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via Occupy Museums
January 20th is not a day for business as usual. It is a day of reckoning: a day when we must step back stand together and acknowledge how far we have fallen from the values that we supposedly uphold as individuals, communities, and institutions. At the same time, however, we must recognize that this occasion is exactly business as usual in the United States of America. It would be naive to suggest that the advent of Fascism is representative of one man or one woman or one administration. This moment has finally landed following decades of Reaganomics. It landed after centuries of living in a house with a flawed foundation built on slavery, stolen labor, and bloodshed; maintained through the normalization of systemic injustice. It has landed as the full legitimization of cultural homogenization, techno-militarism and life inside the atomized logic of corporatism. It has landed after the sequestering of money and political agency into fewer and fewer hands. We have become a country of red and blue: a separatist mentality that replays “the people” as demographics, driving wedges between “races,” classes, regions, genders, education levels, and worldviews.
Our values — values fought for tirelessly over the generations, values that we believe to be sacred — have proven to be as fragile as they are precious.
Facing this reality, we bear much responsibility and seize this moment of national coming-into-consciousness as an opportunity. Occupy Museums calls on our communities — in this case artists, cultural practitioners, and institutions — to directly name and confront this truth: we are living in a Fascist State. Fascist propaganda exacerbates the racism and misogyny embedded in our culture for cynical political ends; it is the enemy of art. This can be seen from the new administration’s plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts — a last vestige of truly public support of the arts. Their vision of art is reduced to luxury trappings for oligarchs. Although the same financial sphere that has largely brought us to the current precipice stands behind US museums as their primary means of support, this doesn’t devalue their potency as public spaces and repositories of collective mythologies. Their civic function depends not on philanthropy but on struggle. Museums require artists, activists, and global citizens to challenge them, demanding that they hold true to their missions to serve the public, not just the 1%. That is why on #J20 we invite our communities to join us inside the museum, which we demand function as public space, to declare our common values, to make undeniable our demands, and to render our truths unmediated and unavailable for contortion, interpretation, or abstraction. Then we head out into the streets.
Occupy Museums reflects on the values behind our mission and in solidarity with all arts workers commits to continuing the struggle for the following:
- Racism and xenophobia are real and alive today. Misogyny and homophobia are real and alive today. White nationalism is growing in political, economic, and symbolic power. We value cultural institutions who are able to name the severity of this political zeitgeist and join the fight for dismantling white supremacy. We declare that one cannot be neutral on a Fascist train. We commit to joining in efforts to organize an anti-Fascist resistance.
- Arts within neoliberal economies have long been stripped of social organizing force and community accountability. We have witnessed a transparent bid to transform art into an asset class for private speculation, upending its political autonomy; art has become a tool of propaganda. As this incoming administration dramatically reduces or eliminates public funding for the arts, museums will be relying solely on compromised private funding. We uphold the value of art and cultural production independent from financial and political coercion, free from appropriation and exploitation.
- We reject a culture that ignores or celebrates US war and imperialism. We reject a culture that fetishizes, essentializes, and flattens the layers of our shared reality. Such a culture reflects a shallow politics where sycophantic hype replaces public discourse. We value art that is authentic, layered, diverse, and unafraid of delving into the complexity of our shared experiences. We commit to a struggle against the reign of hegemonic power brokers in the arts and in support of a more committed art and discourse. Museums must move toward greater social justice to be relevant.
- Since their inception centuries ago, the collections of art museums have consisted of objects stolen from indigenous and oppressed peoples whose cultures were appropriated and/or decimated to reify whiteness. Even though museums partially embody the democratization of art, they are also sites embedded with white supremacy and patriarchy. We will not separate our appreciation of museums from the ongoing need to shift the power that is codified into this mode of cultural representation. We commit to the ongoing struggle for increased presence of Black and Brown people, immigrants, and women in museum administrations, collections, events, and viewership, and in the return of stolen cultural heritage and objects.
- White Nationalist populism thrives from the perceived (and often real) elitism and exclusivity of the “art world.” Yet it is a right for every human being to partake in and benefit from the cultural wealth and heritage composed from our collective history, regardless of economic or social status. We believe that access to cultural institutions should always be free and we commit to a long struggle to take back institutions from the exclusivity of philanthropy and high-ticket-price corporate models.
- Economic precarity stemming from the devaluation of labor and increased corporate profits from extractive debts drives a wedge between members of our society, pitting us against each other in ruthless competition. We look to democracies across the globe who affirm the right to a living wage and even a basic income and call on our nation’s cultural institutions to pay all employees, contractors, and exhibiting artists a living wage for their labor.
- The transformation of public spaces and our neighborhoods and homes into speculative instruments increases the already dire state of class anxiety. The economic precarity suffered by artists puts them at risk of being both affected by and a catalyst in the gentrification of poor neighborhoods. Cultural institutions play a major role in gentrification that must be addressed; it is imperative that institutions use their cultural and financial capital to support their communities of arts workers and their local publics rather than enable gentrification by participating in development schemes.
- Intellectualism and cultural experiment are considered as dangerous and unpatriotic to Fascists. Nazi poet laureate Hanns Johst famously wrote: “Let ’em keep their good distance with their whole ideological kettle of fish … I shoot with live ammunition! When I hear the word culture …, I release the safety on my Browning!” Our cultural institutions must fortify themselves against the coming onslaught by deepening and declaring their commitment to and support of artists, critical discourse, freedom of expression, and their immediate communities. We call on all museums and cultural institutions to stand in solidarity with the artists, art critics, art workers, and public who will not stand by in silence as power is handed over to Fascists. Cultural institutions can begin (as some have already begun) by collectively reassessing their institutions’ statements of ethics, making amendments, addenda, and revisions that specifically address the institution’s role and responsibility to treat its workers fairly, to protect them from State repression when threatened, and to support the creation of bold and progressive works of art.
