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«Precarious in capitalist culture – Should we continue living like this?» Report from Skopje

December 27, 2019

PRECARIOUS IN CAPITALIST CULTURE – SHOULD WE CONTINUE LIVING LIKE THIS?

Symposium on thinking the future from a labor perspective

Kino Kultura, Skopje, November 29-30, 2019

The symposium on thinking the future from a labor perspective «Precarious in capitalist culture – Should we continue living like this?», organized by Faculty of things that can’t be learned (FR~U), North Macedonia in partnership with Lokomotiva – Centre for New Initiatives in Arts and Culture and Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Southeast Europe, gathered several actors from the region and across Europe to discuss the labor relations of freelance cultural workers. The symposium focused on the topic of precarious conditions that workers are facing in today’s capitalist world in order to exchange experiences, discuss existing models and share strategies for labor organization in culture and art and concerning possibilities of transnational organization.

The participants of the symposium started from the perspective that, when it comes to labor rights, cultural workers are in a particularly desperate condition, because their work often is not regarded as labor and is not valorized as such. The exploitation and marginalization of cultural work, as well as the overall lack of understanding of the emancipatory potential of arts and culture, is rarely addressed as an issue in need of systemic change. For decades now, neoliberal austerity measures push artists and cultural workers into short-term contracts or freelance relations. Often unpaid, they do not even earn a living wage, and most of them live in a cycle of debt and poverty. Unequal and precarious labor conditions are also evident in other sectors in North Macedonia and the region. In the transition to post-socialism, Yugoslavia’s big factories were dispersed into hundreds of private companies that took advantage of cheap labor in the race for profit in a strong rivalry with their competitors. The unchallenged neoliberal discourse penetrated society and labor relations changed, union activities have been oppressed and labor legislation has been neutralized. All this led to the neglect of labor rights and living wages. The state institutions lack systematic procedures and political resolutions that would foster emancipatory culture and improve the labor rights of precarious cultural workers and all workers in general.

In this context, the symposium «Precarious in capitalist culture – Should we continue living like this?» reflected on how precarious cultural workers can organize to struggle for better working conditions and presented artistic and cultural practices and strategies that can support the struggle for labor rights and make emancipatory social movements stronger in the future. The conclusion was that there exists a variety of valid forms of struggle and organization, such as protests, participation in the elaboration of new laws and regulations concerning culture and labor rights in coalition with the civil sector and freelance workers, collective agreements and organization in trade unions. Several examples of artistic and cultural practice were presented that helped to strengthen the ties between workers in different sectors in order to improve their situation. The overall conclusion was that there are many «art worlds», but that the most successful strategies are based on solidarity between precarious cultural workers and workers of all fields of labor.

The public part of the symposium started in the evening, the same day as the workshops, on 29th of November (Day of the Republic) that was celebrated in former socialist Yugoslavia as the celebration of the re-establishment of Yugoslavia on the second conference of the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ) in Jajce in 1943, as well as the proclamation of the socialist Yugoslavia on the same date in 1945. This date symbolically reminded us on the fact that cultural workers in Yugoslavia had more rights than artists and cultural workers nowadays, especially when we think about the Law for cultural workers from 1982 that was annulled after the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

After Ivana Vaseva from FR~U, North Macedonia, Krunoslav Stojaković and Vladan Jeremić from RLS SEE have presented the main idea and program of the symposium, Corina L. Apostol from Tallinn Art Hall and ArtLeaks, Estonia/Romania gave a lecture. She presented from a historical perspective how artist groups from around the world sought alliances to various degrees with members of the organized Left, in order to frame the concept of the «art worker» under which members of the artistic community mobilized in different context and used different strategies, from artistic interventions to direct actions. Then the symposium continued with the presentation of Ivana Vaseva and Violeta Kachakova from Lokomotiva, North Macedonia, about the condition of freelance cultural workers in North Macedonia, about their collaboration with the Ministry of culture on the new Law for public interest in culture and the regulation for monthly benefits for artists for health insurance and retirement fund, and about their future activities concerning the Law of work relations and collective agreement. They also called upon better collaboration with other stakeholders on the improvements of the rights of freelancers and the civil sector and suggested possible ways of cooperation and unification.

