially because investigators presently do not have a single piece of evidence that would link Alexei and Maxim to the attack.

It is no exaggeration to say that the future of the antifascist movement in Moscow depends on the outcome of this case. Police officials have already told the press that “it’s time to put them in their place” and smash this growing movement, which is not controlled by the authorities.

We call on all leftist and worker activists, antifascists and environmentalists to protest the police reprisals against Alexei and Maxim.

WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW?

1. Send protest letters or make calls to the following addresses and phone numbers:

Moscow Region Prosecutor’s Office
Malyi Kiselnyi per., d. 5
107031 Moscow
Russian Federation
news@mosoblproc.ru
Khimki Prosecutor’s Office
ul. Mayakovskogo, d. 30
141400 Khimki, Moscow Region
Russian Federation
+7 (495) 571-6235
Khimki Department of Internal Affairs
(current location of detainees)
ul. Gogolia, d. 6
141400 Khimki, Moscow Region
Russian Federation
+7 (495) 572-0202 (Duty Officer)
+7 (495) 572-1209 (Administrative Office)

2. Submit protest letters to the Russian Federation embassy or consulate in your area or, better yet, organize protest actions outside embassies demanding the immediate release of Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov.

3. Send an online letter to the Russian president.

4. Distribute this information as widely as possible.

Campaign Facebook Page: Freedom for Russian antifascists Alexei Gaskarov & Maxim Solopov!

__________

[Editor’s Note: We have adapted the following blog post to make it more readable.]

community.livejournal.com/himki_protest/3338.html

Moscow / Khimki: The Battle with the Adminstration Heats Up

In recent days, the battle to stop the destruction of the forest in the Moscow suburb of Khimki has heated up. Activists have been protesting the building of an $8 million high-speed toll highway between Moscow and Petersburg. This highway would destroy beautiful forestland around Moscow. Environmentalists say the highway can be built to bypass the old oak forest.

The flashpoint has been in the city of Khimki, right outside Moscow. There is a history of violence sponsored by the local authorities in this town. In the most famous case of political terrorism, in November 2008, Mikhail Beketov, outspoken editor-in-chief of the local newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda (Khimki Truth), was savagely beaten in front of his home. The attack was clearly related to his criticism of local authorities and the planned highway. As a result of his injuries, one of his legs was amputated, and head traumas he suffered during the attack have left him unable to speak. Current reports on his condition indicate that his other leg may have to be amputated.

Khimki authorities thus have a reputation for dealing brutally with anybody who dares oppose them.

Direct actions started on July 14, when the logging was to begin. Eco-activists set up a camp in Khimki to take direct action against the deforestation. They have employed blockades on the train lines leading to the logging site.

On July 23, at about 5 a.m., the protestors and two journalists were attacked and beaten by a gang of several dozen thugs with white T-shirts masking their faces. From all indications, this was an organized group of neo-fascists, judging by the symbols on their shirts. The police arrived and began arresting the activists, not the attackers, which indicates that this was an attack carried out in coordination with the police. Security guards hired by the firm carrying out the destruction of the forest also took part.

15 people were arrested at that time. Later in the day, the police arrived again, taking away dozens of people.

When some activists tried to protest in front of the White House in Moscow against construction of the highway and the illegal destruction of the forest, they were also immediately arrested.

On July 28, a large group of people (most reports put the numbers between 400 and 500) marched on Khimki. Some of them (70-100 people) attacked the local administration building. This is shown in the videos below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KBYKd8W6p8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqQFtJMBPbс

Our Friends Have Been Illegally Arrested

On the morning of July 29, antifascist Alexei Gaskarov was summoned to the local police station for a conversation.  There he was handed over to Extremism Department officers and taken away to an unknown destination. Most of the provisions in the law that stipulates operating procedures for the police were violated. None of his relatives was informed, and no notice was served to state the reasons for the arrest. That same evening, antifascist Maxim Solopov was called in for a conversation near the Okhotny Ryad metro station after he appeared on a Russian News Service radio broadcast. Maxim went to the meeting spot but no conversation took place. He was put into a car and taken to Khimki. During the night, the flats of Gaskarov and Solopov were searched. Alexei Gaskarov’s flat was searched without a warrant or other required papers being served, without the confiscated items being inventoried and without a neutral witness present to certify the search [as required by Russian law].