Speak Out on Inauguration Day, organized by Occupy Museums, takes place at the Whitney Museum (99 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District, Manhattan) on January 20 from 11am to 2pm. Admission to the event is free, and entrance to the Whitney will be on a pay-as-you-wish basis all day in observance of the inauguration.
Conclusions of the Trondheim Seminar – Contradictions and Transformative Trajectory of Art & Labor – Printed edition, published by LevArt 2016.
This paper was written by Rena Raedle and Vladan Jeremic in Belgrade, Trondheim and Levanger, September – December 2015 and reviewed by Airi Triisberg, Corina L. Apostol, Gregory Sholette, Lise Soskolne and Katja Praznik.
Printed by Trykkpartner, Trondheim, ISBN 978-82-690297-4-1
Contributors to the working groups and the participans of Trondheim Seminar:
Airi Triisberg, Corina L. Apostol, Danilo Prnjat, Gregory Sholette, Ivor Stodolsky, Jean-Baptiste Naudy, Jelena Vesić,Jesper Alvaer, Jochen Becker, Kuba Szreder, Lise Skou, Lise Soskolne, Marina Vishmidt, Marita Muukkonen, Marius Lervåg Aasprong, Minna L. Henriksson, Mourad El-garouge, Noah Fischer, Raluca Voinea, Sissel M Bergh.
For more information about the seminar, related papers by the contributors and full documentation of plenary sessions see http://transformativeartproduction.net/
The project was led by Anne-Gro Erikstad, project leader and curator at LevArt, project space for contemporary art of the Levanger kommune.
Contradictions and Transformative Trajectory of Art & Labor can be downloaded here:
We’ll see what we’ll do with these Šejma’s maps, although, as you know, I am not very happy with them, she could have tried a bit more or at least do what was finally asked from her. Speaking of perfectionism, the map is not our strong point
a representative of the Museum of African art in Belgrade about my drawing which they later plagiarized
In time when cases of plagiarism, forgeries, fake degrees, stolen intellectual properties and broken author rights are common, I didn’t expect to be in this company.
That is to say, in May this year, Museum of African art in Belgrade asked me to make a drawing representing a map of Africa. For my work they had promised me a symbolical fee (in an envelope). I have drawn the map and museum asked me to send the big file with my artwork to them. But soon after, the Museum decided to reject my artwork as unfit. They erased my name from the project and canceled the promised fee. ( From the letter the Museum has sent me: “Since the map will have to be made again, fee designed for Šejma covers the costs of new production.”.)
But in July, visiting the current exhibition in the museum, I saw that they had published my work in the catalog (that they sell) and as a big poster on the wall without neither authorization nor credit. The museum had simplified, distorted, and combined my drawing with the work of another author also unsigned Dr David Robinson (map of Saint-Louis at the end of the 19th century). It is a complete copy of my artwork, including the titles’ misspellings (Thiés, Nikolo Koba, Lac de Guier, Vallée d’Ferlol) and shapes of borders (the disappearance of Togo, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sinai peninsula, lakes Victoria and Tanganyika and Cape of Good Hope).
I contacted the museum about this copyright infringement on 9th August 2016 but they continue to ignore this.
Šejma Ferré, visual artist
Photos from Museum of African art in Belgrade, with plagiarized work exhibited and published in catalogue
English translation in chronological order of the correspondance between the Museum of African art and artist Šejma Fere about the project
14 May 2016, 16:18 , Museum wrote:
You can tell her that it will be printed on format 100(long)x120 (high), on banner (in the printing office they told me that what I think about is called a banner, and the canvas is something else).
This format is one that fits the wall.
Of course, if she wants square format than she should put 100x100cm, it won’t be a problem. Or maybe 120×120…although for this I need to measure the wall again.
Maybe she can draw something like what I send you in attachment… to have in a square up where it is compared to the whole African continent, and where it is compared to Senegal… What do you think?
15 May 2016, 02:15, Šejma wrote:
Greeting to all,
What is the deadline for map production? Does it have to be on a banner? If there is sufficient time for production, what do you think about idea of a handmade map – collage of different papers and drawing materials, dimensions 100x100cm? From materials would be used pencil, marker, adhesive foil, digital and xerox print on paper for some details, letraset letters; different kind of papers; two batten for calendars/maps ( I have it in black and in white color, but also it could be wooden or to find some stick in park of 100cm).
16 May 2016, 12:27 Museum wrote:
First of all, thank you for your will and enthusiasm to be part of the team that prepares Katatina’s exhibition.
Opening of the exhibition is scheduled for 28th June. All materials we should have until the end of May, specially if it is about some kind of work of art, as would be in case of your collage.
Before we make the final decision whether it would it be the technique you proposed, I would like to ask you how much time you need to produce the map in collage technique and do you think it can be done by the end of May. In this case it would be photographed and put in catalog.
Map would be placed on the entrance to the small gallery of Museum (on the right side of doors), together with the banner, that would be placed on the left side of doors. On the banner would be written the title of exhibition in Cyrillic and in English, that are the two alphabets that will be used for the whole exhibition. If you use latinic writing, then please use on map the English language.
It is important that map and that banner are to be equalized, ie. to be compact and to present one nice visual intro to the exhibition in the small gallery. At some moment, I will put you in touch with the designer who is making the banner for the entrance, so two of you could communicate about colors and equalize. What he told me in our first conversation about your map is that he would like that you make first a decision about color pallet, because you work in collage technique, and then that to you two hear each other about equalizing.
Also, please use the color palette that is already on K’s photographs.
If you have need, you can come to the Museum to see the space and to talk about concept of the whole exhibition, so you can have in your head the overview of all elements and to match better.
Once again, thank you for support!
