#special issue: Knowledge in Action


 

#special issue: Knowledge in Action

Posted in #special issue: Knowledge in Action | 0 comments

si_knowledge

редакторы / editors: коллектив авторов / authors’ collective
дизайн  / lay-out: Дмитрий Виленский, Павел Арсеньев / Dmitry Vilensky, Pavel Arsenev
графика номера / graphics : Максим Нерода / Max Neroda
документация / documentations : Уличный Университет / Street University
задник номера / back : Р.Э.П. / R.E.P.


Read More

Declaration of the Street University

Posted in #special issue: Knowledge in Action | 0 comments

Declaration of the Street University

 

Considering the repression and corruption in our universities, the growing commercialization of the educational process, and the fact that today’s students are alienated, demoralized, and depoliticized, a group of Petersburg university students, teachers, activists, researchers, and concerned citizens has initiated the creation of the Street University (SU).

The goal of the SU is revive the traditions of student self-governance and create an effective network of researchers, activists, and sympathetic citizens who are united by the desire to form an alternative field for the production and distribution of critical knowledge. The name Street University refers to a place that is by definition open, the only place where this kind of counter-knowledge can be invented. In this sense, the SU is the heir both to the experience of the ancients (Socrates, the Cynics, Aristotle) and to the experiments of modern times (the Situationists, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, Joseph Beuys, the perestroika-era Leningrad Free University). In addition, the SU has set itself the goal of putting the public back into public space by conducting classes on the streets of our city and by furthering ties between the academic community and various social movements and initiatives.

Read More

The editors /// Knowledge is Power

Posted in #special issue: Knowledge in Action | 0 comments

How do people shape their surroundings? And can self-organizing structures redefine their relations to the institutions of power? Could they ever replace traditional forms of education? Or can they place enough pressure on institutions to draw them into the process of self-education, transforming them?

Today, more and more people are haunted by a sense of impotence. The world seems impossible to change, though something is clearly going wrong. Sure, you can have a career and manage to save up some money; you can work endlessly and bend over backwards for your boss, and you can relax yourself to oblivion by watching TV… And no matter how addicted you are to that lifestyle, you will always sense that the everyday is somehow becoming more and more petty and squalid, vapid and pointless, despite all that comfort and success.

But very few people are in the position to grasp the reasons for what is going on, understanding the world in all the fullness of its contradictions. Very people have the privilege of reflecting upon their place in the world and in history. And very few people realize that the time to act is now.

Read More

Alexander Knight /// The Rebirth of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)

Posted in #special issue: Knowledge in Action | 0 comments

A small kitten scampers up the steps of ivy-laden Cobb Hall at the University of Chicago. Nearby, a mohawked student attempts to spear a stale, “dumpstered,” bagel mid-air with a PVC pipe. He’s surrounded by dozens of other young radicals mingling in the school’s immaculate green courtyard, chatting about music, activism and revolution. Just inside the hall a complicated and exasperating argument rages over national organization and the delicate challenges surrounding differences in race, sex, class, sexual orientation and gender identity. Welcome to the 1st National Convention of the reborn Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).

The New and the Old

Held August 4th-7th (2006) and attended by an estimated 200 students and activists from as far away as Washington State, Vermont, and Arizona, the convention was the first national event held by SDS since its re-inception just 7 months ago on Martin Luther King Day. The original SDS of the 1960s, before it collapsed into various competing factions (the final, disastrous convention in 1969 was also held in Chicago), is remembered as part of a powerful movement that funneled thousands of young students Southward to the front lines of the struggle for Civil Rights, and as one of the first and steadiest voices demanding the unconditional withdrawal of U.S. troops from a place called Vietnam. 40 years later, while the nation is embroiled in a conflict over the civil rights of immigrants, and the American military is trapped in yet another foreign quagmire, a sentiment of disinterested cynicism, even hopelessness, has thus far maintained a firm grip on much of America’s youth. Meanwhile, the national organizations leading the fight against the rising tide of imperialism have been a regrettable combination of internet-based lobby groups soliciting funding from wealthy donors, along with sectarian groups stuck in the mid-60s strategy of massing bodies to clog city streets for one afternoon.

Read More

Universidad Nomada /// Mental Prototypes and Monster Institutions. Some Notes by Way of an Introduction

Posted in #special issue: Knowledge in Action | 0 comments

Mental Prototypes

For quite a while now, a certain portmanteau word has been circulating in the Universidad Nómada’s discussions, in an attempt to sum up what we believe should be one of the results of the critical work carried out by the social movements and other post-socialist political actors. We talk about creating new mental prototypes for political action. This is due to the importance, in our eyes, of the elusive and so often unsuccessful link between cognitive diagrams and processes of political subjectivation. That is, the link between the knowledge that allows powers and potentials to be tested on one hand and, on the other, the semiotic, perceptual and emotional mutations that lead to the politicisation of our lives, become personified in our bodies, and shape the finite existential territories that are channelled into or become available for political antagonism. We believe there is a need to create new mental prototypes because contemporary political representations, as well as many of the institutions created by the emancipatory traditions of the 20th century, should be subjected to a serious review – at the very least – given that, in many cases, they have become part of the problem rather than the solution.

