Oleg Kireev on Thu, 13 Aug 1998 03:10:01 +0400 (WSU DST)

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Syndicate: english mailradek no.1

Moscow-based magazine "Radek", dedicated to theory, art and politics would
like to evoke a theoretical discussion, which the members of the "Syndicate"
net could take part in. To achieve this, we begin an irregular delivery of
texts concerning current political and cultural problems. These are mostly
short essays by the editors Anatoly Osmolovsky and Oleg Kireev, which we
have already been distributing in Russian in the frames of the "mailradek"
project. But we'd like to anticipate them by several larger articles on
theoretical subjects. 
Our address is: Russia 117333 Moscow, Vavilova 48-237, for O.Kireev.
tel./fax:(095) 137 71 31, 
WEBsite: http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Coffeehouse/1457.

Hi Syndicalists, 
this text might seem late - the "Shaking hands & making conflicts"
conference took place in April - but it concludes some points, which might
be interesting till now.

Oleg Kireev
A few examples that art is more significant than it pretends to be

In struggle for cultural hegemony in the Baltic region Stockholm has the
most chances to win. Of course,it would be strange if it could be confronted
by some Tallinn, Helsinki or St.Petersburg. Looks like the struggle has been
won long before. UNESCO has already called it "The cultural capital-1998".
Nevertheless, words about "struggle" and "competition" are still reiterated
in the Swedish capital like some sort of incantation - most likely, the more
frequently they are reiterated, the more there are reasons to convince the
authorities into giving money and paying attention. Like an idol of Justice,
the authority doesn't look at any faces and gifts everyone depending on his
deserts. Just like authority is supposed to do, it believes the opinions of
"experts" and assigns money in their disposal - yet another example that
cultural world isn't as innocent and romantic in its talks about "sovereign
territory of art" as it pretends to be.

The circle of those who deal with these money in Stockholm is not very
large. They are several people who spend their time in three or four
expensive artistic restaurants. One can notice taciturn, yet very charming
Jan Oman - the chief curator of exhibition space Faergfabrikken - one of the
largest cultural centers of the city, who is, besides, deeply interested in
contacts with the russian art. One of the largest centers is situated away
from the center of the city in a huge building, the former paintings plant.
Industrial urbanistic aesthetic gives the place a profitable
underground-like nuance. The true peak of his career was when two Moscow
artists Oleg Kulik and Alexander Brener set up a scandal at the INTERPOL
exhibition which took place there. Not a magnificient one - they did a
plenty before - but Oman extracted everything he could from the chance and
informed the whole art world about his unwillingness to work with "russian
fascists" anymore - yet another example that not only the heroes of the
scandal but also their associates can benefit from it.

But Oman's collaboration with russian fascists didn't come to end at this
point, and approximately a year after INTERPOL Leonid Tishkov, the
cartoonist who is least known as a contemporary arsist, was invited to
Faergfabrikken. He suddenly began dealing with contemporary art some years
ago and even constructed several installations at different exhibitional
spaces. Serious and politically significan event - the symposium "Shaking
hands and making conflicts" - was made around his new project, which had
been performed in another new genre. It was "The Dabloid", dramatics put up
with the Swedish actors' help, performed in Swedish, in worst traditions of
a perestroikian students' party. The event was sponsored not by the Ministry
of Finance, but by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - another example that
happy life of art boheme is not only the pastime of nice restaurant
frequenters, but also the object of investments from those who benefit from
their pastime, those who recieve nuts-and-bolts political dividends from them.

What makes an event that would look like a bad-taste mishap in other
circumstances, which would be performed in Moscow without even a review in
papers, seem culturally and politically significant? The problem's in the
absolute unconvertability of conditions, which include language, audience,
the level of conceptual understandability of a performance. Just like
Duchamp's "profane object", the transformation from the Moscow to
Stockholmian context makes "The Dabloid" a came-off artefact, which doesn't
require judgement anymore, but deserves to be exposed and stored. From the
late capitalism point of view, an artwork deserves capital invesments
instead of being stored in museum. Like in Duchamp's case, one is shocked by
randomicity, through which just one object is chosen from a legion, and the
choice isn't affected by the former status of the object. As Barbara van der
Linden invited Bogdan Mamonov to "Manifesta" after visiting Moscow, so did
Oman, marking Tishkov by his demiurgical gesture from chaotic diversity of
Russian faces. I wonder if the unsuccessfull attempt of "national
representation" through dirty Russian folk magnificiently played by Swedish
actors (in quilted jackets, hats with earflaps and kerchiefs - these all are
pieces of russian folk clothing) was the reason? Unsophisticated taste of a
Westerner who had never seen any perestroikian amateur activities, satyrists
and district KVNs (Club of Humorous and Inventive)? Or just an enjoyable
acquaintance at a restaurant?

Thus anything, or nearly anything connected with art appears to be extremely
ocassional: Leonid Tishkov, dabloids at the chemical paints plant, Katherine
David, Martha Rossler and Joseph Kosut's talk-ins, mixed with minister of
culture and foreign affairs vice-minister's speeches, a few words on the
"INTERPOL" scandal, which the organizers said pro forma and quickly
finished. Why did some officers of state appear and talk utter nonsense
about culture, that transforms people's consciousness and that only art can
save hope for the future during the hard crisis of all values? Whom did they
speak before and why did they waste time?

