Archive for März, 2012

Manifest of “Occupy Museums”

Posted on: März 30th, 2012 by Marta Gornicka
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Manifest of Occupy Museums

WE OCCUPY MUSEUMS TO RECLAIM SPACE FOR MEANINGFUL CULTURE BY AND FOR THE 99%. WE BELIEVE THAT ART AND CULTURE ARE THE SOUL OF THE COMMONS. ART IS NOT A LUXURY!

 

On September 17th, 2011, we occupied Wall Street because the wealthiest 1% who control banks and big corporations broke trust with the American people. Motivated by a quest for power they robbed the national treasury, bought off our democracy, and made a mockery of the justice system. They left us little choice but to step out in the streets, find each other, and begin imaging and building a new system.

 

We saw a direct connection between the corruption of high finance and the corruption of “high culture.” For example, MoMA shares board members with Sotheby’s auction house, where the value of art is synonymous with speculation. Sotheby’s auction house is now locking out unionized art handlers, refusing to pay them health care during a year of record profits. As art workers, we stand in solidarity with this struggle. Our labor will be truly valued only when we kick the addiction to obscene wealth that characterizes the American and international art world today.

 

So we began to occupy museums in New York City. We danced and chanted at their doors, and held open assemblies on museum steps to free up a space of dialogue and fearlessness for the 99%. More and more people joined us. Museums must be held accountable to the public. They help create our historical narratives and common symbols. They wield enormous power within our culture and over the entire art market. We occupy museums because museums have failed us. Like our government, which no longer represents the people, museums have sold out to the highest bidder.

 

This struggle will not be easy. We are beginning to unmask a cultural system of inequality and exploitation

which has ancient roots. But we will not wait for future generations to take up this struggle. We are working together

to replace the exchange of capital with a creative exchange for and by the 99 %. As we seek horizontal spaces for dialogue and collaboration, we begin to fill the hollowness of the capitalist art market with the warmth of meaning and the conviction that art is a necessity, not a luxury.

Save Teatro Valle!

Posted on: März 29th, 2012 by Marta Gornicka
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"For months, actors, directors and backstage technicians have turned Rome’s oldest theatre into a squat – and all because they want the show to go on"

“THE ROLE OF THE ARTIST IS TO MAKE REVOLUTION IRRESISTABLE”

FOUNDATION CAMPAIGN TEATRO VALLE BENE COMUNE

 

We are workers within the fields of art and knowledge. On June 14, 2011, we occupied the Teatro Valle, the oldest theater in Rome, to save it from privatization and to denounce the state of emergency of Italian culture and politics.

 

During these past seven months of the occupation of the Teatro Valle, we have been experimenting, pushing the limits of legality, to create an environment of participation and cultural production, which goes beyond the administrative governance and the logic of profit. On January 13, we entered a second delicate and passionate phase: the construction of a juridical, artistic, and economic device based on cooperation, on a participatory management and self governance, which would transform the struggle into a bottom-up and continuous act of creation. Through a widespread public shareholding campaign, we are collecting the necessary funds to realize a Foundation of the Commons.

 

This is a unique experiment, the outcome of which is not obvious, and we will need everyone to get involved: from the artists and intellectual workers, to the individual citizens from the networks that in these recent months have supported the practices of the Commons.

 

The Teatro Valle is a theater with a long European historical significance and relevance: through the future Foundation we would like to preserve the theater's international nature, which we want now to be informed by all the groups, bodies and experiences of dissent that met on February 10, 2012, to continue this fight in pursuing our common path. If we win this battle, the Valle Foundation of the Commons will be the first European institution operating on a principle of self-governance. It could then serve as a model in different sectors, as an imprudent and risky experiment of creating a political laboratory for all.

 

We invite you to join us and get involved in this passionate struggle!

 

We would be happy to welcome you as a member. To support us please make a donation of min. 10€ to:

 

COMITATO VALLE BENE COMUNE

C/O BANCA ETICA

IBAN:  IT 28 F 05018 03200 000000558877

BIC/SWIFT: CCRTIT2T84A

 

And then send an e-mail to vallebenecomune@gmail.com with your name, date of birth, e-mail, phone number and the donation amount.

 

For more information please visit http://www.teatrovalleoccupato.it.

 

An open letter to #OccupyBiennale

From Carolina, an activist from Spain. More >
An open letter to #OccupyBiennale

Occupy Pergamon!

Restitution of Art and Culture to the Commons! More >
Occupy Pergamon!

Indignadxs: reports from Occupy Biennale

By Rafał Żwirek. More >
Indignadxs: reports from Occupy Biennale

Krytyka Polityczna in Berlin

Posted on: März 28th, 2012 by Marta Gornicka
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A debate by Krytyka Polityczna at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Photo: Wojtek Kostrzewa

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Igor Stokfiszewski from Krytyka Polityczna, Photo: Jacek Taszakowski

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Artur Żmijewski andJoanna Warsza during a debate, Photo: Jacek Taszakowski

Krytyka Polityczna (Political Critique) in Berlin

 

As part of the 7th Berlin Biennale, Political Critique launches its newest Club. The Berlin branch (following Kiev and London) is another international initiative of the organization, founded in Warsaw. What can we offer to our German neighbors? Especially in a city bustling with social activists and a range of socially oriented groups? What makes Political Critique any different from them? And why should its Berlin operations take place from within the field of art?

 

Engaged Intelligentsia

Who are we? First and foremost, we see ourselves as heirs to the tradition of engaged intelligentsia that was forged in nineteenth-century Russia. What is an engaged intelligentsia? It is a social stratum consisting of an educated middle class, which perceives its knowledge, its symbolic capital and its ability to comprehend the world as a debt and obligation towards lower social strata. It is an obligation that leads it to make sacrifices towards improving the existence of all mankind. Regardless of the field in which it operates—be it activism, education, journalism, art, or science—it understands its practice as a service to the common good. This ethos has been at play throughout the twentieth  century, first among the pre-war left-wing groups, then, after the war, in the anti-communist dissident movement in Central-Eastern Europe.