The same day the symposium started early morning with the Workers Inquiry workshop that explored working conditions of artists in the Macedonian context, which was led by Bojana Piškur and Djordje Balmazović. In the second half of the day, the workshop titled «Advocacy of cultural workers for labor rights» with Tjaša Pureber was held. On the first workshop the meaning of the Worker’s inquiry by Marx was discussed, its importance today was stressed and already produced booklets based on similar workshops in Madrid and Belgrade were presented. The participants Elena GjorgjevskaBiljana Dimitrova, Angela SaveskaIvana Samandova and Zorica Zafirovska discussed possible ways of producing the inquiry in Skopje, including a booklet, poster, social network platform or sticker.

The work between the participants continued the next day in a form of a more open discussion between the audience, mentors and workshop participants in order to clarify different ambiguities and receive feedback. The work among the workshop participants continues in December when, under the guidance by the artist Oliver Musovik, they will produce the final result of the worker’s inquiry workshop.

The same participants were part of the second workshop where they learnt about different mechanisms and tactics that Slovenian freelance cultural workers and the civil sector used in order to fight for their rights. This way, the participants were «equipped» with various strategies that they can employ in the process of improvement of their worker’s rights.


The first panel of the second day titled «Precarious in capitalist culture» was moderated by Biljana Tanurovska – Kjulavkovski from Lokomotiva, North Macedonia and included Antonia Alampi from Savvy Contemporary, Germany and iLiana Fokianaki from State of Concept Athens, Greece. They presented their platform Future Climates pointing out the critical and precarious conditions of individual workers and small-scale organizations of contemporary art and culture and stressed the responsibility of larger institutions in regards to this condition. It was concluded that the culture of silence needs to be broken in order to start changing the situation. Corina L. Apostol from Tallinn Art Hall and ArtLeaks and Vladan Jeremić from RLS SEE/ArtLeaks presented the ArtLeaks platform that was formed as a response to the abuse of the art worker’s professional integrity and the open infraction of their labor rights. They also presented printed copies of the ArtLeaks Gazette.
The second panel titled «Precarious in deindustrialized societies» was moderated by Filip Jovanovski from FR~U, North Macedonia and was opened by Karla Crnčević, dramaturge and film worker from Croatia that presented the initiative «Enough with the cuts» from Zagreb. Similar to the actions that are taken in Macedonia, this initiative through protests but also suggestions to the Law of culture and other regulations tries to outdo the inequalities in the cultural sector in Croatia.

Tara Rukeci from the Zrenjanin Social Forum Workers Video Club, Serbia, presented the work of this initiative, how they started and how films and videos made by workers or anyone that has a problem can help improving the context and struggle for labor rights. Kristina Ampeva from Loud Textile Worker, North Macedonia, presented their fight that’s been going on the last three years and stressed that without the help of the precarious cultural workers they could not have succeeded in improving their situation. The second panel finished with the presentation by Kire Vasilev, labor activist, North Macedonia that gave advice how to continue the fights against precarity and stressed that unions are the best means how to do that and that freelancers can strengthen their position by making a collective agreement.

The symposium was concluded with the screening of the film «Picked pickers» by the Zrenjanin Social Forum Workers Video Club and during the symposium a mini book fair was organized with publications from all participants.
At the concluding session, the Minister of Labor and social affairs in the Republic of North Macedonia, Mila Carovska, came and expressed her good intentions in improving the situation of precarious freelance artists and cultural workers.

