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#SaveGoldsmiths Open Letter to Professor Frances Corner, OBE, Warden of Goldsmiths, Council & Senior Management Team (London, UK)

October 23, 2021
#SaveGoldsmiths
#ADegreeIsNotABrand

We are academics, researchers and artists who have in various ways collaborated with members of the Goldsmiths community over the years or have been members of staff or students ourselves – or are simply acquainted with the College’s stellar reputation.

Goldsmiths, University of London, is internationally renowned for its progressive and critical education, its commitment to social justice and for hosting some of the most respected and creative scholars in the world. Its researchers, writers, musicians, performers, artists and media producers are world-leading; its alumni go on to outstanding achievements, in all areas.

Goldsmiths serves the needs of some of the most diverse communities in the UK, with a high proportion of its students coming from ethnic minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Currently, many of these students and their families live in boroughs hardest-hit by the Covid-19 crisis.

We are writing to express our utmost concern at the plans for radical restructuring, which threaten not only the jobs of staff members at a time of grave economic crisis, but also the very identity of Goldsmiths as we know it.

We were dismayed to read about the jobs already lost last year through voluntary severance, and are appalled now by the 52 redundancies recently announced for professional and academic staff.

We are distressed to discover that the detailed and crucial expertise of administrative staff central to departments is being disregarded and will be lost, through a misguided centralisation and drastic reduction of the number of posts.

We understand that academic redundancies are confined to the departments of English & Creative Writing and of History in this first round, but that there will be more. If they go ahead, these cuts will irremediably damage research capacity, academic practices and cultures, the student experience, as well as the viability of important and world-renowned departments, home to leading, and often unique, research hubs such as the Centre for Caribbean and Diaspora Studies, the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, the Decadence Research Centre, the Centre for Comparative Literature, the Centre for the Study of the Balkans, the Centre of the Body, and the Centre for Queer History.

We are shocked to hear that the redundancies are being managed by external consultants with no disciplinary expertise, and who do not understand the immediate, middle- and long-term consequences of their decisions.

We hear with consternation that academics with high specialisation are under threat of redundancy even when their area of expertise is being retained – as though Black British and Caribbean Literature, Queer and Black British History, or Critical Theory were mere adornments on a portfolio rather than fields built upon rigorous training and deeply rooted scholarship. Presumably, their posts will be filled by cheaper, precarious staff; or staff with different expertise, asked to take on their (“redundant”) colleagues’ work. But a discipline is nothing without expertise; a degree is not a brand. Yet it appears that Goldsmiths’ management sees its core mission as no different from fast fashion, as a business built on precarity and the misguided flexibilization of a labour force rendered unable to develop long-term commitment to their discipline; in this, Senior Management show utter disregard for the integrity of the education they want to sell.

We are outraged that the Warden, Frances Corner, OBE, and Senior Management appear determined to pursue this damaging course of action instead of, with the same determination, proactively fundraising and lobbying the government for assistance as peer institutions have done – while also making a powerful case against the present ruinous and bankrupt system of funding for Higher Education, and in favour of the recognition of the immense contribution of the humanities and the arts to society and to the economy.

We call upon Frances Corner, upon Council, and upon Senior Management to halt the decimation of the departments of English & Creative Writing and of History, the redundancies within professional services and the current restructuring plans, and to find, in collaboration with their staff, more sustainable and more effective solutions that will protect not only the livelihood of their dedicated and loyal employees, but also the reputation of the institution.

Yours sincerely,

*A current copy of this letter and its signatories is being published at https://we-are.gold/2021/10/14/open-letter-to-frances-corner/

A Statement Against the Planned Funding Cuts by the Nordic Council of Ministers

August 30, 2021

The Nordic Council of Ministers plans to cut funding for culture in the Nordic & Baltic region by 20-25% between 2021-2024. These funding cuts are aimed at the activities of several Nordic institutes in the region, as well as possibly the grant programmes of both Nordic Culture Point and the Nordic Culture Fund.

The cuts are a misguided plan especially in the current situation, where COVID-19 has upended cultural life and related economic activities throughout the Nordic and Baltic region. It is in actuality a situation that calls for increased support for funding, as many of the nations in the Nordic and Baltic region have already realised. Funding cuts in culture will not produce savings, but on the contrary, they will have adverse effects financially and in terms of the wellbeing, trust and connection between citizens in the Nordic and Baltic region.

Another crucial argument for increasing rather than decreasing the funding for culture in the Nordic & Baltic region are the challenges posed by climate change. The geographic proximity and decades-long heritage of cultural collaboration gives this region enormous potential to be a hub of positive, forward-looking and sustainable cultural life. We, the artists and cultural workers in this region, are ready to respond to the mission set by the Nordic Council of Ministers to make the Nordic & Baltic area ‘the world’s most sustainable and integrated region’. We have worked with civil society and partners from all the corners of this region, through cultural exchange, transmission of knowledge, translation of small languages and are committed to further develop our work in this context. We cannot achieve this goal if the core economic resources for Nordic & Baltic collaboration with a transparent and democratic funding structure are significantly diminished. The freedom of expression encouraged by the current system, which from a global perspective is something unique and worth preserving, should not be taken for granted.

