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Kemplerian fantasies of Brexitland (Part 1) Some Dantesque retributions for kipper ideologues.

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they would be left hanging from the lamposts for as long as was compatible with hygiene

(Viktor Kemplerer)

Victor Kemplerer

I must admit today I’ve been gripped by Kemplerian fantasies. After little more than a month in Brexitania I can’t help fantasising about a certain reversal of fortunes happening one glorious day, a kind of 25th April of the British soul. A day when the odious band of grotesque characters populating the current British political and cultural canvas would suffer something along the likes of that which Mussolini suffered in April 1945, transformed from a sadistic and almost omnipotent dictator to a piece of meat hanging upside down in Milan’s Piazza Loreto. Maybe a certain variation of punishment is called for (after all they are a rather pathetic band and like Klemperer I’d mete out the more sadistic retribution for the ‘professors’ like Ferguson). But let’s not limit our fantasies to mere lampposts and intellectuals or professors, as Victor Kemplerer once did. After all as Dante has shown us artfully in his Inferno there are a great variety of punishments which can fit those varied crimes.

So perhaps we can start with that noxious imperialist, Niall Ferguson who takes a perverse joy in tweeting pictures of lions and Union Jacks while extolling public opinion surveys showing that the imperial bloodlust of the Brits has not abated. Apart from boasting how the Brits love their Empire, Ferguson treats this as a kind of personal victory with a cry of aggro “I won, you bastards” just as a footbal hooligan does upon the victory of his team moments before he falls into that comatose alcoholic stupor which is so de rigueur amongst the Brits:

Surely one should not deny the ectasies of Empire to Ferguson himself. He may like, in the spirit of Kafka’s Officer, to experience the joys of Empire for himself. A short stint at a Mau-Mau Kenyan gulag set up by the Brits in that kippers fantasy era of the 1950s might work wonders. Would he still be praising the delights of having “bottles (often broken), gun barrels, knives, snakes, vermin, and hot eggs … thrust up his rectum” while being “whipped, shot, burned, and mutilated”? It could be done ostensibly in the form of Ferguson’s direct personal observation of how the Empire was so hunky dory. We could then have our imperial Niall report back.

Time for a reversal of roles? Surely imperialist advocate Niall Ferguson deserves a taste of Empire from the other side

Then we have that BBC frequenter of lowlife, foul-mouthed fascists the BBC’s very own ‘go homer’ megaphone, Nick Robinson. Just to remind people of how low he enjoys stooping here he is again enjoying every moment while posing with Britain First’s ‘leading lady’, Jayda Fransen:

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Mr Robinson certainly likes to do more than his fair share of shit stirring in the very spirit of those nationalist nutters. A bit more BBC-like, full of innuendo instead of BF swagger but more than happy to hint that citizens who may have lived in the UK for several decades should never dare consider it to be their home:

Rather than auguring him a simple stint of stateless homelessness somewhere in limbo, perhaps his punishment could have a more avian ring to it, how about a faux Hitchcockian finale? Such as being  mauled alive by a cackle of noisy and marauding cockrels given the murderous fantasies he publicly harbours towards these creatures? (Katie Hopkins, of course, deserves to find herself in a parallel Room 101 with some killer cockroaches given her own penchant for drawing human parallels to these creatures, ). Surely, an exemplary finale for Ms Final Solution. A pity that the species depicted below is already extinct. (though let’s hope that in the location that Hopkins is destined for they’ll be resurrected in an embodiment of Nikolay Fedorov’s cosmist vision).

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Sadly extinct killer cockroaches which, alas, could have been the perfect comeuppance for Katie ‘final solution’ Hopkins

David Starkey, the monarchist with the perfect nose for poking up the Queen's arse as modern day Groom of the Stool

David Starkey, the monarchist with a perfect nose for poking up the Queen’s rear and who would surely be delighted to be nominated as modern day Groom of the Stool.

What better fate for that chief monarchist and Henry VIII worshipper qua first Brexiteer or Brexiteer primus inter pares give or take a few years, David Starkey to become a modern day Groom of the Stool aiding monarchs with their excretions: initially he would be called on to serve with loving sycophancy the rear of Elizabeth II and then after she croaks would find it his duty to extract dung from Charles Windsor. Though, indeed, he may well be disappointed as Charles’ voice and entire demeanour are surely tell tale signs that he is a long-term sufferer of chronic constipation. Be that as it may, few more accomplished monarchist brown nosers can be found in this septic isle and I’m sure Starkey would love to bring back that noble profession in style (a profession which he himself has described in genuinely loving detail). The only drawback would be that for Starkey himself the nomination would surely be received as career promotion rather than retribution.