Open Letter Regarding Censorship at the 1st Feminnale of Contemporary Art (Kyrgyzstan)

December 9, 2019

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Participants of the Feminnale from 22 countries have drawn up an open letter to President of Kyrgyzstan expressing their outrage regarding assaults by right-wing radical groups against the modern art exhibition at the Gapar Aitiev museum. “It is symbolic that this act of governmental violence towards female artists took place during the International Week on the Elimination of Violence against Women” – says the message.

Dear President Jeenbekov,

On behalf of all the artists participating in the first Feminnale of Contemporary Art, which is taking place at the Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts named after G. Aitieva, I want to express my protest and share with you my indignation over what is now happening around the exhibition.

The Minister of Culture, Azamat Zhamankulov, performed an act of censorship at the exhibition, being influenced by extremist right-wing radical groups that have nothing to do with culture and art. Minister arbitrarily banned several works from the show, and the organizers, under his pressure, were forced to take them down.

Symbolically, this act of state violence against artists was carried out during the International Week for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It is deplorable that this happens only a few days after the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic at the Tech Summit on November 19 expressed, in your presence, the commitment of the Kyrgyz Republic to the principles of gender equality. The Forum’s declaration states that “special attention shall be paid to gender equality, the empowerment of women in all spheres and the fight against discrimination and violence based on gender differences,” but the actions of the Minister of Culture contradict this declaration.

Also, these actions of the minister directly violate the commitments made by the Kyrgyz Republic under the UN Sustainable Development program, since the censored exhibition and artworks removed on the notice of the minister directly concern human rights and gender equality.

Organizers of the exhibition continue to receive public threats from radical groups, and the police are not taking any action to protect their citizens from these extremist attacks.

According to the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, the actions of religious groups aimed at inciting social discord are prohibited (Article 4, paragraph 5), the state and its bodies serve the whole society, and not a part of it (Article 5, paragraph 1), no association, no individual has the right to appropriate power in the state (Article 5, paragraph 2), no one may be discriminated against based on sex, political affiliation or beliefs (Article 16, paragraph 2), the established right to freedom of thought and opinion is not subject to any restriction ( article 20, paragraph 5), everyone has the right to freedom and personal safety (Article 24, paragraph 1), everyone has the right to privacy, protection of honor and dignity (Article 29, paragraph 1), and the Constitution explicitly prohibits the promotion of national, ethnic, racial, religious hatred, gender, and other social superiority, calling for discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 31, paragraph 4).
The Minister of Culture and right-wing radical groups attacking the organizers of the exhibition directly violate all these points of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic. Officials at this level who violate the country’s Constitution are a disgrace to the country. And the whole world already knows about it.

According to the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, Everyone is guaranteed the freedom of all kinds of creativity (Article 49, paragraph 1), and the state only supports traditions that do not infringe on human rights and freedoms (Article 37, paragraph 1). The minister, following the example of right-wing radical groups wishing to dictate their own rules, and under the guise of national traditions broadcasting the rhetoric of hatred and violence, first commits a crime against citizens of his country, setting a precedent for flagrant lawlessness and arbitrariness, which impairs the country’s image in the international arena.

In addition, by carrying out such an act of censorship, the Minister of Culture has demonstrated a complete misunderstanding of the fundamental principles of culture: culture does not require state management, culture requires support, culture does not tolerate censorship.

Misunderstanding and violation of these principles indicate the complete professional inaptitude of Azamat Zhamankulov as Minister of Culture.

We, the undersigned participants of the Feminnale, artists from 22 countries of the world who have very rich experience working with many cultural institutions, which allows us to judge such things, consider the Minister of Culture Azamat Zhamankulov unsuitable for the performance of his professional duties and an extremely harmful manager for culture since he impedes the development of culture in the Republic, guided by the interests of extremist groups that have no relation to culture and directly violate the laws of the Kyrgyz Republic.