 

A Strong Organization

It was the strong and engaged intelligentsia that initiated the anti-communist dissident movement under the Communist regimes in Central-Eastern Europe. Social activists, scientists, and artists mounted a challenge to communist authorities and worked towards a change of political system. How could this be achieved successfully? This question helped them develop a strong organizational model based on a wide social movement, initially in the form of the Workers’ Defence Committee (Komitet Obrony Robotników), and subsequently the Solidarity Trade Union.

 

Political Critique is an initiative whose practice is strongly inspired by these experiences. The lessons taught by the history of the dissident movement, the accounts of its participants, and cooperation with some of them, is that an effective transformation of the social and political realm should be based on a strong organization founded on a wide social movement. Poland is a country where a group of engaged intelligentsia chose to act towards bringing down the communist regime, and which was successfully brought to an end in the course of the two following decades. Change is possible.

 

What conditions should be fulfilled for an organization to initiate, or creatively stimulate, such change?

 

  • It should think in universal categories, comprehend reality in all its complexity, perceive the local character of global problems, and be able to translate local problems into global solutions.
  • It should be able to provide answers to questions related to both minor local problems as well as international politics and economy.
  • It should form links between various societies and fields of human activity, and encourage the social engagement of academics, artists, as well as journalists, by demonstrating that social engagement is a broad framework which should accommodate various other activities.
  • It should also form links between different societies within one field, i.e. it should connect professional politicians with anarchist activists, engaged columnists, and intellectuals with educators, etc.
  • It should have a wide impact, acting in all fields of social activity: in social practice (through direct action and cooperation with social movements); in journalism (through cooperation with mass media); in the intellectual field (through the publishing of books and magazines on social-political issues and presence at the universities); in politics (through cooperation with political parties, whenever possible), etc.
  • It should strive to become a well-organized, strong, and visible subject on the public scene.

 

This is the model followed by Political Critique in Poland as well as in other countries in Central-Eastern Europe. We believe that the ethos of engaged intelligentsia, as well as a strong organizational model based on a social movement which strives to establish links between various fields of activity and different societies could also prove successful in Berlin.

 

Sloterdijk through Kuroń

Present-day reality is shaped according to a pattern aptly described by Peter Sloterdijk. He writes that we are living in a “crystal palace” driven by the logic of “cynical reason”; we cater to our individual needs, and pragmatically act towards securing a comfortable private life. If we ever resist or unite, it is usually on a small scale and in support of a single, local cause which, as is often the case, ensures even greater comforts of our existence. Is there an alternative to reality seen from such a perspective?

 

Among the figures who provide continual inspiration for the actions of Political Critique, Jacek Kuroń holds an exceptional position. Educator, social activist, journalist, author, and thinker, Kuroń was one of the first anticommunist dissidents. He campaigned against the Polish United Workers’ Party (of which he was an active member), and later worked towards establishing groups and organizations which shaped the institutional landscape of Polish democratic opposition. He was a co-founder of the Workers’ Defence Committee, and was among the closest associates of Lech Wałęsa in the founding period of the Solidarity movement. His biography is that of a man driven by the ethos of social service and working towards political change that would enable individual freedom as well as reinforce individual and group empowerment. The “crystal palace” can only be brought down if we follow this model: by sacrificing individual comfort for the sake of a practice that secures collective freedom, and by devoting our lives to self-organization and the building of strong institutions working for the collective good.

 

A Bridge Between East and West

We come to Berlin as emissaries of a new political geography. We are an organization operating beyond the eastern boundary of the European Union. We have partners in Russia and Ukraine. We are trying to cooperate with activists from as many countries of the former Eastern Bloc as possible. Post-communist nations have a lot in common, including a similar social structure, and stages of economic and political transformation. But another similarity lies in a historical experience of the possibility of changing the system and a still active model of engagement, self-organization, and action towards that change. We believe that similar, though perhaps latent, qualities can be found in Germany due to the history of its eastern states. We would like to draw them out, actualize, and activate them.

 

We Are Coming to Berlin to Learn and to Offer Solutions

We are also coming to Berlin to learn. We come from countries where social activity is scarce. The wide array of activist groups in Berlin, along with their practices, methods, and models of action, are a field we are eager to explore. How to reconcile the multiplicity of various activisms with the will to establish a strong organization that operates as universally as possible—within various fields and addressing various issues? This is what we would like to learn.

 

We also bring with us an offer—a model of institutional action that can enrich the existing practices of social movements in Berlin. Berlin faces a number of problems that are widely discussed. There is also a range of initiatives focused on preventing the socially destructive effects of these problems on a local scale. Yet perhaps the situation calls for developing and implementing more universal solutions. Political Critique has experience in translating theoretical ideas into practical solutions and in converting local problems into the language of universal solutions. It also has experience in building strong, well-organized institutions, which have a stronger impact on the course of social actions than the more numerous but less sizeable engaged groups.

 

We are coming to Berlin to learn about solutions for problems in social policy, law, and other domains of collective life where Germans can unquestionably be seen as a model example of striving for individual empowerment, social egalitarianism, and justice. We envy the Germans for their faith in their own subjectivity and courage in criticizing the existing situation. However, we would like to bring to the table a sense of responsibility—a reaction which, when confronted with one’s own success, encourages people to immediately share it with other. Perhaps the model of social service, born out of the engaged intelligentsia, which urges one to sacrifice individual comfort for the sake of common good, will prove to be a valuable supplement to the German ability of improving quality of life.

 

The Art of Change

Why do we choose to act within the field of art in Berlin, as part of the 7th Berlin Biennale? Not only does the Berlin Biennale curator, Artur Żmijewski, serve as the artistic director of the Political Critique magazine, but there are also a number of our activists among the Biennale’s collaborators and advisers. The launch of the Political Critique Club in Berlin as part of the Berlin Biennale seemed a natural step to its curator. For Żmijewski transferring the practice of Political Critique to Berlin is one of the elements of transferring his artistic and curatorial practice in general.