We clearly understand why it was Alexei and Maxim who were arrested. They are well known in public and take the risk and responsibility of being publicly open. They have never concealed their identities, speaking on the record in the press and on the radio. They were arrested because they are the only antifascists well known to the police. The police are now under pressure from the presidential administration to solve the case: that is why someone had to be arrested.

As Alexei’s and Maxim’s faces are known to the police and mass media, it would have been quite stupid of them to take part in violent actions.

We clearly understand that to ask for their release is to cry for the moon no matter how hard we long for it. We appeal for the observance of law, although this institution in our country is violated by the guardians of the law themselves. We demand that the legal proceedings against our friends not be turned into a show trial. We demand that the mass media be allowed access to the proceedings. We demand that the authorities abide by their own laws.

We know that we have the truth on our side and that we will win the day.

On July 31, the first closed court proceedings on the case took place in Khimki. Nobody was allowed into the courtroom. The building was surrounded by groups of riot police officers and water cannon trucks, and a number of ambulances and police cars were parked in the vicinity. Because Alexei and Maxim had already been in custody for 48 hours, formal charges should have been brought against them, but they still have not been formally charged with any crimes, and the court hearing was postponed until Tuesday, August 3, with the judge qualifying the case as a “tough” one.

It has also come to light that their arrest reports state that Alexei and Maxim were detained at the crime scene, which contradicts the police’s original statement that no one was arrested after the incident outside the Khimki administration building. This suggests that the cases against them are being fabricated.

We are disturbed by how the case is proceeding and would appreciate any international support.

Funds are being raised to pay for Alexei and Maxim’s legal defense, and your help would be critical here. Please go to the links below to transfer money:

WebMoney

R113104516303 — rubles
Z170280498291 — USD
E318901103117 — Euro

Яндекс.Деньги

41001434285763

A regular bank account will be opened as soon as possible. More information to follow.

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Where the West Ends? (Warsaw)

Where the West Ends?
A two-day seminar with Claire Bishop at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw
within the framework of the FORMER WEST project
18 – 19 March 2010

The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw
ul. Pańska 3
00-124 Warsaw, Poland
+48 22 596 40 10
info@artmuseum.pl
http://www.artmuseum.pl

In the frame of the Former West project, the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw will hold a two-day seminar focusing on art in the former Soviet Union and its immediate zone of influence after the transition of 1991.

The motivations for turning to the East (rather than to the ‘Former West’) are twofold, and tied to the specifically Polish context, where the Museum of Modern Art is based. The first concerns art critical frames of reference. Despite the West’s growing interest in art practices from this region, it is difficult adequately to map and describe these practices using Western artistic vocabularies, which seem insufficient and badly adapted to the post-socialist context. The second concerns points of identification. Since 1989, Eastern European artists have tended to adopt one of two polarised positions towards the West: on the one hand, expressing a strong affiliation or ‘natural’ adhesion to the West, and on the other hand, a complete detachment from or even denial of Western models.

Russian art in the post-transition period seems to be very relevant in this regard. Despite the dominant (and frequently colonial) character of Western culture, Russian art has rarely adopted Western models. As a significant but completely separate sphere of development, post-transition art of the former Soviet Union remains a somewhat unknown quantity: obscure, unclassifiable and somehow inaccesible. What are the main developments (artistically, theoretically, institutionally) in Russia since 1991? What parallels can be drawn to the Eastern European scene? Can the new critical terminologies recently developed there also speak to the situation in Eastern Europe?

The seminar therefore aims to map the liminal zones of the West and foreground key aspects of contemporary visual art and a discourse that the ‘West’ cannot adequately describe and account for using its existing terminologies. As such, it will provide an important counterpoint to research in the ‘former’ aspects of both East and West.