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There’d surely be little disgust on David Starkey’s face were he to be promoted from simple monarchist brown noser to an official modern day Groom of the Stool.

Expect some more Dantesque penances, nemeses and fitting retributions for today’s panoply of Brexiteering grotesques in sequel posts.

Bosch

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Discovering the work of Maria Galindo in desolate Brighton

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The San Antonio filmmaker in Barcelona

Brighton always has a different rhythm for me. It’s not always a place where I make discoveries. A dull time can be had here (in spite of the faux bohemian reputation of the place) and I often feel that the often negative literary depiction of the place by any writer of worth (or without worth for that matter) who has ever lived here is merited: there’s little joy to be found in the works of Patrick Hamilton, Helen Zahavi, Colin Spencer. Also I always cherished the Samuel Johnson quote about Brighton, a place he clearly visited reluctanctly: ” it was a [place] so truly desolate , that if one had a mind to hang one’s self for desperation at being obliged to live there, it would be difficult to find a tree on which to fasten the rope.” Brighton now has the trees but the desolation is still there (the blurb on the Italian edition of Zahavi’s Dirty Weekend described Brighton as the city of British despair). Then there is that final apocalpytic passage in Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock (Greene reportedly and sensibly visited the town only for one day before writing his novel) as negative as the finale to Kafka’s The Trial.

However, rather than letting this be a long diatribe about Brighton, it is also a city where Art (and even film art) in some form or other occasionallly comes to visit: Monicelli shot parts of his Girl with a Gun here, Quadrophenia, as every local will forever be telling you, was shot here and apparently the district of Whitehawk (of all places!) was once designated to become the location for a British Hollywood (not that this would be a synonym of film art, mind you). In any case that dubious plan was soon dropped. Brighton (well, Hove actually) was even, as Georges Sadoul noted in his history of world cinema, the place where the principle of montage was first born. In spite of my joy when I read Owen Hatherley’s piece on Brighton in his work A New Kind of Bleak and his brother’s brilliant and succinct epithet about the town (“fucking toytown”), it was, nonetheless, I have to admit gridgingly, the town where after all I did see Buñuel’s great eye splicing moment in El Perro Andaluz when around 15 years of age. Of course turbo-charged capitalism has done its bit in closing down all the independent cinemas since that time and the once semi-courageous Duke of Yorks cinema where the extraordinary shock of Surrealist revelation assaulted my vision and stayed in my memory forever (I also once found myself sitting through an eight hour film comprised of Buddhist chants in the same cinema, though, admittedly I left after six, but did enjoy the Godard, Visconti, Buñuel and other retrospectives that the cinema once brought to its screens). Now, alas, as well as starving its staff, this Picturehouse-owned movie theatre is mainly engaged in an attempt to bludgeon the critical faculties of cinemagoers in Brighton to a bloody pulp by offering up two week-long force fed servings of Dunkirk, or the latest James Bond or, to cite one particularly galling example from a number of years ago, The March of the (Fucking) Penguins.

The Cinemateque in Middle Street once upon a time provided an even more daring offering of film delights (I remember rare early Dovzhenko’s were shown there and a host of truly unusual films) but that, too, closed down (not to mention a cinema up North Street that while famously having as many rats turning up to film screenings as humans, reportedly screened some excellent films only for the location to be then taken over by the chain Burger King a few decades ago. However, as I found out this summer by chance bumping into a Texan filmmaker in the street and whose film was showing at a venue I was ignorantly unaware of (upstairs at the Caroline of Brunswick pub) there are still unusual surprises to be found. The occasional film evenings there are designed to show you the kind of films that rarely get distributed in the amorphous and dessicated film world of today.

