Sunday, September 16, 2012

Launching the ArtLeaks Gazette (Call for Papers)

On the urgency of launching the ArtLeaks Gazette

Artleaks was founded in 2011 as an international platform for cultural workers where instances of abuse, corruption and exploitation are exposed and submitted for public inquiry. After over a year of activity, we, members of the collective ArtLeaks felt an urgent need to establish a regular on-line publication as a tool for empowerment in the face of the systemic abuse of cultural workers’ basic labor rights, repression or even blatant censorship and growing corporatization of culture that we encounter  today.
Namely: radical (political) projects are co-opted under the umbrella of corporate promotion and gentrification; artistic research is performed on research hand-outs, creating only an illusion of depth while in fact adding to the reserve army of creative capital; the secondary market thrives as auction houses speculate on blue chip artists for enormous amounts of laundered money, following finance capitalism from boom to bust, meanwhile, most artists can’t even make a living and depend on miserly fees, restrictive residencies, and research handouts to survive; galleries and dealers more and more heavily copyright cultural values; approximately 5% of authors, producers and dealers control 80% of all cultural resources (and indeed, in reality, the situation may be even worse than these numbers suggest) ; certain cultural managers and institutions do not shy away from using repressive maneuvers against those who bring into question their mission, politics or dubious engagements with corporate or state benefactors; and last but not least, restrictive national(ist) laws and governments suppress cultural workers through very drastic politics, not to mention the national state functions as a factor of neoliberal expression in the field of culture.
Do you recognize yourself in the scenarios above? Do you accept them as immutable conditions of your labor? We strongly believe that this dire state of affairs can be changed. We do not have to carry on complying to politics that cultivate harsh principles of pseudo-natural selection (or social-Darwinism) – instead we should fight against them and imagine different scenarios based on collective values, fairness and dignity. We strongly believe that issues of exploitation, repression or cooptation cannot be divorced from their specific politico-economic contexts and historical conditions, and need to be raised in connection with a new concept of culture as an invaluable reservoir of the common, as well as new forms of class consciousness in the artistic field in particular, and the cultural field more generally.
Recently, this spectrum of urgencies and the necessity to address them has also become the focus of fundamental discussions and reflection on the part of communities involved in cultural production and certain leftist social and political activists. Among these, we share the concerns of pioneering groups such as the Radical Education Collective (Ljubljana), Precarious Workers’ Brigade (PWB) (London), W.A.G.E. (NYC), Arts &Labor (NYC), the May Congress of Creative Workers (Moscow) and others (see the Related Causes section on our website). The condition of cultural workers has also recently been theorized within the framework of bio-politics – in which cognitive labor is implicitly described as a new hegemonic type of production in the context of the global industrialization of creative work.
The question then emerges, what is creative work today? To structure this undifferentiated categorizations, we will begin by addressing in our journal all those “occupied” with art who are striving towards emancipatory knowledge in the process of their activity. As the contemporary art world more and more envelops different areas of knowledge as well as the production of events, we considered it a priority to focus on this particular field. However, we remain open to discussing urgencies related to other forms of creative activity beyond the art world.
Through our journal, we want to stresses the urgent need to seriously transform these workers’ relationship with institutions, networks and economies involved in the production, reproduction and consumption of art and culture.  We will pursue these goals through developing  a new approach to the tradition of institutional critique and fostering new forms of artistic production, that may challenge dominant discourses of criticality and social engagement which tame creative forces. We also feel the urgency to link cultural workers’ struggles with similar ones from other fields of human activity – at the same time, we strongly believe that any such sustainable alliances could hardly be built unless we begin with the struggles in our own factories.

Announced Theme for the first issue: Breaking the Silence – Towards Justice, Solidarity and Mobilization

The main theme of the first issue of our journal is establishing a politics of truth by breaking the silence on the art world. What do we actually mean by this? We suggest that breaking the silence on the art world is similar to breaking the silence of family violence and other forms of domestic abuse. Similarly as when coming out with stories of endemic exploitation form inside the household, talking about violence and exploitation in the art world commonly brings shame, ambivalence and fear. But while each case of abuse may be different, we believe these are not singular instances but part of a larger system of repression, abuse and arrogance that have been normalized through the practices of certain cultural managers and institutions. Our task is to find voices, narratives, hybrid forms that raise consciousness about the profound effects of these forms of maltreatments: to break through the normalizing rhetoric that relegate cultural workers’ labor to an activity performed out of instinct, for the survival of culture at large, like sex or child rearing which, too are zones of intense exploitation today.
Implicit in this gesture is a radical form of protest – one that does not simply join the concert of affirmative institutional critique which confirms the system by criticizing it. Rather, breaking the silence implies bringing into question the ways in which the current art system constructs positions for its speakers, and looking for strategies in which to counteract naturalized exploitation and repression today.
At the same time, we recognize that the moment of exposure does not fully address self-organization or, what comes after breaking the silence? We suggest that it is therefore important to link this to solidarity, mobilization and an appeal for justice, as political tools. As it is the understanding of the dynamic interaction between the mobilization of resources, political opportunities in contexts and emancipatory cultural frames that we can use to analyze and construct strategies for cultural workers movements.  With summoning the urgency of “potentia agendi” (or the power to act) collectively we also call for the necessity to forge coalitions within the art world and beyond it – alliances that have the concrete ability of exerting a certain political pressure towards achieving the promise of a more just and emancipatory cultural field.

