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This is a chronological summary of the events surrounding Suzana Milevska’s case according to information received by ArtLeaks. For more background information please read here, here and here. Milevska is currently free from her contract with the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. She was not allowed to resign as she requested, nor did she receive any explanation or apology from the Academy or the Erste Foundation.
The first open call for Endowed Professorship for Central and South Eastern European Art Histories was advertised by the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna on www.artandeducation.net at the end of January 2013. The position was advertised as a partnership between the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and the Erste Foundation. The text of the call emphasized the discipline of art history in the title, and interest in the region, as well as knowledge of local languages for first hand research, the period after 1960s and interest in feminist and postcolonial theories. The job was unique opportunity for professionals from the CSEE to come to Vienna, and to both design and teach this very specific course. The call was widely circulated. Suzana Milevska received it and applied, as she thought her CV was fitting to this description, and a short list and interview were mentioned.
Suzana Milevska was informed in April 2013 that she was selected without any mention of a short list or interviews, etc. The position was the first such chair – it’s an area study within the discipline of art history and with a focus on feminist and postcolonial studies. Since she had BA (from Skopje) and MA (from Prague) in contemporary art history, and her PhD from Goldsmiths in Gender Difference in the Balkans (published) had a strong postcolonial and feminist perspective there were no any critical comments. The contract she signed with the Academy of Fine Arts was a 10 month contract and implied 45 hours of lectures and/or seminars. The course was one semester optional course to which anybody could apply. The first semester there were 44 students enrolled from different years and levels of study (BA, MA, even PhD).
In January 2014 the contract with Suzana Milevska was prolonged (the previous contract would have ended in July 2014) until May 2015 after she was asked if she would like to continue teaching. No competition was advertised because everybody agreed that it would not be ethical to mislead the other professors – prospective applicants from the region to apply when it was clear the professors would vote for Suzana Milevska.
Suzana Milevska was disinvited from giving the keynote speech at the Ceremony of the Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory established by the ERSTE Fondation. Just a couple of months before the event, Milevska was disinvited with a justification that the programme changed (although she thought it was implied that the previous winner delivers this speech in the honor of the new winner, since Piotr Piotrovski delivered such a speech in Warsaw at her award ceremony). This coincided with the big restructuring of the Erste Foundation’s administration and management structure – when the whole line of management-the Directors of the programs including the Culture Program were simply erased. Three people on such high positions were removed without replacement.
On 16 December Suzana Milevska asked the Dean of the Academy whether she was eligible to reapply. She received a confident answer from the Rector via the Dean that she was eligible, as was anybody else. The new call was almost exactly the same as the first one, only the duration was changed, and it was advertised as a position for 2 years (which was never the case before). It was not specified if Suzana Milevska as the first (and the only previous professor) had the right to re-apply again, this time or ever again. Suzana Milevska confirmed for ArtLeaks that she was told not to apply with the words “Don’t!” by the Vice Rector Andrea B. Braidt with no mention of any rule, including the 2-year change.
The Dean Ruth Sonderegger encouraged her to apply, even telling her directly that the ‘Don’t!’ was a kind of mobbing, and so finally she decided to apply. In February Milevska already knew that she was voted unanimously from her professor colleagues. Although they were not supposed to tell her this, some of them were very happy and called her home, even the Dean to congratulate her.
The rejection e-mail message from the recruitment agency of the Academy arrived on 17 March and came as a shock to Milevska: it just stated that it was very difficult to make the decision. Strangely the rejection came only a half a day after her enquiry about the results of the competition at the Erste Foundation, because after 3 months of applying and a month after knowing that her application was selected she hadn’t received any answer. In this conversation she was invited to meet with the team to explain to her that Erste Foundation preferred a new professor. When Suzana asked who would be on the team she was told that Erste Foundation curator Christiane Erharter was a part of it (although she hadn’t been before, and was not supposed to be involved in the professorship selection because of her civil partnership with Vice-Rector Andrea B. Braidt, who was responsible for the Professorship on the side of the Academy of Fine Art). Only then Milevska realized that something changed radically after the restructuring of the Erste Foundation: that the Vice-Rector’s partner who was never supposed to be involved in the structure related to the professorship after the firing of the program director of the Culture Program, had suddenly became a member of the team dealing with the professorship. This was a direct conflict of interest.
Suzana Milevska then stopped communicating with the Erste Foundation’s coordinators and curators at that point, and she sent her letter of withdrawal to the Director of the Erste Foundation, Franz Karl Prueller. In his reply he denied any involvement from the Erste Foundation in the decision of the Academy-unfortunately for him it was too late-his employees already slipped and told Milevska bluntly that it was the Foundation that preferred the new professor.
Immediately after the rejection on March 17th Milevska sent a letter of resignation stating Act 11 from her contract (stating that the resignation conditions apply as for Article 23), that in her view would have allowed to her to give her resignation with one month notice. She stated that she cannot understand the rejection decision because she was confident in her application, and that she was never told about the 2-year change rule. The answer that came directly from the Rector was shocking – it stated that the decision was based on the 2-year change rule and stated ‘As you know’ –it was the very same Rector who sent the message that she was eligible just 3 months earlier!
