Wednesday, March 5, 2014

ArtLeaking (for Truth is Concrete Handbook for Artistic Strategies in Real Politics

Just as WikiLeaks drew critical attention and spoke truth to the power of the international military industrial complex, ArtLeaks seeks to disentangle its artistic equivalent. Utilizing the power of the Internet, social medial, and group networking, ArtLeaking engenders a space to vocalize protests against the corruption and abuse in the art world, its pervasive corporatization, the accumulation of cultural capital by banks or foundations through the labor of cultural workers who are not compensated in return, and the suppression of any kind of debate around these conditions of exploitation and the politics of corporate and state sponsorship.

ArtLeaking is a necessary tool to deal with institutions and cultural managers who have acted against the interests of artists, staff, and even the public they pretend to serve. We consider it our political responsibility not to let these accounts be suppressed, but to open them to public scrutiny by publishing online testimonies from all parties involved.

Through our online active archive, cases of political censorship, homophobic or xenophobic censorship, union rights and toxic leadership are documented, saved, updated, and intensely debated. Anyone who is ready to share this or that case, either signed or anonymously is welcome to use our platform, but we do stipulate some burden of proof or collective evidence, such as firsthand reports and documentation such as e-mail correspondence, internal regulations and documents, video recordings, and so on. Related to this, and unlike WikiLeaks, we use different narrative techniques to present these cases, where individual or collective testimonies are one among several strategies, including performance, irony and camp, as well as photography, low budget film, and comics.

In 2013, we artleaked the violent censorship conflict at the Mystetskyi Arsenal art museum in Kiev, when the director Natalia Zabolotna painted over VolodymyrKuznetsov’s mural with black paint, because it criticized the church and local mafia before President Viktor Yanukovych visited the opening. Moreover another work by Vasyl Tsagolov entitled “Molotov Cocktail” was excluded from the exhibition for similar reasons. In this case, we coordinated with the artists involved in order to publish their statements, as well as with the Kiev-based activist group, the Art Workers’ Self-Defense Initiative (ISTM). ISTM staged a series of protest performances inside the museum, while we published the photo and video documentation of these actions through our site. Furthermore, we kept up the pressure on the Mystetskyi by supporting a boycott by the ISTM and other members of the artistic community, drawing attention to the unacknowledged acts of censorship and vandalism. The boycott is still in effect and has triggered strong reactions from the international community, including Boris Groys and Maria Lindt. Though critical of the protest, these curators nonetheless decided to pull out of the upcoming Kiev Biennale Discussion Platform, which they had been invited to organize at the Mysteskyi Arsenal.

Thus, ArtLeaks occupies a space across borders, grounding itself both inside the art world and outside it, in activism as well as academia. ArtLeaks has expanded the notion of art workers to refer not only to artists but also interns, assistants, curators, and critics—categories that are in various degrees subjected to conditions of inequality, precarity, and/or are threatened by censorship from more powerful players, whether working in the Balkans or in Western Europe or United States. ArtLeaks reports are in fact systemic issues that are to be found in other fields as well. By organizing open workshops and assemblies, we draw attention to how theorists, cultural workers, and artists need to organize, as they have real power to resist today’s reactionary tendencies. In these forums we talk about local issues, common troubles, and possible solutions to change the unfortunate current state of the arts and we subsequently publish reports to inspire people to make their own collaborations. Artleaking therefore not only focuses on problems and bad examples, but stresses the need for solidarity and for a “change it together” spirit in the art world, in response to atomized, agency-less subjectivity.