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Caroline of Brunswick, Brighton

It was there that I managed to see two short films by Maria Galindo- one shot in Texas and entitled The Witch Hour and another shot in Brighton called Nurse Shirley Foster. These are very short films (the former just under twenty minutes and the latter less than six) and it is a difficult task to review such a short excerpt of a filmmakers work. Yet they are films which live and breathe unlike most of the trash served up for us in multiplexes. They are what Italians call examples of cinema demenziale (literally demented cinema) : parodies to the nth degree of dysfunctional worlds. The Texas of The Witch Hour, a tale of dubious oil barons and hardware stores, racoons and murderous jokers visiting revenge and chaos upon an odious and fatuously asinine family of Trump supporters. The father figure and oil baron finally dispatched to hell by the bewitched and frenzied wife who has finally and unwittingly, it seems, done something right in her inane life spurred on by the spell cast on her by the maligned shop assistant from the hardware store.

a cadre from Witch Hour

A frame from Witch Hour

Shirley Jaffe in Clockwork Orange

Shirley Jaffe in Clockwork Orange

Galindo’s shorter film Nurse Shirley Foster was conceived, planned and shot in a mere month. It’s five and a half minutes, though, are a delight. And are a hymn to the monsters produced by the sleep of cinema. Starring in the film is Shirley Jaffe, the nurse from Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. The short film seems to be a fantasia on the nurse’s nightmares provoked by her previous role in the world of film. Accompanied by a wonderfully dissonant piece of saxophone music, this wordless piece remains in the imagination well after it has been shown. Galindo’s demential style seems to have climbed new heights in this short film. It would be a pity if this curiously infectious addenda to a cinematic classic weren’t to find a wider audience.

Shirley Jaffe in Nurse Shirley Foster

Shirley Jaffe in Nurse Shirley Foster

A cadre from Nurse Shirley Foster

A frame from Nurse Shirley Foster

I have yet to watch Galindo’s feature length films. Life’s a Bitch was filmed in Barcelona and is sure to show a very different side to her film oeuvre (an account of her filming and the film itself can be found here). Rats Eat New York City seems not yet to have been finished and is apparently somewhere in post-production if I’m not mistaken. But the shorts do have merit. Last night walking home after the film screenings a thought suddenly arose in my mind: wouldn’t Maria Galindo be an excellent filmmaker to adapt that wonderfully demented forgotten classic of Twentieth Century literature, The Stereoscope of Solitary Beings by Juan Rodolfo Wilcock. In any case the presence of Maria Galindo (and existence of her films) and the discovery of filmic life in this desolate city has since brightened up my view of Brighton a little.

On recent texts and translations.

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Evald Ilyenkov

This blog has been lying dormant for almost a year and a half and so this is one of a series of ‘catch up’ posts relating to work I have been doing, notices of texts I have published elsewhere as well as news of forthcoming, or as yet unpublished (or unwritten), texts that are planned for publication somewhere. A year and a half is far too long to summarise and books read, films watched, exhibtions visited and the subsequent words, paragraphs and pages fitfully written and then abandoned not making it into fully fledged texts on these books, films, photographs, exhibitions etc. will somehow require more time to develop into a larger collection of selected texts that will steadily emerge, maybe on this platform, maybe on another. These, however, are attempts to recount some of my recent writing and sowing the seeds for some further reflections and further texts.

Nonetheless, first I wish to draw readers attention to texts that have been written and published. While most of them have been translations (some public and some not), two texts of my own have been published in recent months- both of them long book reviews which, however, represent the basis for a broader look at the subjects in question. The first text is a book review and research article on Evald Ilyenkov published for the review Historical Materialism. A look at Alex Levant and Vesa Oittinen’s Dialectics of the Ideal: Evald Ilyenkov and Creative Soviet Marxism I also tried to argue that Ilyenkov can be contextualised not only with reference to the potentially enormous contribution that the post-war Soviet philosopher can make to western philosophical traditions (and readings of both Hegel and Spinoza as well as Marx) but also to reformulate our view of a subterranean Soviet tradition, a true ‘lost Atlantis’ of thought, that will take years, if not decades, for western philosophers to stake stock of. Bogdanov, Bibler, Vygotsky, Asmus, Shpet, Lifshits, Mamardashvili, Zinoviev, Kantor and many, many other first-rate thinkers (not all of them by any means Marxist) should, hopefully, gradually  in the years and decades to come see their texts available in other languages. One contribution to this will be an extraordinarily surprising early text by Ilyenkov (entitled Cosmology of the Spirit) which I have translated and should be available on Stasis later this year.