 

However, a more definitive answer to why we operate as part of the Berlin Biennale can perhaps be found in the answer to another question: why do artists such as Artur Żmijewski, Yael Bartana, Joanna Rajkowska, Wilhelm Sasnal, and many others choose to become activists, collaborators, or supporters of Political Critique? They do so because we sincerely trust in art, its power to change reality, and chances to provide tools that can improve the efficacy of this change—tools which can be successfully applied to other fields of social practice, including politics. We are observing art attentively; we appreciate its ability to work with the senses, corporality, and human relations. We see its imagination as a prototype of political imagination. For us, art is politics in a different state of matter, a state capable of generating extremely valuable tools and practices useful in bringing about fundamental social change.

 

by Katarzyna Fidos and Igor Stokfiszewski

 

More on Krytyka Polityczna in Berlin

29.06.2012

Krytyka Polityczna in Berlin #9: 7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Politics. In Between

This open meeting and discussion considers the effects of the initiatives and actions conducted throughout the long-term process of the development of the Berlin Biennale and the duration of... More >
Krytyka Polityczna in Berlin #9: 7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Politics. In Between

07.06.2012

Krytyka Polityczna in Berlin #8: Occupy Media. Against the (Fourth) Power.

A discussion and musicaction by Krytyka Polityczna in English. More >
Krytyka Polityczna in Berlin #8: Occupy Media. Against the (Fourth) Power.

17.05.2012

RELIGION


Music-action by Krytyka Polityczna More >
RELIGION


15.05.2012

Music-action by Krytyka Polityczna

TRADITIONMusic-action by Jozef van Wissem (lute) and Raphael Roginski (guitar) Music can be a tool of remembering. It commemorates histories of both–individuals and communities. Since history is rather a... More >

15.05.2012

ARM IN ARM

Meeting with international activists and Kinga Dunin from Krytyka Polityczna moderated by Igor Stokfiszewski. More >
ARM IN ARM

07.05.2012

Krytyka Polityczna in Berlin – a photo essay

A photoessay from an evening-discussion with Krytyka Polityczna on May 2. More >
Krytyka Polityczna in Berlin – a photo essay

Videos

Posted on: März 27th, 2012 by Marta Gornicka

Videos from the 7th Berlin Biennale

Krytyka Polityczna in Berlin

As part of the 7th Berlin Biennale, Political Critique launches its newest Club. The Berlin branch (following Kiev and London) is another international initiative of the organization, founded in Warsaw. What can we offer to our German neighbors? [...]More >

“Draftsmen’s Congress” initiated by Paweł Althamer

The “Draftsmen’s Congress” is a continuous meeting of people who talk using images instead of words. Everyone is invited to join the discussion through paint, charcoal, collage, and other traditional materials and techniques. [...]More >

“OCCUPY UKRAINIAN BODY – FIGHT CENSORSHIP!”

Posted on: März 27th, 2012 by Marta Gornicka
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Activists in front of the Ukrainian embassy in Italy

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The petition of “Occupy Ukrainian Body“

GLOBAL ACTION

“OCCUPY UKRAINIAN BODY – FIGHT CENSORSHIP!”

On March 24, 2012 the global action “Occupy Ukrainian Body – Fight Censorship!” started in Italy. The activists from ESC (Italy), #Occupy Geneva (Switzerland) and Political Critique (Poland) protest against censorship in front of the Ukrainian embassy in Rome to support the Visual Culture Research Center of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and its exhibition “Ukrainian Body,” both closed by the university administration. The protesters called for the restoration of artistic and political freedom at the University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and demanded to reclaim the unjust situation—to resume the Center’s activity in full scope in its working space of the old academic building and to reopen the “Ukrainian Body” exhibition.

 

The international action “Occupy Ukrainian Body – Fight Censorship!” of the Occupy movement will continue in other countries to express global solidarity with contemporary socially engaged art and the Visual Culture Research Center as the institution representing it. The banner with the slogan of the action circulates to other Occupy cities around the globe for more actions of support for the VCRC that will take place over the next weeks.

More

An open letter to #OccupyBiennale

From Carolina, an activist from Spain. More >
An open letter to #OccupyBiennale

Occupy Pergamon!

Restitution of Art and Culture to the Commons! More >
Occupy Pergamon!
Indignadxs: reports from Occupy Biennale

12M march in Berlin

A video report by Rafał Żwirek More >
12M march in Berlin

Solidarity Actions

Posted on: März 26th, 2012 by Marta Gornicka
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Solidarity Actions

The main question of the 7th Berlin Biennale is focused on substantial results produced by art. It’s difficult because often artistic imagination is not prepared to create such effects. As in politics, it’s better to work collectively rather than alone. So we decided to ask other art institutions who are interested in the same issues to develop their own research and present it in the framework of the Berlin Biennale or in parallel. We call these activities and their results "Solidarity Actions". Instead of competition, we focus on cooperation with a common horizon. There is a real lack of solidarity in the art world, and we are making a step to change it.

A talk with the Solidarity Partners

Our Solidarity Partners Hartware MedienKunstVerein (HMKV), Dortmund; Museum of Modern Art Warsaw; Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw; Istituto Svizzero di Roma (Swiss Institute in Rome); Kalmar Konstmuseum, Kalmar; and steirischer herbst, Graz—discuss the question: What can art do for real?More >

OCCUPY A MUSEUM NEAR YOU!