We, the undersigned members of the Feminnale, female artists from 22 countries, demand that Azamat Zhamankulov be removed from office given his professional inaptitude for this position; we demand the reinstatement of the director of the Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts named after G. Aitieva to the Mira Dzhangaracheva, who was forced to resign under the unlawful pressure and threats from right-wing radical groups; we also demand that the ban on censorship be enshrined in law and thus stop all further attempts to censor the country.

Respectfully,
The Undersigned Members of the Feminnale

Zoya Falkova, artist (Kazakhstan)
Bermet Borubayeva, artist (Kyrgyzstan)
Nina Zhdanovich, artist (Lituania/Japan)
Lia Dostleva, artist, anthropologist of culture (Ukraine)
Elena Nebesnaya, artist (Ukraine)
Nikulenkova Natalia, artist (Russia)
Sandra Araújo, artist (Portugal)
Anya Kislaya, artist (Ukraine)
Małgorzata Greszta, artist, (Poland)
Nadia Valetskaya, artist from Nadenka Creative Association (Russia)
Maria Alexandrova, artist from Nadenka Creative Association (Russia)
Alyona Isakhanyan, artist from Nadenka Creative Association (Russia)
Maria Rybka, artist from Nadenka Creative Association (Russia)
Anastasia Makarenko, artist from Nadenka Creative Association (Russia)
Maria Kapajeva, artist (UK)
Efrat Cybulkiewicz, illustrator, painter, photographer (Colombia/ Venezuela/ Israel/ Italy)
Lola Nevado, artist, painter (Spain)
Marija Ančić, artist (Croatia)
Alyona Kojevnikova, artist, journalist (Russia)
Claudia Holzinger, artist (Germany)
Weronika Jurkiewicz, filmmaker (Poland)
Alexandra Filatova, artist (Kyrgyzstan)
Lucia Lopez Garcia-Montejo, filmmaker (Uruguay)
Mark Blickley, artist (USA)
Frie J. Jacobs, artist (Belgium)
Julie Savery, Performance artist (Denmark)
Amy Bassin, artist (USA)
Helena Stiasny, artist (Poland)
Madina Sargali, artist (Kazakhstan)
Camille Pueyo, artist (France)
Aisulu Shaikenova, artist (Kazakhstan)
Katya Nko, artist (Ukraine)
Nargiza Ryskulova, artist (Kyrgyzstan)
Aigerim Ospanova, artist (Kazakhstan)
Engelhardt Anna, artist (Russia)
Krisztina Arláth, artist (Hungary)
Aruzhan Zhumabek, artist (Kazakhstan)
Mascha Danzis, Interdisciplinary artist, professor of St. Petersburg State University on the subject “Feminism and post-feminism in contemporary art” (Germany/Russia)
Yelena Kurlova, ceramic artist (Russia)
Oksana Kapishnikova, independent curator, art critic (Kyrgyzstan)

PRECARIOUS IN CAPITALIST CULTURE. Should we continue living like this? (Skopje, North Macedonia)

November 21, 2019
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SYMPOSIUM ON THINKING THE FUTURE FROM A LABOR PERSPECTIVE | 29 – 30 NOVEMBER 2019

Curated by Ivana Vaseva

Speakers: Antonia AlampiKristina AmpevaCorina L. ApostolDjordje BalmazovićKarla CrnčevićIliana FokianakiVladan JeremićFilip JovanovskiVioleta KachakovaBiljana Tanurovska – KjulavkovskiKrunoslav StojakovićTara RukeciBojana PiškurTjaša PureberKire Vasilev

Read the schedule here.

When it comes to labor rights, cultural workers are in a particularly desperate condition, because their work often is not regarded as labor and is not valorized as such. The exploitation and marginalization of cultural work, as well as the overall lack of understanding of the emancipatory potential of arts and culture, is rarely addressed as an issue in need of systemic change. For decades now, neoliberal austerity measures push artists and cultural workers into short-term contracts or freelance relations. Often unpaid, they do not even earn a living wage, and most of them live in a cycle of debt and poverty.

