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Video documentation from the Forum 2015 Russia vs. Russia. Cultural conflicts. (Russland vs. Russland. Kulturkonflikte) Kunstquartier Kreuzberg / Bethanien Berlin / russland-russland.de  

Coordinate System documentation comes soon…

 

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Alexander Bikbov, sociologist. Born in Moscow, currently living in Moscow and Rome. Current affiliations: Centre for Contemporary Philosophy and Social Sciences at Philosophy Department, Moscow State University, deputy director; Maurice Halbwachs research Center (Paris), associate fellow; interdisciplinary review Logos (Moscow), member of editorial board.Research projects are focused on: civil protests in Russia since 2011, reforms of science and education, structures and practices in the art eld, social imagery and social order, inequalities and social justice, sociology of science and of intellectual world. In 2014 published a book (in Russian) The Grammar of Order: A Historical Sociology of the Concepts That Change Our Reality (Publishing House of Higher School of Economics). Recent publications in international languages include the following articles: The Methodology of Studying “Spontaneous”
Street Activism (2012); Mobilisation à Moscou : ni « manifestations de l’opposition », ni « révolution arabe » (2012); A Strange Defeat: The Reception of Pierre Bourdieu’s Works in Russia (2009); Is Sociology the Same Discipline in Russia and France? A Brief Political Micro-History (2009); Der Begriff ‚Persönlichkeit‘ als Indikator latenter Bürgerlichkeit im ‚spätsozialistischen‘ Sowjet- staat (2008). Participant of several civil initiatives and solidarity campaigns in Russia.

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Between community, media, activism and an art institution. Modalities of the critical in contemporary Russia
The critical mode of artistic thinking comes into being when growing numbers of single artists, authors and communities stop focusing on the global art process with its specific laws and the hierarchy of authorities and instead shift their attentions to the issues they face locally. This is the main difference between modern Russian art – by which, we mean its conventionally “critical” wing – and Soviet non-conformist art. Modern “critical” Russian art is developing as Russian politics is taking a conservative-neoliberal slant, whereas the guid- ing principles of Soviet non-conformism were rooted in the Western system of values and authorities.
At the same time, we need to de ne what we mean by “critical art”. Regardless of the target of criticism – be it the society in general or the system of art in particular – we do not think that only pieces delivering a clear critical message, i.e. critical meaning of a particular work of art, should be considered critical. As it happens, a directly expressed activist message can have diverse effects, quite often contradictory and some- times even completely opposite to the original intention. On the other hand, a “critical“ statement made in a gallery space can often be accused of being too “decorative“, reversing the critical intention, smoothing the antagonism and thereby confirming the status quo. This can happen even when the message actually exposes an instance of social injustice.
This is why it is crucial for us to consider, as critical, even the artistic output that might not be a part of a broad media dis- course or indeed found in a museum or gallery space. “Critical” can mean an artistic gesture that goes beyond a statement made public through the media or galleries. Speaking of the critical, we can also include the activities of constantly emerging and often interconnected communities involved with learning, artistic, educational as well as societal and media initiatives. However, we cannot necessarily speak of their identities as strictly “activist“ ones. Such communities become experimental laboratories for social alternatives and new modes of artistic and public output. At the same time, they create networks that can be easily activated if direct political mobilisation or public civic statement is required. The main point of my speech is that the “critical“ emerges at the intersection of communities, media and everything that can be referred to as “art autonomy“.

Alexandra Novozhenova is an art critic, art historian and lecturer. As an author and an editor she has been and is working for several figure heads in the Russian art media such as Colta.ru, Khudozhestvenniy zhurnal, Artchronika, Vedomosti, A sha, Translit, Openleft, among others. She teaches the his- tory of contemporary art at the Rodchenko Art School. Scholarly interests include Soviet art theory and sociology of Soviet art studies in the 1920s. She lives and works in Moscow.