Posted on: März 26th, 2012 by Marta Gornicka

Manifest of “Occupy Museums”

WE OCCUPY MUSEUMS TO RECLAIM SPACE FOR MEANINGFUL CULTURE BY AND FOR THE 99%. WE BELIEVE THAT ART AND CULTURE ARE THE SOUL OF THE COMMONS. ART IS NOT A LUXURY!More >

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A video of an action of "Occupy Museums"

 

 

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Noah Fischer, Photo: Joanna Warsza

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Assembley in the National History Museum, Photo: Joanna Warsza

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"Occupy Museums" at MoMA, Photo: Noah Fischer

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Policeman in front of MoMA, Photo: Noah Fischer

Occupy a Museum Near You!

Noah Fischer in conversation with Joanna Warsza and Florian Malzacher

Joanna Warsza and Florian Malzacher: You are the initiator of the Occupy Museums group, associated with Occupy Wall Street. First you organised a protest march to MoMA, and later you occupied the New Museum and other art institutions run by the 1 %. You staged a general assembly in front of the museums, to read your manifesto where the injustices of the arts and culture system are listed. When the director of MoMA asked what it is that you wanted, you replied that you had no demands. “But,” you said, “we would continue to occupy the museum in order to open up a conversation about economic injustice and abuse of the public values for the gain of the 1 % in the art world.” Why shall we occupy museums?

Noah Fischer: Occupy Museums is a collective, which runs by consensus. I initiated the first Occupy Museums action in October 2011. Our group formed soon after that. Every action and official text we create is authored by all of us, and we don’t have a single leader. Functioning in solidarity is the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement. We are trying to forget about the drive toward individualism and hierarchy, which is so much a part of the capitalistic regime. We also believe in individual autonomy. First I want to make it clear that these are my own opinions; I can’t speak for the whole Occupy Museums group.

 

So, why do we Occupy Museums? Today museums are an important part of the neo-liberal system, which we are protesting on Wall Street. Museums are like temples of this system, actually; they reproduce the logic of the system, reify its symbols, and are financially dependent on it. Actions by Occupy Museums are about opening up a very large, honest, transformative conversation about the presence of money and power in the world of art and culture.

 

And why museums but not private galleries? Because museums hold cultural authority and carry out a supposedly purely public function that galleries and art fairs do not have. Currently, the main art-world paradigm in the US is a private market of artists that are represented by a hierarchy of galleries, and these galleries want to get their artists into the Whitney Biennial or the New Museum or, eventually, into the Museum of Modern Art. Therefore, an artist’s career and markets are built up through the cultural authority of the museums. Nothing else counts but your symbolic and financial position, and museums have the power to shape this. The problem is that, just like on Wall Street, the wealthiest 1 % control nearly everything. They engage in philanthropy, of course, and sit on museum boards, and these are often also the mega-collectors who influence the markets. Actually, the whole arts infrastructure has been organising around these few individuals in the last 30 years. They concentrate political power and social prestige in their hands, perhaps even more than money, if this is possible. But real, essential culture needs distance from this power and influence in order to grow and thrive, otherwise culture becomes a luxury commodity. What will hopefully come out of the Occupy Museums is a re-thinking about the current state of culture, which is very close to a luxury item for the wealthiest. How can we reconnect our work as artists to the experience of ordinary people—the 99 %? We have already found a way to connect as artists to the spirit of protest in the air. For the first stage we are publicly defining cultural injustices—inviting people to call them out in open assemblies at the museums. A lot of information about the corruption and conflicts of interest on museum boards arises from the participants in these assemblies. But maybe the most important thing Occupy Museums is doing is publically demonstrating, through solidarity, that we artists need not be silenced by these powerful institutions that wield so much cultural authority, just because the 1 % sits on their boards. We are learning not to fear, but to act.

 

The first museums you went to were MoMA and the National History Museum. Why these two?

 

MoMA is an iconic New York museum, because it is “the one and only” Museum of Modern Art. And New York is a city that is supposed to have made its name on the international stage through modern art. MoMA, therefore, is very much a temple, a holy space where the local gods such as Pollock and Newman dwell. It is also transparently financially corrupted. Two MoMA trustees, James Niven and Richard Oldenberg, also have connections to the board of Sotheby’s. These trustees help to inflate prices in the art auctions, and they presumably have some vote or influence about what is shown in the museum. This simultaneous conflict of interest should be unacceptable and considered as abuse, but in the US now, it’s become accepted—we also see it in the revolving door between the US government and the biggest corporations such as banks. But people would be surprised to find these problems associated with museums, even though the art market is extremely unregulated. And it is precisely because MoMA is iconic and also beloved and trusted by many that Occupy Museums decided to go after it and make it into an example. We are going straight to the top, “storming the temple”. In fact, we do not really occupy physical places—we rather occupy people’s consciousness, symbols.

 

But the Natural History museum is not specifically related to art.

 

Here we focused on the potential menace of philanthropy. We occupied the Dino­saur wing in the American Museum of Natural History, whose patron, David H. Koch, is the second richest person in New York and a major funder of the ultra right-wing in the US. For this action, we were talking to visitors at the Museum about the ideology associated with his “gifts”. David H. Koch has been the primary funder of the Tea Party, right-wing think tanks, and numerous initiatives which try to negate global warming. Often he has censored climate information in the exhibitions that he sponsors. His father, who built the family fortune, was also a right-wing ideologue in the McCarthy era who used the threat of communism to create a political platform full of racism and bigotry—this is actually the pre-history of the Tea Party. We also discussed how the funding of culture is often used to clean the image of those that make dirty money (Koch makes his money from the oil and energy business, and his companies are known for polluting). At the Museum of Natural History, we created a series of performances followed by a discussion of what alternative models of philanthropy might look like, such as more government support or support from many smaller contributions. Obviously, we are just beginning this discussion.

 

When the director of MoMA came to talk, you refused. Why? Aren’t you interested in a productive dialogue?