For more information please follow the following links:
First open call to the competition January 2013
First announcements of the selection (ERSTE, Academy of Fine Arts, artandeducation.net)
Second announcement for the Extended position (artandeducation, Academy of Fine Arts) May 2014
Igor Zabel Award Announcement
Second open call December 2014
Second announcement April 2015
Apology letter to the students and the students’ petition “Free Suzana Milevska”
Freedom Milevska Facebook Group
Free Suzana Facebook Event, April 22nd, Schillerpark Vienna
Apology letter Vis Veritas Obses
Vis Veritas Obses 2
Disobedient (Reasons for resignation)
What Happens when You Try to do a Performance about Migration in a EU Country when Most Members of the Ensemble are from Outside the EU
Jul 3, 2015 — We’re bitterly disappointed that the refusal of the visit visas for the Georgian group has not been overturned. These are talented performers and theatre makers who would have made a most distinctive contribution to FLARE15, as well as benefiting from being a part of the international community of artists that Flare is bringing together. The fact is that we have been denied the chance to host some great new artists from a country outside the EU, simply because they were unable to prove they have secure financial backgrounds. The removal of the right of appeal for visit visas in 2012 has been interpreted by this Conservative government as removing any chance of considering other ways of assessing what is fair and right in a situation like this.
The amount of support the group attracted, from the government of Georgia and a host of arts organizations in Tblisi to the Arts Council of England and the over 1600 signatories on this petition, proved as much as any financial background information that these are not people set on becoming illegal immigrants.
We are immensely grateful for the wide support that this case attracted, and understand it led to a third review of the facts of the case by the Home Office, which is apparently without precedent.
We are also very pleased that Mareike Wenzel, the group’s Berlin based director will still be joining the 22 other theatre groups and solo artists coming to Flare, and are currently in discussion with her to present a video (possibly Skype) installation based on the piece and the attempt to get it here.
Together with six young Georgian artists (Ana Chaduneli, Tamar Chaduneli, Tamara Gobronidze, Ana Jikia, Gvantsa Jishkariani and Nata Kipiani) I have been invited to create a performance for FLARE15 Festival, in Manchester, UK. Everything had been arranged – flights were reserved, rehearsals were scheduled, the festival announced the program featuring our performance – which is going to deal with the situation of migrants in Western Europe and particularly in the UK – the only thing missing were the visas for the Georgian artists. I myself am in the privileged situation of being able to travel almost everywhere with my German passport, without having to spend hours at embassies, writing down every personal detail about my life, and of course justifying the numbers on my bank statements. So in the end 1000 Euros were paid as application fee for all visas, the most intimate and ridiculous questions answered in the visa application form, a personal interview at a visa office gone through – including the woman conducting the interview mocking the members of the group for their financial situation – finally all documents were sent to the British Embassy in Ankara (that is why a single application instead of 90 Euro costs 200 Euro if applying from Georgia, sending papers is expensive).
We were all aware of the fact that the UK has very strict visa regulations, but we didn’t expect that our performance would become reality even before entering the UK. In the end all we wanted to do is show a performance at a festival that had invited us.
To make it short – all visas were denied on the sole reason that the artists don’t have enough money in their bank accounts. I am not sure what would be considered a sufficient amount, but I suppose the amount that my bank statement is currently showing surely wouldn’t. Still, no one denied me entry into the UK. But a group of artists that has been officially invited to an international theatre festival in Manchester, instead of a visa, got a note in their passports stating that the person checking their visa application is of the opinion that their application is not genuine, and that the intent behind their visa application is to illegally stay in the UK and possibly apply for social benefits. By saying that, they basically criminalized the artists by suggesting that they must be lying. Quote from refusal letter: “…I am not satisfied that you are a genuine visitor to the UK and will leave the UK at the end of your visit or that you have sufficient funds available to cover your costs whilst in the UK without working or accessing public funds…” So what else can you do to prove that the sole intend of your visit is to do a performance at festival, if even a signed statement from the festival doesn’t seem to be credible from the perspective of the visa office?
The festival’s artistic director has been great and has tried to support us in every way possible, calling and writing to everyone possible in order to change the visa decision. So far it has been without success, as the visa office’s only offer is to either file an official appeal which takes six months to one year, or to reapply. Reapplying would also mean again paying a visa fee of altogether more than 1000 Euros. We already paid that sum for the first application, which of course is non-refundable. Even if we were to reapply, we would again send in the same documentation stating that the festival is taking care of everything including making sure everyone leaves the UK afterwards. How is it possible to run an international art festival and work inter-culturally, if everyone outside the European Union first has to prove that they are rich enough in order to be allowed to participate?
I met this group of artists, when I was teaching them performance, and from this a collaboration developed. This kind of collaboration is normally praised in every leaflet published by the EU: collaborating across borders, inter-culturally, connecting people, raising important questions on current issues, etc. But considering the current visa legislations and procedures these terms simply remain empty shells. It is not possible to actually fill these terms with life, because this is actually not desired. We like to talk about freedom, but artists’ freedom from outside the EU stops at the EU borders. How can I teach students in Georgia, showing them possibilities for their artistic career, when I have to inform them about their limitations all the time? How can I initiate an artistic exchange, if in the end that only means that I can travel somewhere on EU funds but I shouldn’t consider inviting artists back? We are living in hypocritical times, when terms like “freedom” and “choice” are abused, while the powers that be constantly deny the fact that these terms have become stand-ins for “restriction” and “privileged selectiveness”.
To be continued…
For more updates on the case please follow the FB Page Welcome
At the court hearing, only the plaintiff (Volodymyr Kuznetsov) and his representative (the lawyer) were present. The other people involved in the case did not present themselves before the court, although they had been duly informed. On May 19th, a request was filed by the third party (N. Zabolotnaya) and her representative to postpone examining the details of case to another date. The hearing was then adjourned to June 30.
The lawsuit of Volodymyr Kuznetsov against the State Enterprise Mystetskyi Arsenal begins on 21 May 2015 in Kyiv Pechersk District Court. The artist says the action relates to the destruction of the artwork “Koliivshyna. The Last Judgement”. In July 2013, it was painted over with black paint at the order of the Mystetskyi Arsenal’s Director [Nataliya Zabolotna].
