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Media Impact Activist Art Festival Disrupted by Police Intervention (Moscow, Russia)

November 10, 2015

On Saturday, November 7th, after a political intervention and a police investigation, the festival for activist art Media Impact was kicked out of their venue, the Red Center in Moscow.

At about one o’clock on that day, about 15 activists from the Antidealer movement (an all-Russian public movement to combat drug addiction and alcoholism), together with crews of the TV channels Russia and REN-TV burst into the exhibition space. The activist art festival Media Impact had been taking place in this venue for a week; the weekend in question was dedicated to contemporary art for children.

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The Antidealer members had already called a police squad, which arrived after some time. Tatiana Volkova spent several hours testifying in the police department Yakimanka. According to the lawyer Dmitry Dinze, representatives of the organization Antidealer wrote that the event included propaganda for drugs (as well as drug addicts), LGBT and anarchism, in a statement to the police about Media Impact.

A few days before the police intervention, member of this organization had visited the festival. They were interested in the section Narcophobia: several men placed themselves in different corners of the exhibition hall, and started asking provocative questions, accusing the festival organizers of engaging in propaganda and violating drug laws. The Media Impact organizers emphasized that no promotion of drug abuse was taking place, and that talking about drug problems is not the promotion thereof. Narcophobia is an initiative of the Foundation Andrew Rylkov in Moscow, the activist art project Zhir, the group Babushka posle pohoron (Grandma after the funeral) from Novosibirsk, and the group Panda-Theater from Berlin.  The first presentation of Narcophobia took place in October 2011 also during the Media Impact festival in Moscow. The main goal then was to draw public attention to the issue of spreading drugs and to promote public debate on this issue. Since then, Narcophobia organized several activities related to relevant topics. The slogans of the project are: “No to the war on drug addicts!”; “For the right to life and health!”; “For humane drug policy!”. You can read more about the project here (in Russian): http://narcophobia.ru/

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The official statement of the “Media Impact” Festival working group regarding the provocation of the “Antidealer” organization

Since its beginning in 2011, Media Impact, International Festival of Activist Art, has been an open space for the exchange of ideas and practices in the field of art and activism. Media Impact hosts lectures, discussions and workshops by a broad range of internationally acknowledged and less known artists, activists and philosophers, as well as cinema clubs, rock’n’roll concerts and children’s program.

Narcophobia was one of the projects presented at the 2015 edition of the festival. It is dedicated to the humanization of narco-politics and eliminating the stigma associated with drug-users in the society. It supports the availability of the treatment of drug-addiction, harm reduction, helping the addicts instead of punishing them.

Antidealer is a public organization dedicated to the reduction of the number of the citizens of Russia using drugs. On the 4th of November its activists took part in the Narcophobia section where they behaved aggressively, but left the discussion very soon. Next time, on the 7th November, the activists of the movement joined the children’s workshops weekend of the festival. This time they were accompanied by the reporters of the two state TV channels – Russia1 and REN-TV, which had previously been invited by the organizers of the festival but preferred to come in the company of the Antidealer group. Led by a member of Parliament, Dmitry Nossov, the representatives of this public organization raided Maria Kalinina’s lecture on contemporary art for children. They accused the organizers of presenting children with illegal information and called the police. On the state channels the organizers were accused of propaganda of LGBT, drugs, extremism and feminism. The statement to the police that they made afterwards listed propaganda of drugs, drugs dealing, anarchism and LBGT.

The next day the owner of the gallery received a call from the police with a warning of checks during the day, so he asked the organizers to leave the room. The program for the whole day was cancelled.

During the visit of the Antidealer members the participating children got suffered moral abuse. They were filmed together with their parents without their permission, and even in spite of their open protests. The next event after the children’s lecture was a conference on democratic psychiatry, among the participants of which were some people with psychiatrical conditions, who were also severely traumatized by the rude behavior of the non-invited participants.

Propaganda of any kind is not the subject of our festival. It is about meeting people, discussing things with them, creating connections and working out problems.

More photos here.

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“MediaImpact: International Festival of Activist Art” took place for the 4th time in Moscow, Russia, October  30 – November 7, 2015, at Red Centre, Moscow (Red October). MediaImpact is an open international community seeking to explore, articulate, document, support and develop activist art. The key aspect of its activity is the inclusion of art projects into the actual socio-political practices of today, which includes, among other things, campaigning for the rights of minority groups, release of political prisoners, environmental protection and development of alternatives to existing healthcare systems, as well as standing up against censorship and defamation of cultural figures. 

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