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OPEN REPLY Re: open letter regarding the planned discussion panel on “The New Avant Garde” (Zurich, Switzerland)

March 7, 2017

Bern, 26 February 2017

Dear open letter authors,

I was astonished to read your letter of 24 February 2017, particularly since it was preceded neither by dialogue nor any other form of exchange between us. In it, you take issue not only with the panel discussion on the “The New Avant Garde” which we plan to hold at the Theater Gessnerallee in Zurich, but also with me personally. That is why I would like respond personally. In your letter, you go so far as to accuse me of paying “homage to the opponent ”, because, during a debate, I asked the AfD’s Marc Jongen whether the new nationalists and right-wing conservatives “didn’t see liberalism in the same way the wolf in the Grimm’s fairy tale saw the chalk [i.e. as a means of making themselves more acceptable]?”

I am one of the most determined critics of Marc Jongen, as my numerous articles clearly demonstrate (see list below). My work as an art scholar, journalist, critic and musician is opposed to every form of ideology, self righteousness, blinkered thinking, discrimination and violence, be it from the right or the left, from the (supposedly) conservative or the (supposedly) progressive end of the political spectrum.

Unlike many of my fellow critics, however, I am convinced that the debate with parties such as the AfD must be conducted in public and face-to-face. What progress would we achieve if we took the view that that we can only lose in public debate with the AfD and that they can only win? Do we really believe that our arguments are that weak? I am convinced that the opposite is true. The fact that Germany’s media originally refused to take the AfD on directly did not make them disappear. Instead, it strengthened the party and enabled them to propagate the comfortable myth that they are the victims.

Taking their cue from its most vociferous and radical politicians, the AfD’s critics portray it as a closed, monolithic, populist political block. An alternative approach would be to attempt to identify the differing points of view which exist within the party. Then, by demonstrating how these diverging positions cannot be reconciled, it might be possible to weaken and split the AfD. The question is not whether the AfD should be opposed, but rather how it should be done.

Opinions on my attitude and approach may differ. There can however be no disagreement that distortion and defamation have no place in civilised debate. Yet it is to precisely those methods that you resort in your open letter. You abbreviate statements, tear them from their original context and reproduce them incorrectly.  You suppress countless criticisms I have made in my dialogue with Jongen, while at the same time selecting a few ambivalent points which you then present in a manner which gives them the appearance of acts of fraternisation. These are strategies with which I am only too familiar from my disputes with right-wing populists. How ironic it is, not to say tragic, that their “opponents” are now using these same techniques.

Referring to the debate between Jongen and myself published in the Schweizer Monat in 2016, you insinuate that both I and the AfD member – contrary to what you say in your letter, Jongen is not an “AfD politician”, at least not yet, because he holds no political office – share the same views on “gender mainstreaming”. What I in fact explicitly wrote in the dialogue was this: “When it comes to genuinely liberal causes such as “marriage for all”, it soon becomes apparent how liberal right-wing conservatives really are. Their liberalism may extend to economic policy, but it does not reach as far as social policy. That is why a little more California would be welcome!” As is well known, California permits same-sex marriage.

I do however have to say that I find the term “gender mainstreaming” problematical per se. In a progressive context, the term “mainstream” has negative connotations, and for good reason. It also provides a golden opportunity for reactionary points of view to appropriate avant garde and subculture credentials for their invective. That is why I believe unambiguous terms such as “emancipation”, “equal rights” or “equality” are better suited to the progressive cause.

You go on to say that I have a “distaste for political correctness”, whereas I explicitly referred to “exaggerated political correctness” in what I wrote. Here again, I identify with the objectives on which the term is based – tolerance, respect and openness. However I regard the expression itself as unusable, as indeed do many on the left. It is above all the exaggerated use of the term which prevents differentiated debate. That and the fact that it is used far too often by all sides as a means of ending any debate at all.

I also write that although I would gladly lend my support to the criticism of repressive tolerance, I cannot do so. Why? Because while the idea originates from Marcuse in another context, it has now been appropriated by the reactionary side of the debate. You, on the other hand, tear my statement from its context and distort the meaning of my words by quoting only part of the sentence. My actual criticism was that “any resentment, no matter how crude or reactionary, of such criticism [of political correctness and repressive tolerance] is always glossed over.”

Last but not least you refer to overlaps in the criticism of the status quo between left and right, conservatives and progressives. Yet nobody can seriously dispute that such overlaps do indeed exist – see Sahra Wagenknecht and the refugee policy, see the willingness of extremists on both left and right to resort to violence, see the gratitude with which neoliberalism has espoused post-structuralist ideas, see Stephen Bannon’s references to Lenin or the parallels between Mao and Trump so brilliantly illustrated by Geremie R. Barmé, to name but a few examples. Anyone who chooses to ignore all that has condemned themselves to a dangerous form of modern gnosis.

This is not the place to consider the multiple meanings of the term avant garde. That would only open up an academic debate. However, your letter contains one statement on this issue which I find more than questionable – and that is your view that the common denominator linking the major avant garde movements and concepts of the early 20th century – which include such heterogeneous movements as dadaism, expressionism, suprematism and futurism – was “a communist utopia”. The unfortunate fact is that nobody has a monopoly on the avant garde.