Volodymyr Kuznetsov is requesting the following:
1. Recognize the actions of the State Enterprise “National Cultural Art and Museum Complex “Mystetskyi Arsenal” of painting over the work by Volodymyr Kuznetsov “Koliivshyna. The Last Judgement” as unlawful and a breach of intellectual property rights of the author.
2. Recover 1,000 (one thousand) hryvnas 00 kopiyka in damages and 121,800 (one hundred twenty one thousand eight hundred) hryvnas 00 kopiyka for material damages from the State Enterprise “National Cultural Art and Museum Complex “Mystetskyi Arsenal”.
3. Require the State Enterprise “National Cultural Art and Museum Complex “Mystetskyi Arsenal” to publish, at their own cost, information about the breach of copyright in regard to Volodymyr Kuznetsov, the grounds for this breach as well as corresponding apologies in mass media, in particular in Ukrainska Pravda within a 2 (two) month period starting from the date the court decision is enacted.
4. Obligate the State Enterprise “National Cultural Art and Museum Complex “Mystetskyi Arsenal” to pay related legal costs.
Volodymyr Kuznetsov Oleksandrovych
Defender: State Enterprise “National Cultural Art and Museum Complex “Mystetskyi Arsenal”, third party: Nataliya Zabolotna Pylypivna
on recognition of unlawful actions, compensation of moral damage and payment of compensation for copyright breach
42A Khreshatyk Str., Kyiv, Kyiv oblast, 1001
“This is not a question of personal relationship or personal attitudes. I accepted the personal apology of the Arsenal’s Head and forgave the insult. However, the thing here is not about apologies, but about addressing the public with a social and political gesture. With this trial, I want to draw public attention to the problem of artist-institution relations and to the legal vulnerability of the workers in the arts and culture when dealing with culture functionaries,” said Kuznetsov.
The artist believes that the trial will initiate positive changes in the cultural field and will help to build fairer and clearer relations with workers in the arts and institutions. “I also want to raise questions about the narrowing interpretation of the notion of censorship in our country, about the lack of legal obligations even in state exhibition spaces, not to mention the private galleries,” Volodymyr Kuznetsov believes. In his opinion, since there is no clear definition of censorship in Ukrainian law, the trial that he initiates will allow to classify future censorship issues more clearly.
Link to the full text in Ukrainian and Russian:
For more background on this case read Ukrainian Museum Director Destroys Critical Painting Ahead Of President’s Visit.
For more background into this case please read: Suzana Milevska // VIS VERITAS OBSES (Truth Is the Hostage of Force) and Suzana Milevska // VIS VERITAS OBSES (2).
22 April, Schillerpark, Vienna
Information distributed to the students who attended the meeting requesting more information from Prof. Dr. Suzana Milevska regarding the course for Central and South Eastern European Art Histories, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.
Dear students, thank you for your support and for coming to the Schillerpark. Some of you requested more information about the reasons for my resignation when you received the student’s campaign and petition Free Suzana (in support to my request to your Academy of Fine Arts Vienna for one sided premature termination of my contract).
Things became awkward already in November last year, when the Erste Foundation never mentioned my name as the previous winner of the Igor Zabel Award for Theory and Culture at the Award Ceremony for the new Igor Zabel Award. Moreover they even disinvited me from giving a key note speech at the Ceremony (usually given by the previous winner), to which I was originally invited as the 2012 Igor Zabel award’s winner. Yet I was not aware of any specific issues with either the Erste Foundation or the Academy of the Fine Arts Vienna, and even now I am not sure what triggered all the disrespect that I and my work suffered at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (unless the plan was to replace me, but how could I have known this?). Now the Erste Foundation that founded my position in partnership with the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna claims that it’s only the Academy’s decision (read: Rectorate) to select the new Professor (see: Apology letter from 12 April).
However, I have many reasons to believe that, in fact, it was a mismanaged deal between the Erste Foundation and the Academy and I hope to be able to prove this problematic intrusion of the founder’s in the academic autonomy during this meeting. Because in all correspondence with the Rectorate, the Rector and the two Vice-Rectors always have the last word, and I am treated as a liar and my voice is overwritten on so many different levels it became impossible to me to teach and believe in this academic structure, and in the promise for a dialogue behind this position. During this meeting I want to put emphasis on the dangers to my integrity and self-respect that eventually led to defamation and thus forced me to ask for resignation. The most important points of the conflict are that:
1. On 16 December 2014 – the Rectorate answered that I am eligible to apply [for the Endowed Professorship for Central and South Eastern European Art Histories at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna], after I asked via the Dean of the Institute for Art Theory and Cultural Studies where I taught (evidence number 1).
2. On 16 December, the same day when they might have realised that they made a mistake or omission, they threatened me not to apply before I applied (in an accidental meeting the Vice-Rector quoted some financial reasons that later turned not true-again, the rotation rule was never mentioned)-my testimony and the Dean’s testimony for the same quote confirm the consistence of this story.
3. Obviously, only later they decided that I am not eligible, behind closed doors, when the decision was already made, and this cannot be legal (it should have been in the call)
4. When the professors selected me, the Rector decided to appoint another candidate on the basis of a rotation rule that was never written before, and without informing even the professors (why then would have they voted for me, if they knew? and why would have I applied, if they had ever told me that I didn’t have the right to apply?).
