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Voina refuses to participate in “anti-Russian” festival in the Netherlands

May 3, 2014

The Voina group protested against its inclusion on the list of participants at the festival OpenBorder which ran from April 22nd to May 1st in Amsterdam. The group justified their decision claiming that the festival was anti-Russian. On the site of the festival, the organizers state that “Russia has carried about an armed intervention in Crimea, Ukraine. And the independent medias in Russia are now closed or changed the directions. (Dozhd, Lenta.ru, etc.). The inner Russian information is more and more directed to the political propaganda, censorship and total informational control, like in the times of Iron Curtain.” The festival took place in in St. Josephkerk, Amsterdam. Its aim was to “bring the visual and cultural dialogue between Russian and the west trough an exhibition of photo projects and a series of events.”

Describing the above statement as “anti-Russian,” on April 13th the Voina group refused to participate in OpenBorder. One of the core members of Voina, Oleg Vorotnikov appealed to the festival organizers in an open letter, in which he outlined the reasons behind the refusal: “There are ideological reasons behind our categorical refusal…The Voina group has a fundamentally different opinion on Crimea, an opposite position to that of the organizers. We are glad that Crimea was annexed by Russia, and we are happy for the Crimeans. I am proud of my country for the first time in a long time. And that’s not all. For years I have criticized the unprofessional liberal media – in particular, “Lenta.ru” and “Dozhd”. I have often cited them as examples of prostitution, to the point of a humanitarian catastrophe in the Russian press. And finally, I welcomed their belated shrinking. 

In general Voina’s position is the very opposite off all that is expressed by the organizers of the Dutch exhibition,” concluded Vorotnikov. 

On April 23rd, the Voina group posted on its official website that, “despite the curators’ promises, Voina’s name has still not been erased from the schedule.” “Even after Voina’s loud statement and a long correspondence, the organizers are still trying to ignore the obvious: the Voina group is not participating in any foreign anti-Russian demonstrations!” declared the group. 

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The Russian artists list on the OpenBorder Festival website

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The posted schedule of the OpenBorder festival on April 24th

Irina Popova, one of the curators of the festival replied to Voina that “the workshop will mention the Voina group, and it will not be led by them. It is a big difference. We have enough information from public sources, which no one can prohibit us from using, since it is for educational and research purposes.” Popova qualified Voina’s statements  as “baseless attacks.”

In a conversation with Colta.ru, the organizers of OpenBorder further responded to Voina’s accusations: “This a gross misconception. We love Russia, and we are very worried about our country, otherwise it would not be the central theme of our festival.” According to the organizers, despite the fact that the festival’s timeframe coincides with the annexation of Crimea and the crackdown on the free media, OpenBorder does not have political overtones, and it would be wrong to interpret it that way. They noted that the festival was carried out without any support from Russian or Western organizations, and it is supported only by the Dostoyevsky Photographic Society. The main theme of the festival was “Photography and propaganda,” however the organizers claim they did not advocate for one side or the other, rather their aim was to analyze the phenomenon of propaganda: “We as organizers do not make any comments on Crimea, or other issues , but only give various artists and groups a platform for expression and open dialogue, if it is still possible. We function only on a cultural plane, the only thing which we stand for is freedom of creativity, expression and exchange of information. Culture – is something that will outlast policies and regimes, that’s what we call value and respect.” stated OpenBorder organizers. They also shared that at the end of the festival they were planning to establish photographic and artistic connections between Russia and the rest of the world, believing in the power of dialogue. 

Concerning the conflict with Voina, the organizers remarked: “We sincerely regret that Voina refused to take part in the festival; they have ignored this opportunity for dialogue, and expressed their point of view in the form of provocative and erroneous statements that the media automatically reproduced.” They continued that they are entitled to analyze Voina’s public activities for research and educational purposes, using publicly available sources and documentary stories previously published. “We are sincerely sorry that Voina lost much of the public’s interest in their activities and use every opportunity to stir up such scandals.”

Text based on an articlez published on Colta.ru (in Russian) and on texts publicly available on the Voina site.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Steven Hunt permalink
    April 20, 2016 11:50 PM

    The framing of the event was very one-sided, and was not any any way neutral, or even resembling objectivity.

    The US led EU countries are nothing more than colonies of the empire at this point.

    I salute the Russian people that will not allow themselves to be abused and caracitured by tools of US imperialism.

  2. bob permalink
    May 3, 2014 8:57 PM

    There’s Pussy Riot and then there’s Pussy Voina 🙂 And why would an “art group” call itself “War”? What are they “warring” against? Then ask the Tatars in Crimea about how happy they are that they got “annexed”?

  3. May 3, 2014 6:52 PM

    I recently withdrew my plans to participate in a sponsored conference in Saint Petersburg – not because I felt the conference was “Anti-Ukraine” or Anti-anything at all, but because the organizers thought they could pass the present situation under silence, in a conference devoted to Art and Politics, of all things. Voina’s decision strikes me as of another order: not a denunciation of the impossibility of debate and exchange, but a manipulation of their own privilege to debate. It strikes me as well an an incipient form of what Karl Kraus used to call the posture of the “Innocent Victimizer:” As Lenin would say, кто кого: who’s doing what, to whom?

    Either your creative activity is political as creative activity, or you allow yourself to be used as an instrument of partisan politics. I took the first road; Voina took the other.

    Cordially,

    Hoipolloi Cassidy
    Political Desk,
    WOID: a journal of visual language

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