#special issue: When Artists Struggle Together


“Vpered (Forward)” Socialist Movement & Chto Delat? /// An Open Letter on the 2008 Kandinsky Prize

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We admit it upfront: we don’t care much for the artist Alexei Belyaev, and we don’t care about him. His art is beyond the pale of criticism, and we have never had any illusions about his political views. By the mid-1990s, he had already drifted into the orbit of Eduard Limonov’s National Bolsheviks, and he would later join Alexander Dugin’s breakaway Eurasian Movement. You do not have to be a political scientist to recognize these people for what they are: part of a reactionary global trend toward ultra-right/ultra-left nationalism. Belyaev’s statements and artworks reflect this political identity. His work glorifies violence, imperial domination, blood, soil, and war. It does this in a consciously triumphal neo-Stalinist aesthetic, mixing crimson with gold leaf to confirm its redundant imperialist messages. Some members of the local bourgeoisie are taken with this aesthetic. Fascism thus enters the salon—a salon we would rather ignore.

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Redas Dirzys /// Art Strike Ideas and Their Application Today: A Report on the Art Strike Conference

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The Art Strike Conference was held in the southern Lithuanian town of Alytus on June 27-29, 2008. The group did not adopt any concrete resolution either during the meeting or after it. Therefore I take it upon myself to make a very personal overview of the ideas proposed at the conference with some even more personal commentaries that could lead to a better understanding of our controversial approach to the topic. Many of the ideas presented at the conference I find of crucial importance as I try to start a real campaign against the real construction of cultural capitalism—in this particular case, a boycott of the EU Capitals of Culture initiative, which intends to turn the Lithuanian capital city of Vilnius into a “capital of culture” next year. Since critical thought in contemporary capitalist Lithuania is very weak, we invited an international group of people experienced in this work and/or willing to contemplate the subject.

The earliest use of the term “art strike” and its short history

The revolution no longer has any frontiers; it must be thought out, it must be prepared everywhere—in all the sectors where man expends passion and energy to do what he does, else it will never triumph anywhere. –Alain Jouffroy, “What’s To Be Done About Art?” (Art and Confrontation, New York Graphic Society, 1968).

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Chto Delat? Open Questionnaire /// When Artists Struggle Together

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Today there is a proliferation of the so-called “political art projects”. The growing number of the organisers of biennales and other big shows feel it neccessary to be concern with the heavily political issues such as: globalisation, democracy, participatory and communal practices, radical imagination, and so on. But, at the same time we can hardly hear of the appearance of any new art movement, we do not remember any manifestation of collective power of artist and intellectuals that would claim the voice and put a pressure on the system, we never experience any strikes or sabotage that would be directed even against the most disgusting art projects, any personal or collective withdrawal from shows, and the basic issues such as the artist fee has not been resolved despite the fact that most artists do not produce commodities for the market. How do these two trends come together?

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Marina Grzinic’s Answers on Open Questionnaire

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1. What are (were) the most exciting and powerful examples of collective organization in art?

Marina Grzinic:I can put forward four examples that also mark four different forms of collective organization in art and that bridge three different socio-political and historical periods: the socialist ex-Yugoslavia, post-socialist Slovenia, and the neoliberal global capitalist reality of the present.Going back to the 1970s and 1980s, I would emphasize two different examples. One took place within the Croatian art scene (ex-Yugoslavia), where in the 1970s an important post-hippy/pre-punk conceptually built artistic organization or community was established. I am referring to the Basement artist working community. It really translates this way from the Serbo-Croatian: radna zajednica umjetnika Podrum. Basement implied that artists are workers, especially those whom this status was denied by the socialist ideology.

They were also conceptual artists, and they were involved in the new art practices movement of the time in Croatia. Some names at the core of Basement—for example, Mladen Stilinovic—are very well known today. This was an important project that connected countercultural activities and conceptual art.In the 1980s in Ljubljana, Slovenia (ex-Yugoslavia), we had another movement, based on punk ideals and the power of subculture, that was known as the Ljubljana subculture or alternative movement. It was very much connected with the gay coming out scene and clubbing culture of the time. Parallel to it, in the 1980s, NSK (Neue Slowenische Kunst—a new Slovenian art collective that consisted of the music group Laibach, the fine arts group IRWIN, and the theatre group known mostly through the theater director Dragan Zivadinov—was being established. In the 1980s, NSK started with a political art project that unmasked the totalitarian ideology. Socialism regulates first and foremost the space of the social through direct control and subordination.

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Elisabeth Steger’s Answers on Open Questionnaire

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Chto delat?questionnaire When artists struggle together

  1. What are the mostexciting and powerful examples of collective organisation in art?
  2. Is there any perspective for artists, as the most precarious producers, to build new sustainable organisations that would oppose the profit-driven logic of the market and the economization of cultural production?
  3. How is the struggle for artists related to general issues of social and political struggle? How can they be made to connect with each other?
  4. What kind of political organization do cultural workers need today? Trade unions? Soviets? Art movements? Networks? Is it time to think about something radically different from all that we have known before?
  5. To put it more simply, what is that artists can and must do together now?

1.The most exciting collective organisation I know is the publix theatre caravan

(about which Gerald Raunig is writing in his book “art and revolution” https://eipcp.net/publications/republicart4 ) or maybe I should write it was the publix theatre caravan, because the last performance of the theatre group has been shown in 2005 – it was a play about the things that happened in Genova 2001 at the G8 summit, where some of the caravan participants had been imprisoned. I joined the group from 2003 (when we went to a noborder camp in Timisvoara with a noborder lab and with the wonderful publix theatre bus) to 2005, when we created the play I mentioned above out of interviews with people who have been in Genova and showed it in Düsseldorf at the fft (forum freies theater) and in Vienna at the ekh (Ernst-Kirchweger-Haus, an autonomous space, sqatted house in the 80s) and the fluc (a bar in Vienna at Praterstern, which have had a beautiful performance stage at that time).

If you ask me about the most powerful examples of collective organisation, I first have to think about: what does that mean – powerful? Do you ask about the effects of the collective organisation for the members of the organisation? Or do you address the political power which results from collective acting? Or do you ask for the visibility in media?

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Redas Dirzys’ Answers on Open Questionnaire

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“If the end is the taking of power by the people themselves then the means must be the revolutionary organs of the people – worker councils, community councils, communes etc.

If the end is the freeing of man culturally as well socially and economically then the means exist in the destruction of “culture”.

If the end is the liberation of natural man then the means must be sexual as well as social.

If the end is the “totality” then the means must be “total” – all or nothing.”

Ben Morea. Black mask No. 7, August/September 1967.

Los artistas unidos.

The basic reason of disagreement between the artists or lets say art workers is resulted by different treatment of the main positions: what is the artists’ role in the society and what is the artists can to struggle for. Indeed that is the question of the ends and the means.

The role

The artists’ role in the neo-liberal capitalist society is based on the manipulative hierarchic structure which ties them all together as specialized non-specialists (or professional dilettantes). So far the structure is based on the hierarchy and involves endless competition it strengthens individualization and produces alienation.

The artist as a “specialist” is nothing else but the tool for simulation of social, spiritual and sensual aspects of human life and so to fit the demands of the liberal ideology.

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