5. When I asked why my application was rejected the Rector answered that ‘I knew’ about the rotation rule, and that this was implied (so I was either stupid or a liar) (evidence number 2)- so my question is how could I know when this was not mentioned in the call, not in the contract? (not to mention that when I asked, the Rector told our Dean that I could apply). So how could I know something that at that time nobody knew? However, the official explanation is still that ‘I knew’ about the a posteriori rule all this time so this implies that I am either stupid, clairvoyant or arrogant.
6. The first year I had a contract for 10 months, then it was prolonged for 10 more months -I never had a contract for 2 years. The Rector wrote that 2 year rule change was implied – implied means that something was always the same and obvious. In my case, they kept changing the rules (evidence number 1,2, 3-previous calls and the definition of Endowed professorship-don’t mention any 2 year rule, but only excellence in theoretical contributions, teaching records and other academic merits.
7. The first time that I’ve heard any explanation about the reasons for my rejection was on 17 December during a phone call with the Erste Foundation, when one of the coordinators of the Professorship (with no university degree) informed me that it was their preference to get a new Professor (so it was clear who’s decision the selection was). I was invited to discuss this with the other team members of the Programme Culture, regardless of direct conflicts of interest – because of family relations between an Erste Foundation’s curator, and the person responsible for the professorship at the Academy. I withdrew from such a meeting for obvious reasons: to avoid yet another stressful situation and entering the vicious circle of conflict of interests.
8. Now the most important is that after all this the Editorial Board (consisting of the Rector and two Vice-Rectors) are trying to censor my book On Productive Shame, Reconciliation and Agency. I believe that they are trying to punish me for disobeying (just because I applied? and was selected, and objected that they selected the second on the list without proper legal or academic reasons). The Rectorate heavily disrespected my work (and my contributors’ work) by putting footnotes in my reader (without my knowledge and consent), they changed the cover image that I proposed for being too controversial – namely, a work by Sanja Iveković, Disobedient (Reasons for Imprisonment) from Documenta 13 to which I referred in my introduction as to the most inspiring work for the book’s concept). They’ve even given my book (or just a text, who’d know?) to a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts who hasn’t contributed to the book in any capacity to check how she was mentioned in one text (without my knowledge and consent) because of the “defamatory nature of the mention” and this was the last drop. Is this how books are made in Austria? I consulted everybody in the editing business- everybody said that this is outrageous – people would have never published anything critical if they knew that their texts would end up in the hands of criticised writers for their text (and the criticised text regarding the “defamed” professor’s class was published only in the Academy’s newspaper and the critique was mild- not mentioning the conflicts in the her studio class). The Rectorate claimed that the text was defamatory (to me this sounds even absurd taking into account my case), but everybody knew that there were conflicts in the class and some students withdrew from the class, so I as an editor didn’t think that a footnote was necessary. Moreover the inserted footnote on the one side doesn’t react to the criticism, so it still ignores the conflicts, but on the other side it claims that the issues discussed in the book have been discussed in the class. The Rectorate thus gave another writer the chance to include a criticism to my book in the book before it was even published! However, the Rectorate refused to include my note stating that these two footnotes were included without my consent (the both footnotes are difficult to explain because they go all the way back to the sensitive case of anti-Semitic treatment of one student from the Vice-Rector, whom now the Rectorate blames for misconstruing her claims although she graduated from the Academy in 2014 with a diploma work dedicated exactly to her conflicts in the class).
10. Finally, the Rectorate doesn’t allow to me to resign without going to the Rector’s office to “negotiate” my resignation, which usually means further disciplining and signing a confidentiality agreement- that I won’t share this information. I didn’t go to the office because I want this story out, even though I am going to be hurt.
I am alone in this, but I hope that future professors from my region and also the Austrian professors, whose’ respect and autonomy was also affected, may gain at least more respect and awareness from this case. I felt as a guinea pig- they were experimenting with me how much humiliation I can take – to some people this sounds like nothing, but for me it turned into a complete dismissal and defamation of my work. More importantly I hold that the other professors – my colleagues from the region who applied to the competition and/or may apply in future deserve to know how the selections and decisions are being made since they might have hoped the same as I did: that their elaborated course’s proposals, their CV’s and their education were the main criteria so they went on completing demanding applications when the truth was completely different –the fact that the newly appointed professor had never even studied art history, not teaching it in a proper academic and university context makes this story a farce! If those responsible for this Professorship, the course and call mix the terms “discipline” that is in the title of this Endowed Professorship (usually given for excellent achievements in the discipline) and “field of study” (gender studies are not even mentioned in this title, it’s only mentioned as one of the topics of interest), then this is really amateurism! Using the term “postcolonial” in the open call makes it even cynical. Is this responsibility towards you, the previous and the future students of this course?
I hope these 10 reasons are enough to convince you in my endangered integrity and self-respect. There are many details about the Erste Foundation that are even more problematic. Anyway, my contract is signed with the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and in my apology to the students I already stated that “the truth is hostage of force” because the Rectorate always finds a way to prove that their lie is the only ‘truth’ including inventing a posteriori rules, rules about who can teach art history, etc.
Perhaps some of you were right, the information is not complete, not yet, but the others believed in my story and signed the petition. Now I am too ill even to deal with the resignation and the petition.
Thanks again for your trust and support.
The appointment of Jelena Petrović as the new Endowed Professor for Central and South Eastern European Art Histories at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Austria was announced today by The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and the ERSTE Foundation.
For more background into this case please read: Suzana Milevska // VIS VERITAS OBSES (Truth Is the Hostage of Force)
Dear Colleagues from the Institute of Art Theory and Cultural Studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna,
Thank you very much for the update. I have just received a message from the Dean of the Institute of Art Theory and Cultural Studies, prof. Ruth Sonderegger informing me about the meeting at the Rector’s office regarding my case on 23 April 2015.