As well as my translation of Ilyenkov’s Cosmology, I have translated another text about Ilyenkov which I believe to be of seminal importance and which will be published any day now. It was written by two members of the Stab (or Shtab) Collective from Bishkek in Kyrgyzia and who are producing some of the most interesting works of radical and Marxist thought in the former Soviet space today. Unfortunately not all of their texts are easily available in the public domain. For example, their excellent volume on the Concept of the Soviet in Central Asia, an indispensable work when discussing colonialism and post-colonialism, the centre and the periphery, in the Soviet and Post-Soviet experience, is, alas, not commercially available even in Russian. But this like other works published by Stab is something that publishers should be clamouring to translate and publish in foreign languages. Their rethinking of Soviet history and Soviet thought is one of the most extraordinary as their text on Ilyenkov and the idea of queer communism to be published on the site artseverywhere will surely show. Their illuminating retelling of the utopian Soviet history of the city of Bishkek in “Utopian Bishkek” is one of those indispensable accounts of phenomena that lead to a revolution in one’s concept of Soviet history.

Stab’s article on Ilyenkov and the concept of Queer Communism is one of a number in a series edited by Nikolay Oleynikov. Entitled Ways of Seeing the New Russian Colonialisms: Writing on and from Post-Soviet Territories this series has so far published essays by Ilya Budraitskis and Nikita Kadan in my translations. Budraitksis has attempted to read behind the lines of Russia’s official discourse and to make some sense of the topsy-turvy world of international relations and rediscovering the vital role that a revived internationalist Marxism needs to play in opposition to both Trumpian and Neo-Liberal Orthodoxies with their absurd myth of reactionary Putinism as some kind of ‘permanent revolutionary’:

This is the real nature of the “Post” condition: the decline of political language wherein Putin and Trump speak in the name of the exploited while the authors of the Munich Manifesto speak in the name of freedom and reason. Neither its unity nor its lost order can be restored by addressing oneself to identity – neither in the liberal nor in the illiberal-parodic variant. That which genuinely unites people on both sides of this illusory border between the West and the non-West is the continuing growth of inequality, the chasm between the ruling elites and the majority – the alienation from political participation.
Perhaps today century-old internationalist Marxism can attain an exclusive significance for us. It has nothing in common with the recognition of cultural diversity or the speculative critique of the unipolar world, but it does address itself to the unity of the world of the exploited and those who have lost out. It is that which could be called, following Immanuel Wallerstein, an “anti-universalist universalism”, rejecting colonial violence not in favour of particularism and the rhetoric of the “clash of civilizations”, but through the affirmation of authentic equality and solidarity. 

Budraitskis is a commentator of the first order and one of the most-awaited books this year will be his Dissidents Amongst Dissidents published by Kirill Medvedev’s legendary publishing house Free Marxist Press. The story of socialist dissidency in the Soviet period has few better authors than Budraitskis to reveal us this long-hidden and subterranean history.

Budraitskis

Ilya Budraitskis

A second piece by Nikita Kadan with a follow-up comment by Yevheniia Moliar on the decommunization project underway in Ukraine. Kadan, one of Ukraine’s most interesting contemporary artists comments on the dismantlement of many of Ukraine’s Soviet-era monuments as part of what he terms ‘a game of non-distinction’ detailing the contradictions and faulty ideologization of the politics of memory. A game whose logic needs to be refuted, Kadan concludes:

Current day Ukraine activates historical memory as a space for political struggle, but this can be done not only in a “decommunizing” key. If one insists upon a certain rigour, addressed both to the past and to the present day, then it is necessary to refuse this protracted game, which sooner or later will remain only to be posited in a series of “past errors.”

Moliar in her comment on this piece points to the logic of stigmatization which leads in her viewpoint to

cleansing all that remains of public memory and of an, albeit contradictory, common history. 

Moliar along with Kadan both point to the need to avoid and resist the contemporary logic at play moving from as Kadan puts it Pantheon to Pandemonium whereby destruction is favoured over de-sacralization.

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Apart from these translations published in recent months, a second text of mine has been printed in Russia’s New Literary Observer on the novel by Alexandra Petrova entitled Appendix. A novel that Zinovy Zinik in the Times Literary Supplement chose as one of his books of the year in 2016, it hasn’t been translated  into English although it seems as though there is some talk about this happening (and hopefully a translation into Italian will also appear). My review essay on the book entitled Recreating the multitudes on those dim shores: Between the Tiber and the Neva was an attempt to re-examine the novel from a number of its Italian sources giving that while the book is not solely centred on Rome  (Saint Petersburg is just as present), few Russian articles or commentators focused on this aspect. Appendix  is, to my mind, quickly becoming one of the central texts of contemporary Russian literature and its novelty is very much a challenge to the cultural status quo burrowing deep against the autarkic moment of the present day. It is a monumental text (832 pages) with dense allusions to a multiplicity of cultural references and as well as the direct and indirect references to those great twentieth century ‘Roman’ poets and novelists, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Carlo Emilio Gadda, it has the ambition of one of those foundational Latin American texts like Marechal’s Adan Buenosayres. It is also one of the great texts on a certain metaphysical homelessness and migration. I am rewriting my review essay in English hoping to republish it later in the year.