Your open letter clearly illustrates how opponents in a struggle assimilate each other’s attributes. Rather than considering my arguments carefully, you disparage me and my efforts to resist the rising power of authoritarian and reactionary forces. Those efforts always go hand in hand with public confrontation, self criticism and the, admittedly painful, search for the reasons why progressive (left-wing) forces are being weakened and weaken themselves.

With greetings,

Jörg Scheller

List of links to articles containing references to the AfD:

Open letter against giving AfD a stage in Zurich theatre

March 1, 2017


Dear Gessnerallee Team, dear organizers of the upcoming discussion panel “The New Avant-Garde” on March 17th, 2017,

You have decided to invite the AfD [Alternative for Germany] politician Marc Jongen to sit on the panel of your event “The New Avant-Garde”. In your announcement of the event, you describe him (in keeping with his own self-description) as being “avantgard-conservative” (sic.) From the early 20th century on, the term ‘avant-garde’ – originally of military origin – came to describe – both in the arts, as well as in politics – a radical severance from tradition and a concept of progress, mainly expressed in blueprints of a communist utopia. The many reasons behind attempts by the extreme right to appropriate this term are not addressed by the constellation of the panel. Even worse: the term is simply handed over. Thus uncommented, it takes on a dangerous appeal for those with little political experience, radical chic.

Marc Jongen is one of the most sophisticated speakers (demagogues) in ranks of the AfD. To place him on a panel and speak of an “experiment”, demonstrates naivety. His application of Sloterdijk’s political-psychological experiment Rage and Time (2006) in the AfD has been carefully planned for years and is ideologically firmly ingrained. Beyond any ostensible analysis, it has already become a clear guideline for action – every time a theatre event is disturbed, every attack on a leftist bookstore, every burning refugee shelter is an applied case of “rage politics” legitimized by this very discourse.

What exactly are the “rage politics” of the AfD? For Jongen – as for Sloterdijk – “thymos” stands for rage, pride, and courage. This ideology not only sheds an entirely different light on a wide range of direct rage politics within the right-wing extremist movements, e.g. Pegida street fighting, “subversive activity” (a term originally coined by the SDS – Socialist German Student Union, later adopted by Götz Kubitschek), “aesthetic intervention” (a likewise previously leftist term adopted into the jargon of the “Identitarians”), it also permeates representative party politics – thus bringing both sides together. Jongen’s “superstructure” aims to merge both extra-parliamentary and internal parliamentary “thymotic energies”. Just recently, Jongen spoke at Kubitschek’s “Institute for State Policy” (IfS) about a lack of “thymos tension”, when he argued in favor of “civil disobedience”. Do we really want to wait and see which strategies this “rage rationalizer of the AfD” (Süddeutsche Zeitung) recommends next when placed on a panel about the avant-garde?

The list of examples of how this “thymotic energy” is seeping into culture, is currently growing longer and longer. The AfD has called for a cultural-political “turn of memory” towards romanticism, an “era, in which we Germans came into our own” (AfD-member of the parliament in Saxony-Anhalt Hans-Thomas Tillschneider). What this really means for arts and culture in AfD-governed states, becomes evident in the following examples of recent attacks on culture:

– In January 2017, a right-wing mob protested against an art installation by Syrian artist Manaf Halbouni in front of the Frauenkirche in Dresden.

– Recently, four actors and actresses terminated their contracts in Altenburg, among them Ouelgo Téné from Burkina Faso, who played the “Captain of Köpenick”. Reasons given were: right-wing aggression and attacks.

– In November 2016, there was a bomb attack on the Lokomov Cultural Center in Chemnitz, where a theater project was commemorating the murders committed by the NSU (National Socialist Underground). Neonazis had previously also beat up visitors and thrown bags of paint and stones at the building.

– In October 2016, the AfD protested against Kevin Rittberger’s piece “Peak White oder Wirr sinkt das Volk“ in front of the Theater Heidelberg. At the same time, the AfD city council called for six positions in the ensemble to be cut, by posting a photo of Rittberger’s production on Facebook, which featured exactly those six actors on stage.

– In late 2016, the AfD called for a stop of the dance theater project “Das Fremde so nah“ (“The Foreign So Close”) at the Anhaltische Theater in Dessau. The AfD described the production, featuring Syrian and German teenagers and young adults, as a “manipulative theater project” aimed at “driving out and negating the differentiation between own and foreign out of our teenagers” (Gottfried Backhaus, AfD-member of the parliament in Saxony-Anhalt).

The fact that two of the guests invited by the Gessnerallee – both the AfD politician as well as Jörg Scheller, art historian at the ZHDK Zurich – have a partly overlapping analysis, as revealed in prior dispute between them, such as an open distaste for political correctness and what they call “repressive tolerance” (for which they actually used gender mainstreaming as an example) – bodes ill for the direction that the upcoming event may take: the term “repressive tolerance” as used by right-wing politicians not only conceals actual repression, as emanating from an openly racist political party, but also negates and twists the history of the term which dates back to Herbert Marcuse and the leftist movement. What we really need is to reinstate this knowledge and reappropriate the term in order to critically unmask a growing, right-wing conservative to extremist ideology of “security”, discrimination and isolationism. Instead Jongen’s conspiracy theories are granted ample space to rant against “those up there”, leftist liberals and “leftist fascists” – with uncommented links posted online next to the announcement of the event.