I didn’t understand what was actually gained with this meeting because all updates consisted of the information that I can go to the Rector’s office accompanied by someone (not specified in the message) and that I’ll gain support regarding the editing of my reader (highly appreciated).
Anyway, as you know already, the Rector(s) were calling me to such a meeting to discuss the “misunderstandings” regarding my case ever since I tried to resign. They could have said the same things even before that the Dean and colleague, Andreas Spiegel met with them (I wouldn’t know because, as you know already, I could not go to the meeting in the Rectorate and even now I cannot, with or without any company, because of health reasons). Since the Dean informed me that she is again away on a professional trip, and because I don’t have any energy left, nor time for yet another week of stalling and waiting for “news” regarding my case, I am addressing this letter to all colleagues at the Institute.
I knew that I was right all the time: I never received any negative information about my eligibility to apply for the job opening (except from the message which was sent to the Dean from the Rector directly, on the 16th of December 2014, that inconspicuously stated my eligibility to apply). Saying (after two or three months of all these conundrums) that “irrespectively who is right or wrong” only weakens my claims. This gives another opportunity to all people involved in this prolonged and complicated labyrinth that each day only multiplies its legal and ethical turns, and already hurt me, hurt my career, and even more, my health by just covering up the whole story, with the Equal Opportunity Team and the Arbitration Commission – from whom I haven’t heard from in weeks.
I am not sure whether I will ever get back to the healthy and successful person and professional I was before coming here. I say this after having already cancelled 4 professional trips this month, including a presentation at the Venice Biennale at a CEI Venice Forum for Contemporary Art Curators. Therefore, I just want to let you know that this news, which I’ve just read in an sms message doesn’t prove that my case was taken seriously nor appropriately and it means simply nothing to me. I respected the hierarchies and the communication channels as they were established and clearly conveyed to me until now. I officially asked and received information regarding my Professorship only via the Dean, until now, for obvious reasons. I went through all offered instruments and institutions that were offered to me – the Equal Opportunity Team, Arbitration Committee and Work Council (they all stalled any action and as I mentioned above, I haven’t heard any news from the first two parties already since weeks, but the Work Council promised to communicate this case even to the ‘Arbaitkammer’), but now I address this letter to you only for academic reasons.
The position, the salary, the two years in Vienna, all opportunities for projects, texts, books, meeting most of you in a very friendly setting (well, at least last year) – nothing is worth this humiliation and going backwards in my life, health and career. I was paralysed for two months. As I write this letter, the Association of curators IKT holds its Congress in Vienna and I won’t go there (even though I’ve been registered as attending since months) exactly because of all the stress and harm that I suffered at your Institution.
I don’t think that I deserved any of this disrespect regardless of any of my actions (whilst in the meanwhile, my thoughts were always respectful and positive towards you, my peers), so I’ve taken this diplomatic message from the Dean of the Institute IKW about “irrespectively of who is right or wrong” as yet another disappointment and humiliation.
The Rector and the colleagues from the Institute should be also aware of the existence of the other professional applicants who follow this case: they are also people with dignity and long biographies in our discipline of art history. This whole case, which has become a public story, is a complete humiliation not only to me, but to all professionals from this long established field in my region because handling this competition with such obvious lack of interest (today it is the 24th of April- three months after the closing of the call -19 January 2015, and application, two months after the decision was made) and incompetence (“irrespectively who is right or wrong”) is really outrageous and goes directly in the opposition to the main aims of this professorship that was originally designed as giving the opportunity to scholars from my region to exchange their knowledge (at least, this is what we all thought back in 2013).
Now, I am not writing only about the mistreatment of my own humble person, but also about the final selection from the pool of applicants, regardless how and who made this selection. Only in the course of the last week, I’ve found out that the Erste Foundation had already spread the word about the newly selected professor. (I had only suspicions which I didn’t want to even think about. I was already hurt so much, and didn’t want to enter any comparison or competition trusting the Institute and its decision based on a unanimous vote – now, I wish I had been more adamant regarding this knowledge, asking for more answers and more information.)
Justifying the decision for why a person who had never studied art history is going to teach art history (from whatever region, period and regard any gender and sexuality) at the highest university level, a position which is given for excellence in the field as a far higher title than Professor, will come on the shoulders of IKW as the professional Board of experts. Especially, when considering that the position was given to an individual from a completely different field, you may do the math. The title of Endowed Professor is not the same as the title Guest Professor as the Rector misconstrued in one of her messages. The Endowed Professorship is a title which is higher than most of your own, a name which has always caused (me) a certain amount of discomfort because I appreciated your work so much.
The main question here is why there is a new position and a new title – Endowed Professorship for Central and South Eastern European Art Histories – if one didn’t even have to study art history for one single day to receive such a title? Is this only because the region is so irrelevant, or the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna is a non-academic institution? Most of the other candidates, whom I even know personally, not to mention that I’ve been quoting and teaching their texts to my students, were disrespected and undermined with this decision. Priority was given to a candidate who I am sure has other excellent qualities and academic merits in other fields, but not the discipline of art history and thus doesn’t fit the profile from the call. It is clear (at least to me) that the non-transparent way of making this decision gave a way to so many procedural (and I suspect even illegal) mistakes that even in my country, probably the most corrupted state in Europe, the decision regarding this open call and competition would have been dismissed.