16 May 2016, 21:52, Šejma wrote:
Dear Ivana and Katarina,
The time for production depends on how detailed and complicated would be the map, but I could make quickly the line version based on my templates, in 7 days (2 days for preparing and printing templates, 3 days drawing, 2 days scanning and preparing the digital file). We should specify the details that are to be on the map, decide whether it should be the drawing on paper or digital print of the drawing, and whether it should be some kind of map-collage with images and information or something monochrome, linear and simple. Several white papers of different textures could serve as a surface for drawing (inspired with old maps that are patched with different papers) and on it could either draw or attach foils and letters…
In the attachment I send template for the drawing, made on the bases of maps you two had sent me (small map of Africa with the marked states, detailed map of Saint-Louis and big map of Senegal)
17 May 2016, 13:37, Museum wrote:
Dear Šejma and Katarina,
I really like this template. If you think that a collage work could be made that would be clear and obvious, but also not too flashy, it could be also a collage work.
What do you think? As for concerning the data, for me it is only important to mark where Senegal is, where Dakar is and where Saint-Louis is.
All other can be marked but don’t have to.
What I can imagine at the moment is this linear variant, something you made in your template, but the complicated one I cannot imagine how it can look like… so I don’t know what to tell you about that.
Could you make us some sketches, so we can see how what looks like so we can decide…?
8 June 2016, 12:00, Museum wrote:
I am back from my travel and a bit got rid of the chaos of Afro Festival.
I looked at the last map you had sent, and I would like that we return to it together once Filip has finished the design of the title that will be on the other side of the doors, and then that we see if we can connect strongly those two concepts with some color or with something else.
Katarina told me you will travel, so I am interested until what date you will be available for eventual touch ups?
8 June 2016, 12:26, Šejma wrote:
OK, we can work on map when Filip prepares the title, and also Filip can intervene himself on the map.
I travel on 25th June and I hope we will manage to finish until then.
11 June.2016, 11:46, Museum wrote:
Filip has sent the solution for the cover page of the catalog. Same as this will look the title on the entrance. Not identical, but surely with this colors and style. He polishs it still, but essentially, that is it.
I send you to see if you could your map, the basic draft, adapt to this language…to add some colors...what do you say?
12 June 2016 , 16:30, Katarina wrote to Museum:
I had to go back to this topic once again, because Šejma had called me yesterday, and because I had learn only yesterday about the details, I need to jump in and to ask you what we will do with this ‘problem’.
It is not a problem, but as I understood, Šejma feels a bit down , because it turns out, she didn’t adapt her map to the work of designer, and she tells me the designer didn’t even contact her and she doesn’t know how she could adapt the map to him, but that he should, I guess, use her drawing / or add some colors or something like that (minimally) and to adapt to general impression. I am sorry to interfere, this is only because I would like to understand what is going on and I wouldn’t like Šejma to be unhappy, because I was the one who involved her in the whole story.
She agrees that designer takes her drawing and – if necessary – to add something, to adapt it, but she is not ready herself to change or adapt anything else. So can it be like this: that designer takes over the map from this point as it is and to finalize the things the way you think it should? To adapt it in a way that would fit the general impression that was imagined?
12 June 2016, 16:52 Šejma Fere wrote:
Hey, I am not feeling down 🙂 But I think you should consider the function of poster, map and all, this adjustment with color and details without the general context is difficult, at least for me. My task was to make a drawing, and designer can freely manipulate the map.
13t June 2016, 12:37, Museum wrote:
Dear Katarina and Šejma,
There is no problem at all.
I had impression that Šejma wanted to add colors but was retaining herself because she didn’t know how the banner next to map will look like, so I thought that now it will be easier and nicer for her to put colors herself, than letting someone else change her map.
As now I realize that I had the wrong impression, I apologize and we go forward.
Šejma then finished her part of the job, Filip will adjust it.
To me it is only important that Šejma gave permission for it. In catalog we mentioned that she drew the map, so I thought it is important for her how it will look at the end. In her last e-mail Šejma mentioned that Filip can intervene, but I understood that it is only in case she can not or if she is not in Belgrade.
Šejma, thank you for your suggestions and observations.
As you said you travel on 25th June, and opening is on 28th June, tell when you can drop by to MAA so I could give you the envelope with the money that we put aside for the drawing of the map. You have to pick this up personally because I need your signature,
13 June 2016, 13:15, Museum wrote:
please just send me once again this map version in the best possible resolution.
13 June 2016, 13:32 Museum wrote:
I would like to ask you to make us one more version and send in the best possible resolution.
This version should be on the new paper, just draw the contures and titles with black ink, all except the map of Saint-Louis, this you draw in gray ink. We need one version that doesn’t have shadows, but is totally clean.
We would appreciate to have this too, to be able to fit it all together.
13 June 2016, 19:42, Šejma wrote:
Great that all is solved. I send the open file (text and maps) over Wetransfer, so it’s easier for further processing.
About the fee, I won’t be able to come before my trip, so only when I return in July, or maybe to my bank account.
All the best,
14 June 2016, 10:47, Museum wrote:
Thank you for the sent file, but please send us also the clean version, WITHOUT the shading.
This one with shading does not do the job for us.
Therefore, once again: contours and titles to be there.
Map of Africa, Senegal and titles to be in black ink, and city map of Saint-Louis to be in gray ink.
All to be clean without shading.
I think there is no use fixing the old one, it should be redrawn on the new clean paper and then to be scanned.
Concerning the money, you have to come personally to get it, because I need your signature.
Just make what we can use, please.
18 June 2016, 14:06, Museum wrote to Katarina:
We’ll see what we’ll do with these Šejma’s maps, although, as you know, I am not very happy with them, she could have tried a bit more or at least do what was finally asked from her. Speaking of perfectionism, the map is not our strong point
To sign Šejma like this?
20 June 2016, 16:41 , Museum wrote:
Dear Katarina and Šejma,
Since I didn’t get the version of the map that I finally asked for (without shading), and since i clearly expressed my dissatisfaction with the existing design, I decided to open this issue to the collegium. I submitted the map made by Šejma and opened the voting for its final acceptance and inclusion in the catalog and exhibition.