Structure of publication

The journal would be divided into 6 major sections.
A. Critique of cultural dominance apparatuses
Here we will address methodological issues in analyzing the condition of cultural production and the system that allows for the facile exploitation of the cultural labor-force. Ideally, though not necessarily, these theoretical elaborations would be related to concrete case studies of conflicts, exploitation, dissent  across various regions of the world, drawing comparisons and providing local context for understanding them.
B. Forms of organization and history of struggles
Cultural workers have been demanding just working conditions, struggling over agency and subjectivity in myriad ways and through various ideas about what this entails. In this section we will analyze historical case-studies of self-organization of cultural workers. Our goal is not to produce a synthetic model out of all of these struggles, rather to examine how problems have been articulated at various levels of (political) organization, with attention to the genealogy of the issues and the interaction between hegemonic discourses (of the institution, corporation, the state) and those employed by cultural workers in their respective communities.

C. The struggle of narrations
In this section we will invite our contributors to develop and practice artistic forms of narration which cannot be fully articulated through direct “leaking”. It should be focused on finding new languages for narration of systemic dysfunctions . We expect these elaborations can take different form of artistic contributions, including comics, poems, films, plays, short stories, librettos etc.
D. Glossary of terms
What do we mean by the concept of “cultural workers”? What does “gentrification” or “systemic abuse” mean in certain contexts?  Whose “art world”? This section addresses the necessity of developing a terminology to make theoretical articulations more clear and accessible to our readers. Members of ArtLeaks as well as our contributors to our gazette will be invited to define key terms used in the material presented in the publication. These definitions should be no more that 3-4 sentences long and they should be formulated as a result of a dialogue between all the contributors.
E. Education and its discontents
The conflicts and struggles in the field of creative education are at the core of determining what kind of subjectivities will shape the culture(s) of future generations. It is very important to carefully analyze what is currently at the stake in these specific fields of educational processes and how they are linked with what is happening outside academies and universities.  In this section we will discuss possible emancipatory approaches to education that are possible today, which resist pressing commercial demands for flexible and “creative” subjectivities. Can we imagine an alternative system of values based of a different meaning of progress?
F. Best practices and useful resources
In this section we would like to invite people to play out their fantasies of new, just forms of organization of creative life. Developing the tradition of different visionaries of the past we hope that this section will trigger many speculations which might help us collect modest proposals for the future and thus counter the shabby reality of the present. This section is also dedicated  to the practices which demonstrate  alternative ethical guidelines, and stimulate the creation of a common cultural sphere. This would allow cultural workers to unleash their full potential in creating values based on principles of emancipatory politics, critical reflections and affirmative inspiration of a different world where these values should form the basis of a dignified life.

On Practicalities

Our open call addresses all those who feel the urgency to discuss the aforementioned-issues. We look forward to collecting contributions until the 31st of December 2012. Contributions should be delivered in English or as an exemption in any language after negotiations with the editorial council. The editorial council of Artleaks takes responsibility of communicating with all authors during the editorial process.
Please contact us with any questions, comments and submit materials to When submitting material, please also note the section under which you would like to see it published. 
The on-line gazette will be published in English under the Creative Commons attribution noncommercial-share alike and its materials will be offered for translation in any languages to any interested parts.
We will publish all contributions delivered to us in a separate section. However, our editorial council takes full responsibility in composing an issue of the journal in the way we feel it should be done.
Editorial council for the first issue will consist of: Corina L. ApostolVladan Jeremić,Vlad Morariu, David Riff and Dmitry Vilensky

Sunday, August 12, 2012

3rd ArtLeaks Working Assembly – Belgrade

3rd ArtLeaks Working Assembly – Belgrade
Friday, 31st of August, 7pm, 2012
Cultural Center REX, Jevrejska 16, Belgrade, Serbia