Many people deserve an apology for this, not only I. Has anybody thought about the students, what they would gain through such art history classes taught by an unqualified person? My investment into studying art history at a BA and MA level and completing a PhD in Historical and Cultural Studies (field of study: Visual Culture) and going so far in designing a specific course -unique not only in terms of regional, historic and gender focus, but also in terms of methodology specifically designed to teach art history to students of an art academy – was obviously too advanced, sophisticated and irrelevant, because of the two-year change rule. But now that I am aware that the Rector’s decision implied also that anybody could teach art history of our region, the whole scandal goes much further than the ethical mistreatment that affected my personal integrity during the competition.
But of course “irrespectively who is right who is wrong” I don’t expect that such things can happen in Austria given my experiences during the last couple of months.
I already apologised to the students who were curious about the current situation with the course, providing them with more information about my health and reasons for my request for resignation.
Currently, as you are all aware, I am not able to teach because I am on sick leave. My health suffered tremendously in the course of all these events. I am not sure when and whether I will be able to go back teaching and how to proceed with this situation – the amount of stress and pressure continues and is raised each week, including some warnings about police, lawyers, and the possibility of other services that could be called to “calm” me down or check my situation. I was even warned not to leave the country. In a way, they have made me feel like a criminal just because somebody wanted to cover the omissions from the open call, the incompetent decision for a selection of a new professor, …etc.
Please note that all of this could have been prevented with a simple solution – if the half of the Erste funding, or at least a very small amount of it, which stays at the Academy was paid to a professional to formulate the open call. Even my husband came up with a simple solution – namely, if it’s illegal to state my eligibility in the call, you could have added only one sentence: “we give preference to new candidates.” It’s legal and it would have conveyed the message to me: the only “old” candidate, telling me not to apply. He isn’t asking for copyright! Please, try to make this amendment at least in the next call, if there will be one, making it more ethical and professional.
With this letter, I want to profoundly apologise to all colleagues from the IKW for that I cannot continue teaching under such conditions and in such a framework which has made me sick: one which has repressed transparency and truth. I am very sorry for my bitterness, which has been a result from the unpredictable course of events for which I don’t consider myself guilty nor wrong. Therefore, given this entire situation, I cannot accept any such formulation as “irrespectively of who is right or wrong” to be a suitable response to this case.
The message from prof. Ruth Sonderegger has provoked me into finally writing my own account of the current situation. I am not sure whether you all agree and participated in the tone of communication with the Rectorate, so I am directly addressing this to you.
Defending one’s right to freedom of expression: A statement by nominees of the “Innovation” prize to the artistic community in Russia
We, a group of nominees of the 2014 “Innovation” prize, consider it necessary to take advantage of our position to make this collective statement. We have been forced to take a stand after the scandal that broke out around the banning of the opera “Tannhäuser” in Novosibirsk. This situation has (once again) revealed the strengthening of illegal censorship, the clerical and reactionary policies of the Ministry of Culture, and the continued cuts in the funding of contemporary art, theater and cinema. We cannot agree with this status quo.
This negative situation is not new -in recent years, a series of events have led to such a state of things in society, criminalising the very understanding of contemporaneity. What is more, contemporaneity is not criminalised through the acts of pseudo-religious groups but rather, through of the policies of the Ministry of Culture itself, and its leader Vladimir Medinsky. Any statement made in the context of contemporary art, and which is based on the principles of independence, criticism, and the desire to experiment, is considered unnecessary and even harmful, and is consequently deprived of any support and funding, or even prohibited. The downside of this approach is the active transformation of culture into a propaganda tool for pseudo-traditional values that support the present-day political structure. Only art that is ideologically tuned and considered appropriate for the current state of affairs receives state support. As a result, artists are deprived of the right to make independent critical statements. We do not harbour any illusions: the position of the Ministry of Culture is part and parcel of the present-day politics in Russia, and our ability to influence it are very limited. That is why we have to use every opportunity to draw attention to these issues, and to do everything possible to ensure that the sphere of culture does not become the vanguard of retrograde processes taking place in society.
Being nominees of this award is a great honour for us, because it shows the appreciation of our work within the community of our colleagues, many of whom, like us, are protesting against the constant attacks on contemporary art. Some critics may say that the competition in the field of contemporary visual art “Innovation” is held with the support of the Russian state, and that by participating in it, one accepts the imposed rules of the game and, thus, supports the current state cultural policy. However, we believe it is not so. On the contrary, we seek to affirm and defend our right to free expression. Our participation in the competition is another opportunity to emphasise our position.
Of course, an artist or an author expresses herself/himself, above all, through her/his works. The “Innovation” 2014 award has demonstrated that while many of us nominees employ different approaches with respect to aesthetics and creative strategies, we share a common view on critical contemporary practices. Today, it is precisely this type of art that most faces the threat of censorship, suppression, demonisation, and which is doomed to remain without basic support.
In this situation, we want to express our solidarity with the participants of the rally “For creative freedom”, which was held on April 5 in Novosibirsk. We support the basic provisions of the resolution of this rally, and above all – the inadmissibility of any form of censorship, and the need to repeal article 148 of the Criminal Code, which privileges a specific group of religious believers and gives them a special right to be offended. Also, we want to emphasise that any relationship of cultural patronage should be built on the “arm’s length principle”: no sponsor, whether private or public, has the right to interfere in the creative process, and/or its result. Support does not mean ideological dictates. The budget should not become a police baton.
We invite the community of contemporary art workers in Russia to support these demands and to unite in defence of our right to the development of independent and critical artistic thought.