Unequal and precarious labor conditions are also evident in other sectors in North Macedonia and the region. In the transition to post-socialism, Yugoslavia’s big factories were dispersed into hundreds of private companies that took advantage of cheap labor in the race for profit in a strong rivalry with their competitors. The unchallenged neoliberal discourse penetrated society and labor relations changed, union activities have been oppressed and labor legislation has been neutralized. All this led to the neglect of labor rights and living wages. The state institutions lack systematic procedures and political resolutions that would foster emancipatory culture and improve the labor rights of precarious cultural workers and all workers in general.

How can precarious cultural workers organize to struggle for better working conditions in this context? What kind of artistic and cultural production can support the struggle for labor rights and make emancipatory social movements stronger in the future?

This symposium brings together actors from the region and across Europe with institutional, non-governmental and non-institutional backgrounds from the field of culture and  art, as well as people who are part of social movements and activists for labor rights, to exchange experiences, discuss existing models and share strategies for labor organization in culture and art.

Starting from the analysis of precarity and freelance working relationships in culture and elsewhere, the symposium will discuss possible new relations of cultural production beyond neoliberal, conservative and ethno-nationalist paradigms. Here, the artistic and cultural context needs strong input from the side of emancipatory forces in society. For this, examples of emancipatory practices in culture in the context of labor struggle will be presented, the function and capacities of public institutions and resources will be discussed, and possibilities of transnational organisation will be addressed.

Organized by Faculty of things that can’t be learned (FR~U), North Macedonia in partnership with Lokomotiva- Centre for New Initiatives in Arts and Culture and Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Southeast Europe.

Revoke the director appointment at Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw

November 3, 2019

As citizens and members of the international artistic community as well as the audience of contemporary art we firmly object to the decision made by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland to appoint Piotr Bernatowicz to the position of the director of the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art without an open competition recruitment procedure. We reject both the manner in which the appointment was carried out and the candidate chosen by the Minister.

The Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art is a transdisciplinary institution of international importance and a showcase for Polish contemporary art. An appointment that bypasses the competition procedure despite the existence of the necessary legal framework sets an exceptionally alarming precedent. It seems even more disturbing in the context of earlier personnel decisions that had a strong negative impact on important cultural institutions, such as the National Museum in Warsaw, Helena Modrzejewska National Stary Theatre in Kraków, and Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. This blatant disregard for procedures suggests that the decision was politically motivated rather than based on objective criteria such as merit. Such stance impedes any kind of dialogue about the program and development of the institution in the coming years.

Leading a large-scale institution such as the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art requires not only specialized knowledge but also managerial expertise. One of the key skills in administration and supervision is a sense for diplomacy, as well as the ability to represent Poland in international contexts. Piotr Bernatowicz has no relevant experience. He has never worked closely with foreign curators nor planned an exhibition abroad. Nor is he able to demonstrate any qualifications in managing international projects, creating strategic partnerships with institutions abroad, and obtaining grants or other types of funding. Such experience should have been deemed essential in a candidate for a position this prestigious and of this importance.

The newly appointed candidate is not a successful negotiator. During his tenure as the director of the Arsenal Municipal Gallery in Poznań his actions caused a serious conflict with the curatorial section of his team and profund alienation of the local artistic community that resulted in an open letter of 76 young artists who were opposed to the renewal of his contract. A series of his disastrous decisions caused serious damage to the reputation of the gallery he was responsible for.

As a journalist and director of a public institution, Piotr Bernatowicz has on numerous occasions condoned and supported statements that can be considered hate speech. There is no room in the public sector for the artworks which target singled out social groups, misogynistic artwork (the exhibitions Strategies of Rebellion, Arsenal Municipal Gallery, 2015), or songs filled with anti-Semitic stereotyping (“Arsenał Kultury” (Arsenal of Culture) – a radio broadcast in Radio Poznań, 2017). Any artistic institution that promotes such messages risks losing its national and international audience, and perhaps a boycott.

