Tag Archives: Olga Egorova (Tsaplya)

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)

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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

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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

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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.

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You Don’t Have to Be Leftist to Think Like That (Petersburg)

You Don’t Have to Be Leftist to Think Like That
An Exhibition as a School
A project by Chto Delat
October 29–November 18, 2012

Curators: ТОK Creative Association of Curators

Opening: November 8, 2012 at GEZ-21, Pushkinskaya-10 Art Center, Petersburg

The opening will feature a new concert program by the popular leftist band Arkady Kots. The concert begins at 8:00 p.m.

The project has been made possible with support from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

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The line “You don’t have to be leftist to think like that” was uttered by a striking worker in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1972 film Tout va bien. Forty years later, it has the same ring as it did then: not as a depoliticizing slogan that abolishes a traditional way of marking political differences, but as a simple statement of the fact that leftist views and convictions have ceased to be a set of hackneyed ideologemes and are, rather, something basic to humanity’s survival.

Chto Delat starts from the notion that art and culture’s educational function are an essential aspect of its production of knowledge and meaning. Unlike other artists, who insist on art’s apolitical nature, Chto Delat has consistently upheld the idea that cultural production is implicated in the current political struggle and that cultural workers must constantly insist on the value of emancipatory politics and counteract culture’s commercialization.

In our exhibition projects we aim to create spaces and situations where audience and artworks engage with each other. In this project we want to turn the process of conceiving and producing an exhibition into a continuous series of workshops, seminars and round tables on art’s role in political development. We are confident of the project’s relevance for the current Russian conjuncture, in which the general public has shown greater interest in issues of political education and the desire to take responsibility for the country’s development. The project aims to equip participants with a set of creative tools for critically analyzing, understanding, liberating and transforming society.

But how can we achieve these aims given the absence of a civil society, at a time when the authorities show a flagrant disregard for both their own basic obligations and the law, thus untying the hands of the most reactionary forces and openly encouraging their violence?

It is a natural reaction to events in our country to come out against the authorities, join in the democratic demands of anti-government forces, and get involved in rallies and protest campaigns. But will anything change by endlessly chanting the mantra “The government has got to go”?

The question arises as to what kind of society can and must replace it. We believe that the most acute issue now is the development of an alternative public space for intellectual and political resistance. Obviously, this space can be generated only by a broad network of self-organized initiatives that require no external hierarchical coordination, because they will be based on the specific solidarity of cooperation.

This network must be recreated everywhere—in everyday life, at work, in the streets, at home. If this model of civil society is unable to achieve a critical mass of participants, superficial transformations of power will not lead to significant real changes. Culture and art have always played an essential role in man’s formation. They are our principal defense from the constant threat of barbarism. It is therefore necessary to fight for their values and oppose all forms of clericalism, bigotry, slavery and outright violence. The authorities understand this all too well and are thus carrying out a directed assault on the very idea of secular, critical and politically committed culture and education. Intellectual and research work, seriously underestimated by the opposition, can and should be a focus of the new mobilization as the unequal confrontation between state and society continues. To make this happen, we need to tackle a number of our own specific problems, which would help us impact the situation and turn it in a direction for which we are prepared to take responsibility.

Based on a real understanding of our circumstances, we first need to articulate our mission in our own workplace—that is, amongst people engaged in the production of culture, education and research.

We should first articulate these tasks and demands for ourselves, without holding out the hope that the current powers that be are in the least capable of carrying them out. On the contrary, we articulate them with a clear understanding that only a decisive change in the political situation can make it possible to begin the ambitious program of cultural transformation without which our society will be thrown backwards for many decades.

We want our project to serve as a platform for generating cooperation and consolidation within the fragmented and as yet apolitical milieu of cultural workers. If we do not do this now, tomorrow it may happen that most basic foundations of contemporary art, culture and education will not only be threatened, but will simply disappear from the map of the places where they had a chance to materialize.

And you don’t have to be leftist at all to think like that and make sure this does not happen.

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The process of constructing the exhibition (from October 29 to November 7) will begin with a seminar entitled “Educational Fresco.” Seminar participants will join seminar leader Nikolay Oleynikov in creating a monumental sculptural and graphic work that in comic-strip form reflects on the dynamics of the political struggle in Russian society.