Nominees of the Competition in “Work of Visual Art”
Where the Dogs Run (Vladislav Bulatov, Natalia Grekhova, Olga Inozemtseva, Alexey Korzukhin)
Teresa Art Group (Vika Begalska, Alexander Vilkin, Marina Denisova, Taira Dance, Diana Portland, Sergey Potapov, Karina ‘Katwoman’ Dulina, Baretta)
Chto Delat? / What Is to Be Done? (Dmitry Vilensky, Nina Gasteva, Olga ‘Tsaplya’ Egorova, Nikolay Oleinikov)
Nominees of the Competition in “New Generation”
Anastasia Potemkina / Urban Fauna Lab
Evgeniya Dolinina, Maria Sokol
Nominees of the Competition in “Art Theory and Criticism”
Anna Romanova, Galina Metelichenko
Nominees of the Competition in “Regional Project of Contemporary Art”
Nailya Allakhverdieva, Arseny Sergeev
Unfortunately, we did not receive responses from all the nominees. This statement is still open for signatures by other participants in the award competition.
We, the winners and nominees of the 2014 “Innovation” prize (awarded for 2013), hereby support the above published letter drafted by the nominees and winners of the 2015 award, against the illegal censorship, religious pressure and reactionary policy in the cultural sphere in Russia, and express solidarity with our colleagues.
ZIP Group (Eldar Ganeev, Evgeny Rimkevich, Vasily Subbotin, Stepan Subbotin)
The letter is also signed by:
Ilya Dolgov, winner of the 2013 “Innovation” prize (awarded for 2012)
Ivan Plyush, winner of the 2013 “Innovation” prize (awarded for 2012)
Vadim Zakharov, winner of the 2006 “Innovation” prize (awarded for 2005)
Maria Sumnina and Mikhail Leikin (MishMash Group), nominated for the 2012 “Innovation” prize (awarded for 2011)
Elena Selina, winner of the 2014 “Innovation” prize (awarded for 2013)
Andrey Monastyrsky, winner of the “Innovation” prize in 2010 (awarded for 2009) and in 2015 (“for the creative contribution to the development of contemporary art”)
Alena Romanova, nominee of the 2010 “Innovation” prize (awarded for 2009)
Elena Elagina and Igor Makarevich, winners of the 2012 “Innovation” prize (awarded for 2011)
«Отстоять свое право на свободное высказывание»
ОБРАЩЕНИЕ НОМИНАНТОВ ПРЕМИИ «ИННОВАЦИЯ» К ХУДОЖЕСТВЕННОМУ СООБЩЕСТВУ
Мы, группа номинантов премии «Инновация», считаем необходимым воспользоваться нашим положением для коллективного высказывания. Заставил нас это сделать скандал, который разгорелся вокруг запрета постановки оперы «Тангейзер» в Новосибирске. Эта ситуация в очередной раз сделала очевидным процесс усиления незаконных цензурных ограничений, нагнетания клерикальной и реакционной политики Министерства культуры, планомерного сокращения финансирования современного искусства, театра и кино. Со всем этим мы согласиться не можем.
Эта ситуация возникла не сегодня — целый ряд событий последних лет привел к такому состоянию в обществе, когда само понимание современности оказывается криминализированным. Современность криминализируется не действиями псевдорелигиозных групп, а, прежде всего, самой политикой Министерства культуры и его главы Владимира Мединского. Любое современное высказывание в искусстве, основанное на принципах независимости, эксперимента или критики, считается не нужным и даже вредным, лишается поддержки и финансирования или даже запрещается. Обратной стороной такого подхода стало активное превращение культуры в инструмент пропаганды псевдотрадиционных ценностей, формирующих политическую конъюнктуру. Лишь идеологически выверенное и соответствующее данной конъюнктуре искусство получает поддержку государства. В любом случае художники лишаются права на критическое независимое высказывание. У нас нет иллюзий: позиция Министерства культуры — лишь часть современной политики России, и наши возможности повлиять на нее очень ограничены. Именно поэтому мы должны любым способом привлечь внимание к этой проблеме и сделать все возможное для того, чтобы, по крайней мере, сфера культуры не становилась «авангардом» ретроградных процессов, происходящих в обществе.
Быть номинантами этой премии — большая честь для нас, поскольку это свидетельствует о высокой оценке нашей работы со стороны сообщества наших коллег, многие из которых, так же как и мы, протестуют против постоянных атак на сферу современного искусства. Некоторые могут сказать: всероссийский конкурс в области современного визуального искусства «Инновация» проходит при государственной поддержке, и, участвуя в нем, вы принимаете навязанные правила игры и, тем самым, поддерживаете государственную политику в области культуры. Но это не так. Напротив, мы стремимся утвердить и отстоять свое право на свободное высказывание. Участие в конкурсе — это еще одна возможностьдля демонстрации нашей позиции.
Конечно, художник и автор высказываются, прежде всего, своими произведениями. Премия «Инновация» 2014-го года показала, что многие из нас, номинантов этой премии, при значительных различиях в эстетических позициях и творческих методах разделяют общий взгляд на критические практики современности. И именно такое искусство сегодня в наибольшей степени находится под угрозой цензурирования, замалчивания, «демонизации» и обречено остаться без элементарной поддержки.
В этой ситуации мы хотим заявить о своей солидарности с участниками митинга «За свободу творчества», который прошел 5 апреля этого года в Новосибирске. Мы поддерживаем основные положения резолюции этого митинга и прежде всего — о недопустимости любых форм цензуры и о необходимости отмены статьи 148 УК РФ, которая выделяет особую группу верующих и дарует им особое право быть оскорбленными. Также мы говорим о том, что любые отношения культуры и патронажа должны быть построены на «принципе вытянутой руки»: никакой спонсор, будь то частный или государственный, не имеет права вмешиваться в творческий процесс и/или его результат. Поддержка не означает идеологический диктат. Бюджет не должен превращаться в полицейскую дубину.