Colleagues who have been present today voted that Šejma’s map nevertheless won’t be accepted and they convinced me that I shouldn’t make compromises if the map at the end doesn’t look the way we need.
I’m sorry to have to announce this, but Museum collective has decided like this, on my initiative to be put to a vote.
The directress was also for the change of the map.
To Šejma I thank her for her effort, I believe that it missed a little so that everything would have been OK and that map be inside the catalog and on exhibition, but we did not arrive to this end, and we have no time for any kind of waiting.
I hope that Šejma, and Katarina too, will understand this as a move that has nothing to do with them personally, but only with a vision of how everything should look like, and a map with shading does not enter into it. We tried all together to do something about it, we have not succeeded. From the bottom of my heart I wanted that Šejma at the end do this in a way so we can put in the catalog, but unfortunately, I did not get no response to a single email, let alone version without shading.
Since the map will have to be made again, fee provised for Šejma will cover the costs of new production.
Once again, I’m sorry that everything happened like this, I know that you both had nothing but good intentions, as finally I have had. I believe that we could have communicated it better, but what is done is done. Believe me, I’d be happiest that it didn’t have to come to this. For the part of the misunderstanding that was from me, I sincerely apologize.
To Šejma, I wish all the best in her future work and she is always welcome to look at the exhibition.
Artists and activists brutally thrown out of museum because of Damien Hirst exhibition (Novi Sad, Serbia)
Several days before the incident happened, a group of artists and activists have invited their colleagues, who are dissatisfied with the situation in Serbian culture and are against public cuts, to make a protest action during the opening of the exhibition “New Religion,” of one of the richest artist Damien Hirst in Novi Sad at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina (MSUV) on Friday, 2 September 2016 at 8PM.
They invited colleagues and public to express resistance during the opening ceremony, and to oppose cultural politics of the Serbian ministry of culture, province of Vojvodina and the city of Novi Sad, which are using public funds to provide unconditional support to corporate capital and interests of the oligarchy, while cutting all funds for communal cultural projects.
According to their previous statement, they choose the exhibition of Damien Hirst as a spot to act and to express their dissatisfaction, because he is a synonym for art market and financial speculation in the art field. They underlined in their previous public statement that Hirst’s exhibition is particularly problematic in this context, because of additional funds for insurance, transportation of works and promotion that are to be paid by public money while at a time all citizens’ initiatives in the field of culture in Serbia remain without any institutional support and are being forced to subordinate its work the interests of profit.
Therefore, the group of artists and activities invited other citizens to engage and to create a “protest in the exhibition” by making small actions or performances, document reactions at the exhibition during the opening, or make a collective action that supposed to be performed at the opening day of the exhibition Friday 2 September at 20:00h. They ended up their announcement with such slogans: We say no to corporate culture! AGAINST privatization and colonization of public museums! and AGAINST brutal commercialization and instrumentalization of art!
Their public action was brutally stopped during the opening ceremony. Private security kicked them out from the museum, Here is their public statement related to the current situation:
Public statement of the artists and activists who were brutally
kicked out from the Museum of contemporary Art of Vojvodina (MSUV)
We are informing the public, that our protest against the support of
the state, the province and the city to corporate capital and the
exhibition of Damien Hirst at MSUV was turned into brutal expulsion
from the museum of artists and activists by the private security
The protest started while Artists and activists were distributing
leaflets with which they invited the audience to support the protest
by putting a black blindfold over their eyes and refuse to participate
in the reproduction of capitalist hegemony in the field of culture.
They read the proclamation and hold in their hands the banners (
“AGAINST corporate culture”, “AGAINST servility of public
institutions,” “AGAINST bourgeois art”, etc.).
Artists and activists were brutally pushed away from the museum by the
private security. Although artists and activists did nothing to
disturb public order, just in front of the museum the police stopped
them preventing them to return to the museum. During brutal expulsion
from the museum some of the people in the audience were cheering,
supporting the protestors. A local artist who joined the protest, was
treated quite hard by the police because he did not had an identity
card by him, and his protest continued in front of the museum.
Otherwise, it should be added that the opening of the exhibition was
organize on the top floor of the museum and it was attended by the
elite, ruling politicians, UK ambassador together with British
Council, Serbia, and journalists, while the “ordinary” people were not
allowed to climb up and for them only video projection in the lower
level of the museum was organized. Private security was not permitted
to go to the upper floor of this public institution. We assume that
they are organized all this private security thin order to prevent any
protest and therefore our protest took place in the lobby of the
We believe that the organization of this exhibition and the way we
were treated showed that ruling party of Serbia fully stands behind
corporate capital and that the entire system is organize in this way.
We invite the public to oppose and stop tolerating such a disastrous
behavior of the institutions!
Video of the protest: https://youtu.be/jkjuO3X_Ylw
A factual report of our performance / intervention in Warsaw Uprising Museum and Frontex. This document also holds factual reaction and confrontation with museum guards and securities of Frontex or perhaps BNP PARIBASAS security service.
By Ehsan Fardjadniya, a member of the performance group.
On August 3rd, 2016 our performance took place at around 14:00 hours in the Warsaw Uprising Museum, Grzybowska 79, Wola district, Warsaw, Poland.
Our performance and intervention starts. Dorian Batycka and Ehsan Fardjadniya place flyers, a contemporary call for uprising with a similar large header saying POLACY! Refugees and Citizens, in flyer and text holders in the museum. By now they have done about two or three flyer holders. The guards and museum invigilators immediately recognize the new flyers. One of them looks at it and loudly says: “Rosa Luxemburg, kurwa” and walks quickly towards the office. The other invigilators start going through the flyer holders, looking for our flyers and take them out. They also look at the flyers that the member of public have in their hand and ask them to give it back.
We go to the printing workshop, where they print the original call for uprising 1944, and place our contemporary version in between the originals.
Video still. Video by Dorian Batycka.
Refugee and Citizen
The fight for the liberation of our capital has begun!