Sessions of the “Teaching Theater” seminar will be held at the same time. The seminar will build on the experience gained by the Chto Delat theatrical studio and is based on the tradition of Bertolt Brecht’s “learning plays.” During the exhibition run, we will hold a series of meetings, introducing the concept of the “teaching theater” as an essential method for shaping political consciousness and showing the principles of writing a play by dramatizing a single, jointly selected episode from the actual practice of emancipatory struggle. The seminar will be lead by Tsaplya (Olga Egorova), Dmitry Vilensky and Nina Gasteva.

In addition, we have planned a special workshop, led by Gluklya (Natalya Pershina), on the concept of clothing design as a form of the subject’s emergence and its position in society. We will also organize discussions of institutional critique by analyzing the development of contemporary art institutions in St. Petersburg and Russia.

The exhibition will also feature an extensive program of lectures, open discussions and seminars led by well-known artists, curators, performers, philosophers and poets (see the program schedule) who offer a real alternative to Petersburg’s official reactionary cultural policy. Thus, the exhibition space will function as a school where artists and audience will discuss the most pressing issues of contemporary art and its relationship to the development of society and the formation of the individual.

All workshops will be organized around an open call but limited to fifteen to twenty participants.

As part of the project, a digest of the most important texts from past issues of Chto Delat newspaper will be published.

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Chto Delat, “The Russian Woods”

The Russian Woods

Script & Idea: Tsaplya and Dmitry Vilensky
Music: Mikhail Krutik
Choreography: Nina Gasteva
Set & graphics: Nikolay Oleynikov
Director of Photography: Artyom Ignatov
Stage Performers: Irina Pavlovskaya, Polina Popova, Elena Pasynkova, Sergey Krylov, Petr Pavlensky, Svetlana Erpyleva, Maxim Kulaev

Our work on the musical performance The Russian Woods was largely provoked by political developments in Russia this past winter. While participating in these important events that suddenly emerged from within Russian civil society, we were intrigued by the huge number of mythical images and mythological rhetoric used both by the authorities and the protesters. We decided that this phenomenon was not accidental, that it really reflects the level of political culture in our country. And we wanted to try and analyze it in the form of a fairytale story that would not only reflect the totality of our country’s sociopolitical structure, but also help us and our audience think about ways of overcoming and transforming it.

The film is based on footage from a theatrical performance that took place on May 2, 2012, in Saint Petersburg.

This film is a production of the Chto Delat collective and was produced with support from the Chto Delat Fund. It premiered at Arsenale 2012, The First Kyiv International Biennale of Contemporary Art.

The English-language version of this play was staged on March 25, 2012, as part of Arika Festival 12: Episode 3: Copying without Copying, at Tramway in Glasgow.

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Russia, The Land of Opportunity: A Migrant Labor Board Game

Russia, The Land of Opportunity board game is a means of talking about the possible ways that the destinies of the millions of immigrants who come annually to the Russian Federation from the former Soviet Central Asian republics to earn money play out.

Our goal is to give players the chance to live in the shoes of a foreign worker, to feel all the risks and opportunities, to understand the play between luck and personal responsibility, and thus answer the accusatory questions often addressed to immigrants – for example, “Why do they work illegally? Why do they agree to such conditions?”

On the other hand, only by describing the labyrinth of rules, deceptions, bureaucratic obstacles and traps that constitute labor migration in today’s Russia can we get an overall picture of how one can operate within this scheme and what in it needs to be changed. We would like most of all for this game to serve as a historical document.

Olga Zhitlina

You can download a .pdf file of the game here: Russia, Land of Opportunity Board Game

Russia, The Land of Opportunity: A Migrant Labor Board Game

The game is designed for adults and children of secondary school age.

From 2 to 6 players

The characters, situations, and monetary amounts (fines, payments, bribes, etc.) are not fictional. Any resemblance to actual events is not coincidental. Each year, thousands of people are victimized by the system outlined here.

Rules

To play you need dice, counters, paper and pens.

The dice should have two sets of numbers from 1 to 3. If you have regular dice numbered 1 to 6, and you roll a 4, 5 or 6, subtract three from the number you have rolled.

Instead of counters, you can use any small object – coins, SIM cards or buttons.

Have paper and a pen handy to write down your income and expenses.

Spaces and Moving around the Board

Each space represents one move.

The diamond-shaped spaces are required. You must pass through them in the direction indicated by the arrows.

The square- and rectangular-shaped spaces are playable. You move around the board by throwing a die: the number you roll determines the number of spaces you move forward. If the number you roll is greater than the number of playable spaces in front of you, you must go to the next required (diamond-shaped) space.

If there is a dice symbol in front of the space where you are located, roll a die and move along the arrow marked with the number that the corresponds to the number you have rolled.

