What art system do we need?
International representatives of the platforms ArtLeaks and The May Congress of Creative Workers (MKTR: http://may-congress.ru/) invite you to take part in the Second ArtLeaks Assembly to be held in Moscow on July 15th, 2012 at 7 PM at Shkola, Park Isskustv “Muzeon.”
Directions: Krymsky Val 2, Metro station “Park Kultury,” “Oktyabrskaya,”; or Bus 10, “B”, station “Park Kultury”
About Shkola/ School Pavilion (in English): http://www.march.ru/en/news/18/
We extend this call to participation to all cultural workers who are constantly confronted with the violation of their basic labor rights: those who are routinely not compensated for their work, those who have been slandered, ousted and blacklisted for raising their voice, those who have to work several jobs to make ends meet but still encounter great difficulty in paying their rent and do not have time to participate in cultural life.
Today, the production of culture is an expanding sphere of activity: on the one hand, it is the space where new meanings and forms of subjectivity are created and where the most radical forms of activity are tested – yet at the same time it is precisely at this juncture where we encounter some of the most glaring forms of exploitation and control, where the gain of profit seems unrestricted and speculation is embedded in the very logic of production.
Without exaggeration, one can claim that contemporary culture follows the general structure of the distribution of wealth in the capitalist world, where 3-5% of the participants control and dis-pose of 70-80% of resources (material and immaterial labor, production budgets, state grants etc.). As it is the case in other spheres of human activity, art and culture are dominated by principles of fierce competition, forcing the subordinated majority into a bitter struggle for its subsistence. This situation is made possible by the existence of a huge reservoir of labor, which cultural administrators manage according to politics that cultivate stringent principles of pseudo-natural selection.
At the same time we must not forget that cultural processes cannot be reduced to simply production schemes. The system of production and reproduction of hierarchies and values inevitably comes into conflict with the very nature of free creative acts. Culture must retain its amateurish, joyful approach, to freely share its values with society – it should refuse to conform directly to the banal logic of sale and speculation.
Can we imagine a different system of art and culture, which would not only guarantee decent working conditions to the majority of its participants, but also stimulate the creation of a common cultural sphere, one that would allow cultural workers to unleash their full potential in furthering our quest for happiness and freedom?
In Moscow in particular and in Russia generally, the aforementioned issues are particularly acute, since it is precisely here that cultural workers are faced with the most violent forms of exploitation of their labor, with open forms of cynicism and manipulation and, last but not least with severe forms of repression in the guise of manipulation and censorship. Yet most artists and cultural producers have no choice but to accept this situation, however absurd or abnormal it may sometimes seem, dreaming of a “normalcy” in the international scene.
Yet there too, there are problems, as well as people trying to deal with them. How can we organize ourselves internationally to oppose these abuses? Which forms can we find to talk about the absurd and breathtakingly exploitative situations we often find ourselves in? What are the potentials of a new comparative institutional critique, written by cultural workers, and which formats could it include? How can we break the silence?
This is what we propose to discuss and think through with all the participants of the assembly for cultural workers in Moscow, initiated by the platform ArtLeaks.