 

For the first action, we held a General Assembly meeting in front of MoMA and read a manifesto, and then the director and a couple other staff members came down to meet us. They were very nice and said that they support the movement to some extent and asked why we were there. I answered very much in line with the manifesto, that we believe that MoMA is the temple of the 1 %, and our aim is to challenge this concentration of power and wealth, which is crippling our culture and futures as artists. They were surprised and asked for our demands. I said we have no demands, but we are going to continue occupying their museum, which in this case means repeatedly coming back and enlarging the conversation until it is much more visible and spread out. Actually, for a long time, the press kept asking for demands of the Occupy Wall Street movement. So far it has been very helpful for the movement to not have demands. As soon as you have demands, you’re asking those with power to change something finite (a few things), when many feel that the problem is structural. Without demands, we focus more on developing our voice autonomously and building our movement’s solidarity, which is the base of our power. The problems of economic injustice are so big that starting out in a negotiation mode does not make sense.

 

Later on you also did an action at Lincoln Center in New York …

 

That was our most triumphant action! The Lincoln Center, supported by David H. Koch and New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg, is a potent symbol of the privatisation of public space and an abuse of cultural authority. As we stated in the press release for the action, “it is no doubt a coincidence that Philip Glass’ opera ‘Satyagraha’, which depicts Gandhi’s early struggle against colonial oppression in India, was revived in the revolutionary 2011. We immediately saw a glaring contradiction in ‘Satyagraha’ being performed while in recent weeks protestors from Occupy Wall Street have been arrested. The juxtaposition was stark. While Bloomberg funds the representation of Gandhi’s pioneering tactics of nonviolent civil disobedience in the Metropolitan Opera House, he simultaneously orders a paramilitary-style raid on the peaceful public occupation of Liberty Park, where protestors are beaten, tear-gassed, and violently arrested.” So, one evening, hundreds of protesters assembled on the steps of Lincoln Center, blocked off from the plaza by police barricades. A few who dared to cross the line were arrested, provoking shouts of “shame, shame, shame!” We took off our shoes—a Gandhian symbol of dignity—and stood barefoot on the cold pavement, conducting our assembly. When the opera ended and the opera audience exited into the plaza, they came upon this strikingly theatrical scene—real, live, non-violent protest, barefoot on the grand steps! Some protesters were chanting “We are the 99 %”, which may have contributed to a sense of separation between these two parallel crowds. Our presence behind the police barricades somehow paralysed the opera audience, making them hesitant to flow toward us, even as we called them to join. Then all of a sudden Philip Glass popped up in the Occupy Wall Street crowd—he had come to read a statement using the “people’s microphone”. He called out the last lines of the opera, a passage from the “Bhagavad Gita”:

 

When righteousness withers away  /  And evil rules the land /  We come into being / Age after age / And take visible shape / And move / A man among men / For the protection of good / Thrusting back evil / And setting virtue / On her seat again.

 

In that moment the opera audience had joined us. The buffer zone was gone. We were now one big crowd. Until late into the night we held our general assembly and many people spoke—opera singers who had been recently fired by Lincoln Center in its neo-liberal war against workers, and also Lou Reed was there to express his support.

 

Occupy Museums is very careful of not being co-opted by any institution. You refuse any collaboration, even if this is how you could reach out.

 

Since the beginning of Occupy Wall Street, co-option has been a major concern, because neo-liberal capitalism knows very well that the best way to kill protest movements is to absorb them into the existing market and to dissolve them or use them for advertising purposes. If we started to negotiate with MoMA, they might say, “You may use the first floor for a special General Assembly, we’ll put it on the website.” In this way, they might try to throw us a bone before they deal with critique we raise. And then while negotiating, we might have our ego pumped and feel special because these famous gatekeeping institutions have opened their gates for us just a little.

 

It is of course not so black and white because many people who are in the movement work for art institutions; some are even powerful curators, critics, and well-known artists. We of course also need to find allies to change structures of the institutions from the inside. The question is how to proceed in this while keeping our clarity of critique? Now we are re­flecting deeply on how we may interact with institutions, which are just groups of people, to develop and apply our vision of economic justice, but being very mindful of how we proceed.

 

I feel that before we join the people who run the museums, we should join in solidarity with the wider communities of New York City—artists and art lovers who are not so privileged. New York City has the same wealth disparity as Honduras. It is one of the richest and the most class-divided cities in the world. It has not much of a middle class, but a lot of very wealthy and a lot of very poor people. It also has many extremely rich artists and a vast number of poor artists. Tourists visit the galleries in Chelsea and don’t understand that they are in one of the poorest cities in the US, with the poverty hidden in the outskirts. Those are the economic and racial barriers, which have been built up for generations, that we have to break. It’s the key part of the process for real change. We must bring together wider communities that usually do not hang out together in the art world, and change the class and race segregation that we see in culture, even if this takes lots of work and lots of time.

 

And why not reach out to the 1,000 people who are coming to the Natural History Museum every day anyway? Or the daily visitors of MoMA? Those are the ready-made audiences.

 

The museum-going audience is always invited to take part in our actions. As we saw at Lincoln Center, their decision as a group to join the protest gave our action much of its strength. So we are definitely outreaching and engaging with this existing art-audience, too. But we are careful to maintain our stance as activists. We can engage an audience, but we don’t force people—it has to be their choice. Look how people consume culture as a product. That’s this “consumerist subconscious” which homogenises and unites the whole reality under the logo of a consumable product. I think our job is to stay awake and critical, to keep the tension of the moment going, and people will join us.

 

If you were the director of MoMA, what would you do in these circumstances?

 

It would be cool for the MoMA director to join us in an open conversation with our group. Curators at MoMA are used to having their asses kissed by artists, but maybe they would be interested in a new dynamic where everyone is equal, where people are focused on justice and mass consciousness rather than just on individual competitive gain? They could join the discussion, because then we could find out—outside the power relations—what they think as individuals. Many people want to see big changes in our world—I’m sure some museum directors do, too. We all need to get started, so they could begin by meeting us if they want. There is nothing stopping them—our group is open.

 

So what must institutions that would like to join be prepared to face?