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Art and Mondial Revolts
As in previous times of transnational public upheavals such as 1968 and 1989, artistic advocates of freedom, from circa 2011 onward, have taken their ideas into full public view. One can point to the prominent role artists played in the revolts that shook the Arab world, as much as in the creative milieu of the Indignados/15M movement in Spain, and the global phenomena of Occupy. Dissenting artistic agents of change have sparked public debate in countries as far apart as China, the US and Europe. Russian contemporary art, too, has figured prominently. This presentation takes a historical and comparative look at these synchronicities and their structural parallels. Firstly, it discusses the historical inversion of ideological markers in the post-Soviet period, which has enabled a global, largely unspoken re-alignment between anti-authoritarian intellectuals. Secondly, it outlines a series of structural parallels between diverse socio-political and cultural contexts, drawing on examples of politicized artists and their work under repressive regimes in Russia, Egypt, Palestine, China and Europe, encountered in the Re-Aligned Project (www.re-aligned.net). If time allows, we will also readdress the issues of the writing of history and the canon and discuss the question of universality with regard to the plural narratives of our time.Ivor Stodolsky is a curator, writer and the co-founding di- rector of the ‘Perpetuum Mobile’ curatorial group based in Germany, Finland and France. He actively curates exhibitions, conferences and events where art and politics are discussed internationally. Engaged in practical, theoretical and literary fields, he is also an editor of diverse publications and lms. Recent initiatives include ‘Pluriculturalism’ (Mod- erna Museet, Malmø); the newspaper ‘The Square’, ‘Back To Square 1’ and ‘To The Square 2’ (Checkpoint Helsinki); ‘The Fourth Roma Gypsy Pavilion’ (Cineromani Berlin); ‘Re-Public’ (Urb Festival, Kiasma, Helsinki); ‘Re-Aligned Art from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus’ (Tromsø Kunstforening); ‘Re-Aligned/ Media Impact’ (Moscow Biennale), as well as many other ‘Perpetuum Mobile’ projects. ‘Perpetuum Mobile’ is a curatorial vehicle he founded together with Marita Muukkonen in 2007. Its ongoing umbrella-projects include the ‘Re-Aligned Project’, the ‘Perpetual Pavilion’, ‘Residencies for Artists at Risk’, ‘Perpetuum Labs’, ‘The Arts Assembly’, ‘SINO-FI’ and the ‘Outside Insiders Project’ (Moderna Museet, Malmø).

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Public Criticism in Today’s Russia, Alliances and Tensions Between Protest and Art Spaces

My last three years have been devoted to a series of research projects, two of which are directly related to the topics of this forum: a study of civil protest in Russia and an analysis of curators’ and managerial practices in art.
The first of the research projects draws from a series of interviews with participants of the protest rallies, taken in the thick of the demonstration. The second project delivers a description of practices employed in the silence of bureaucratic offices or in the gallery space, rather than in the urban environment. However, there are energetically and ethically charged tangential points between these two spaces. Otherwise, why has the political right chosen to target contemporary art with its criticism in an attempt to restore the moral order? What is the connection between critical (left) art and public protest? And finally, how does critical art institutionalise the gap between protest and activist art aesthetics?
These questions imply that art comes with high public expectations that are sometimes fulfilled and sometimes betrayed under the pressure of the professional circumstances of the art market. The critical faction of the contemporary art scene ascribes to it- self the power of emancipation. However, both the public and officialdom perceive art as a powerful and dangerous force, un- fettered by the ethos of patriotic loyalty. Do artists satisfy such expectations operating in dual mode, as activists and market agents? What happens when particular activist and street practices become a subject of media or gallery consecration as art events? Can contemporary art avoid compromises brought about by political reaction (specifically in Russia and generally internationally)? Is it possible for political expression to proceed without neutralization when it is translated into an author’s gesture? Can this happen without the inevitable losses and unexpected additions that occur during the process of transfer from the collective resources of public criticism to the copyrighted gesture of an individual artist in the art market?

Alexander Bikbov, sociologist. Born in Moscow, currently living in Moscow and Rome. Current affiliations: Centre for Contemporary Philosophy and Social Sciences at Philosophy Department, Moscow State University, deputy director; Maurice Halbwachs research Center (Paris), associate fellow; interdisciplinary review Logos (Moscow), member of editorial board.Research projects are focused on: civil protests in Russia since 2011, reforms of science and education, structures and practices in the art eld, social imagery and social order, inequalities and social justice, sociology of science and of intellectual world. In 2014 published a book (in Russian) The Grammar of Order: A Historical Sociology of the Concepts That Change Our Reality (Publishing House of Higher School of Economics). Recent publications in international languages include the following articles: The Methodology of Studying “Spontaneous”
Street Activism (2012); Mobilisation à Moscou : ni « manifestations de l’opposition », ni « révolution arabe » (2012); A Strange Defeat: The Reception of Pierre Bourdieu’s Works in Russia (2009); Is Sociology the Same Discipline in Russia and France? A Brief Political Micro-History (2009); Der Begri ‚Persönlichkeit‘ als Indikator latenter Bürgerlichkeit im ‚spätsozialistischen‘ Sowjet- staat (2008). Participant of several civil initiatives and solidarity campaigns in Russia.