Read More

Copenhagen Free University /// We have won!

Posted in #special issue: Knowledge in Action | 0 comments

In the spring of 2001 we demanded: All Power to the Copenhagen Free University. We had just opened a free university in our home in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen. This impossible demand was put forward in the form of a manifesto intented to provoke and unsettle the collective imaginary and open new potential paths of action. We wanted to take power.

The manifesto was written in a very specific socio-political context preceding September 11th 2001. It was written in a mood of confidence. With the Copenhagen Free University we wanted to reclaim power and help undermine the so-called ‘knowledge economy’ – a term used to describe the new economy that was consolidating around the turn of the millennium. The unrolling of the knowledge economy was a part of the neoliberal campaign for control orchestrated by the financial and political elites and the term made clear what kind of ambition was at the core of this campaign: the financialisation of our brains, our nervous systems, our subjectivity, our desires, our selves.

Read More

Kirill Medvedev /// The War Group: If You Don’t Do Politics, You’re Just Standing on the Sidelines

Posted in #special issue: Knowledge in Action | 0 comments

To my mind, the War Group is a healthy reaction to the current conjuncture in the Russian and Moscow art scenes. Artists have firmly ensconced themselves in the galleries. They have to have money for their projects; they need the services of professional curators and other support staff. In a word, they need a system that will recognize their privileges as producers of aesthetic commodities. This system has definitely been established. It is an element of Putin’s oil-fuelled “stability” paradigm, which has already put down quite serious ideological roots. (For example, the cries on behalf of “pure art”-free from “politics” and other earthly vanities-have become louder and louder.)

In this situation, art becomes either a successful instrument of capital investment or a front for money laundering.

War opposes this state of affairs in its own way. Its opposition doesn’t stem from serious principles or a firm political position (which, I think, it hasn’t articulated). Rather, its opposition comes from the fact that it is quite boring to exist in this situation, to play by its rules. It’s a lot more fun and natural to build a bonfire in an exhibition space. It’s a lot more fun to live in art rather than produce it.

Read More

George /// Nodes of Crystallization

Posted in #special issue: Knowledge in Action | 0 comments

The Text of a Talk Given at the Street University

Premises

1. On the subjective level, street activism begins with the understanding that it is impossible to go on living the same way. Something has to be changed. I don’t want talk now about the reasons this understanding arises, or whether this is good or bad. As the previous speaker argued, it could very well be the case that people don’t engage enough in personal asceticism. Perhaps. But what I want to talk about is the fact that this understanding arises and it is this that impels the individual to social action on the streets.

2. Street activism is just a means. We can talk about it only in the context of the concrete goals and tasks that any particular action sets itself. It is a pointless exercise to deduce the qualities of street activism per se and then argue over what actions fit this category.

3. All the current trends are mistaken. Of course, I don’t mean to say that social activism is unknowable. Moreover, I don’t mean to say that it’s impossible to take a clear stance on concrete issues. What I mean is that however clear and well-formed our theories and our stances are, it is only social practice that gives us answers to the questions that interest us. And we should be ready to question not only the correctness of our actions, but also the correctness of our initial premises.

Tasks

1. Theoretical. It is in the course of social practice that we receive information about how society is structured and functions.

Struggle with the dominant discourse. Aside from the “I say” of power and capital, the official discourse also bears within it a wholly concrete ideology, ethics, and system of understanding how the world works. On the other hand, any claim that the content of this discourse can be discussed is a sham because the means of information are monopolized by the authorities and corporations.

Read More

Children of the Underground /// “Your Advertisement Makes Us Climb the Walls!”

Posted in #special issue: Knowledge in Action | 0 comments

On Sunday, May 18, an act of revenge against the domination of advertising in public space was carried out in the transfer tube between two central stations in the Petersburg metro, Gostiny Dvor and Nevsky Prospect.

The entire passageway had been pasted over with a monotonous advertisement for electronic gadgets. The ad shows a young man and woman equipped with these gadgets and locked in an insincere embrace. Unable to countenance such a subtle rape of their imaginations, a group of young people performed a genuine “decomposition” of the ad.

Over the course of several minutes, they tore down the panels of the ad, covered it with protest slogans, and leafleted the passengers who were lucky enough to witness this “breakdown.” The activists’ main task was, apparently, to spread the message that if an advertisement has been hung up, that doesn’t mean at all that this should be the case. Public transportation had always been a part of public space, but with the imposition of capitalist relations of production in Russia, public space has steadily continued to erode. It is gradually being captured by advertising images. And there is a certain limit past which the invididuals most sensitive to this species of violence climb the walls-in this case, literally.