There are some conjectures. Undoubtedly, the whole "Shaking hands..." was
but a ceremonial spectacle accompanying the main and the unadvertised plot:
receiving money for one of the steps of the state program "Stockholm -  the
cultural capital of Europe", which is connected with establishing a regional
hegemony. Several characters involved in this story must have arranged it in
a definite way - like definite companies and holdings cannot just extract
money from things and need some additional tricks like establishing daughter
enterprises. So why was it arranged like that? Why so much waste of time and

For greed cannot be uncovered in the late capitalism society. The grade of
state capitalism has reached the level when capital is excessed and the
excess needs to be realized into unthrifty investments. These are
investments into superstructural area, the culture, for they facilitate the
accumulation of the new, late capitalist kind of capital - the symbolic
capital. Late capitalism imposes a tax on every dealing within the financial
affairs, which means allocations for symbolic valuables. For the area of
economic affairs isn't solid, it may be divided into two parts: the zone of
capital accumulation (which means constant lack of capital) and the zone of
capital squandering, which means performances, profiles, symbolical
investments and reputation. But this zone is prone to emansipation and
liberation from the zone of capital accumulation's order. Unlike the latter
with its relations of profits and selfish means, this one is the world of
idealism, self-forgetfulness, childish spontaneity and pleasant joys. It's a
spectacle, which heroes behave as though they are from a soap opera. As Guy
Debord said, "The spectacle is not a collection of images; rather, it is a
social relationship between people that is mediated by images.". The
"Cultural capital" program itself is caused by the same
"where-can-i-waste-my-money" problem. It's all Oman's charming urban
manners, his friends, and the vice-minister for foreign affairs Pierre Shori
is among them. Certainly, he had things to do in his ministry when he  was
brilliantly speaking at Faergfabrikken! I won't be surprised if i find out
that their conference honorariums weren't too high. They are already inside
the spectacle! And the Minister for culture undoubtedly knows when to be
charming and when to refuse funding to those who are politically less
significant that Oman. Mind who deserves to be let in the wonderful world of
vernissages and banquettes!

Concerning this, the matter of the unfeatured cast of the spectacle is
actual. Tishkov, who probably used to think the whole stuff was around his
art, can be satisfied with his honorarium. But several participants of the
conference were interested in the events. They were mostly young men from
the countries Sweden competes for cultural hegemony with. The spectacle is
always connected with representation, and, in order to gather audience, the
actors exposed their best human attributes before the "poor ones", whom they
brought in abundance. The "poor ones" were present as walk-ons, received
their small pieces of Swedish excesses such as hotel rooms, daily allowances
and other kinds of free stuff and were watching the whole thing for four or
five days. The only ones who didn't agree to take part in the spectacle, in
the parade of courtesy of the refined intellectuals from the cultural
capital, were the accidental guests from countries of Eastern Europe,
yammering from constant lack of everything after the break-up of the
Socialist Encampment, from the Jugoslavian war and from the constant threat
of new lacks. Some of them can be described using the formalist term
"estrangement", characterizing a person unfamiliar with the situation,
watching it uncomprehendingly like a child (barbarian, madman) - similar to
many of Rousseau or Tolstoy's characters. These people couldn't understand
their humble part in the spectacle, and they either wanted something more or
were astonished by cultural hegemons' way of living. A Belarussian woman,
the local human rights activist, demonstrated extreme lunacy by detecting
three Lukashenko's spies at the conference and supposed that the institutors
translate Vasil Bykov instead of wasting money on Tishkov. The young
intellectuals from Eastern Europe acted in another way, disturbing the
conference's peace by their sudden and intruding activity. Artists,
criticians and curators cooperated by the "Syndicate" virtual net, read
their "Manifest" aloud, and the red-bearded Makedonian reader Melentiie was
really much more charming than the smiling institutors.

"This is a first draft of the Partnership for Culture Plan... We are
interested in developing a partnership with the most able players in the
market for cultural domination in the Baltic region. The main question
behind this plan is something that should be the central concern of our
prospective partners. The question is, how to achieve cultural supremacy in
the Baltic Region... First of all, you have to define an exportable national
mythology. Rewrite the history of the region, and construct a joint history
and cultural heritage for the Baltic Region. Create special funds that
support research and performance opportunities for the common heritage and
folk culture of the Baltic Region... Consider the definition of strong new
enemies that binds your Partners for Culture together... Harmonise your
strategies on the economic, cultural and potentially military field. Some of
these harmonisation efforts can be supported by corporate sponsorship,
because your corporate partners will have the same interest as you have...
Make sure that you are in control of the conspiracy theories that circulate
about your activities. Create the illusion of an improvement of the general
standard of living that is viewed as a result of your investment and
generosity. Use existing economic enterprises, especially your major
national companies, in your expansionist strategies... Create a Trans-Baltic
university that has its headquarters on your home territory... Pay great
attention to the development of linguistic supremacy... When inviting your
partners, make sure that they have a good time and get drunk at the party.
Generosity gives you high returns in the long run.Last but not least,
organise a series of large conferences for artists and intellectuals from
the whole region and make sure that the main idea of your cultural mission
is communicated to these ambassadors of your cause!.. This plan has been
developed on the basis of the existence of a democratic, pluralist and
republican constitution. It is possible to adapt it to the
needs of partners who favour monarchic political structures, but we have
found that democracy is much easier to sell when you are looking at open
market models like our's."

 (And after the reading the commere smiled somewhat stressfully and
adressing the syndicalists, said in an exhortative tone that they had
supposedly missed all the meeting and at the moment were brassily reading
something before the people whom they didn't know at all; and this was
already an insolent lies).
project: Anatoly Osmolovsky
translation: Alexey Kovalev
realization: Syndicate
project: Anatoly Osmolovsky, Oleg Kireev
translation: Alexey Kovalev
realization: Syndicate