Мы призываем сообщество работников современного искусства в России поддержать эти требования момента и объединиться в отстаивании нашего права на развитие независимой и критической художественной мысли.
В Номинации «Произведение визуального искусства»:
Группа «Куда бегут собаки»: Иноземцева Ольга, Грехова Наталья, Корзухин Алексей, Булатов Владислав
Вика Бегальская, Диана Портленд, Сергей Потапов, Тайра Денс, Карина «Katwoman» Дулина (Творческий союз «Тереза»)
Группа «Что Делать»: Николай Олейников, Нина Гастева, Цапля Ольга Егорова, Дмитрий Виленский
В номинации «Новая генерация»:
Анастасия Потемкина (соавтор проекта «Зелень внешняя» группы «Лаборатория городской фауны»)
Мари Сокол (соавтор проекта «Смерти Тарелкина»)
В номинации «Теория, критика, искусствознание»:
Анна Романова, Галина Метеличенко (Соболева) — также участники номинации «Кураторский проект»
В номинации «Региональный проект современного искусства»:
Наиля Аллахвердиева, Арсений Сергеев
К сожалению, у нас не было возможности получить ответ от всех номинантов премии, и это обращение остается открытым для подписания остальных участников.
Мы, лауреаты и номинанты премии «Инновация» 2014 года (премии за 2013 год), настоящим письмом присоединяемся к опубликованному ранее письму нынешних номинантов и лауреатов премии 2015 года против незаконных цензурных ограничений и нагнетания клерикальной и реакционной политики в сфере культуры в России, и выражаем солидарность с позицией наших коллег.
Группировка ЗИП (Эльдар Ганеев, Евгений Римкевич, Василий Субботин, Степан Субботин)
К письму присоединяются также:
Илья Долгов, лауреат премии «Инновация» 2013 года (премия за 2012 год)
Иван Плющ, лауреат премии «Инновация» 2013 года (премия за 2012 год)
Вадим Захаров, лауреат премии «Инновация» 2006 года (премия за 2005 год)
Мария Сумнина и Михаил Лейкин (группа МИШМАШ), номинанты премии «Инновация» 2012 года (премия за 2011 год)
Елена Селина, лауреат премии «Инновация» 2014 года (премия за 2013 год)
Андрей Монастырский, лауреат премии «Инновация» в 2010 году (премия за 2009 год) и в 2015 году («За творческий вклад в развитие современного искусства»)
Алена Романова, номинант премии «Инновация» 2010 года (премия за 2009 год)
Елена Елагина и Игорь Макаревич, лауреаты премии «Инновация» 2012 года (премия за 2011 год)
An open “teach and tell” letter from Dr. Suzana Milevska, Endowed Professor for Central and South Eastern European Art Histories at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and a profound apology to the students for her resignation (the second request for a premature resignation sent to the Rector of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna will follow.)
Dear Students of the “Central and South Eastern European Art Histories” course,
With this letter I want to inform you that I am no longer the Endowed Professor for Central and South Eastern Art Histories. A new professor was already appointed to the post. Although the legal procedures of my appeal to the Equal Opportunities Team and the Arbitration Commission, as well as the resignation are not yet completed, I am not in a situation to continue teaching the course as I have lost all trust and respect for the structures and individuals who initiated and provided for the realisation of this course and my position – through the official partnership between the Erste Foundation and the Academy of Fine Arts. The use of asymmetrical power relations, which included manipulation, intimidation, intrigue and contradicting exploitation, even some “editorial interventions” (read: censorship) of my work were some of the constant pressures which happened during the preceding period. It simply turned to be too much to handle, leading to my resignation (and even to the deterioration of my fragile health).
I will need some time to re-think the political positions regarding my curatorial and theoretical work. They were profoundly affected, in negative terms, during the last period of my teaching. I’ve lost this job and this is not a big deal for me, being independent most of my life. But, it’s important to know whether I’ve lost it because I was “too critical” and disobeyed or because I didn’t team up with “the powers that be”? Instead, I’ve devoted most of my time to preparing the lectures and seminars and discussing different topics and concerns with you, even outside of the classroom. We’ll probably never find out the answer to this, because “truth is the hostage of force.” One thing became certain, that on the stage of neoliberal systemic intervention within the educational structures whatever teaching “performances” I realised in the past and planed for the future were overwritten and became “infelicitous” – to use J. L. Austin’s analysis of “speech acts” in which the performative speeches turn into empty promises depending on the given context.
As you know I designed the course as a group PEN-PAL project. It was envisioned in order to continue the dialogue between the “East” and “West” (“North” and “South”). But my own case proved that such a dialogue, even twenty five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall (and eighteen years after the scepticism of Igor Zabel’s text Dialogue East-West: East Is East?), is still not possible, or at least not in this institutional framework and not on equal basis.
I will soon provide you with my resignation letters (the first was not accepted) and further information on the reasons of my adamant decision to resign. I’ve sent the first letter after the scandal with the schizophrenic selection process for the new call for my position (which revealed that the Rector made her decision opposite to the unanimous support of my application from the Institute of Art Theory and Cultural Studies that hosts the Professorship). I am sure that you could understand better my decision than the Rectorate because you were the only witnesses and the end recipients of the course content. A course that was based on certain beliefs which right now are only in the past, and which I cannot proceed to present without cynicism – a state of mind which I refuse as a kind of teaching and theorising framework.
Dr. Suzana Milevska, firstname.lastname@example.org
ex-professor for Central and South Eastern European Art Histories
Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
12 April, 2015
Please also read and share the petition initiated by students from Milevska’s Central and South Eastern Art Histories course – “Free Suzana Milevska”