ArtLeaks is an international platform for cultural workers where instances of abuse, corruption and exploitation are exposed and submitted for public inquiry. ArtLeaks stresses the urgent need to seriously revise these workers’ relationship with institutions, networks and economies involved with the production and consumption of art and culture.  Our goal is to create a space where one could engage directly with actual conditions of cultural work both locally and internationally – conditions that affect those working in cultural production as well as those from traditionally creative fields. Furthermore, ArtLeaks is developing in the direction of creating transversal alliances between local activist and cultural workers groups, through which we may collectively tackle situation of repression and inequality.
Through direct exposure, educational initiatives and a forthcoming on-line publication, we seek to empower like-minded people to stand together against the intense exploitation of cultural labor, all forms of repression, the enclosure of public space and the instrumentalization of radical culture under the umbrella of corporations. We strongly believe that issues of censorship and abuse cannot be divorced from specific politico-economic contexts and further, that they should be raised in connection with new forms of class consciousness in the artistic field in particular, and the cultural field more generally.
Building on our previous experience organizing an ArtLeaks Working Assemblies in Berlin in June 2012 and Moscow in July 2012, we would like to invite you to a similar working-group format that allows direct engagement with the public at the Cultural Center REX in Belgrade.
An outcome of our previous working assemblies was the establishment of alliances with international groups such W.A.G.E.(NYC) , Occupy Museums (NYC), Arts & Labor(NYC), Haben und Brauchen(Berlin), the Precarious Workers Brigade(London), The May Congress of Creative Workers(Moscow), groups whose mission is to formulate direct actions and raise awareness in relation to the above mentioned urgencies and problems. It is our strong belief is that only such internationally coordinated alliances could not only denounce exploitation and censorship in contemporary art and culture, but also collectively imagine new types of organizational articulations which would respond to the needs and desires of political subjects constituted at the crossing points of the current economic, politic and cultural shifts.
For our Belgrade assembly, our goals for further developments are :
(1) To reach new constituencies from the cultural, social, and political milieu of Belgrade, and  invite them to join our struggles
(2)To research the local socio-political context in which cultural workers are exploited in Belgrade, Serbia in particular and the Balkans generally; to find out about local cases of abuse, coorrruption and and exploitation
(3)To receive critique regarding the manners in which ArtLeaks is currently functioning and may be improved further
(4) To collectively formulate concrete working methodologies and actions that our cultural workers’ alliances may incorporate into their development.
As for working topics for our assembly, we suggest: formulating narratives of exposure, drafting ethical guidelines, developing terminology to address abuse and exploitation, strategies of constituting alliances.

The Second ArtLeaks Working Assembly in Moscow will be facilitated by Corina Apostol, The Bureau of Melodramatic ResearchStefan TironVladan Jeremić & Rena Rädle, and other members of the cultural community in Belgrade. (to be announced soon)

Report of ArtLeaks’ Second Public Assembly, Moscow, July 15th 2012
Report of ArtLeaks’ First Public Assembly and Workshop, Berlin Jun 3-4th 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Second ArtLeaks Working Assembly in Moscow // Вторая Ассамблея ArtLeaks в Москве

What art system do we need?

International representatives of the platforms ArtLeaks and The May Congress of Creative Workers (MKTR: 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):
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.
The Second ArtLeaks Working Assembly in Moscow will be facilitated by Corina Apostol, Jean-Baptiste Naudy (Société Réaliste), David RiffDmitry Vilensky and Nikolay Oleynikov(Chto Delat?)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

1st ArtLeaks Working Assembly 2012

ArtLeaks invites you to a public working assembly around the issues that are at the core of the group’s mission – exposing instances of abuse, corruption and exploitation in the art world. This is the official public launch of our platform, which began to operate in September 2011, and will be followed by a series of debates and workshops in the near future. These present a unique opportunity to engage more directly with conditions of cultural work that affect not only artists but creative workers in general: those from the traditionally creative fields as well as those generally involved in cultural production.
Members of ArtLeaks will present on the problematic politics of sponsorship in contemporary culture, the intense exploitation of cultural labor, the marketization of public space dedicated to so-called independent initiatives, the appropriation of culture under the umbrella of disreputable corporation and last but not least, what possibilities we may envision for transversal alliances and activism against cases of abuse and corruption of cultural managers and institutions.
We invite to the discussion all those of you who have experienced abuses of your basic rights to be paid for your work, those who have struggled against subjugation under the dictates of galleries who cater to a wealthy minority, those who regularly take on other jobs to finance projects that may never be realized. Join us in forwarding the conversation from a critique of the status quo to formulating strategies on how to make real changes in the system – changes that would benefit the vast majority of creative workers, allowing them to unleash their full potential to bringing about a better world.
To this end, the evening will be divided between a first part dedicated to interventions by members of ArtLeaks, while in the second we would like to engage the public in a conversation and brainstorm on solutions, models and positions in response to concrete problems, concerns, urgencies.
Currently ArtLeaks is working on formulating a new regular publication entirely dedicated to issues of cultural workers’ rights and related struggles. This journal will be unique in focusing specifically on the challenges we face in the field today, related to wide-spread mistreatment, (self)exploitation and corruption and how these may be over-come through strategies of self-organization, solidarity and collective action. ArtLeaks will launch a call for papers at this public meeting.
ArtLeaks members that will facilitate this working assembly: Corina Apostol, Vlad Morariu, David Riff, Dmitry Vilensky, Raluca Voinea. We will have interventions via Skype from Vladan Jeremic and Société Réaliste.

Berlin, Sunday, June 3rd, 18:00h, Flutgraben
Am Flutgraben 3
12435 Berlin
+49 30 5321 9658