If there is a circle symbol in front of you, you must yourself choose one of the spaces indicated by the arrows.

If you land on a space marked Police:

  • and you have a valid work permit, speak Russian, and know your rights, you are released and free to make your next move;
  • and you have a valid work permit, but you do not speak Russian, then you must skip one turn and pay 1,000 rubles;
  • and you have an invalid work permit, you skip one turn and pay 3,000 rubles;
  • and you have a fake entry/exit stamp in your passport, you must go to the space marked Prison.

If you land on a space marked FMS (Federal Migration Service) Raid:

  • and you have a valid work permit and speak Russian, you skip one turn;
  • and you have a valid work permit, but do not speak Russian, you skip one turn and pay 5,000 rubles;
  • and you have a fake work permit, you skip one turn and pay 5,000 rubles;
  • and you have a fake entry/exit stamp in your passport, you go to the space marked Prison.

Actors, Agencies, and Documents

Migration Card. A document confirming that the migrant (or foreigner traveler) has crossed the Russian Federation border. It is filled in, for example, on board an airplane or at an airport upon arrival. It is valid until the newly arrived migrant goes through the registration procedure.

Registration (notification of arrival). Migrants must register at their place of residence in the Russian Federation. Registration is valid for ninety days.

Work Permit. A document confirming that a migrant has the right to work for a specific legal entity in a particular job as stipulated by the foreign labor recruitment quota. By law, work permits can be issued only by the Federal Migration Service. A yearlong work permit entitles the migrant to obtain a residence permit for the entire period (and thus not have to exit and re-enter the country every ninety days).

Private Employment Agencies. The “services” provided by such agencies are widely advertised, for example, in the Tajik media. These agencies promise to provide migrants with all necessary documents and find them work in Russia. They are renowned for engaging in fraud, cheating migrants, and exposing them to the risk of ending up as virtual slaves or being overworked.

Foremen. (In Russian, “brigadiers.”) The foreman is the leader of a group of migrant workers. He or she is someone who has already been to Russia, or a friend or relative. The foreman handles the processing of documents, and finds and organizes work and housing for the migrants, for which services he or she takes a cut from the total income earned by the “brigade.”

Middlemen.  In Petersburg, there are a numerous semi-legal intermediary firms that offer migrant workers such services as processing of work permits and residence permits, and assistance in passing medical board exams. In reality, they often issue fake documents or simply take money for their services without providing any documents at all. While migrants wait for these documents, the residence registration period usually expires and they find themselves living in Russia illegally. However, sometimes these firms do arrange for legal work permits, which indicates that these firms have unofficial connections with the Federal Migration Service, the only government agency authorized to issue such documents. Ninety percent of migrants make use of the services of such intermediaries.

Outsourcing (Outstaffing) Companies. These are employment brokerage firms engaged in the hiring of foreign workers for lease to large companies (retail chains stores, petrol stations, etc.). Formally, these firms are the migrant worker’s legal employer and they pay him or her a wage from the commissions received from the real employer. As a result, the legal relationship between employer and employee is violated. This scheme allows large companies to evade taxes, save on social benefit payments, and exploit migrant workers by introducing a long working day (up to sixteen hours a day) with no sick leave and holidays, and a system of illegal fines (for imaginary “disciplinary” violations). Outsourcing companies dispose of the wages of thousands of people as they wish. It is typical for them to pay employees not every thirty days, but every forty-five days. The amount of back wages they owe to workers constantly grows, and it is not paid out when workers are dismissed.

Diasporas.  Fraternal associations of people from the same region, country or ethnic group. Diaspora leaders may offer mediation services for a fee.

Human Rights Groups. These organizations offer pro bono legal assistance to migrants and monitor the human rights situation in general.

Migrant Detention Centers. Special facilities for persons subject to expulsion or deportation from the Russian Federation due to loss of identity documents. Migrants can be held in such facilities for up to a year.

“Legal Services.” A form of corruption practiced by Interior Ministry (police) and Federal Migration Service officials on migrants awaiting expulsion or deportation. For a certain “fee” (that is, a bribe ranging from 30,000 to 70,000 rubles), corrupt officials offer to simply release the migrants or the chance to “appeal” the decision to expel them.

