EN|LT
Space between Self-Organization and Institution Print
Written by Dmitry Vilensky   
Tuesday, 09 December 2008 17:19

And I would prefer to organize it in a form of a seminar - means that I am preparing the set of questions and make a brief comments on them and then offer all of us to discuss it... My presentation will be based on the dialogue that we did together with Redas Diržys few months ago:  

RD: With greatest interest I red your manifesto on political exhibition and so far I am artist used to partake different kinds of the shows first would like to admit that many aspects of the show you’ve described fits to the ideal model I would like to deal with. But would you agree or not I found the model too much utopian and even contradictious because of many factors. First we should admit that the role of the Temporary Artists’ Soviets is nothing else but to seize the power. To what extend it should overtake the power? Curatorial, institutional, that inside of the art system or that of the whole society in general? What is the main goal of the seizing the power?  

DV: First I should say that my idea of the Soviet is not about “to seize the power”. I think that Soviets, as a type of political organization, is still the most challenging model because it non-dialectically embraces two opposite types of power – constituted (power over, force that administrates live) and constituting power – the potentiality in action -  that is enable to permanently invent new forms of political life. So I do not want to speculate too much on the possibilities of crisis governing but I think that idea of the art soviets is about demonstrating that radically different form of organization of cultural production and its dissemination from beurocratic–corporate model is possible. And such a forms organize a sort of situation of clash of powers as once happened during Russian revolution when state power could do nothing without negotiation with local Soviets. But we should also admit that vice versa – Soviets also negotiate many of its activities with real power of state and its institutions and this is exactly the situation where the true politics begin. 

 

RD: Actually I am not so sure about dealing with the institutions in the “classical” sense because usually compromised solutions lead to the new bureaucratic forms instead of new artistic ones (more I meant social role of the arts then stylistic fashions)… and by saying ”to seize the power” I meant re-appropriation of the right for self organization what I found out in your description as” sort of situation of clash of powers”.  

DV: Yes, you are right this risk is high, but we should take it and see how the situation could develop. It is very tactical situation and its tactics is always operational – nobody knows how it could develops but I would definitely question the fetishisation of negation of any form of power and organization. We need a new theory of a crisis situation but we can hardly even imagine a real revolution when the structures of power will be disappearing at once at one great moment of people uprising. From the history we know that it has never happened.  

RD: Especially I like the term “Temporary Artists’ Soviets”. When they should dissolve? Following the line you’ve described in other positions of the manifesto I would see very logic the mechanism as such: to realize the show, to take control over the surplus and disperse it into the future activities (possibly under control of another Temporary Soviet) and then to dissolve. Would you agree with that or I didn’t get the point? Anyway I would like to hear about your position about the real arrangements in the dealings with power by the Soviets.  

DV: The temporality is again a tactical question – or better to say to keep the Soviet as political institution in a state of permanent mobilization. I think it can happen only through temporal reconfiguration of its members and activities. Soviets literally means to undermine the traditional liberal-parliamentary division of labor – between executive and legislative power. Real arrangement? I do not get your point… Just to simplify the whole process – I meant that we – artist and cultural producer must determine what to do and how to work outside the framework of the institutions but then in a realization of our ideas we have to, in these or that form, deal with institution of power but we must try to establish our rules of communication and control. And I think at such a minimum level that things are possible…. 

RD: But did they differ from ordinary bureaucratic board of trustees, which we already know how manipulate with? 

DV: Yes we must be careful because the model that I am talking about has nothing to do with British Art Council or whatever corporate construction that are mimicring for something true democratic. There is a lot of confusion in terms but we should better looks at deeds and analyze a material structures of such a bodies than we’ll see a difference.  

RD: I agree with the quotation from Jacques Ranciere due to the political action how it transforms social, economic, or domestic into political realm, but I would disagree with the possibility of the analogy of this mechanism in the arts. Even in the case of realizing the show “out of place” it continues to deal with the institutionalized notion of art, which is part of the real politics. From that point of view I would like to ask very direct question: what is the main task of the political show – political (counter-cultural) or cultural (institutionalized)? What is the interrelation of the political show with other art shows? What is its relationship with the art world, “serious culture”, institutionalized artistic structures etc?  

DV: I think that it is important to admit that what we are doing in art has very limited and indirect relations to the struggle for social change. For us, it is first of all a debate about the power of art and this issue is inescapably related to aesthetics. Art is still developing historically because of the continued confrontation and struggle between different positions of what art is and what it can be. At the moment, I think that the main front line is situated between exaltation of commodity fetishism as a part of global entertainment industry AND an opposition to these trends articulated through variety of practices based on the idea of aesthetic as an important part of production of common knowledge that should be NOT simply protected from market BUT should attack the market value, demonstrate that “OUTSIDE” is possible and STILL is tangible alternative. So for me the relations are partaking in a quarrel about the power of art and its historical relevance. But I really deny the simple anarchist approach that we can develop the process of differentiations without institutions. So the dispute is how we are not simply negating the art world as it is, but about enunciation that other power is possible and how it should be represented from other types of institution that would be able to demonstrate the difference through the procedure of the truth.  