The “crucial question” posed by Jörg Scheller: “how do the new nationalist and right-wing conservatives see liberals” is formulated in such a way that it sounds like no more than a homage to the opponent and not worthy of much further consideration. In our opinion the really crucial question is: wouldn’t an institution such as the Gessnerallee probably be first on an AfD list for elimination?

With all this in mind, we call on you and all other theaters and theater makers to not provide a stage for the AfD.

With solidarity towards all, who stand up against hate,

Signed by                                                                               Berlin, 24.2.2017

Kevin Rittberger, Autor und Regisseur, Berlin
Joy Kristin Kalu, Theaterwissenschaftlerin und Kuratorin, Berlin
Alex Karschnia, andcompany&Co, Berlin
Nicola Nord, andcompany&Co, Berlin
Sascha Sulimma, andcompany&Co, Berlin
Florian Thamer, EGfKA, Berlin
Tina Turnheim, EGfKA, Berlin
Konstanze Schmitt, Künstlerin und Regisseurin, Berlin
Simone Dede Ayivi, Theatermacherin, Berlin
Matthias Naumann, Futur II Konjunktiv, Berlin
Elena Polzer, ehrliche arbeit – freies Kulturbüro, Berlin
Sandra Klöss, ehrliche arbeit – freies Kulturbüro, Berlin
Prof. Dr. Ulf Wuggenig, Dekan Fakultät Kulturwissenschaften, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg
Dr. Cornelia Sollfrank, Künstlerin und Commons-Forscherin, Berlin/ Zürich
Diedrich Diedrichsen, Akademie der bildenden Künste, Wien
Necati Öziri, Autor und Dramaturg, Berlin
Tobias Herzberg, Regisseur und Autor, Berlin/ Zürich
Aljoscha Begrich, Dramaturg, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
Irina Szodruch, Dramaturgin, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
Ludwig Haugk, Leitender Dramaturg, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
Sebastian Huber, Leitender Dramaturg, Residenztheater München
Holger Bergmann, Kurator, Ruhrgebiet/ Berlin
Sandra Umathum, Professorin für Theaterwissenschaft und Dramaturgie, Berlin
Falk Richter, Autor und Regisseur, Berlin
Dirk von Lowtzow, Musiker, Berlin
Dr. Nanna Lüth, Juniorprofessur Kunstdidaktik/ Geschlechterforschung, UdK Berlin
Sonja Hornung, freie Künstlerin, Berlin
Marc Schäfers, Verleger, Köln
Wolfram Lotz, Schriftsteller, Leipzig
Daniel Richter, Dramaturg, Berliner Festspiele
Tobias Schuster, Leitender Dramaturg, Schauspielhaus Wien
Samuel Weiss, Schauspieler, Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg
Silke Ballath, Kulturagentin für kreative Schulen, Berlin
Veronika Albrandt, Künstlerin/Mathematikerin, Berlin
Rafael Cardoso, Schriftsteller, Berlin
Imanuel Schipper, Dramaturg und Theaterwissenschaftler, Hamburg
Chang Nai Wen, SdF-Sisyphos, der Flugelefant, Berlin
Benny Drechsel, Filmproduzent, Leipzig
Janina Möbius, Theaterwissenschaftlerin und Filmemacherin, Berlin
Johannes Müller, Regisseur, Berlin
Michael Lorber, Theaterwissenschaftler, Berlin
Jörg Albrecht, Schriftsteller, Berlin
Mariama Diagne, M.A., Tanzwissenschaftlerin, Berlin
Julius Heinicke, Kultur- und Theaterwissenschaftler, Berlin
Anna Mareike Holtz, ehrliche arbeit – freies Kulturbüro, Berlin
Katharina Rost, Theaterwissenschaftlerin, Berlin
Hauke Heumann, Schauspieler, Berlin
Gesine Hohmann, Performerin, Duisburg
Olivia Wenzel, Autorin, Berlin
Moritz Gagern, freischaffender Komponist und Dramaturg, Berlin
Jan Deck, Freier Theaterschaffender, Frankfurt/Main
Natascha Siouzouli, Theaterwissenschaftlerin, Berlin
Therese Schmidt, Regisseurin und Autorin, Performing Arts Programm Berlin
Sandra Wrampelmeyer, Soziale Arbeit, Berlin
Janina Benduski, Berlin
Stefan Sahlmann, Berlin
Elke Weber, Kulturmanagerin, Berlin
Kristin Flade, Theaterwissenschaftlerin, Berlin
Lilian Seuberling, Theaterwissenschaftlerin, Berlin
Julia Wolf, Schriftstellerin, Leipzig/Berlin
Lena Mody, Bühnen- und Kostümbildnerin, Berlin
Susanne Foellmer, Tanz- und Theaterwissenschaftlerin, Berlin/Coventry
Karina Rocktäschel, Studierende der Theaterwissenschaft, Berlin
Julian Kamphausen, Kurator, Berlin
Nicola Schmidt, Theaterwissenschaftlerin und Dramaturgin, Berlin
Jens Lüstraeten, Videokünstler, Berlin
Alisa Tretau, Regisseurin, Berlin
Steffen Klewar, Regisseur, copy & waste, Berlin
Sylvia Schwarz, Schauspielerin, Berlin
Nadia Shehadeh, Soziologin, Bielefeld
Antje Prust, Regisseurin und Performerin, Berlin
Katharina Kellermann, Audiokünstlerin Swoosh Lieu, Hamburg
Mariam Soufi Siavash, Theater im Pavillon, Hannover
Veronika Gerhard, Künstlerin und Filmemacherin, Ballhaus Naunynstrasse, Berlin
Dr. Azadeh Sharifi, Theaterwissenschaftlerin, Berlin
Golschan Ahmad Haschemi, Kulturwissenschaftlerin und Performerin, Hannover
Frederik Müller, Regisseur, Autor, Performer (Kollektiv Technocandy), Berlin
Maren Barnikow Kulturwissenschaftlerin, Gera
Maximilian Marcoll, Komponist, Berlin
Steffi Weismann, Künstlerin, Berlin
Julia*n Meding, Theatermacher*in und Musiker*in, Berlin
Maike Tödter, Produktionsleiterin, Hamburg
Ivar Thomas van Urk, Regisseur, Berlin
Michael Wächter, Schauspieler, Theater Basel
Prof. Dr. Steffi Richter, Japanologin, Kyoto-Universität, Japan
Hildegard Bockhorst, Projektreferentin Kulturelle Bildung, Berlin
Anja Kraus, Professorin für Pädagogik, Växjö, Schweden
Rahel Puffert, Kulturwissenschaftlerin und Kunstvermittlerin, Hamburg/Oldenburg
Hugo Holger Busse, Architekt u. Kurator, Berlin
Anne Brammen, Dramaturgin, Berlin
Franziska Rieder, Fotografin, Berlin
Florian Evers, M.A., Theaterwissenschaftler, Berlin
Judith Philipp, Bühnen- und Kostümbildnerin, Berlin
Elsa Lindig, Performerin bei Hysterisches Globusgefühl, Dresden/Berlin
Simke Kalu-Preussner, Hebamme, Oldenburg
Johannes Birlinger, freier Musiker, Berlin/Helsinki
Alexander Ostojski, Performing Arts Festival, Berlin