Russia, The Land of Opportunity board game was designed by:
Andrei Yakimov (human rights consultant, concept development)
Olga Zhitlina (idea, concept development)
Alexander Lyakh, Galina Zhitlina (board game design)
David Ter-Oganyan (drawings)
Tatyana Alexandrova, Nadezhda Voskresenskaya (graphic design)

_____

Olga Zhitlina and Andrei Yakimov (Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center, Saint Petersburg) will present Russia, The Land of Opportunity, discuss the realities behind the game, and play with all comers at Cafe-Club Artek (Mokhovaya ul., 27/29) in Petersburg tonight at 8:00 p.m. The evening will also include a screening of two videos by the Factory of Found Clothes (Natalya Pershina-Yakimanskaya aka Gluklya and Olga Egorova aka Tsaplya), Utopian Unemployment Union No. 1 and Utopian Unemployment Union No. 3, both of which involve contemporary dancers and migrant workers.

The evening is part of the series of actions around the world coordinated by Immigrant Movement International, Queens Museum of Art, and Creative Time in New York to mark December 18, International Migrants Day.

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Chto Delat: What Is To Be Done Between Tragedy and Farce? (Amsterdam)

http://www.smartprojectspace.net

For their new exhibition at SMART Project Space, ‘What Is To Be Done Between Tragedy and Farce?’, Chto Delat map the complexity of Russia’s political and social context in the form of a comprehensive programme consisting of spatial installations, performances, lectures, film screenings, publications, and workshops. They have constructed a critical reflection of Russian reality for the viewer through a series of wall drawings that seek to explain why they continue to oppose the current development of the country and the mode of governance.

Join us at SMART Project Space for the first in a new series of commissioned exhibitions by the Russian collective Chto Delat (What is to be done?). Chto Delat has been active since 2003 and is composed of artists, philosophers, and writers with a leftist position on economic, social and cultural agendas. Their diverse activities merge cultural knowledge and the production of art with activism and political theory.

The universal question “What is to be done?” historically marks the position of the left in merging tactics and strategy of their politics, whilst matching intellectual ideas and everyday practical work. The answers are always locally and historically conditioned. For their new exhibition at SMART Project Space, “What is to be done Between Tragedy and Farce?,” Chto Delat map the complexity of Russia’s political and social context in the form of a comprehensive programme consisting of spatial installations, performances, lectures, film screenings, publications, and workshops.

This is the first time they have set this task upon themselves, deciding to work with an enormous and chaotic database of information that represents Russian reality. Oil production figures, records of homeless people, tax revenues and levels of wages, numbers of murders and birth rates, the growth of inequality and the military-industrial complex, the index of xenophobia and depopulation, and the list goes on and on.

In her recent article on Chto Delat, Elena Filipovic writes of the collective’s double role as “representing a certain history while overcoming common preconceptions in order to act as international translators”.

They have constructed a critical reflection of Russian reality for the viewer through a series of wall drawings that seek to explain why they continue to oppose the current development of the country and the mode of governance.

In the first three rooms, a representation is shown on the situation in Russia and how it has changed over the last 10 years – a crucial decade in the life of the young nation state. The first concentrates on the different factors of formal and official growth in all possible spheres of economy, politics and everyday life. The second shows different forms of conflicts based on real cases taken from recent social and political life. The third focuses on the human dimension of the transformation, trying to raise the issue of possible scenarios for the future.

The fourth exhibition space is dedicated to the Songspiel Trilogy, which is shown together for the first time with some objects that served as props for previous Chto Delat films. Additionally, key films realized by Chto Delat between 2003 and 2009 will be shown alongside wooden panels showcasing fragmented print-outs from the pages of their newspaper publication from different years. A reading room is also integrated into the exhibition to show all Chto Delat publications and a selection of books that collective members have recommended.

The last space in the show is constructed as a workshop conceived by Gluklya (Natalia Pershina). The collection of clothes on view represents the outcome of participatory workshops, the Shop of Utopian Clothes, run with different social groups in St. Petersburg. Through this collective artistic work, the realities of these often under-represented individuals of St. Petersburg society are given empowerment. Through the course of the exhibition, a similar workshop will be conducted with members of local migrant communities, adding a new dimension to the piece. It is meant to create a dialogue around the migrant situation in the Netherlands and address the needs and problems of those whose lives are affected by it.

An integral work entitled 48-Hour Communal Life Seminar: Where Has Communism Gone? takes place at the beginning of February, which culminates in the public staging of a Lehrstück (‘play for learning’) under the same title, that sets out to examine the current climate in politics and utopian potential.

Chto Delat are present in Amsterdam for the entire duration of the exhibition – turning SPS into a platform for discourse, research and debate.