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The author Alexandra Petrova

Pyotr Pavlensky: We live between Fascism and Anarchy.

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With the news that the actionist artist Pyotr Pavlensky has been sent to the notorious Serbskiy Institute of Psychiatry in a clear case of punitive psychiatry (for more on this case and its context read an excellent blog post here: https://peopleandnature.wordpress.com/2016/02/17/russia-punishment-psychiatry-back-in-vogue/), there is clearly a need to highlight and protest this fact. But also a need to listen to the ideas of and concepts of Pavlensky himself. Here is a small extract that was published in a Russian magazine and will be part of a forthcoming book on the artist in the context of Russian actionism. 

The original interview with Anastasia Belyaeva was printed in Snob magazine on the 16th February, 2016 (and is an extract from a forthcoming book).

It’s recently been announced that the organisers of the “Innovation” Art Prize have removed the action “Threat” by Pyotr Pavlensky (in which he set fire to the doors of the FSB building in Moscow). This is an extract from a book about to be printed “Pyotr Pavlensky in Russian Actionism” and which the publisher Ilya Danishevsky allowed the magazine Snob to publish an extract from.

 

Let’s talk about your audience. I am curious about this. In an interview with a Ukrainian television channel you stated that art should articulate because it’s rather difficult for people themselves to articulate why the state is crushing them. Your mission then is one of articulation?

A kind of dispersal is taking place. We all find in ourselves in a similar, political, situation. Basically certain conflicting things are happening with us, fairly unpleasant things. The question lies in what is happening, what and in what way. Everyone senses this in some way or other. But the problem is articulating what the authorities are doing – for they disperse all this. Someone reads the news, goes to a shop, walks along the street or has to go to work and he or she sees that all that is happening around is bad but this ‘badness’ is somehow dispersed.

You articulate this for your audience?

Well yes for those who can see and hear all this.

When you articulate, if you want your message to be heard you need to make some corrections to the stereotypes that people have, to their cultural code which they are not prepared for. It seems to me that as a result that those people who need some kind of explanation are simply not able to read your message and those who are able don’t need any explanation. So there is, perhaps, some senselessness to all this.

Those who are able don’t require explanation and those unable…

The audience of the state TV channels when they see your actions at most feel certain negative emotions- it’s unpleasant, repulsive for them. Then they are told for what reason you have done this. And this ‘displeasure and repulsion’ is somehow all mixed up with the reason for which you did this.  

This is my very raison d’etre for my work. These temporary alienations are intentional. This precedent remains and then something happens and so a person will return to this. One user from a social network wrote to me to tell me that at one point he was against, very much against all this which I do. I wrote to him something in reply. And he wrote to me a letter that in the past he would write a lot against these actions but then he came up against certain situations in life. It seems that  the authorities pressured him in some way. Now he supports such actions and wanted to apologise for his former stance.

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I’ve come up against many situations and I’ve got a rough idea as to how people react to my actions. An excessively emotional response, as a rule, can be found a lot only on the internet. In real life when I meet people as a rule I see that people understand things very well. Only once in the metro was there any clash with someone, not even a clash, but a guy simply started to become hysterical when he recognised me. A rather young guy recognised me in a metro car. He began to check my image with that on the internet and then started to run along the carriage. We are all travelling, the train is moving and he is running through this carriage calling on people to rise up against me, to join forces against me. Not one person supported him. He stuck his iphone to people’s noses and they just brushed him aside as some kind of crazy hysterical citizen. I observed how people reacted. Not gaining any support he began to accuse me of humiliating our country, humiliating him, the square (Red square?) and something else. It become clear from people’s glances that even if they recognised me… I didn’t see amongst these people any kind of incomprehension towards me, or any aggressiveness. People are rather more understanding than not.

About that user of social media who wrote to you- was it pleasant to have such a reaction?

Of course, he supports some of my ideas.

