#special issue: When Artists Struggle Together
Play for a few Actors
a film by Dmitry Vilensky Music by Mikhail Krutik
Our Principles: Self-Organization, Collectivism, Solidarity
The Chto Delat platform unites artists, philosophers, social researchers, activists, and all those whose aim is the collaborative realization of critical and independent research, publication, artistic, educational and activist projects.
All of the platforms initiatives are based on the principles of selforganization and collectivism. These principles are realized through the political coordination of working groupsthe contemporary analogue of soviets. The projects undertaken by any of these groups represent the entire platform and are closely coordinated with one another. At the same time, the existence of the platform creates a common context for interpreting the projects of its individual participants. We are likewise guided by the principle of solidarity. We organize and support mutual assistance networks with all grassroots groups who share the principles of internationalism, feminism, and equality.
We admit it upfront: we dont care much for the artist Alexei Belyaev, and we dont 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 Limonovs National Bolsheviks, and he would later join Alexander Dugins 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. Belyaevs 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 salona salon we would rather ignore.
Redas Dirzys /// Art Strike Ideas and Their Application Today: A Report on the Art Strike Conference
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 capitalismin 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 everywherein 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).
Kirsten Forkert /// Artistic and political autonomy, or the difficulty and necessity of organizing artis
I came across the Art Workers Coalition (AWC) 1969 Open Hearing documents by chance. They consisted of a stack of photocopies of handwritten and typewritten statements about the position of artists in society, particularly in relation to events of the time such as the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement.
There were some very frank critiques of the artists dependence on market and state patronage, and the role of both in the military-industrial complex (such as museum trustees connected with corporations that were directly or indirectly involved in the Vietnam War). The AWC arose out of meetings among artists in New York, and was catalyzed when George Takis tried to remove a sculpture from the Museum of Modern Art because he had no control over the conditions in which it was shown. The Art Workers Coalition presented the director of MOMA with a list of thirteen demands, one of them being an open hearing on museum reform. They were refused, so they instead held the meeting at the School of Visual Arts (where the statements were read).
Max Klebb: collectivizing anti-national refusal Max Klebb (1) seeks to unite art workers in the task of anti-nationalism. Art might be just one more branch of the culture industry, but this perspective on its commodity status formulates not only arts limitation but also positively positions its participation in social processes.
From this position in commodified culture, art might function as a lever to pull open the contradictions to which it is subjected. In attempting to base Max Klebbs political action in art on its intrinsically affirmative character within capitalist societies, our attempt for an anti-national action starts from the acknowledgement of arts limits. We base its politicality on the reality that needs to be defeated and not on an artistic romanticism that tries to escape from it.At present, there is no revolution on the horizon, but nevertheless (and maybe even because of this) there are numerous artistic projections of revolution. Ignoring realitys overpowering forces may be blissful but countering them with projected artistic omnipotence leads back into the long-established forms of arts function in the reproduction of the capitalist nation-state. In it, art represents a romanticist but constitutively unreal dream world.
The study of the Russian communist avant-garde is of singular importance if we are to understand the logic of contemporary political arts evolution because of the way that it anticipated, albeit incompletely and even unsuccessfully, the future of art and social life. For the possibilities that were opened to art in Soviet Russia in the twenties cannot be compared with those that even the most wealthy democratic state might offer it today. Friedrich Schiller, who in his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man dreamt of a state of beauty in appearance where peoples dreams of universal equality would be brought to life, could not even imagine the degree to which this political-aesthetic utopia was realized. The socialist revolution gave the artist the chance to come into contact with social reality in an immediate that is, non-alienatedmode that had no need of convention, illusion, and fiction in order to convey the artists utterances. The Revolution liberated zones of reality that previously had been subjected only to estrangement and distancing; it opened channels for the immediate construction of mans life world. It was not merely matter of artists participating in largescale architectural and urban planning projects, the artistic design of streets and squares, the choreography of massive revolutionary celebrations, and the production of practical forms of clothing for the mass consumer and holistic elements of communal life. Most of all, the revolution effected a shift in relationships between people and gave birth to a new man who was liberated from a master-slave sensuality and consciousness.
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?
We are excited by the debate that Dmitry brings to the table. This issue is one of the concerns of our actions, of our artistic/political life. Historically, there have been numerous instances of movements that later, under the yoke of postmodern thought, would be reduced to tendencies. The historical movements and classes have almost become myths. This strategy, woven from academic thought, is meant to frustrate any chance of taking over or rethinking the sense of the collective in art and uniting the same context with each and every juncture. In our particular case, in the nineties, we occupied an old house that belonged to a surrealist artist named Juan Andralis, who had died in Buenos Aires in 1994. In this house we researched materials without the mediation of critics, curators or institutions. It was a direct encounter with objects, photographs, manuscripts, and material that was not even edited.
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 Basementfor example, Mladen Stilinovicare 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 Kunsta 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 Zivadinovwas 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.
Chto delat?questionnaire When artists struggle together
- What are the mostexciting and powerful examples of collective organisation in art?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
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 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.