The inhabitants of Warsaw, both newcomers and those who have lived here for a while already, are all fed up with the wild waves of fascism coming back to this country, currently not from outside, but from the inside of the very core of this country – its citizens.
If the victims of the antifascist fights from the past are to be respected, resistance to fascism today is essential. The voices of the refugees, the antifascists, the citizens and those who come here for long or short time, need to unite and oppose the intolerant, repressive and racist voices of the contemporary authorities and Poles seduced by the fake promises leading to exclusion and marginalization of the Europe’s Others.
Rosa Luxemburg, the “unwanted” theorist and activist both in her lifetime and after her death, used to say that disappointment is a sentiment unavailable for those truly oppressed. We – the refugees, precarious workers, queers and women are not to be misguided by the fake logic of “success.” We are not here to win, but to change: the social structure, the political ideas and their articulation, the production and redistribution of goods, the imagination.
We need to de-petrify our imagination. Our dreams and political visions have for too long been adjusted to the Fortress Europe narrative with its racist and exclusive politics.
If there is – as Walter Benjamin suggested – a pact between the past and contemporary generations, today it consists on such a transformation of the social, in which art and politics should be working for the new assemblies, de-fascisation of society. The experiences of today’s oppressed – refugees, queers, women and workers — are much better guidelines for such a transformation, than the bureaucratic tables of incomes and costs, applied to all sectors of our lives.
The masses of workers – peasants, proletarians, intelligentsia who fought in 1944 against the fascism, are the precarious workers, activists, marginalized artists, refugees, migrants and all those who are continually excluded on the margins. This is a call for all of oppressed to come together and form a UNION. A UNION for EQUALITY and SOCIAL JUSTICE! A UNION of marginalized, oppressed citizens and REFUGEES!
LONG LIVE EMANCIPATION FROM NATIONALISM
Anonymous Stateless Immigrants Collective
Warsaw, date 3 August 2016
On the third floor of the museum there is a big collection of guns. One of the guns on display can be touched. The members of public can engage it and push the trigger and it would release and make a noise.
Here the first performance happens. Dorian Batycka is the first to perform, enacting movement emphasizing feelings of trauma and PTSD, he goes down on his knees, and puts his forehead on the ground, gyrating as if he was in intense pain. This performative intervention is meant to criticize the themes of violence encountered in the installation. He seems sick and traumatized but he doesn’t make any noise or doesn’t say anything.
Video still. Video by Ehsan Fardjadniya
Members of the public show concerns. A security guard approaches him, bends over and asks him what is going on and how he feels.
Several more museum vacillators gather around him. He is still on the ground feeling sick and traumatized with his head on the ground. They bring him glass of water. He slowly stands up. They asked him if he wanted to go out and get some fresh air. He agrees and they walked with him to the garden of the museum.
In the garden he explains that the display of violence and the guns made him sick and traumatized. His knees fell weak, he couldn’t stand on his legs anymore and he fainted.
The curator of the museum is present right now. He asks her to talk to the director. She says he is at a TV interview. He asks her why such an overwhelming violence is present at the museum? He says although he understands that the uprising was crushed violently, he still doesn’t understand why the contemporary wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and NATO trainings are on display at the museum. He asks why there is no room for peace in the museum. The curator gives him her email address for further correspondence.
On the second floor of the museum, Łukasz Wójcicki dramatically bends over on the ground, holding one of his hands on the brick wall, he starts crying. Again the members of the public show concern. Few bent over to talk to him. Few invigilators and the guards start running towards him. This time, they forcefully make him stand up. They hold him firmly under his shoulders and make him walk quickly towards the emergency exit of the museum.
Ehsan Farjadniya goes back to the printing room. The members of printing workshop aren’t there and the print machines standing still. There are still few members of the public in the room. He starts mixing our flyers with the original one. Exactly at the moment, when he is done, a person that seems like one of the printing assistances approaches him and starts talking in polish to him and shows the flyers. He keeps talking with an angry and panicking voice and takes our flyers out. Fardjadniya denies having done anything and walks out of the room. About a minute later a guy is running to him and in polish asks him something. He is holding in his hands many flyers. He switches to English and asks if the flyers are his and if he was putting them around. Fardjadniya denies his involvement and keeps looking at his mobile. The museum staff is not wearing any museum card batch or security uniform. Fardjadniya still acts normally; he says he doesn’t know the flyer. He keeps looking at his mobile and walks his way. After few meter Fardjadniya realizes that the guy is following him. He keeps walking through the museum and the other guy is still following him. He goes to the floor with the contemporary version of war and NATO trainings. He enters a dark room with three videos of contemporary war with solders and helicopters shooting. He starts filming with his mobile and knows that the other guy is outside the room waiting for him. He comes out of the room with his recording video still on and start filming the guy that follows him. He asks him: ’Are you following me?’ He, who suddenly starts talking to the phone, shakes his hand and says no and starts walking away with collection of our flyers in his hands. At this moment the performer is following him with his camera still on. After few minutes he stops following him, while other museum invigilators and guards walking panicky around him. He decides to walk towards the exit of the museum and in a minute he is out.
Around 15:30 p.m.
Aleka Polis falls on the ground with a panic in a dark room on the second floor with displays of gun shuts and flashing lights. She is taken immediately up from the ground by guards and walked quickly outside the museum.
Around 15:40 p.m.
Edka Jarząb plays a sound recording from a Bluetooth speaker device that she brought with her. The audio is a text by her, describing her repetitive childhood dream of being shot on the head from the back during the uprising. Right now she, by herself already feels truly sick and decides to walk out of the museum.
All of our members exit the museum of Warsaw Uprising. Next to our car we are hugging and talking about what happened.
We take a child size coffin outside our car and start the march to Frontex office, a few hundred meters away from the Warsaw Uprising Museum. We are humming a Jewish mourning song. Our two females members are walking in front and we, four males, are following them.