Speakers at the symposium include : Boris Groys, Ekaterina Degot, Viktor Misiano, Keti Chukhrov, David Riff, Alexei Penzin, Ilya Budraitskis, Edit Andras, Inke Arns, Sarah Wilson, Tomas Pospiszyl, Olga Bryulikvetska, Nadim Samman, Maciej Gdula

Programme
For the updated programme and reservations, please go to http://www.artmuseum.pl

Realized within the framework of FORMER WEST, a contemporary art research, education, publishing, and exhibition project (2008–2013), initiated and organized by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, the Netherlands, and generously supported by the Mondriaan Foundation, EU Culture Programme, European Cultural Foundation, and the City of Utrecht.

With the financial support by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland

For more information please visit: http://www.formerwest.org.

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OMON Arrests Our Comrades in Nizhny Novgorod

IMG_9310This just in from the Institute for Collective Action:

Today (May 9, 2009), Leftist Art. Leftist Philosophy. Leftist History. Leftist Poetry, the first experimental 24-hour “seminar dormitory,” was to take place in Nizhny Novgorod. However, at approximately twelve noon, OMON troops burst into the room where the seminar was supposed to take place and stopped the proceedings. Around thirty people were present at this moment. According to one participant, the OMON officers are behaving in a very aggressive way. They have confiscated identity papers and are now loading detainees onto a bus.

The seminar dormitory was meant to bring together four disciplines and four young practicioners of these disciplines: Nikolai Oleinikov (leftist artist), Alexei Penzin (leftist philosopher), Ilya Budraitskis (leftist historian), and Kirill Medvedev (leftist poet).They planned to hold a series of seminars and lectures on art, history, and philosophy, as well as video and film screenings and poetry readings.

Nikolai and Alexei are members of the Chto Delat work group (Moscow/Petersburg), while Ilya and Kirill are correspondents on our e-mail platform and good friends and comrades. We will keep you informed of new developments in this story as they become know to us. Unfortunately, this is just the latest sign of the total collapse of the “rule of law” in Russia and the ongoing war against social and political activists. Please repost this information as widely as possible in your blogs and e-mail lists.

The telephone of the police precinct where they are being held is (+7) 831-434-02-02. Please call this number to inquire about the health and safety of our comrades. The latest information is that the police have confiscated their mobile phones and preventing them from otherwise sending us on the outside any information. They are being interrogated individually, after which they are allegedly being released one by one.

Even if you cannot speak Russian, please call: it will remind the Nizhny Novgorod police that the whole world is watching, that it is their duty to uphold human and civil rights, which are guaranteed not only by the Russian Federation Constitution, but also by all the relevant European and international treaties and conventions. The Russian Federation is a signatory to these conventions, however much it has made a complete mockery of this fact during the past several years.

IMG_5966UPDATE: We have just received word that all the detainees have been released and the seminar is continuing. We have learned from our sources that the OMON raid took place while the seminar participants were watching a Jean-Luc Godard film. Allegedly, the police had received information that the seminar was a gathering of “extremists,” which is the code word the Russian authorities and their apologists now use for anyone even mildly opposed to their policies or otherwise not wholly compromised by their management of “managed democracy.”

Here is part of the statement we just posted on our Russian-language LiveJournal. A more comprehensive statement will follow in the next day or so.

We categorically protest police abuse. During these May Day and Victory Day holidays the impression has arisen that martial law has been declared in Russia. There are OMON officers posted every two meters on the streets. Some of these policemen break up peaceful demonstrations. Others are intoxicated and speed around the city in their vehicles, thus endangering people’s lives. Still others stop civilians in their tracks at every turn and inform them about non-existent “laws” that supposedly require them to carry their internal passports on their persons at all times. When will this come to an end? Probably not under the current regime, which tolerates police abuse in the name of the police’s loyalty and thus every hour bears witness to its own cynicism and weakness.

The hysteria of the authorities—especially the security forces, which often act in a completely uncontrolled way—is without real foundation. In our peaceful society, which has not yet reacted strongly to the growing economic crisis, the authorities not only break up public demonstrations, but also oppositional intellectual gatherings. They ratchet up tension, which in the end will lead to a destabilization of the regime.

As we know from experience, however, public opinion can influence the situation during such power vacuums. That is why in cases like the dispersal of the anarchist/antifa May Day demonstration in Petersburg or the arrest of seminar participants in Nizhny we need a consolidated public outcry against the actions of the authorities.

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Filed under activism, alternative education, protests, Russian society