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Open letter of The Anti-Fascist Year regarding censorship at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle (Warsaw, Poland)

March 5, 2020

It is with great surprise and disappointment that we announce the censorship of the series of seminars titled „Anti-fascism for the Unconvinced”, enforced by Piotr Bernatowicz, the director of CCA Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw. The director made his decision after just one seminar, which took place on February 11. The meeting was focused on the classical essay “Elements of Anti-Semitism: Limits of Enlightenment” written by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno in 1943, historically the first philosophical text to face the reality of the Shoah.

The series of seminars was initiated and organised by a grassroots reading group interested in critical reflection on the phenomenon of fascism. It was held at the invitation of the curatorial board of CCA Ujazdowski Castle and with the approval of the institution’s previous directors. The seminars did not require financial contribution from CCA, as Dr Michał Kozłowski from the Institute of Philosophy of the University of Warsaw agreed to lead the seminars for free.

We are genuinely shocked that sventy-five years after the end of Second World War, in the capital of Poland, an important public institution evicts a seminar devoted to critical reflection on the links between anti-Semitism, fascism and the Shoah. In an explanation given to Kozłowski, Bernatowicz directly criticised Theodor Adorno as an author who, allegedly, had been ultimately  disavowed. In the real world, however, Adorno’s thought remains a fundamental point of reference not only in reflection on the Shoah, but also on modern art, whether for conservative, liberal, or left-wing thinkers. Bernatowicz has made the fight against “cultural Marxism” one of the goals of his tenure at CCA Ujazdowski Castle, as expressed by himself in his programme statement. This label is not a theoretical category that would neutrally describe a school of thought or a worldview. In fact, it is an ideological cliché imported from Nazi propaganda, which aimed to eradicate “Kulturbolschewismus” (cultural bolshevism).

We wish to warn academic and artistic communities and all people of good will against the deceptive rhetoric of Piotr Bernatowicz, who censors while ostensibly declaring openness to discussion. He rejects the legacy of European culture while protecting anti-Semites and propagators of conspiracy theories, naming critical thought ”ideology” while using dark political fantasies as facts.

“False projection is the usurper in the realm of freedom as of culture; paranoia is the symp­tom of the half-educated. For such people, all words become a system of delusion, an attempt mentally to occupy the regions to which their expe­rience does not extend,” Adorno and Horkheimer wrote in 1943. Without doubt, today they could repeat these words again.

The Anti-Fascist Year

Warsaw, March 4th 2020

PS: We would like to thank the curatorial team of CCA Ujazdowski Castle and the previous management of the institution for the fruitful cooperation within the framework of The Anti-Fascist Year, which included numerous events, seminars and exhibitions. We also express our solidarity with the employees of CCA Ujazdowski Castle. We consider this act of censorship a final confirmation of how important the memory of fascism and reflection on its nature is to society today.

 

Pinchuk Art Center mediators lose jobs after forming union (Kyiv, Ukraine)

February 26, 2020
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A mediator stands beside a piece of art at the exhibition Future Generation Art Prize 2019 in Pinchuk Art Center in Kyiv on Feb. 8, 2019. Photo by Irynka Hromotska

 

Contemporary art can be hard to understand. That’s why progressive galleries and museums hire mediators, who contextualize exhibits and broaden visitors’ knowledge about them.

At Kyiv’s Pinchuk Art Center, cultural mediation has been an essential part of guests’ experience for years. The center was one of few contemporary art platforms contributing to the development of the profession in Ukraine.

For their current exhibition, however, the gallery decided to drop the practice, stating plans to re-evaluate the role of mediators. But about 20 former employees who lost jobs because of that decision believe it was their “punishment” for forming a union to protect labor rights.

“It was just an attempt to protect ourselves and establish an official dialogue,” Anastasia Bondarenko, the head of the union, told the Kyiv Post.

The gallery, however, denies that. “This is not connected,” reads their official comment to the Kyiv Post.

The Pinchuk Art Center is one of the most visited galleries in Kyiv. It’s a rare day when lines outside of its building don’t stretch out along the Bessarabska Square.

The gallery was founded in 2006 by controversial Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk, a billionaire who built his fortune when his father-in-law, Leonid Kuchma, was president. Pinchuk is accused of using his media holdings to obstruct the investigation into the 2000 murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze as well as of supporting corrupt regimes, including the administration of overthrown President Viktor Yanukovych.

Pinchuk is also one of Ukraine’s most renowned philanthropists and holds the annual Yalta European Strategy conference. However, his beneficent activity is largely seen as attempts to clean up his stained reputation.