The list is updated on a regular basis.If you would like to sign, please send your name, occupation, city of the following address:

Translation by Elena Polzer

Baltic Box Case (Newcastle, UK)

February 18, 2017

“It has been over 14 weeks since the BALTIC Trustees were asked to respond to the open letter to the Director. Unfortunately, there has been no response from anyone at BALTIC so the Cc group have made this set of images/slides which have been uploaded to facebook and flickr with an accompanying text for each image.”

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Occupy Museums Anti-Fascist Values Statement for #J20 (New York, USA)

January 20, 2017

via Occupy Museums

January 20th is not a day for business as usual. It is a day of reckoning: a day when we must step back stand together and acknowledge how far we have fallen from the values that we supposedly uphold as individuals, communities, and institutions. At the same time, however, we must recognize that this occasion is exactly business as usual in the United States of America. It would be naive to suggest that the advent of Fascism is representative of one man or one woman or one administration. This moment has finally landed following decades of Reaganomics. It landed after centuries of living in a house with a flawed foundation built on slavery, stolen labor, and bloodshed; maintained through the normalization of systemic injustice. It has landed as the full legitimization of cultural homogenization, techno-militarism and life inside the atomized logic of corporatism. It has landed after the sequestering of money and political agency into fewer and fewer hands. We have become a country of red and blue: a separatist mentality that replays “the people” as demographics, driving wedges between “races,” classes, regions, genders, education levels, and worldviews.

Our values — values fought for tirelessly over the generations, values that we believe to be sacred — have proven to be as fragile as they are precious.

Facing this reality, we bear much responsibility and seize this moment of national coming-into-consciousness as an opportunity. Occupy Museums calls on our communities — in this case artists, cultural practitioners, and institutions — to directly name and confront this truth: we are living in a Fascist State. Fascist propaganda exacerbates the racism and misogyny embedded in our culture for cynical political ends; it is the enemy of art. This can be seen from the new administration’s plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts — a last vestige of truly public support of the arts. Their vision of art is reduced to luxury trappings for oligarchs. Although the same financial sphere that has largely brought us to the current precipice stands behind US museums as their primary means of support, this doesn’t devalue their potency as public spaces and repositories of collective mythologies. Their civic function depends not on philanthropy but on struggle. Museums require artists, activists, and global citizens to challenge them, demanding that they hold true to their missions to serve the public, not just the 1%. That is why on #J20 we invite our communities to join us inside the museum, which we demand function as public space, to declare our common values, to make undeniable our demands, and to render our truths unmediated and unavailable for contortion, interpretation, or abstraction. Then we head out into the streets.

