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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’

To whom do exhibitions belong?

July 18, 2021

There are more and more art exhibitions which use topics of horizontality, commons, decoloniality, care etc. in their concept. Usually it is realized by curators who won the competition for leading this or that project because of this and that important topic. And it is legitimate, urgent and necessary to deal with these pressing issues.  

But what does it mean in reality? 

Of course there are some examples when these declarations do not become just words – usually it happens on low and mid-scale projects when artists together with curators, institutional team and all workers are working together for and with their immediate and distant communities.  

The construction of the most large scale international shows remains non-transparent even for the participants, who have no idea who is exhibiting in the next room, what kind of events and mediation for their work is planned – especially now during Covid restrictions more and more shows are opening without artists, and sometimes even without curators. 

Such a situation has happened in Moss (Norway) at the Momentum Biennale, which claims to be “The House of Commons.” The curator Théo-Mario Coppola was fired by the institution just 6 days  before the opening and we, the participants of the show, have very little and confusing information about what has been happening there. We have no idea about the curator’s contract with the institution, what their lawyers are talking about, what has happened with the curator’s assistant, how was the selection process realised, how the budget was spent (and what was the budget) and no clue about “the nuances of curatorial authorship”. And now we all are bombarded by phone calls, messages, emails from the side of the biennale and the curator who demands solidarity, to take sides but unfortunately, they do not make the situation  more clear. 

We, the collective Chto Delat, have some experience of dealing with political tensions inside projects of different scales, and usually we try to politicise the situation and take risks because we know where we are and what we stand for. We definitely accept the critique that too often we have to (for different reasons) participate in exhibitions in which we simply follow some production protocols and do not politicise the process of exhibition making – they (the institution) delegate a curator to commission our work and pay for it. In the end, it is just another “good show” which allows us to survive and do some work which we consider important for us and to share it with the public. We still believe that the public needs art and it is important for society. 

We take our own responsibility for the lack of attention given to the process of commoning and its practical application to the process of making such an exhibition under this exact title. “The House of Commons” could become a truly common space, but we, the artists, have failed to take over the process of the exhibition making and make it political, horizontal and common from within. We have failed to launch an exchange between artists, workers, the curatorial team, and the institution. We did not demand that this process be shared on the level of decision making and mutual care. So, we are very sorry about our neglect and readily share this fault with all conflictual parties – at this moment the exhibition does not “belong to us.” 

From the very beginning, we have demanded in our private letter to biennale Momentum to reinstall the position of the curator Théo-Mario Coppola and provide him with a chance to “commonize” the project together with participating artists and the community of Moss. We keep on hoping that this is still possible if both sides stop manipulating artists and make their position open not just in terms what has happened but also what they plan to do with this show (open until the end of September) and how they are committed to realise its mission statement – which in our opinion could be the only way to reinstall the missing “the integrity of the project.” 

These urgent and unrealised processes have little to do with the ongoing fight (in the case of Momentum) about who owns copyright over the show and who made technical mistakes – did not deliver text in time, or did not properly adjust the measures of the art piece to the existing exhibition space. 

Chto Delat

PS. We must express our deep gratitude to the curator Théo-Mario who has trusted our complicated production and has commissioned our new piece and to the production team of Momentum for their highly professional and careful work of installing our piece.   

Our film “About the footprints, what we hide in the pockets and other shadows of hope. The film in seven portraits” was realized by Chto Delat in collaboration with The Piraeus Open School for Migrants (Participants: Aidim Joymal, Aicha Elouarma, Mua A.Mungu, Madalina Manaila, Osman Mohammed Ahmed, Μohammad Jumanne Kisesa, Umer Muhammad). The shadow theater was realized in collaboration with Stathis Markopoulos

The film is realised under creative common licence and it can be watched on Framer Framed’s website who, together with State of Concept (Athens) are producers of this work.

Read more in the Art Newspaper:

Momentum biennial in Norway fires curator weeks before opening, prompting artists to withdraw work in solidarity

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