Funeral march from Warsaw Uprising Museum toward Frontex office. Photo by Sebastian Cichocki
Performance in front of Frontex
The group crosses the street and approach the high buildings and Frontex and BNP PARIBASAS security service office. About 6 to 7 security guards with two different uniforms start mobilizing with some of them on Segways and others on foot. We’re approximately in 400 meters distance to the entrance gate of the Frontext office. We’re humming and singing the song and holding the coffin on our shoulders.
Approaching Frontex office Funeral March. Photo by Sebastian Cichocki
The security guards confront the performers physically and try to break up the line. They grab the coffin and try to take it away. The performers then put the coffin down and form a circle around the coffin. In that few seconds, the security and performers form a circle around the coffin. One of the security guards takes the coffin violently from its side handle and walks out of the circle. His colleague takes the other side-handle and they walk quickly couple of hundred meters away and put the coffin on few concrete block. During this time, the performers continue to peacefully sing and hum, following the coffin as it is pulled away by security. Several of the performers then pull phones to start filming the security guards. The security guards try to physically stop them, even going so far as to attempt to take several of their phones physically from their hands. The security guards are mounted on Segues and mobilize around the group. The security firm was called: WARSAW SPIRE.
At this moment they are about 6 to 7 or maybe more. They look quite angry and trying to block us physically. By now we almost reach the coffin. One of the guards snatches the coffin form its side-handle and gives it over to his colleague on a Segway. He, holding the coffin from the side-handle goes fast on his Segway towards the back of the office building.
The performers again follow the coffin, peacefully marching and moving towards where the guards have hidden it. They march slowly, humming and singing songs. They turn around and encounter the building and find out that the coffin is situated behind a pillar next to the garage gate of the office on the address PL. EUROPEJSKI 1,2,6. The security continues to march towards the coffin. At this moment the security guards exercise more violence and physically stop them from walking any further towards the coffin and begin physically accosting the performers. Again, they attempt to stop the filming of their actions by the performers. Ehsan shout’s out: “ leave my mobile. Leave my mobile alone.” The security then becomes more physically aggressive pushing the performers back and shouting: “We are calling the police, they are coming.” The performers respond: “let’s call it off. We’re leaving,” and begin to walk away.
Physical involvement of security guards in front of Frontex office. Photo by Sebastian Cichocki
Next, the security guards prevent the group from leaving. Two of them start surrounding Fardjadniya as he tries to walk away, making it impossible. They prevent him by physically pulling his arms and pushing against his chest. Fardjadniya tries to continue walking but is blocked. He says: “ let me go, I’m leaving, I’m done with my performance. I need to leave now.” But they keep him tight.
Security guards detaining Ehsan Fardjadniya. Photo by Sebastian Cichocki
Now the group has stopped singing and is moving further away from the security. The two guards then grab Fardjadniya by the shoulders and start pushing him towards a door next to the garage gates. They open the door and push him inside, forcibly confining him against his will.
Security guards detaining Ehsan Fardjadniya and forcefully pushing him into a building. Photo by Sebastian Cichocki
Fardjadniya is now inside the building behind the close door. One of the security guards is sweating a lot and seems very panicked. He talks in very fast Polish to Fardjadniy, who is unable to understand or communicate with him. Fardjadniya tells the guard he cannot speak Polish. He repeats: “Let me go”, “You can’t hold me inside”, “I need to go.” Fardjadniya tries to walk away but the security continues to push him back. He decides to stay and not use any physical contact. After a couple of minutes, one of them leaves and the other one stay between the door and Fardjadniya, again preventing him from leaving. He repeatedly tells the other security guard: “Let me go. You can’t keep me inside. Open the door. I need fresh air.”
He continues this for couple of minutes then Fardjadniya starts becoming afraid of what can happen at this moment. His fear was mostly because at that moment anything could happen and no one will be there to witness. Several people pass in the corridor, which makes Fardjadniya even more nervous. These people have no uniforms and don’t make eye contact with him. This continues for approximately 10 minutes.
The panicked security guy comes back talking in Polish with the other guard and Fardjadniya keeps repeating: “let me go out” and makes one-step forwards. They push him back with their hands against his chest and talk in Polish. The panicked security guard leaves again and Fardjadniya is alone again with the same security guard, the whole time he keeps repeating that he needs to go out: “Ok, at least open the door I really need fresh air,” and the guard ignores him.
Ehsan takes out his mobile and the security again tries to snatch it out of his hand.
Ehsan says: “ What is the problem? I didn’t do anything illegal, I was singing a song and I’m peaceful.” He says: “ We are fighting for this country but you are messing it up” to which Ehsan replies: “Why are you fighting? With who are you fighting? I’m not fighting. I’m peaceful, just singing a song. Is that illegal?” Ehsan keeps repeating to please let him out.
Next, another guard comes in together with the panicked one and Ehsan keeps repeatedly asking if he can exit. Now they let him stand in front of the door. A few of them are surrounding him. Ehsan says: “Can I smoke?” “Yes, ok”.
The police enter and start talking with the others in the performance. The situation calms down. One of the undercover security members from the museum suddenly appears and charges Dorian with calling the ambulance. Dorian denies calling the ambulance.
The police officers, about 4 or 5 of them, seem calmed and relaxed. They are checking the ID cards of the performers on their devices. They ask Ehsan if he has an ID card. Ehsan does not.
They instruct him to go to the police station, whilst Dorian and Lukas go back to retrieve his documents. Together with Ewa Majewska, Ehsan goes to the police station to await the delivery of his documents.
The police officers says: “let him know that we aren’t taking him to the office because of his skin colour but because he doesn’t have any ID card with him.”
Ehsan arrives at the police office and smokes a cigarette with Ewa outside before entering. After entering they ask him to scan both his index fingers on a device. He complies, asking that this fingerprint will not be kept in their database. The police comply and inform Ehsan that these fingerprints will not be kept in their database. In a few minutes the device say that he has not outstanding warrants or convictions or terrorist associations.