Occupy Museums reflects on the values behind our mission and in solidarity with all arts workers commits to continuing the struggle for the following:

  1. Racism and xenophobia are real and alive today. Misogyny and homophobia are real and alive today. White nationalism is growing in political, economic, and symbolic power. We value cultural institutions who are able to name the severity of this political zeitgeist and join the fight for dismantling white supremacy. We declare that one cannot be neutral on a Fascist train. We commit to joining in efforts to organize an anti-Fascist resistance.
  1. Arts within neoliberal economies have long been stripped of social organizing force and community accountability. We have witnessed a transparent bid to transform art into an asset class for private speculation, upending its political autonomy; art has become a tool of propaganda. As this incoming administration dramatically reduces or eliminates public funding for the arts, museums will be relying solely on compromised private funding. We uphold the value of art and cultural production independent from financial and political coercion, free from appropriation and exploitation.
  1. We reject a culture that ignores or celebrates US war and imperialism. We reject a culture that fetishizes, essentializes, and flattens the layers of our shared reality. Such a culture reflects a shallow politics where sycophantic hype replaces public discourse. We value art that is authentic, layered, diverse, and unafraid of delving into the complexity of our shared experiences. We commit to a struggle against the reign of hegemonic power brokers in the arts and in support of a more committed art and discourse. Museums must move toward greater social justice to be relevant.
  1. Since their inception centuries ago, the collections of art museums have consisted of objects stolen from indigenous and oppressed peoples whose cultures were appropriated and/or decimated to reify whiteness. Even though museums partially embody the democratization of art, they are also sites embedded with white supremacy and patriarchy. We will not separate our appreciation of museums from the ongoing need to shift the power that is codified into this mode of cultural representation. We commit to the ongoing struggle for increased presence of Black and Brown people, immigrants, and women in museum administrations, collections, events, and viewership, and in the return of stolen cultural heritage and objects.
  1. White Nationalist populism thrives from the perceived (and often real) elitism and exclusivity of the “art world.” Yet it is a right for every human being to partake in and benefit from the cultural wealth and heritage composed from our collective history, regardless of economic or social status. We believe that access to cultural institutions should always be free and we commit to a long struggle to take back institutions from the exclusivity of philanthropy and high-ticket-price corporate models.
  1. Economic precarity stemming from the devaluation of labor and increased corporate profits from extractive debts drives a wedge between members of our society, pitting us against each other in ruthless competition. We look to democracies across the globe who affirm the right to a living wage and even a basic income and call on our nation’s cultural institutions to pay all employees, contractors, and exhibiting artists a living wage for their labor.
  1. The transformation of public spaces and our neighborhoods and homes into speculative instruments increases the already dire state of class anxiety. The economic precarity suffered by artists puts them at risk of being both affected by and a catalyst in the gentrification of poor neighborhoods. Cultural institutions play a major role in gentrification that must be addressed; it is imperative that institutions use their cultural and financial capital to support their communities of arts workers and their local publics rather than enable gentrification by participating in development schemes.
  1. Intellectualism and cultural experiment are considered as dangerous and unpatriotic to Fascists. Nazi poet laureate Hanns Johst famously wrote: “Let ’em keep their good distance with their whole ideological kettle of fish … I shoot with live ammunition! When I hear the word culture …, I release the safety on my Browning!” Our cultural institutions must fortify themselves against the coming onslaught by deepening and declaring their commitment to and support of artists, critical discourse, freedom of expression, and their immediate communities. We call on all museums and cultural institutions to stand in solidarity with the artists, art critics, art workers, and public who will not stand by in silence as power is handed over to Fascists. Cultural institutions can begin (as some have already begun) by collectively reassessing their institutions’ statements of ethics, making amendments, addenda, and revisions that specifically address the institution’s role and responsibility to treat its workers fairly, to protect them from State repression when threatened, and to support the creation of bold and progressive works of art.



Speak Out on Inauguration Day, organized by Occupy Museums, takes place at the Whitney Museum (99 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District, Manhattan) on January 20 from 11am to 2pm. Admission to the event is free, and entrance to the Whitney will be on a pay-as-you-wish basis all day in observance of the inauguration.

Contradictions and Transformative Trajectory of Art & Labor

November 25, 2016


Conclusions of the Trondheim Seminar – Contradictions and Transformative Trajectory of Art & Labor – Printed edition, published by LevArt 2016.
This paper was written by Rena Raedle and Vladan Jeremic in Belgrade, Trondheim and Levanger, September – December 2015 and reviewed by Airi Triisberg, Corina L. Apostol, Gregory Sholette, Lise Soskolne and Katja Praznik.
Printed by Trykkpartner, Trondheim, ISBN 978-82-690297-4-1

Contributors to the working groups and the participans of Trondheim Seminar:
Airi Triisberg, Corina L. Apostol, Danilo Prnjat, Gregory Sholette, Ivor Stodolsky, Jean-Baptiste Naudy, Jelena Vesić,Jesper Alvaer, Jochen Becker, Kuba Szreder, Lise Skou, Lise Soskolne, Marina Vishmidt, Marita Muukkonen, Marius Lervåg Aasprong, Minna L. Henriksson, Mourad El-garouge, Noah Fischer, Raluca Voinea, Sissel M Bergh.