We call upon the Minister of Culture and National Heritage Piotr Gliński not to appoint Piotr Bernatowicz to the position of the director of the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, and to carry out an open competition procedure in accordance with the appropriate standards of transparency and probity. Only an open competition will enable the candidates to demonstrate their qualifications and ability and present their programs for the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art that would do justice to this renowned institution and allow it to maintain its international status.

 

SIGN THE PETITION HERE.

Ashkal Alwan / On the Indefinite Postponement of Home Works 8 (Beirut, Lebanon)

October 23, 2019

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STATEMENT

ON THE INDEFINITE POSTPONEMENT OF HOME WORKS 8

We do not regret to inform you that Ashkal Alwan is indefinitely postponing all programmes and events scheduled to take place from October 17-27, 2019 as part of the 8th edition of Home Works: A Forum on Cultural Practices.

The launch of this edition of Home Works has once again been overwhelmed by the very forces that had initially led to its inception in 2001. Lebanon is witnessing spontaneous popular uprisings, bent on targeting our current regime and its security apparatuses, as well as toppling sectarian discourses and their hold on public life.

Artistic and cultural institutions and initiatives are in no way isolated from broader civic, political, economic, and ideological contexts, but rather shaped as a result of and in response to historical events and their repercussions. This edition of Home Works initially called on participants to partake in acts of collective world-building, suggesting pathways to re-imagine social relations as they currently stand. Then, it seemed pertinent to echo the region’s manyfold attempts at dismantling inherited structures of the past and designing alternative blueprints for the future, from Sudan to Syria, and from Algeria to Iraq. Today, it is our turn.

In the past week, we have actively participated in mass protests and general strikes, closely monitored the situation as it was unfolding, and consulted with friends and colleagues from the legal, academic, journalistic, and artistic-cultural sectors to decide on the best way forward. Our conclusion: there shouldn’t be any reason to regret or apologize for the indefinite postponement of our programmes and events. Our artistic, intellectual, and organizational energy will be redirected towards the achievement of our hopes and aspirations, the possibility of which is being granted to us by a momentum that should be seized at any cost.

See you in the streets.

Ashkal Alwan

Gulf Labor Coalition: A Boycott does not an Anti-semite Make or Unmake

October 15, 2019

We want to begin this statement by asserting that Gulf Labor Coalition (GLC) categorically refuses and resists all forms of racism and discrimination, including anti-Semitism and condemns the recent attacks on synagogues in New Zealand, the US and in Germany.

We feel compelled to write this statement in response to recent attempts to criminalize and label as anti-Semitic, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and in light of the recent attempt by the German city of Aachen, to pressure the Ludwig Museum into withdrawing the Art Prize Aachen to Lebanese artist Walid Raad.

Raad, who is one of the members of GLC steering committee, is not an isolated case. The German parliament’s adoption of a non-binding resolution to condemn the BDS movement in May 2019, along with similar steps taken in France and the UK, has grave and far reaching consequences. It sends a clear statement that the rights of Palestinians in the face of well documented systemic and daily abuse by Israeli governments is of no moral concern for Germany, and that anyone who expresses support for Palestinian rights is considered an anti-Semite. The director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum Peter Schäfer, was forced to resign for sharing an article about a letter signed by 240 Israeli and Jewish scholars, condemning the Bundestag proposition on the grounds that it undermines the fight against real anti-Semitism.

More recently the city of Dortmund withdrew its award of the Nelly Sachs Prize for British-Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie over her support for BDS, even though the award citation recognized that her writing  “builds bridges between societies.” Other artists recently punished and banned for their support of BDS include Talib Kweli, Young Fathers, and Khaled Barakat. The interior minister of Berlin, Andreas Geisel, has publicly stated that he would take action to hunt supporters of the BDS, to raise “alarm bells” before the fire spreads. In parallel, the US Federal Government is “investigating” all Middle East Studies departments at American Universities. Efforts to criminalize BDS in all of the EU are underway in Brussels, and separate efforts are ongoing in France.