There is a conversation happening between Ewa and the police officer and she tries to translate it to Ehsan. It is mostly about the rights of European citizens in regards with holding ID cards and about him being at the police office and the reasons why. Ehsan says: “Please translate for me that the police behaviour seems respectful and following the laws, however controversial those might be, but the security guards had no right to detain me behind a closed door. Why didn’t they hold other members of our group and only me? Is it because of how I look like?” The police officers, in sum, say that he understands “that in democratic state everyone has the right to fight for his or her cause but due to the global war on ‘terror’ and current emergencies the security held me due to certain assumptions.”
The other police officer comes by with a copy of the flyer distributed in the Museum of Uprising and begins to question Ehsan about it. He says he checked online and on a website there is a call for repetition of the same actions. They ask Ehsan if this is accurate. He denies this, stating he knows nothing about a call for a repeated actions of this supposed website. Ehsan ads that there is no intention of repeating the actions.
Ehsan then asks to sit down due to cramping in his legs. The officers show Ewa and Ehsan the door next to us. This room contains jail cells and there is a little space in front of the bars with a few chars. The officer suggests we can sit there. Ehsan declines to sit in this area.
The officers are calm and profession. Ehsan and Ewa ask for water, none is provided, they instead go out for a noter cigarette. Dorian arrives with Lukas with Ehsan’s passport a few minutes later and he is released from custody.
Below is Ehsan’s personal statement about his detainment:
Here I like to declare my complaint about the extreme and what I claim, the racist behaviour of security guards toward me. I think they had no right to stop me using physical forces, especially when I decided to leave the location of performance; this is while the rest of my group is leaving. I also think that they have no right to forcefully detain me behind a close door. The fact that they only select, separate and detained me, is due to their presumption that I belong to certain radical middle-east groups only due to my skin colour and the way I look. I did not do anything more or different than the rest of my group who were not detained. Therefore I only can conclude the racist behaviour of the security guards and find it necessary to declare an official complaint to anti-racists organizations in Poland or/and in Europe.
Ehsan Fardjadniya, 4th August 4, 2016, Warsaw.
In this open letter to the director of BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, the Cc group raises questions surrounding an undisclosed box of official papers in the BALTIC archive. This box of papers documents a series of activities that led to the Arts Council of England’s decision to remove the High Bridge property and all revenue funding from the Waygood Gallery and Studios, choosing instead to transfer these assets over to BALTIC. From the type of documents in the box it could be argued that the unconventional transfer of control of these buildings and revenue assets from one arts organisation to another, reveals a culture of vested interests and unaccountability, compounded by a lack of transparency that appears to govern so much of the publicly funded arts. Cc are presenting the case in this open letter, that the public interest is best served if these documents, in this particular box, are made accessible to the public by BALTIC via their B+ archive.
The main issues targeted by Tanja Ostojić’s art project, affected by the censorship, just to list some, are: politics of language, no access to high culture for minorities and working class, no access to museum collections for former Yugoslavian and former Eastern European artists, de-politicization of topical political issues via the exhibition program, neoliberal exhibition production.
In regard to the exhibition GAST/ARBEITER (Working title?)
that is supposed to be opened around July 5, 2016 in the
freiraum Q21 exhibition space in MQ Vienna, Austria
exhibition curator Bogomir Doringer
Artists withdrawing from participation in the exhibition: Tanja Ostojić (Berlin/Belgrade) and Alexander Nikolić with his Verein BOEM Vienna.
Statement by Tanja Ostojić
As of May 25, 2016, and regarding the censorship of my art work, the non-transparent exhibition concept, the non-transparent exhibition budget, the neoliberal exhibition production, the non professional treatment and constant demands for reframing and changes to my art work, I have resigned from my participation in the exhibition GAST/ARBEITER (Working title?) that is supposed to open around July 5, 2016 in the freiraum Q21 exhibition space in MQ Vienna, Austria. Strangely, I can´t precisely name either the name of the exhibition or the venue, as they seem to be in the process of being renamed.
This is not the first censorship of my artworks in Vienna. Many might remember the removal of my art work Untitled / After Courbet (L´origine du monde, 46 x 55 cm), 2004 (Colour photo, 46 x 55 cm , Photo: David Rych, Copyright: Ostojić/ Rych) from the rotating billboards in the public spaces in Vienna as of December 29, 2005. Back then, the yellow press created a scandal and politicians made pressures on exhibition curators to take my work out of the exhibition in public space. So the curators followed the instructions of the politicians…
This time, I am not sure what kind of mechanisms have been applied in the background of the attempts to censor my art work. The curator seemed to be optimistic and sympathetic with my concept proposal at first, but after while he would always come up (after consultation with those responsible in the gallery which is a extremely representative space politically) with demands to reframe my work and insisted on limiting it to the gallery space solely. No publicity! Even though I was promised space for the work that has a form of the exhibition posters on the outside door of the gallery and in newspapers as an ad at first, it was forbidden some weeks later.
I think it is important to mention that the curator never sent the written concept of the exhibition, nor the conditions of my participation, nor the budget frame. All the communication happened through Facebook chats and Skype talks. Once I sent my written project proposal to the curator, the head of the gallery and the Initiative Minderheiten (my proposal of a partner institution), the curator got angry. He said I should have sent it only to him, and only after he found out if he could finance it, he would communicate it with others. Everything was based on secrecy and non-transparency.
I even learned by chance that the minister of interior affairs, Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian politician who advocates strongly for closed borders and harsher immigration laws, is a speaker at the opening. The whole event seems to be more like a bad PR Campaign idea than something critical. I believe that as participating artist I should have the right to know what are political goals of the show that I was invited to be part of, right?
And so this censorship in Q21 is partly the result of political issues and partly of neoliberal exhibition production where they don´t offer anything to the artist anymore, but they still want to have the glamour.. a SHOW…
The topic I have dealt with is one of the major problems in Austrian culture that includes segregation, especially regarding the former Yugoslavian and Turkish populations..