 

They’d have to be ready to step into the mud. They’d have to be ready for a long, uncomfortable conversation. Our movement calls to question the structure of the museum boards and the flow of capital itself within culture. It calls on everyone to study their own privilege and work together to change a world that is so divided by access to money and power. We have to unlearn lots of capitalist conditioning to be able to work together. We have to spend a really long time with these conversations, be ready to fail, stay away from the easy traps of market-friendly shows and celebrity artists that we think everyone wants. We need to practice transparency and fairness in our working process. We should be aware that power and hierarchy are always to be found in human society. We have to challenge it. If we do not experiment and get messy, we cannot start finding answers. We cannot make demands right now—we need to change our minds first, then we can create a parallel economy with freedom rather than oppression as a basis.

 

Forty years ago the Art Workers’ Coalition, an association of artists, filmmakers, writers, critics, and museum personnel successfully put pressure on New York City’s museums—notably the Museum of Modern Art—to implement various reforms. For instance, they sought a less exclusive exhibition policy, one that should include women artists and artists of colour, and they emphasised the importance of taking a moral stance on the Vietnam War. Moreover, the coalition prevailed on MoMA and other museums to implement a free-admission day that still exists in many institutions. Is it an inspiration?

 

Yes, and there are other good examples of artists in this tradition, like the Russian Constructivists, the Mexican Muralists, Act Up, and so on. But the Art Workers’ Coalition is very important. In fact, we recently re-occupied MoMA on one of the free nights which are called “Target Free Fridays”. Target is a large US retailing corporation, and everyone thinks that this company invented the idea of free museum days. One goal for this action was to let people know that artists (Art Workers’ Coalition) invented it, that there is a history of artists standing up for the 99 %; and another was to stand in solidarity with a group of union workers. There is an art handlers’ union, which works for Sotheby’s auction house. Sotheby’s was trying to take away their health-care and cut their pay, and when they tried to negotiate, Sotheby’s locked them out of work. So, since MoMA has a close relationship with Sotheby’s, we occupied MoMA to put some pressure on the board members to support the workers. We held a general assembly in front of Diego Rivera’s show and read a revolutionary text signed by Rivera and André Breton in 1938. We held an assembly with hundreds of artists in the main atrium of MoMA where a huge banner was displayed that stated “When Art Is Just a Luxury, Art Is a Lie!” This time, MoMA left us alone. I think that kicking out a bunch of artist activists on a free night initiated by artist activists (Art Workers’ Coalition) would have been a public relations disaster for the museum. For a couple of hours, we transformed MoMA into a forum for active discussion about money and labour in the art world.

 

The whole interview with Noah Fischer is published in „Camera Austria International“ No 117 (Graz/Berlin), guest edited by Artur Żmijewski and Joanna Warsza. See also www.camera-austria.at.

 

 

 

Making this world ours

A report from the occupation at Beursplein: This week, together with a group of artists, I have joined the occupation of Beursplein, [Amsterdam’s stock exchange] by way of a collective tent. We believe in public space as a democratic space. By Jonas Staal [...]More >

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The Outraged Are Among Us

I’m ill and have a fever. I’m at home, following the Outraged, and scheming; for a moment I’m away from the procedures of the everyday. I’m outraged too. My head, burning with fever, produces a stream of sneezing and revolutionary thought. By Marcin Śliwa [...]More >

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MEDIA COOPERATION WITH CAMERA AUSTRIA INTERNATIONAL

Artur Żmijewski and Joanna Warsza are guest editors of the current issue of Camera Austria International Nr. 117. Speaking with parties involved with Occupy Wall Street in New York as well as with artists from Occupy Amsterdam about their political goals and image-political [...]More >

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Petition for Support of the Visual Culture Research Center in Kyiv

Posted on: März 26th, 2012 by Marta Gornicka
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From the work "Body №" by Oksana Briukhovetska

Petition for Support of the Visual Culture Research Center at NaUKMA

Dear all,

On February 10th, 2012, the President of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Serhiy Kvit banned the exhibition of the Visual Culture Research Center “Ukrainian Body” that explored the issues of corporality in contemporary Ukrainian society. Serhiy Kvit explained his decision in the following way: “It’s not an exhibition, it’s shit”. After the act of censorship, which drew a wide response in the Ukrainian and foreign media, the President of NaUKMA has initiated a number of bureaucratic restrictions against the Visual Culture Research Center as the organizers of the exhibition. On February 23rd the Academic Council of the university led by Serhiy Kvit passed a resolution to bar the activities of VCRC.

 

On March 12th, the President of NaUKMA Serhiy Kvit made a resolution on the prohibition of all events and exhibitions in the Old Academic building, where the Visual Culture Research Center has been working since 2008, referring to the building's “condition conducive to accident”. Despite its “accident rate” the galleries of Old Academic building are shortly to be used as the library archives. Hence the President of NaUKMA closed the VCRC's exhibition “Ukrainian Body” at first, then the Center itself, and eventually the premises where the VCRC is conducting events, announcing their “condition conducive to accident”.

 

We consider such gestures unacceptable acts of censorship against public dialogue on crucial social and political problems. The present sanctions are blocking the Visual Culture Research Center's current and future activities. The Center has become a milieu that provides critical thought and alternative knowledge for NaUKMA community and beyond. One can see the scope of Center’s activity on its webpage http://vcrc.ukma.kiev.ua/uk/archive/, it includes many international conferences and seminars, exhibitions, presentations and talks, and other events that attracted many students and broad public. NaUKMA has already received letters of support, asking to resume the Center's work in full scope, among them from Slavoj Žižek, Eric Fassin, David Elliott, Aleksander Kwasniewski, Serhiy Yekelchyk, Tarik Cyril Amar, John-Paul Himka, Aleksandr Bikbov, Michel Onfray, Artur Zmijewski, Vitaly Chernetsky, Oksana Timofeeva, Mikhail Mayatskiy, Sara Goodman, Alek Epstein, Jan Tomasz Gross and others.