As members of Gulf Labor Coalition, we have been involved in a protracted struggle for the rights of migrant workers in the construction of the Guggenheim Museum and other cultural entities on Saadiyat island, Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. When we confronted intransigence on the part of the museum and UAE authorities, we called for  a Cultural Boycott as a peaceful means of calling attention to an urgent concern and resistance. As much as we are familiar with the tactic of cultural boycott, we are also familiar with tactics to discredit it.

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law. The BDS commitment to nonviolence is reflected in Israel’s leading newspaper Haaretz, which published Hanan Ashrawi’s op-ed “Boycott Is Our Palestinian Non-violent Resistance.”

No one participating in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against the systematic injustices perpetrated by the South African government in the time of apartheid could be accused of being anti-white; only those who sought to deligitimize that struggle would take such a position. Similarly, any entity who determines that the treatment of Palestinians under the authority of the state of Israel to be unjust, cannot be labeled anti-Semitic. Actions under the BDS movement are not directed toward the Jewish faith or the Jewish people. They are explicitly aimed against a government and its military that carries out systematic human rights violations against the Palestinian people. Those who attempt to stigmatize this ethical position by brandishing the false label of ‘anti-Semitism’ deliberately obfuscate and misrepresent the intentions of those who take part in the boycott, diverting focus from the demands of those boycotting and from actual incidents of anti-Semitism, such as mass shooting by white neo-nazi gunmen at synagogues in America– Pittsburgh (2018), Los Angeles (2018), and Poway (2019) and just this week in Germany in Halle (2019).

Boycott is a strategy which consists in withdrawing one’s engagement with, support of and participation in an entity or enterprise one has a grievance towards. It is usually conducted on a collective basis and is called on by an individual, a group or association, when all other paths to address a problem, or hold an entity accountable for ongoing injustice have failed to yield change.

Historically some of the most effective and peaceful means of resistance have been withdrawal, non-engagement, non-participation. In the realm of labor or corporate relations, this is referred to as a strike. When a strike is socialized to a level of a people, we know it as a general strike. Similar to the ontological matrix of a strike, the boycott assembles a collection of individuals who were previously isolated from power. A counter power is created to the dominant one..

Gulf Labor Coalition offers an example of boycott in the cultural realm. The coalition came together to address the conditions and welfare of workers who would be building the Guggenheim Museum in Abu Dhabi. Members of GLC felt that they could as artists collect signatures from other artists who shared this concern, approach the museum’s administrators, express its wishes for securing the welfare of the museum’s workers and find a solution together. GLC concluded that the conversations with the museum were not having the desired effect and therefore called for a Boycott of sales and participation with the museum until they would meet the demands. GLC has never stopped seeking new avenues for negotiation and finding resolution, but the boycott was one means for GLC to withdraw support or consent until the demands are met.

Certainly, some attempted to tarnish GLC by claiming that it has some agenda against the Guggenheim, when in fact from GLC’s perspective what was asked of the museum could only be in their best long-term interests. After all, who could respect a museum built on the backs of exploited and ill-treated workers? We were highly sensitive that our boycott not embolden those with anti-Arab or anti-Muslim agendas or perpetuate racist stereotypes. One could imagine in a similar vein that the boycott could be labelled by those who resist the changes we have advocated for as anti-Arab or having an  anti-UAE agenda when if the GLC remedies would be heeded, they could only put the UAE on the very path of nourishment and respect for the culture it has been espousing and invested heavily in.