For more information about the seminar, related papers by the contributors and full documentation of plenary sessions see

The project was led by Anne-Gro Erikstad, project leader and curator at LevArt, project space for contemporary art of the Levanger kommune.

Contradictions and Transformative Trajectory of Art & Labor can be downloaded here:

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Šejma Ferré/ A Case of Plagiarism (Belgrade, Serbia)

October 27, 2016

We’ll see what we’ll do with these Šejma’s maps, although, as you know, I am not very happy with them, she could have tried a bit more or at least do what was finally asked from her. Speaking of perfectionism, the map is not our strong point

a representative of the Museum of African art in Belgrade about my drawing which they later plagiarized

In time when cases of plagiarism, forgeries, fake degrees, stolen intellectual properties and broken author rights are common, I didn’t expect to be in this company.

That is to say, in May this year, Museum of African art in Belgrade asked me to make a drawing representing a map of Africa. For my work they had promised me a symbolical fee (in an envelope). I have drawn the map and museum asked me to send the big file with my artwork to them. But soon after, the Museum decided to reject my artwork as unfit. They erased my name from the project and canceled the promised fee. ( From the letter the Museum has sent me: “Since the map will have to be made again, fee designed for Šejma covers the costs of new production.”.)

But in July, visiting the current exhibition in the museum, I saw that they had published my work in the catalog (that they sell) and as a big poster on the wall without neither authorization nor credit. The museum had simplified, distorted, and combined my drawing with the work of another author also unsigned Dr David Robinson (map of Saint-Louis at the end of the 19th century). It is a complete copy of my artwork, including the titles’ misspellings (Thiés, Nikolo Koba, Lac de Guier, Vallée d’Ferlol) and shapes of borders (the disappearance of Togo, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sinai peninsula, lakes Victoria and Tanganyika and Cape of Good Hope).

I contacted the museum about this copyright infringement on 9th August 2016 but they continue to ignore this.

Šejma Ferré, visual artist

paralelni svet m.jpg


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Photos from Museum of African art in Belgrade, with plagiarized work exhibited and published in catalogue


English translation in chronological order of the correspondance between the Museum of African art and artist Šejma Fere about the project

14 May 2016,  16:18 , Museum wrote:

You can tell her that it will be printed on format 100(long)x120 (high), on banner (in the printing office they told me that what I think about is called a banner, and the canvas is something else).

This format is one that fits the wall.

Of course, if she wants square format than she should put 100x100cm, it won’t be a problem. Or maybe 120×120…although for this I need to measure the wall again.

Maybe she can draw something like what I send you in attachment… to have in a square up where it is compared to the whole African continent, and where it is compared to Senegal… What do you think?

15 May 2016, 02:15, Šejma wrote:

Greeting to all,

What is the deadline for map production? Does it have to be on a banner? If there is sufficient time for production, what do you think about idea of a handmade map – collage of different papers and drawing materials, dimensions 100x100cm? From materials would be used pencil, marker, adhesive foil, digital and xerox print on paper for some details, letraset letters;  different kind of papers; two batten for calendars/maps ( I have it in black and in white color, but also it could be wooden or to find some stick in park of 100cm).



16 May 2016, 12:27 Museum wrote:

Dear Šejma,

First of all, thank you for your will and enthusiasm to be part of the team that prepares Katatina’s exhibition.

Opening of the exhibition is scheduled for 28th June. All materials we should have until the end of May, specially if it is about some kind of work of art, as would be in case of your collage.

Before we make the final decision whether it would it be the technique you proposed, I would like to ask you how much time you need to produce the map in collage technique and do you think it can be done by the end of May. In this case it would be photographed and put in catalog.

Map would be placed on the entrance to the small gallery of Museum (on the right side of doors), together with the banner, that would be placed on the left side of doors. On the banner would be written the title of exhibition in Cyrillic and in English, that are the two alphabets that will be used for the whole exhibition. If you use latinic writing, then please use on map the English language.

It is important that map and that banner are to be equalized, ie. to be compact and to present one nice visual intro to the exhibition in the small gallery. At some moment, I will put you in touch with the designer who is making the banner for the entrance, so two of you could communicate about colors and equalize. What he told me in our first conversation about your map is that he would like that you make first a decision about color pallet, because you work in collage technique, and then that to you two hear each other about equalizing.

Also, please use the color palette that is already on K’s photographs.

If you have need, you can come to the Museum to see the space and to talk about concept of the whole exhibition, so you can have in your head the overview of all elements and to match better.

Once again, thank you for support!


16 May 2016, 21:52, Šejma wrote:

Dear Ivana and Katarina,

The time for production depends on how detailed and complicated would be the map, but I could make quickly the line version based on my templates, in 7 days (2 days for preparing and printing templates, 3 days drawing, 2 days scanning and preparing the digital file). We should specify the details that are to be on the map, decide whether it should be the drawing on paper or digital print of the drawing, and whether it should be some kind of map-collage with images and information or something monochrome, linear and simple.  Several white papers of different textures could serve as a surface for drawing (inspired with old maps that are patched with different papers) and on it could either draw or attach foils and letters…

In the attachment I send template for the drawing, made on the bases of maps you two had sent me (small map of Africa with the marked states, detailed map of Saint-Louis and big map of Senegal)

See you


17 May 2016, 13:37, Museum wrote:

Dear Šejma and Katarina,

I really like this template. If you think that a collage work could be made that would be clear and obvious, but also not too flashy, it could be also a collage work.