RD: Due to the addressee of the political art show you wrote that political art should address to the audience different from the traditional art shows. But in general it is usually the question  raised by traditional show organizers – to annex much more minds to be brainwashed. Here I am coming to the same idea of the attack against serious culture what would mean that the addressee of the political art show should be probably the same as for traditional, but the task is to get them back from being addicted to the “real”, institutionalized forms of culture.  

DV: no I think that we are talking about different public – first I suggest in a wake of Soviet avant-garde to destroy the idea of passive privileged public and imagine new co-creator. That means that we subvert the traditional economy of leisure time into productive learning time. And another thing – also important – how we are able to address oppressed people who are ready to fight for their position in society and not take it as granted.  I would like to make a show for angry people not for comfortable new creative class audience – but here I see a real problem of finding them… but in any situation we should consider them as our address…. 

RD: I disagree also with the position of taking over alternate spaces for arranging the political art show – that is exactly the strategy of lets say traditional contemporary art show based on project writing: shows in the ruins, Chechnya biennial arranged by guys from Palace de Tokyo (France) and other stuff by neo-liberal capitalist colonialist formations in art. Also it should be taken into account that all physical space (and even virtual as well) is either institutionalized or privatized. What do you think about more combative strategy of arranging the political shows in the orthodox art spaces and then there would be much more logical the seizing of power by Soviets? Would it to be much more logical to have a task to take over the orthodox art spaces and to try to turn it to the places of common? Instead of doing it vice versa? I would agree on the statement just in the singe case – there are nothing institutionalized left for your activities – you are fired from everywhere… 

DV: I think Redas that we are running into classical disagreement between Marxism and anarchism. My position is not at all against the all types of power and institutions. Let me say it very directly: unless we reach a desirable classless society we always have to think the forms of organization of power. I absolutely on your side in harsh critique of the current institution of power in art and what they produce but I think that you ignore the radical imagination of oppressed that enable them to institute a radically different institution that are based NOT on repressive hierarchical force BUT on democratic dissesus… I am council-communist, not anarchist and these political position determine my envision how art can develop 

RD: If to talk about new esthetic values of the art – could it not happen that the illustrative action proving the social fight isn’t the kind of decoration of civil society? Were is the edge? 

DV – First there are many different approaches to civil society far from a liberal one. And I still  think that approach of Gramshi could be viable too and it is somehow even hidden in a current repressive police order. In these sense the art as political project is a part of these radical imagination of true civil society pregnant with real antagonism and class struggle. There is no art without civil society and public sphere that is part of it. About aesthetic is a very complex and my major interest – but see few of my articles (we can make references to my text…) 

RD: Do you have some idea about ideal place to arrange really effective political show? Should it to be strong artistic center with snobbish audience or absolute periphery with naive and sincere inhabitants?  

DV: for me right now the most interesting places it is a good social centers like ISOLA in Milano… 

I’ve never heard about them, but just because our conversation I’ve checked out their activities what I could find on the Webb… unbelievable – at the moment they are running Chechnya biennial – the same manipulated bullshit I’ve already mentioned above!? 

DV: That’s really bad – I have not heard about it… You are right with all your critique particular about these project – I found it also very disgusting in many ways… You can’t instrumentalize art in a such a stupid way… But I think that it is a our general disagreement with a lot of left-liberal Europeans who are doing more than often a rather bad, aesthetically poor, simply moralistic and bad shows and films.  

RD: Do you imagine the united front of such kind of direct, coordinated and organized political shows?  

DV: I dream about it but also understand how far it is from reality – but I would like to work on its organization - do you joing me?? 

RD: Sure! That is why I am so eager to discuss on the topics! And the final question – is it possible to beat down absolutely immortal artistic ego? It seems that was common and the biggest problem of all revolutionary movements based on artistic experience…artists are very good to evoke and stimulate the revolution, but are very bad in managing with the power – isn’t it? 

DV: It is right not just about artist but working class in general. But artist are petit–bourgeois – they posses their means of production in a very capitalist way and very difficult to radicalize them collectively BUT the radicality of aesthetic, of the history of art make these demand again and again important after all failures. That’s why we always have a feeling that many things are still open….. The struggle is going on together with our love to art and believe in its liberating power.    

 

DMITRY VILENSKY was born in 1964. He is an artist and cultural activist based in St. Petersburg, Russia. In 2003 he initiated the platform “Chto delat?/ What is to be done?”. He is editor of the newspaper Chto delat?/ What is to be done? www.chtodelat.org