 

We call for the immediate restoration of academic and artistic freedom at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and ask the President of NaUKMA Serhiy Kvit to resume the Center's work in full scope in its current working space.

 

Please join this initiative to support the activities of the Visual Culture Research Center. Please sign the petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/serhiy-kvit-the-president-of-national-university-of-kyiv-mohyla-academy-petition-for-support-of-the-visual-culture-research-center-at-naukma with your name, title and affiliation or write your own letter to the President of NaUKMA Serhiy Kvit (kwit@ukma.kiev.ua) asking to resume the Center's activity in the Old Academic building.

 

Please spread this petition. For more information about the situation, please read the following:

 

http://ua.euronews.net/2012/02/14/ukraine-modern-art-controversy/

 

http://derstandard.at/1329870496526/Ende-eines-Kulturzentrums-Kiew-Kein-Raum-fuer-den-ukrainischen-Koerper

 

http://ukraineanalysis.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/sex-nationalism-and-academic-freedom-the-controversy-at-kyiv-mohyla/

 

Thank you for your attention and support!

 

 

Letter of Support for Visual Culture Research Center

Rector of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy closed the art exhibition Ukrainian Body. His comment was: “This is not an exhibition. This is shit”. More >

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Breaking the News: Ukrainian Body

On February 10, 2012, the rector of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Serhij Kwit went to an art exhibition “Ukrainian Body”, organized by the Visual Culture Research Center at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. After visiting the exhibition, he took a key and locked it. [...]More >

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Supporters who already signed the petition:

 

Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University, USA

 

 

Artur Żmijewski, сurator of the 7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Poland

 

 

Slavoj Žižek, social philosopher and culture theorist, the president of the Institute of Sociology, Slovenia

 

 

Judith Butler, Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley, USA

 

 

David Elliott, curator of the First International Biennial of Contemporary Art Arsenale 2012, Great Britain

 

 

Aleksander Kwasniewski, the President of Poland (1995 – 2005)

 

 

Jacques Rancière, philosopher, Emeritus professor at the University of Paris VIII, France

 

 

Alexander Bikbov, deputy director of the Centre for Contemporary Philosophy and Social Sciences at Moscow StateUniversity, associate fellow of the Maurice Halbwachs Research Centre, France / Russia

 

 

Serhy Yekelchyk, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Victoria, Canada

 

 

Éric Fassin, Professeur agrégé, Département de sciences sociales, École normale supérieure (Ulm), France

 

 

Michel Onfray, french philosopher and writer, founder of the Popular University of Caen, France

 

 

John-Paul Himka, Professor, Department of History and Classics, University of Alberta, USA

 

 

Oxana Timofeeva, editor of the magazine “New Literary Observer”, “Chto Delat’?” group, Russia

 

 

Jan T. Gross, Professor of History, Princeton University, USA

 

 

Mikhail Maiatsky, PhD, professor at the Cultural Studies department, Faculty of Philosophy, Higher School of Economics, Russia

 

 

Michael Burawoy, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, President of the International SociologicalAssociation, USA

 

 

Daniel J. Walkowitz, Professor of History, Professor of Social & Cultural Analysis, New York University, USA

 

 

Genevève Fraisse, philosophe, directrice de recherche au CNRS, enseignante à l'Institut Politique de Paris (Sciences-po), ancienne déléguée interministérielle, ancienne députée européenne, France

 

 

Dmytro Horbachov, PhD in Art History, professor, laureate of Ohienko prize, Biletsky prize, Ukraine

 

 

Vladimir Malakhov, Institute of Philosophy of Russian Academy of Sciences, Center for Citizenship and Identity Studies, Russia

 

 

Marko Bojcun, Senior lecturer, European Studies and International Relations, London Metropolitan University, Great Britain

 

 

Jared McBride, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

 

 

Rose-Marie Lagrave, Directrice d'études à l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes à Paris, France

 

 

Don Kalb, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

 

 

Roman Cybriwsky, PhD, Professor of Geography and Urban Studies, Temple University, Philadelphia, USA

 

 

Vitaly Chernetsky, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Miami University, USA

 

 

Tarik Cyril Amar, Assistant Professor, Russia and the Soviet Union, Department of History, Columbia University, USA

 

 

Sara Goodman, Centre for Gender Studies, Lund University, Sweden

 

 

Ginanne Brownell, journalist, “International Herald Tribune/New York Times”, “The Times of London”, “Open Democracy”, London, UK

 

 

Maiju Lehto, University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri institute, Filnand

 

 

Alexei Penzin, research associate at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia

 

 

Alek D. Epstein, PhD, Department of Sociology, Political Science and Communication, Open University of Israel, the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, Israel

 

 

Vlad Sofronov, philosopher, publicist, art critic, Russia

 

 

Heribert Hansen, Member of Kunstverein e.V. Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Member of German-Ukrainian Society Rhein-Neckar e.V. Heidelberg, Germany

 

 

Oleksandr Soloviov, art critic, contemporary art curator, Ukraine

 

 

Liudmyla Gordeladze, director of “Zhovten” Cinema, Ukraine

 

 

Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, graduated from the Cultural Studies faculty at Viadrina European University in Frankfurt, Germany

 

 

Andriy Zayarnyuk, Assistant Professor, Department of History, The University of Winnipeg, Canada

 

 

Delphine Bechtel, Associate professor, University Paris 4 Sorbonne, France

 

 

David Miller, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Fine Art, University of Lethbridge, Canada

 

 

Martin Pollack, Schriftsteller und Übersetzer, Österreich

 

 

Katharina Raabe, Lektorin für osteuropäische Literaturen im Suhrkamp Verlag, Germany

 

 

Serhiy Kudelia, visiting scholar, George Washington University, USA

 

 

Olexandra Hrycak, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Reed College, Portland, Oregon, USA

 

 