What do you think? As for concerning the data, for me it is only important to mark where Senegal is, where Dakar is and where Saint-Louis is.

All other can be marked but don’t have to.

What I can imagine at the moment is this linear variant, something you made in your template, but the complicated one I cannot imagine how it can look like… so I don’t know what to tell you about that.

Could you make us some sketches, so we can see how what looks like so we can decide…?

8 June 2016, 12:00, Museum wrote:

Dear Šejma,

I am back from my travel and a bit got rid of the chaos of Afro Festival.

I looked at the last map you had sent, and I would like that we return to it together once Filip has finished the design of the title that will be on the other side of the doors, and then that we see if we can connect strongly those two concepts with some color or with something else.

Katarina told me you will travel, so I am interested until what date you will be available for eventual touch ups?


8 June 2016, 12:26, Šejma wrote:

Dear Ivana,

OK, we can work on map when Filip prepares the title, and also Filip can intervene himself on the map.

I travel on 25th June and I hope we will manage to finish until then.

11 June.2016, 11:46, Museum wrote:

Dear Šejma,

Filip has sent the solution for the cover page of the catalog. Same as this will look the title on the entrance. Not identical, but surely with this colors and style. He polishs it still, but essentially, that is it.

I send you to see if you could your map, the basic draft, adapt to this language…to add some colors...what do you say?


12 June 2016 , 16:30, Katarina wrote to Museum:

Hi Ivana,

I had to go back to this topic once again, because Šejma had called me yesterday, and because I had learn only yesterday about the details, I need to jump in and to ask you what we will do with this ‘problem’.

It is not a problem, but as I understood, Šejma feels a bit down , because it turns out, she didn’t adapt her map to the work of designer, and she tells me the designer didn’t even contact her and she doesn’t know how she could adapt the map to him, but that he should, I guess, use her drawing / or add some colors or something like that (minimally) and to adapt to general impression. I am sorry to interfere, this is only because I would like to understand what is going on and I wouldn’t like Šejma to be unhappy, because I was the one who involved her in the whole story.

She agrees that designer takes her drawing and – if necessary – to add something, to adapt it, but she is not ready herself to change or adapt anything else. So can it be like this: that designer takes over the map from this point as it is and to finalize the things the way you think it should? To adapt it in a way that would fit the general impression that was imagined?

12 June 2016, 16:52 Šejma Fere wrote:

Hey, I am not feeling down 🙂 But I think you should consider the function of poster, map and all, this adjustment with color and details without the general context is difficult, at least for me. My task was to make a drawing, and designer can freely manipulate the map.

13t June 2016, 12:37, Museum wrote:

Dear Katarina and Šejma,

There is no problem at all.

I had impression that Šejma wanted to add colors but was retaining herself because she didn’t know how the banner next to map will look like, so I thought that now it will be easier and nicer for her to put colors herself, than letting someone else change her map.

As now I realize that I had the wrong impression, I apologize and we go forward.

Šejma then finished her part of the job, Filip will adjust it.

To me it is only important that Šejma gave permission for it. In catalog we mentioned that she drew the map, so I thought it is important for her how it will look at the end. In her last e-mail Šejma mentioned that Filip can intervene, but I understood that it is only in case she can not or if she is not in Belgrade.

Šejma, thank you for your suggestions and observations.

As you said you travel on 25th June, and opening is on 28th June, tell when you can drop by to MAA so I could give you the envelope with the money that we put aside for the drawing of the map. You have to pick this up personally because I need your signature,


13 June 2016, 13:15, Museum wrote:


please just send me once again this map version in the best possible resolution.


13 June 2016, 13:32 Museum wrote:

Dear Šejma,

I would like to ask you to make us one more version and send in the best possible resolution.

This version should be on the new paper, just draw the contures and titles with black ink, all except the map of Saint-Louis, this you draw in gray ink. We need one version that doesn’t have shadows, but is totally clean.
We would appreciate to have this too, to be able to fit it all together.

13 June 2016, 19:42, Šejma wrote:

Great that all is solved. I send the open file (text and maps) over Wetransfer, so it’s easier for further processing.

About the fee, I won’t be able to come before my trip, so only when I return in July,  or maybe to my bank account.

All the best,

14 June 2016, 10:47,  Museum wrote:

Thank you for the sent file, but please send us also the clean version, WITHOUT the shading.

This one with shading does not do the job for us.

Therefore, once again: contours and titles to be there.

Map of Africa, Senegal and titles to be in black ink, and city map of Saint-Louis to be in gray ink.

All to be clean without shading.

I think there is no use fixing the old one, it should be redrawn on the new clean paper and then to be scanned.

Concerning the money, you have to come personally to get it, because I need your signature.

Just make what we can use, please.


18 June 2016, 14:06, Museum wrote to Katarina:


We’ll see what we’ll do with these Šejma’s maps, although, as you know, I am not very happy with them, she could have tried a bit more or at least do what was finally asked from her. Speaking of perfectionism, the map is not our strong point

To sign Šejma like this?