In the long run, several generations worth of investments in the cultural sector, the foundation of all Nordic cooperation, are being compromised. The suggestion to cut funds, in the midst of a pandemic, one year after an approximately 5% cut in Nordic funding, is not only a bad idea in the short-term. In light of the effects on the cultural sector this last year, it could also have devastating effects on cultural and social developments, labour conditions in the cultural sector and the infrastructure that has taken almost a century to build up at a time when it is dearly needed – perhaps more than ever before.   

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 

THE ONLINE PETITION: bit.ly/nordic-baltic-petition 

INFO & LINKS

The cuts have been proposed by the Nordic Council of Ministers (https://www.norden.org/en/nordic-council-ministers).

A statement that criticizes the planned cuts by the presidium of the Nordic Council
– In Swedish (also available in Finnish / Danish / Norwegian / Icelandic): https://www.norden.org/sv/nyhet/nordiska-radet-kritiserar-kulturnedskarningar
– In English (a translation in a Google Doc): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1LJPHsjcAESAumaO7luO2ymiqge0jgvEnZvTEjxNWoD0/edit?usp=sharing 

Nordic Council of Ministers funds Nordic Culture Point, Nordisk Kulturfond and the Nordic Houses / Nordic Institutes in Reykjavik, Äland, Greenland and Faroe Islands + some other activities as well. It’s not clear which activities the planned funding cuts would influence.

The funding was cut already in 2010 by 5%, here is a statement about this cut from the Nordic Council: https://www.norden.org/en/node/47619 

Oliver Ressler // YouTube Channel online again

August 28, 2021

YouTube has ignored my request to put my YouTube Channel online again for more than 7 days. After two days in which several articles in newspapers and magazines were published, hundreds of statements of solidarity were written on social media and blogs, YouTube decided to put my YouTube Channel online again.

https://www.youtube.com/c/OliverResslerFilms/videos

YouTube wrote me: “We’ve recently reviewed your YouTube account, and after taking another look, we can confirm that it is not in violation of our Terms of Service. We have lifted the suspension of your account, and it is once again active and operational.”

YouTube remains silent about the real reasons for taking down the channel. I want to thank everyone who was working hard in the background to make YouTube consider its position.

Below are a few texts.

Oliver Ressler

Stefan Grissemann, Zensur gegen missliebigen Künstler? YouTube löscht das Konto des vielfach ausgezeichneten Politfilmemachers Oliver Ressler, Profil, 10.08.2021 https://www.profil.at/kultur/youtube-zensur-gegen-missliebigen-kuenstler-oliver-ressler/401468632

Der Standard, Youtube zensierte heimischen Videokünstler Oliver Ressler, 10.08.2021 https://www.derstandard.at/story/2000128825822/youtube-zensierte-heimischen-videokuenstler-oliver-ressler

ORF.at, Youtube zensierte heimischen Videokünstler Oliver Ressler, 10.08.2021 https://wien.orf.at/stories/3116409/

art-leaks.org, YouTube suspends filmmaker Oliver Ressler’s account without warning, 10.08.2021 https://art-leaks.org/2021/08/10/youtube-suspends-filmmaker-oliver-ressler-account-without-warning/

Der Standard, YouTube revidierte Sperre von österreichischem Videokünstler Ressler, 12.08.2021 https://www.derstandard.at/story/2000128875028/youtube-revidierte-sperre-von-oesterreichischem-videokuenstler-ressler

ORF.at, YouTube revidiert Sperre von Videokünstler, 12.08.2021 https://wien.orf.at/stories/3116647/

Österreichischer Videokünstler Oliver Ressler: Ärger mit Youtube, BR24, 12.08.2021 https://www.br.de/nachrichten/kultur/oesterreichischer-videokuenstler-oliver-ressler-aerger-mit-youtube,SfrynMW?UTM_Name=Web-Share&UTM_Source=E-Mail&UTM_Medium=Link

Open letter from Arts for Afghanistan

August 23, 2021

We are writing to urge the United States government to do everything in its power to facilitate the departure from Afghanistan of at-risk Afghans, and to include artists, filmmakers, performers, and writers in that category. As a group of individuals—artists, filmmakers, performers, writers, curators—and institutions, acting in solidarity with our peers in Afghanistan, we recognize the vulnerability of the country’s cultural workers, who are already being targeted by the Taliban and forced into hiding. Like Afghan journalists, activists, and citizens who have assisted the US, cultural workers face threats to their lives because of the work they’ve done—and they are unlikely to get out of the country without immediate changes to Washington’s approach to granting visas and providing flights.