Just as groups and individuals debated the merits of various political tactics throughout history, we can and should openly debate approaches to effecting change today. We know that boycotts, like strikes, can be difficult processes: they draw a line and clearly identify sides to be taken. As with individual  experiences, sometimes, you may find a friend taking the opposite side. Paradoxically, you may also find people on your side whose views you do not agree with, or find reprehensible. Regardless of how meticulously you clarify your views, there are no guarantees that your ethical position will not be appropriated by other agendas. We can only do the work to repeatedly call out such appropriations and stay vigilant against it. Thus, while there is no way to fully prevent someone with an anti-Semitic agenda from supporting BDS, the boycott itself does not an anti-Semite make or unmake. Nor does unconditional support for Israel exempt one from having anti-Semitic and racist attitudes. This is true both historically as well as within our contemporary politics, when some of the most xenophobic and racist politicians also claim to be defenders of the Israeli state.

Those who boycott exercise a critical democratic form of political resistance. Possessing no power or authority over a situation, they collectivize their capacity to withdraw their cooperation, participation, and engagement. They take this action in solidarity with those yet more precarious – people who have been invisiblized or whose voices often remain unheard.

There is today a very dangerous trend to enact laws which silence dissent and critique of state conduct. We write this letter to urge all cultural workers to strongly refuse such concerted attempts to stifle critique, or collective action, against any abusive state or unjust entity.

Signed,

Gulf Labor Coalition

https://gulflabor.org

Method Fund calls for financial and public support of court hearings concerning the legal definition of censorship in Ukraine

October 8, 2019

We invite everyone to support the campaign by:

  • donating any amount comfortable for you;
  • providing media support.

The gathered sum will cover expenses on legal support provided by Trust Me Law Firm (Kyiv, Ukraine).

Payment details:

Method FundIBAN:  UA283510050000026003567248000 

BENEFICIARY BANK: JSC “UKRSIBBANK”Andriivska. str. 2/12, Kyiv, Ukraine

SWIFT: KHABUA2K

PURPOSE: Charitable contribution according to the program “About establishing the fact of censorship” 

kuznetsov copy 

Detailed information about the case:

In 2013, on a day before the exhibition “Grand and Great” in Mystetsky Arsenal museum complex in Kyiv, Ukraine, was opened, a mural by Volodymyr Kuznetsov called “Koliivschyna: the Judgment Day,” created specially for this exhibition, was painted over with black paint on the order of the director of the museum complex Nataliya Zabolotna. The exhibition commemorated the 1025-th anniversary of Rus’ baptism and was accompanied by official events.

In 2015, Volodymyr Kuznetsov initiated a long series of court hearings to protect his right for freedom of expression. His last lawsuit against Mystetsky Arsenal and Nataliya Zabolotna has been concerned with establishing the facts of censorship and copyright infringement, demanding moral compensation for these violations. In February 2018, the court ordered to close the lawsuit concerning the fact of censorship.

The ban and destruction of Kuznetsov’s “Koliivschyna” is an act of censorship. This case became the foundation for numerous discussions in Ukraine’s cultural field. The right to freedom of thought and speech, to free expression of one’s opinions and beliefs, is guaranteed by Constitution of Ukraine; however, the attempt to solve the conflict in the legal field showed that the current law of Ukraine has no clear notion of censorship and no definite punishment for acts of censorship.

A lack of legal definition of censorship and refusal to acknowledge that this case was a case of censorship presents us with a risk of emergence of a prohibitive mechanism, allowing any official or a director of any cultural institution to ban or even destroy any “ambiguous” piece of art that he or she cannot understand.

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ESTABLISHING THE FACT OF CENSORSHIP is a crowdfunding campaign initiated by Method Fund as a program of solidarity action to support the court hearings on establishing the fact of censorship, to determine the notion of censorship, and to organize an educational program enhancing creative workers’ knowledge of the law.

The Method Fund is an independent, nonprofit organization aimed at supporting and developing contemporary art and culture in Ukraine by initiating scientific, educational and exhibition projects.

If you have any questions, please contact the campaign’s coordinator Olga Kubli, methodfund@gmail.com

 

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