Šejma Fere

20 June 2016, 16:41 , Museum wrote:

Dear Katarina and Šejma,

Since I didn’t get the version of the map that I finally asked for (without shading), and since i clearly expressed my dissatisfaction with the existing design, I decided to open this issue to the collegium. I submitted the map made by Šejma and opened the voting for its final acceptance and inclusion in the catalog and exhibition.

Colleagues who have been present today voted that Šejma’s map nevertheless won’t be accepted and they convinced me that I shouldn’t make compromises if the map at the end doesn’t look the way we need.


I’m sorry to have to announce this, but Museum collective has decided like this, on my initiative to be put to a vote.

The directress was also for the change of the map.


To Šejma I thank her for her effort, I believe that it missed a little so that everything would have been OK and that map be inside the catalog and on exhibition, but we did not arrive to this end, and we have no time for any kind of waiting.


I hope that Šejma, and Katarina too, will understand this as a move that has nothing to do with them personally, but only with a vision of how everything should look like, and a map with shading does not enter into it. We tried all together to do something about it, we have not succeeded. From the bottom of my heart I wanted that Šejma at the end do this in a way so we can put in the catalog, but unfortunately, I did not get no response to a single email, let alone version without shading.


Since the map will have to be made again, fee provised for Šejma will cover the costs of new production.


Once again, I’m sorry that everything happened like this, I know that you both had nothing but good intentions, as finally I have had. I believe that we could have communicated it better, but what is done is done. Believe me, I’d be happiest that it didn’t have to come to this. For the part of the misunderstanding that was from me, I sincerely apologize.


To Šejma,  I wish all the best in her future work and she is always welcome to look at the exhibition.




Artists and activists brutally thrown out of museum because of Damien Hirst exhibition (Novi Sad, Serbia)

September 3, 2016


Several days before the incident happened, a group of artists and activists have invited their colleagues, who are dissatisfied with the situation in Serbian culture and are against public cuts, to make a protest action during the opening of the exhibition “New Religion,” of one of the richest artist Damien Hirst in Novi Sad at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina (MSUV) on Friday, 2 September 2016 at 8PM.

They invited colleagues and public to express resistance during the opening ceremony, and to oppose cultural politics of the Serbian ministry of culture, province of Vojvodina and the city of Novi Sad, which are using public funds to provide unconditional support to corporate capital and interests of the oligarchy, while cutting all funds for communal cultural projects.

According to their previous statement, they choose the exhibition of Damien Hirst as a spot to act and to express their dissatisfaction, because he is a synonym for art market and financial speculation in the art field. They underlined in their previous public statement that Hirst’s exhibition is particularly problematic in this context, because of additional funds for insurance, transportation of works and promotion that are to be paid by public money while at a time all citizens’ initiatives in the field of culture in Serbia remain without any institutional support and are being forced to subordinate its work the interests of profit.

Therefore, the group of artists and activities invited other citizens to engage and to create a “protest in the exhibition” by making small actions or performances, document reactions at the exhibition during the opening, or make a collective action that supposed to be performed at the opening day of the exhibition Friday 2 September at 20:00h. They ended up their announcement with such slogans: We say no to corporate culture! AGAINST privatization and colonization of public museums! and AGAINST brutal commercialization and instrumentalization of art!

Their public action was brutally stopped during the opening ceremony. Private security kicked them out from the museum, Here is their public statement related to the current situation:

Public statement of the artists and activists who were brutally
kicked out from the Museum of contemporary Art of Vojvodina (MSUV)

We are informing the public, that our protest against the support of
the state, the province and the city to corporate capital and the
exhibition of Damien Hirst at MSUV was turned into brutal expulsion
from the museum of artists and activists by the private security

The protest started while Artists and activists were distributing
leaflets with which they invited the audience to support the protest
by putting a black blindfold over their eyes and refuse to participate
in the reproduction of capitalist hegemony in the field of culture.
They read the proclamation and hold in their hands the banners (
“AGAINST corporate culture”, “AGAINST servility of public
institutions,” “AGAINST bourgeois art”, etc.).

Artists and activists were brutally pushed away from the museum by the
private security. Although artists and activists did nothing to
disturb public order, just in front of the museum the police stopped
them preventing them to return to the museum. During brutal expulsion
from the museum some of the people in the audience were cheering,
supporting the protestors. A local artist who joined the protest, was
treated quite hard by the police because he did not had an identity
card by him, and his protest continued in front of the museum.

Otherwise, it should be added that the opening of the exhibition was
organize on the top floor of the museum and it was attended by the
elite, ruling politicians, UK ambassador together with British
Council, Serbia, and journalists, while the “ordinary” people were not
allowed to climb up and for them only video projection in the lower
level of the museum was organized. Private security was not permitted
to go to the upper floor of this public institution. We assume that
they are organized all this private security thin order to prevent any
protest and therefore our protest took place in the lobby of the

We believe that the organization of this exhibition and the way we
were treated showed that ruling party of Serbia fully stands behind
corporate capital and that the entire system is organize in this way.

We invite the public to oppose and stop tolerating such a disastrous
behavior of the institutions!

Video of the protest:

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