Is this a rather unique case or does it periodically happen- this ‘I’ve finally understood you?’

Yes it does happen now and again. There is a whole range of human responses. Sometimes I feel the force of this whole range of reactions. When one prepares oneself for some kind of action the different public reactions start to float through my mind at moments of greatest pressure. And when you start to remove yourself in some way from this pressure there is a certain understanding at a certain level. Why can’t I even see this reaction in my mind? Because one bases one’s view on one and the same resources – the internet, maybe the television, papers and some other media. We all nourish ourselves with the same sources of information. And I confront this range of responses afterwards, after the action has been realised. And naturally there are both positive and negative responses.

And up to then it remains in some kind of lonely …

It will always stay like that, you began to say that this is an issue that some understand and some don’t. It’s such a thing that if I begin to think in this way and with these categories so as to make these actions more understandable, and that I need to do it like that elsewhere, then this will end up as a kind of populism. I’ll end up trying to please someone. This is not my goal.

It’s not a task. The task is to reduce things to some minimum and then in the process develop some clear symbols.

A body wound up in barbed wire, what could be clearer? You understand that here there is no way that one could be even clearer than this.

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It seems to me that there is a kind of clear reaction when people see a man nailing his scrotum on Red Square and the first unfounded response is that people will name you an exhibitionist or homosexual. That is the initial Russian response- something is not right with him in the head. And in Russia abnormality is associated with homosexuality and if you’re a homosexual the thinking goes you’re a pervert. Regarding such reactions don’t you think, don’t you feel that the essential point is somehow being washed away?

If you’re talking about how the media tries to influence the response, then of course they are constantly attempting to make the pendulum of reactions swing between picturing it as a criminal act and that of an insane act and so one can always expect a certain incomprehension. But it’s another question as to whether this has an influence on people who actually see the action. During the ‘Fixation’ action one woman was constantly asking “What’s wrong with him, is he sick?” Of course this is rather sad that such a cult of psychiatry has such power over public consciousness. However, if some kind of genuine conversation about the psychiatric norm does start then that’s just great. That’s my first point. Second. About this gesture …. I’m trying not so much to invent some new gesture, not to concoct some original act. The gesture of nailing one’s scrotum is basically quite culturally entrenched. It is a gesture which prisoners sometimes use.

In relation to what do they make this gesture?

It’s related to many different situations.

As a protest?

Yes. To carry to an extreme their lack of freedom. The impossibility of movement. Often there are wooden floors. And they peg themselves in. And where can you shift him to? A person is already imprisoned, and here he has fastened himself in. This is fixation. And you know when I speak in my text about the way the country is turned into a prison camp, about a police state, I’m not talking about this lightly. 10 November was Police Day.  Each year banners are hanging everywhere in the city – 10 November, long live our beloved police! All these signs on the surface. I work with these signs because they are a part of culture. It’s important to mark where all this comes from if one is to talk about the work with contexts. Without this the gesture of prisoners would remain behind these fences, doors and yet more fences. With these large number of barriers information just doesn’t get to us, one can’t even find photographs of this because no one in the prisons will be prepared to document this in such a way. Everyone knows that this is happening somewhere behind a large number of doors. And here this is happening at the very centre. However, if truth be told, a very conditional border was removed. 10 November, banners, books with the memoirs of dissidents and prisoners – these are markers which link everything in a single statement. If this doesn’t exist then a passerby will start to think: Red square, naked, I don’t know…  I would dispute this notion of the naked exhibitionist, why naked, a person is naked because he is deprived of everything, even his clothes. The level of impoverishment is an indicator of absence.

Vulnerability?

No, not vulnerability. There was no attempt to talk about this. Naked is an expression of a condition, stripped, denuded, deprived of everything. It is, on the other hand, the body in general that which can be found under any clothes. In any case clothes mark you, are some form of mask. Building up some kind of identity. Whereas the body is simply body. All bodies in some way or other are similar.

To what extent are the police a part of your actions?

Basically a very important part. To a large extent they do it all, they arrange this all. There everyone changes places.

In the sense that they arrest you?

No, in the sense of how they react to it. It is not my body which turns out to be a victim. Everything is constructed so that the figure of authority is, in fact, a victim of the situation because they find themselves in a subordinate situation. They need to obey regulations. This is a work on Subject-Object relations. The law-enforcement officials are afraid in the first instance but they are obliged to exercise their authority.