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’Monstration’ as means of neutralising state propaganda

In the last year, media landscape in Russia was filled by the state propaganda, whereby state authorities have been using the media to raise hysteria around the events in Ukraine in an attempt to distract public attention from the political and economic problems – blaming the ‘West’, with its supposed aim to destroy Russia, instead. Society is highly polarised. Conflicts between those who believe what they see on TV and those who do not watch it manifest themselves not only in the verbal battles on the Internet, but also in the workplace and even within the family.
Naturally, these circumstances make critical art messages appear as one of a broad menu of excuses for continuing this hysterical dividing up into ‘ours’ and ‘alien ones’ eagerly served by the media.
Among possible strategies used to preserve the existence of critical art statements could be the refusal to use political markers, non-participation in the binary contradiction ‘authorities vs. opposition’, ‘double backing’; and balancing between the satire and seriousness.
The annual Monstration that takes place on 1 May might serve as an illustration here. It is a mass art action in form of a demonstration with statements invented by participants. Statements printed on the banners are usually absurd and apolitical, e.g. ‘I won’t do this anymore’, ‘Arrrrgh!’, ‘Who’s there?’ etc. This way, Monstration questions the ‘serious’ political statements, bringing them to the levels of travesty and responds to the covert absurdity of propaganda with its overtly absurd statements.
Another example of the ideologeme neutralisation could be the ‘March for the Federalisation of Siberia’ that did not take place for formal reasons. The call for the march used the principles of state rhetoric regarding the interrelations between
the regions in Ukraine transferred to the situation between the regions of Russia. The authorities’ unusually harsh reaction only stressed the fact that by pressing criminal charges of separatism they provided a striking feedback on their own foreign policy.

Artem Loskutov. The artist and media activist from Novosibirsk is one of the organizers of ‘Monstration’, the annual satirical May Day march, taking place in Novosibirsk. He is also the author of the ‘Oil for Nothing’ documentary (2011) and other projects related to the shaping of Siberian identity.

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The School of Engaged Art Chto Delat’ – Work Experience

In my report I would like to share our experiences gained in the organisation, methodology and work of the Chto Delat’ School of Engaged Art in its function as an experimental initiative in radical education and an attempt to create a sustain- able structure that can be a factor in the qualitative change in the artist communities of St. Petersburg and Russia.
The School of Engaged Art is a project taking a further step in the long-term practical work by the Chto Delat’ collective which is focused on creating educational initiatives; in the on-going situation where the public domain in Russia is being destroyed, it is one of the possible responses to the general inability to continue developing institutions based on critical thought.
Which kind of art education is most needed in Russian con- text, in the current situation where basic democratic freedoms are endangered and violence in society is approaching a critical level? We have a situation where any form of support for independent critical culture is lacking and academic curricula on contemporary art are virtually non-existent.
We believe that art can and must go hand in hand with all the painful transformation processes in the society; that it is important today to practice art that does not hide behind the security of institutional ghettos and conformity of curricula. It is important for art to free itself from the formalist approach regarding political and social questions, to be capable of addressing a broad audience instead of a tiny group of professionals who can understand linguistic sophistry. In order to achieve this, we need to accumulate the knowledge from different subject areas with the aim to use this knowledge in the most unorthodox manner.
We need to cross poetry and sociology, choreography and street politics, art history and militant studies, queer science and dramatic theatre, political econfd art as a mis- sion and so on.
Our School is also special because it openly declares that it is true to the left eld tradition of modernist art and at the same time tries to avoid any dogmatism in its political approach. We want to experiment with true practices of equality and liberation that are still alive despite all the traps set by the current political situation. To achieve this, it is crucial to demonstrate a sustainable alternative to the private interests of oligarchs and corporations, to the senseless machinery of mass entertainment and harsh suppression. Art is a common cause – as indeed are true politics – and ten years of our activities have been based precisely on this principle. The same can be said of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, an institution that supported our initiative. Now is the time to establish these ideas in educational practices.

Dmitry Vilensky (*1964 in Leningrad) is an artist and educator. He mostly works in collectives with a focus on developing large-scale architectural constructions, educational seminars and games, graphic works and lms. Не is the founding member of Chto Delat’ (What is to be done?), a platform developed in 2003 by a collective of artists, critics, philosophers, and writers with the goal of merging political theory, art, and activism. Vilensky is also an editor of the Chto Delat’ news- paper and the main facilitator of the School of Engaged Art in St. Petersburg. His recent exhibitions and performances with Chto Delat’ include the São Paulo Biennial 2014; ‘Re- ally Useful Knowledge’ at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Madrid); ‘Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making 1789–2013’ at Tate Liverpool; ‘Summer Festival’ at Kampnagel (Hamburg); ‘FORMER WEST: Documents, Constellations, Prospects’, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin, 2013); 10th Gwangju Biennial (Gwangju, 2012); ‘Chto Delat in Baden-Baden’, Staatliche Kunsthalle (Baden-Baden, 2011); ‘Chto Delat Perestroika: Twenty Years After: 2011-1991’, Kölnischer Kunstverein (Cologne, 2011); ‘Ostalgia’, New Muse- um (New York, 2011); ‘Study, Study and Act Again’, Moderna Galerija (Ljubljana, 2011); ‘The Urgent Need to Struggle’, Institute of Contemporary Art (London, 2010). Vilensky contributes articles to various art magazines and participates in symposia and conferences. He acts as guest lecturer at numerous international art academies. chtodelat.org

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