Main issues, just to list some, are: no access to high culture for minorities and working class, no access to museum collections for former Yugoslavian and former Eastern European artists, politics of language, de-politicization of burning political issues via the exhibition program, neoliberal exhibition production..
First, my artwork concept proposed a cultural project on a large scale dealing with the politics of language, access to culture, access to cultural institutions, access to museum collections, and the initiation of language pluralism in Austria, etc.. — involving ministries and museums. However, the Austrian minister of culture himself told me already in January (over an informal conversation at the MQ New Year Party) that there was NO WAY. All “immigrants have to learn German and integrate”, there will be no museum signs and no guided tours in our languages. For the campaign that I wanted to initiate on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the agreement for recruiting and placement of guest workers between Yugoslavia and Austria, the curator told me (in the name of hosting institution Q21) — they cannot finance and cannot support in any way, not even with infrastructure. And so this campaign I had to reframe into my own performance work that would be in the same time training for local museum guiding tours in Serbian and familiar languages to run all along the summer.
Several weeks after this strategy was defined and decided for, the curator informed me that it´s out of the budget limits. They can´t pay for my trip, they can´t cover fees for the people involved (as I insisted that students giving the guiding tours should not be volunteers, etc.) Those critical guided tours would for example explain what positions from the so called ex-Yugoslav art are missing in Viennese Museum collections.
So the only thing that has left after the “plan A” and “plan B” was to go for a strategy of political scandal. Create 3 posters in 3 languages —
As the one I have attached that are using some of my well known works just as an illustration. If you carefully read the text you can understand hopefully that it is a poster with a new work that is not a part of MUMOK‘s feminist collection. There is NO art from ex-Yugoslavia that is a part of MUMOK‘s feminist collection by the way… And there is NO guided tours unfortunately provided by any instance in Vienna in Serbian, Romani, Bosnian, Slovenian, Croatian, Macedonian, Albanian and Montenegrin languages (Sundays in Viennese museums). And not to mention that the ministries and institutions I listed are not marking in a proper way, but are rather ignoring this anniversary and the fact that over 30% of the Viennese population speaks Serbian and only signage on public toilets can be found in this language!!!.)
The curator, claimed all the time that there is no budget for anything. No artist fees, no production, no travel costs, nothing. I presume, but I can not confirm, that most of the exhibition budget, that is too small anyway, has been spent on the curator‘s own travel costs. He travels a lot, you know. And a lot has been maybe spent on his own art production?
It became a problem as well that my posters were supposed to hang in front of the gallery and to be published in magazines, not even as a sponsored ad.. I was not allowed to use logos of venues mentioned in my ad and media that would fit the concept. The organizers and curator did not even contact any of institutions nor media that I asked that we need as project partners. And they said posters can´t hang outside. They said they don´t have money for newspaper and magazine ads. They prohibited I use the logos of institutions as part of my concept. Imagine, the curator also refused to print posters inside the gallery in the size the graphic designer and I proposed. The curator said the size of my posers will depend on the exhibition design and the budget(!), which I thought was disrespectful to my artistic concept. In my opinion the art work comes before the exhibition design and before politicians who censor exhibitions and give problematic opening speeches.
My concept was too critical and that´s why it didn’t fit in the exhibition. I got the impression the curator was very scared of it and the venue itself.
All in all, for all the critical projects that were proposed (including the seminar that has been canceled as well!!!) they claimed there was no budget. Even though people already invested time in planing, preparing, etc.. Very strange, as we were planning and preparing projects for a long time, myself for instance for 5 months..always reframing it for less budget, and less.. of course no artist fees were available, etc..
Statement by Alexander Nikolić:
Boem was also asked to exhibit, and the curator visited us in our gallery. He explained a little bit of the exhibition, that he is interested only in new works, and that he would love our participation, but during that talk – he explained to us that he has no production money; all the production money would be reserved for the visiting artists, as he aimed to open up and re-interpret the term “gastarbeiter.”(migrant workers) We rejected this idea, because it blurred the history of migrant workers, covered up the two class society and presented Austria as an open, cosmopolite society – conscious of its past, an image which totally contradicts the actual political reality.
Statement by Julia Zaharijević who was supposed to be employed for this exhibition and in the frame of Tanja Ostojić´s project
“I would like to share my case related to the same exhibition. Namely, the curator invited me to participate in the show, to do something with guided tours. He mentioned a couple of times that I would work with Tanja Ostojić on free exhibition guided tours in the Serbian language, as far as I know. However, this was never confirmed, but I would like to add that I know the curator personally, so the fact that the tone sounded more informal was OK to me. The first time we met he said that there was not enough money for the collaboration with Tanja Ostojić. Then, I was invited to work as an exhibition guard and be payed 8 Euro per hour, (max 400 Euro per month), and during my job to also somehow perform. After the talk with Q21, I was turned down, because I am a Serbian citizen and they were not going to issue me a working permit, as they don’t do that, I quote: “für Serbien und so…” (“for Serbia and so…”)”
English translation of the poster
The City of Vienna, The Arts and Culture Division of the Federal Chancellery of Austria, frei_raum Q21, MQ, MUMOK, Museum of Natural History and the ERSTE Foundation
Are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the agreement for recruiting and placement of guest workers between Yugoslavia and Austria
with the exclusive purchase of several major feminist artworks by Serbian renowned artist Tanja Ostojić, that have had a deep influence on Austrian contemporary art histories. Works have been purchased for the MUMOK feminist collection.
Please join artist talks and free guided tours in Serbian, Romani, Bosnian, Slovenian, Croatian, Macedonian, Albanian and Montenegrin languages every Sunday at all of the above listed museums and galleries!
Media partners: Kosmo, an-schläge, springerin, Camera Austria
Untitled / After Courbet (L´origine du monde, 46 x 55 cm), 2004
Colour photo, 46 x 55 cm
Photo: David Rych