Even before the Taliban’s takeover, cultural workers took grave risks in depicting the experiences and articulating the aspirations of Afghans, with the encouragement—and, often, direct support—of the US government. Now, the vocation of truth-telling has become much more dangerous, and many of our peers see no choice but to leave the country. In addition to standing with advocates for journalists and activists, we insist on the protection of all who have devoted themselves to fostering free expression and civil society in Afghanistan. We make the following demands of the US government, in order to save lives and fulfill the promises made to Afghan allies, colleagues, and friends:

• Take immediate action (through the State Department and Department of Homeland Security) to facilitate expedited visa processing and provide asylum for all vulnerable Afghans.

• Immediately include cultural workers in the categories being used to refer at-risk Afghans for evacuation lists.

• Hold the Taliban accountable to commitments made during the Doha negotiations and to international human rights norms, including the safeguarding of the right to free expression by all members of society and of all aspects of cultural heritage.

Additionally, we stand with other advocates and Afghan citizens in calling on the US government to:

• Remove—or, at least, increase—the quotas for Afghan refugees, and permanently halt any deportations of Afghan refugees currently in progress.

• Keep the Kabul airport open until all at-risk Afghans who wish to evacuate have done so, and allow chartered, commercial, and humanitarian flights to operate out of the airport under the protection of the US. 

• Expedite the processing of Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans who worked with the US government, as well as visas for cultural workers, and remove the requirement that such visas be processed in a third country. (This unnecessary, burdensome rule is jeopardizing the safety of visa applicants.) Instead, allow all visas to be processed either in Afghanistan or the US. 

• Indefinitely suspend the standard (and various) term limits and reapplication requirements for SIV, P-2, and humanitarian parole visas granted to Afghans or, instead, create a new class of extended Temporary Protected Status for all Afghan refugees.  

• Continue to offer international exchange programs and visas for Afghan students.

In addition to the above demands, we call on governments of all nations to facilitate the evacuation and resettlement of Afghan refugees by offering asylum and aid. And we call on Americans and US cultural institutions to bolster our demands by communicating them directly to local and national representatives.

Destroying art and artists has never been incidental to the Taliban’s project. In fact, doing so is at the very foundation of the Taliban’s claim to legitimate power, which is based on a vision of Afghanistan as only ever having been a monoethnic, monotheistic society. Afghanistan’s cultural heritage undermines the Taliban’s claim to power and contradicts the underlying vision. But if a new vision of Afghanistan’s future is ever to emerge, the country’s dreamers must survive.

Alongside our peers in Afghanistan, we are watching events with great concern, and we are demanding swift action to aid Afghans who have risked so much over the years to create independent, defiant, and transformative work—and whose lives are now at risk as a result.

To add your signature, please use this form.

YouTube suspends filmmaker Oliver Ressler’s account without warning

August 10, 2021
Oliver Ressler, Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart: Ende Gelände, 2016. Courtesy of the artist

The YouTube account of the Austrian filmmaker and artist Oliver Ressler was suspended last Thursday for alleged “repeated violations”. YouTube issued Ressler with a message warning that “spams, scams or commercially deceptive material are not allowed on YouTube”. The artist says that no such material had been uploaded to his channel, that no prior warnings about such violations had been received and accuses the video sharing platform of censoring his work.

Ressler creates political and environmental documentaries. He has made his catalog of political and environmental documentaries available for free online on YouTube. The works, which follow journalistic standards and have been shown in some of the largest museums and biennales in the world (in countries including the US, UK, France, Italy, Serbia, Russia and China), and often have an anti-capitalist, ecological, political, social content.

These have included the ZAD (zone à défendre) encampment in France in the film Everything’s Coming Together While Everything’s Falling Apart: the ZAD (2017), which aimed to prevent the building of an airport near Nantes and lead to the suspension of building plans. Other films such as The Visible and the Invisible (2014) and The Bull Laid Bear (2012) expose the underlying mechanisms of capitalism and the finance sector.

They remain accessible on the artist’s Vimeo account and his website.

Ressler began uploading his catalogue of work to YouTube last year. The artist believes that the online video sharing platform, which has been owned by Google since 2006, has removed his account because of its anti-capitalist content.

YouTube removed my YouTube Channel. Can anyone help? On Monday night I received the following email from YouTube, saying: “We have reviewed your content and found severe or repeated violations of our Community Guidelines. Because of this, we have removed your channel from YouTube. […] Spam, scams or commercially deceptive content are not allowed on YouTube.” Of course I immediately appealed this decision, followed the steps requested, and received a message afterwards, saying: “Thank you for reaching out about being unable to access your Google Account. The email address you inquired about is not associated with an active Google Account.” I have been using the same email address for more than 15 years, and it is also the email address associated with my Google account. Google does not respond, I have no possibility to contact them (besides filling in forms to which they do not respond). Quite embarrassing. Any ideas which actions I should take?

Read more:

Criticare il capitalismo? Vietato. E YouTube censura Oliver Ressler

Filmmaker Oliver Ressler accuses YouTube of censorship after account suspended ‘without warning’

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