Union

In its 14 year history, the Pinchuk Art Center has become an influential institution that introduces artworks from all over the world to Ukrainians and gives a platform to local artists. Its biennial Pinchuk Art Center Prize is one of few awards that celebrates young Ukrainian creators and pushes the growth of the local art scene.

For seven years, the gallery had mediators working in nearly every hall during exhibitions to improve visitors’ experience – to answer their questions, expand their understanding of an artwork and ignite their imaginations.

The mediators were mostly young people from all walks of life – students, artists, culture researchers, philosophers. What they had in common was the knowledge of multiple languages, enormous love for art and the ability to infectiously share it.

The Pinchuk Art Center didn’t hire mediators as full-time employees. The gallery signed temporary contracts with them for each exhibition. In between exhibitions, when it sometimes took months to set up a new one, mediators remained unemployed.

Although the schedule was unstable, there are few alternatives for mediators in Ukraine, so many of them stuck to the place.

“Pinchuk had the most developed institute of mediation and the biggest stuff,” Bondarenko says.

However, no matter how much they appreciated the job, with some of the violations of their rights they didn’t want to compromise, Bondarenko says.

According to Bondarenko, Pinchuk Art Center’s mediators couldn’t take sick leave and were forced to work nine-hour shifts while ill or risk losing their jobs.

The gallery denies that and says that their employees have all rights in accordance with Ukrainian law.

Bondarenko says that between exhibitions, mediators had to attend meetings with management and study exhibition materials to prepare for upcoming shows, without being paid. Their complaints about it were ignored, she says.

She also says that before employment, mediators had to fill out a nine-page form with detailed information about their relatives.

Pinchuk Art Center says that those questions weren’t mandatory and the collected information was kept in the personnel records. According to Bondarenko, the gallery’s human resources specialists told them they collected the information for their internal security service.

In order to stand up for their rights, the mediators decided to form a union in October, which eventually grew to about 20 members. Bondarenko says that they wanted management to hear them out and to find a peaceful solution.

Soon after that, the union sent an official letter to their management expressing concerns about the violations.

Bondarenko says that days after that, the center’s executive director, Dmytro Logvin, told Bondarenko at the meeting with the employees that since they decided to “play activists,” their cooperation would end as soon as the current exhibition was over.

The gallery denies that. But that’s exactly what happened.

The mediators’ contracts expired along with the exhibition’s end in late December, and none of the union members were invited back.

But the gallery denies any connection between the events and says it decided to experiment with a different model combining tours and audio guides.

“We love our job. We didn’t expect such a reaction,” Bondarenko said.

Artist solidarity

The gallery’s current exhibition showcases projects by 20 Ukrainian artists, nominees in Pinchuk’s 2020 art prize.

The winner of the award is selected by an international jury and receives Hr 250,000 ($10,000), two runners-up get Hr 60,000 ($2,500) each and one more nominee selected by the audience gets Hr 25,000 ($1,000).

The exhibition is an important, highly promoted event for the center, that is only held once every two years. And for the first time in seven years, it doesn’t have mediators.

The dispute between the gallery and the mediators erupted around the same time as the Pinchuk Art Prize exhibition opening, and the nominees were thrust into the conflict.

Two nominees decided to refuse the award in solidarity with the mediators, including Pavlo Grazhdanskij, an artist from the eastern industrial city of Kharkiv whose nominated project is a reflection on the militarization of modern Ukraine.

Grazhdanskij addressed the issue on Facebook after Pinchuk Art Center published a Feb. 20 open letter on Facebook that calls the mediators liars and continues, “We are under constant public scrutiny. And that is right, but give us some space!”

Grazhdanskij says that the center’s current prize exhibition can’t be isolated from its context, and believes that the conflict with the mediators shows the gallery’s inconsistency: its unwillingness to publicly discuss the issue with the art community contradicts with its stated aspiration to support and develop this part of society.

He says that by at first avoiding and then completely abandoning the public debate over the conflict, the institution undermined artists’ trust and attracted questions about the goals and transparency of the award.

“Any conversation about art and its social value within the walls of the art center is hypocritical until the parties mutually resolve this issue.”

Following Grazhdanskij’s example, another artist, Valentina Petrova, refused her nomination as well.

In a Facebook post, Petrova said that she made the decision after reading the center’s open letter, which prompted her to question the prize’s selection process and to call the center “a PR project of oligarch Pinchuk.”

Petrova said that the gallery doesn’t look for new and original artists but promotes “their” nominees.

“No international jury can look at twenty works in one day, delve into them, delve into the context in which these works are created,” Petrova’s post reads. “It’s not hard at all to refuse something that nobody offers you.”

Toma Istomina, Kyiv Post, February 23, 2020

 

«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
skopje-horizontal-w

 

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

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