Per Anders Rudling, Ph.D, Historisches Institut, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald, Germany

 

 

Dmitry Vilensky, artist, editor of the paper “Chto Delat’?”, member of the editorial board of the “Art Journal”, Russia

 

 

Sébastien Gobert, Journalist, Radio France Internationale, France

 

 

António Eduardo Mendonça, researcher of the Centro de Estudos Soviéticos e Pós-Soviéticos, Lisboa, Portugal

 

 

Andriy Mokrousov, editor of the “Critique” magazine, Ukraine

 

 

Leszek Jazdzewski, LIBERTÉ! Editor in chief, Lodz, Poland

 

 

Natasa Bodrozic, curator, Zagreb, Croatia

 

 

Vladimir Us, director de proiect “Revista la PLIC”, Moldova Young Artists Association "Oberliht", Moldova

 

 

Anton Shekhovtsov, PhD in Political Science, University of Northampton, UK

 

 

Erzsébet Szalai, sociologist, Corvinus University of Budapest, University of West Hungary (Sopron), Hungary

 

 

Tamás Krausz, historian, professor of Russian Studies and chairman of the department of East European History at the Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest), editor in chief of “Eszmélet” magazine, Hungary

 

 

Mátyás Benyik, economist, president of ATTAC, Hungary

 

 

Selin Çağatay, PhD Candidate, Central European University, Hungary

 

 

G. M. Tamás, the Institute of Philosophy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Visiting Professor at Central European University (Budapest), Hungary

 

 

Eva and Franco Mattes, visual artists, New York, USA

 

 

Ilya Kukulin, deputy director of the Department for Cultural Projects of the Philosophy Faculty, National Research University “Higher School of Economics”, Russia

 

 

Péter Farkas, economist, CSc, ATTAC, Hungary

 

 

Fırat Duruşan, Teaching Assistant and PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science, Ankara University, Turkey

 

 

Elena Sorokina, curator, Ukraine

 

 

Judith Schwentner, Member of Austrian Parliament, the Greens, Austria

 

 

Zofia Waślicka, Warsaw University, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, Poland / France

 

 

Taras Polataiko, Professor, Department of Fine Art, University of Lethbridge, Canada

 

 

Linda Norris, “Riverhill” collaborative with museums firm, USA

 

 

Yasmine Tremblay, Assistant Director, Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal, Canada

 

 

Piotr Piotrowski, Professor Ordinaries, Art History Department, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland

 

 

Bohdana Kostyuk, Slavic philologist, journalist, Ukraine

 

 

Wojciech Przybylski, “Res Publica Nowa”, Poland

 

 

Svitlana Oleshko, director of the theatre studio “Arabesky”, Ukraine

 

 

Iryna Magdysh, Art Council “Dialogue”, Ukraine

 

 

Joanna Nuckowska, “Nowy Teatr”, Warsaw, Poland

 

 

Dmytro Petrenko, Associate Professor at the Theory and History of Culture, Department of Karazin Kharkiv NationalUniversity, Ukraine

 

 

Marek Wasilewski, “Czas Kultury”, Poland

 

 

Mateusz Luft, “Kontakt”, Poland

 

 

Marek Łuszczyna, “Bluszcz“, Poland

 

 

Łukasz Jasina, “Kultura Liberalna”, Poland

 

 

Olexander Sych, “Istorychna panorama“, Ukraine

 

 

Khrystyna Chushak, PhD Candidate, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

 

 

Artur Rudzycky, art and literature historian, President of the Ukrainian Association of Press Publishers andDistributors, Ukraine

 

 

 

“My Daddy is a Policeman”

Posted on: März 23rd, 2012 by Marta Gornicka

My Daddy is a Policeman

Published by "Nash Dom"
Designed by Marina Naprushkina
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Solidarity Action #1: Istituto Svizzero di Roma

Posted on: März 22nd, 2012 by Marta Gornicka
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Solidarity Action #1: Istituto Svizzero di Roma

Beginnings

Curated by Salvatore Lacagnina

March – July 2012


Right from the start the Istituto Svizzero di Roma (Swiss Institute in Rome) decided that our gesture in solidarity with the 7th Berlin Biennale should not be limited to a single project, but should invest the entire life of our institution.

 

We appropriated from Berlin methods and points of view that we required. We tested them in Switzerland and Italy, in different historical and social conditions. In June 2011, theater workers occupied Valle, a historic theater that the city of Rome wanted to privatize. Connected to this ongoing action, renowned jurists are contributing to the elaboration of a new form of management of the theater that will be neither public nor private. Thus art, law, political activism, and theoretical reflection are walking hand in hand. We consider this a paradigm that enables a discussion about cultural institutions.

 

Drawing upon this local situation, we first decided to adapt the 7th Berlin Biennale’s first newspaper P / ACT FOR ART to our context, and use it as a handy tool to reflect on the possible development of artistic institutions. The debate around contemporary institutions is also a lively one within various groups of political activists, and in our research we found commonalities between the political collective ESC – Autonomous Atelier in Rome and the Polish group Krytyka Polityczna. We are supporting collaborative actions between them and Swiss political activists, especially those involved in the Occupy movement, as part of our "Solidarity Action".

 

Besides the institutional issues, another part of our work concerns the language of art and the energy that it can generate for the construction of meaning and willingness to engage with reality. So we are developing a project similar to the Draftsmen’s Congress, initiated by Paweł Althamer for the Berlin Biennale. This is an important act for the Swiss Institute in Rome, as it relates to similar activities developed in recent years, in which we experiment with a return to the basics of artistic language. We are also developing the project Invisible Switzerland, which invites artists to intervene or to narrate the invisible aspects of the complex social and political reality of Switzerland. Other projects are becoming concrete, and more will follow. For us, this is a process that will not necessarily stop with the end of the Berlin Biennale.

by Salvatore Lacagnina

 

www.solidarityaction.istitutosvizzero.it

 

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