Read More

Pavel Arsenev /// Performative Knowledge

Posted in #special issue: Knowledge in Action | 0 comments

J.L. Austin defines a performative statement as the opposite of a statement of fact. It therefore functions not in the categories of true/false, but in the categories of successful/unsuccessful. This shifts it from the register of describing or explaining the object to the register of altering it (in the nominal form of an appeal to the world as such). The performative speech act is constituted by its involvement in action (as its accentuating component) or by its total identity with action (to say “I declare” is the same thing as to declare something). To the degree to which knowledge can be related to the utterance or speech act, it can be performative—that is, it can appeal to reality, being a part of action or identical to action insofar as it alters reality. Moreover, considering the fact that any utterance or form of knowledge is by definition ideological, it is all to the better if its subject interprets it as performative—that is, as something situated not in the jurisdiction of “truth,” but in the coordinates of pragmatics.

Its progressiveness notwithstanding, the postulate that states that all discourses are ideological depends on the notion that all ideologies are discursive, that all utterances, even the most radical, are (inter)textual. And it is right here that we should clarify what we mean by performative: not so much discourse that is aware of its own engagement, as direct nondiscursive action in public space, knowledge engaged in action, in the collective action of protest.

Read More

Pavel Arsenev, Alexander Skidan, Artiom Magun /// Another Knowledge Is Possible

Posted in #special issue: Knowledge in Action | 0 comments

Pavel Arseniev: As you remember, when we were drafting the Street University (SU) Declaration we emphasized two broad goals: the creation of a self-governance network within existing institutions of higher learning and the development of an alternative space for the production and distribution of critical knowledge, which would collaborate in one way or another with this network. To put it crudely, the SU sets itself the task of bringing up issues that are taboo in the traditional academic milieu, thus subjecting university programs themselves to revision. But the SU began to evolve in its own arbitrary direction, which didn’t quite coincide with its declared aims. On the one hand, there were a series of successful attempts at the production of counter-institutional knowledge—our weekly Sunday classes and actions; on the other, we haven’t managed to create a network of student councils. Certain SU participants invited new people, but even such an unusual event as a street debate didn’’t always have a surefire impact on students. This is where we run up against the very circumstance that compelled us to create the SU, which is described in our declaration: the depoliticization and demoralization of students. Given this fact how we can talk about self-governance cells within the universities themselves?

Read More

The Street University: A Brief History

Posted in #special issue: Knowledge in Action | 0 comments

On February 8, 2008, the European University in Saint Petersburg (a graduate school) was closed for alleged violations of fire safety rules. Many university insiders and other observers, however, believed that more powerful political figures were behind this strange move. Aside from seeing the closure as part of a more general attack on “agents of western influence,” they pointed to fact that the university had come under pressure for a European Union-funded elections monitoring research program that was based at the university (whose leadership had earlier decided to shut it down). Whatever the case, the university’s professors, students, alumni, friends, and allies mounted a multi-pronged campaign to reopen the university. For their part, EU students organized a series of theatricalized public actions, including the laying of a memorial firehose at a monument to Mikhail Lomonosov, father of modern Russian scholarship, and a folk burlesque play. With their university still closed, their activism then took a natural turn: they decided to hold classes in the street.

Read More

Pavel Arsenev /// Righteous Anger as a Weapon against the Humanities

Posted in #special issue: Knowledge in Action | 0 comments

The Russian Orthodox Church, notorious for its protracted struggle to introduce religious education in public schools, has now become entangled in a property dispute with the Russian State University for the Humanities (Moscow). Some of the university’s classrooms, the church claimed, belonged to the monastery next door. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff when the dispute went to trial, and in April 2008 not only did court bailiffs show up at the university building to reclaim the church’s alleged property, but they were reinforced by a platoon of righteously angry Cossacks. Whereas, with the advent of the modern age, the church imagined the natural sciences as its principal foe, nowadays its righteous anger is directed against the humanities.

The Orthodox Church has for some time now acted as a subject of real estate rather than as a “subject of the spirit.” It is as if the church has given up its greater mission and settled for the role of a player in the commercial field. However, the petty property disputes that it has initiated now should be viewed, rather, as consonant with its spiritual and intellectual pretensions. Besides, the recent measures taken by the church-the most notable of which has been the introduction of religious education in public schools-no longer allow us to ignore the clear fact that it lays claim to cultural hegemony. In the final analysis, this hegemony is an instrument of material interests that might be greater in scale and longer ranging. The secularization of ecclesiastical holdings and the separation of church from state have been steadily advanced from the Enlightenment onwards, and these processes have developed in parallel with scientific progress and the formation of democratic society throughout Europe, including Russia. Now these processes have collided with ultra-reactionary measures on the part of the established church, which once again aspires to a fusion with state power. This business project promises both institutions long-term material gain.

Read More