The project at SPS is realised by: Tsaplya (Olga Egorova), Nikolay Oleynikov, Gluklya (Natalya Pershina-Yakimanskaya) and Dmitry Vilensky. For more information on the group, see  www.chtodelat.org

For interviews, more information, video and photo material, please contact Una Henry, Tel +31 (0)20 427 59 51 or e-mail una@smartprojectspace.net. In case of publication, please mention: www.smartprojectspace.net

Opens Saturday, 22 January 2011, 19:00. The exhibition runs until 13 March 2011.

SMART Project Space
Arie Biemondstraat 111, 1054 PD Amsterdam

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Chto Delat: The Urgent Need to Struggle (ICA, London)

ICA London
Chto delat? (What is to be done?)
The Urgent Need to Struggle
9-12, 15-19, 22-26, 29 September
3, 6-10, 13-17, 20-24 October 2010

Institute of Contemporary Arts
The Mall
London SW1Y 5AH
United Kingdom

www.ica.org.uk/chtodelat

This autumn, the ICA presents the first major project in the UK by Russian collective Chto delat? (What is to be done?). Formed in 2003 and made up of artists, critics, philosophers and writers, the collective sees its diverse activities as a merging of political theory, art and activism. The group’s ideas are rooted in its members’ active participation in, and research into, current social and political situations in Russia, as well as principles of self-organisation and collective doings. Their work uses a variety of means to advance a leftist position on economic, social and cultural agendas; they publish a regular newspaper, produce artwork in the form of videos, installations, public actions, and radio programmes, and contribute regularly to conferences and publications.

For the ICA Chto delat? has formulated a wide ranging project that extends its identity as ‘a self-organising platform for cultural workers’, presenting artwork and ideas produced by multiple individual and collaborative practices, as well as a new issue of the Chto delat? newspaper. For the exhibition, the group aims to create a didactic installation that reclaims the educational value of art focused on basic activities, such as watching, reading, listening and discussing.

The ICA gallery is structured around a series of display modules which are actualizations of Russian Constructivist Alexander Rodchenko’s designs for the interior of a workers’ club. A three-tiered cinema space serves as a viewing area for Tower Songspiel (2010), the most recent work in a trilogy of narrative films that sit at the centre of the collective’s visual practice; these ‘songspiels’ take on a mode of musical theatre developed by playwright Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill in the early twentieth century, presenting political and social concerns through the accessible and often humorous form of song. The symbolism withinTower Songspiel is echoed in an installation along the ICA’s concourse, enlarged red veins conjuring up notions of power and pervasive control.

Leading the visitor through the gallery space is a unique audio guide devised by Chto delat? for the exhibition. The guide is a wry response to the conventions inherent in the institutional presentation of contemporary art. On display in the Reading Room is a program of video works produced by artists from Chto delat? in collaboration with other individuals and groups. These pieces articulate various manifestations of collective artistic and educational practice. For a full list of participants visit www.ica.org.uk/chtodelat.

Chto delat? (founded in 2003 in St Petersburg, Russia) has exhibited and presented its work in many recent projects including The Idea of Communism, Volksbühne, Berlin (2010); The Beauty of Distance, 17th Sydney Biennale (2010); The Potosí Principle, Museum Reina Sofia, Madrid (2010); Morality, Witte de With, Rotterdam (2010); A History of Irritated Material, Raven Row, London (2010); Plug In, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2009); Istanbul Biennial (2009); 4th Biennial of Moving Image, Contour Mechelen, Belgium (2009).

The ICA project is realised by: Tsaplya (Olga Egorova); Nikolay Oleynikov, Gluklya (Natalya Pershina-Yakimanskaya), Nina Gasteva, Vladan Jeremić/Rena Rädle and Dmitry Vilensky.

Events

Expanding on this gallery presentation, Chto delat?’s collective working practice becomes a platform for a number of events occurring throughout September and October, including a 48-hour ‘communal living’ seminar occurring across the theatre and galleries and leading to the public staging of a participatory Learning Play, an open-microphone ‘Night of Angry Statements’, and a weekly screening event addressing political filmmaking. For further information regarding these events visit www.ica.org.uk/chtodelat.

Publication

Chto delat? (What is to be done?) The Urgent Need to Struggle will be accompanied by ROLAND, the magazine of the ICA’s programme.

Press information

For press information please contact Jennifer Byrne
(E: jenniferb@ica.org.uk / T: +44 20 7766 1407).

The Institute of Contemporary Arts is a registered charity in England, No: 263848

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