They are obliged to free you.

To do something – or to free me…

The fact that they are the authority and are obliged to free you, does this fact become a revolutionary reversal of roles or something else?

They become the objects of this situation. That is they… I think that this is an important moment: the state objectifies people, compels them to subordinate themselves to regulations, somehow to move within a range of permitted and non-permitted actions, to find themselves in such a corridor.  A man who submits is an object. When he realizes an action, he becomes an object, brought to a certain level perhaps. Beside while initially they are objects performing certain functions they then also become art objects. They want to neutralise and so they have a certain authority. They have a task to neutralise events, eliminate, cleanse the streets or squares. But this compels them to serve opposing goals. They begin to construct events. They become actors in these events. Everything is built through them. My own action is kept to a minimum. I simply sit there and do nothing. Or just stand there.

And if they hadn’t come, would you have still sat in Red Square?

Yes. It’s unclear how an event develops until it actually takes place. It is enough to denote a certain reticence. And the situation is then constructed around that reticence. Because the police, ‘ambulance’ or simply people who would attack me or do something else are simply a part of the social body. Something happens, some kind of rejection (or stigmatisation)- this, too, is a kind of interaction. A senselessly hermetic situation- I came, I left. Another important fact is that I speak with everyone in the same way. I communicate with journalists, with psychiatrists, with investigating officers in the same way. There exists definite rules as to how all this is drawn out. If one keeps to the rules of reticence and doesn’t react to signals from the authorities then there need not be any cooperation with it. I remain stationary and at that moment when the action comes to a concluding stage, when the doors have been closed then I begin to talk and to talk with everyone in the same way. I make no difference between journalists with whom I will tell all and, for example, an investigating officer. I could, of course, as it were, mock the investigating officer but it is not mockery as such. It is I who draws him into an artistic event. What did these dialogues lead to? Who attained their goals in this situation – art or the bureaucratic apparatus? And I with my work…

And if everything in the country was fine, what would you have done?

I don’t know.

So one could say that the worse the situation is in the country, the more work you’ll have?

I get it. What kind of situation. It’s an unrealizable utopia. There will never be such an ideal society and state. It seems to me that there are certain things in the nature of people- subject-object relations, an understanding of power, these things subordinate all others.

You don’t particularly like the concept of power? I take it that, roughly speaking, you believe that it can’t be a good thing, something reasonable? Can power be a good thing?

I believe not, because the task of power is to create a fully predictable individual. Because an unpredictable individual is a dangerous indvidual. The closer a person gets to the condition of Subject then the more he leaves some barriers, looking for something new and this is dangerous for people because he becomes ungovernable in this case.

Would you have protested in any country in the world?

Not in the same way. You must understand that there are different contexts. I’m not a professional protestor.

Protest art?

Political art. I’m not a professional of protest art. Political art and protest art are far from being one and the same thing. Protest art comes from poster art. There is a “NO” there and here there is a “YES”. This would be an over generalisation. I take as a premise that political art is work with control mechanisms.

Fine. Political art. Would you have exercised political art everywhere?

I don’t know. If I were to live in another country maybe I wouldn’t have exercised political art. Proceeding from how I now think I would probably have found some way in which to work. But maybe it would something close in form because different countries, different control systems give birth to different ways of suppressing the human imagination.

And is there a model or a regime of government which would be ideal for you? Anarchy perhaps?

Probably anarchy is an ideal model. I realise that its ideal is held in place by its unrealisability. It’s unlikely that humankind will decide to sacrifice the advantages of scientific and technological progress to a utopian vacuum of power (anarchy). Anarchy is a liberation from some kind of paradigms, it is resistance, a rejection of some or other enforcement of rules. Anarchy is precisely a work on the elaboration of the concept of power.

Anarchy is the closest idea for you? Or maybe something else too?

Yes it’s possibly close to me in some way. There is an insurgent anarchism and then there is another form of anarchism. Anarcho-communism is some kind of delirious contradiction. The dictatorship of equality against the dictatorship of freedom. Or there is one or there is another. It’s difficult to imagine the advent of punk culture in a dictatorial regime of general equality.

Would you like to live in a state where anarchy ruled?

There can be no state where anarchy rules.

A city.  Where everything like this is created. There is anarchy. And there in any case something is built up.

Undoubtedly. That’s why I answered anarchy. The life of a person is spent in permanent struggle for his subjectivisation, for his self-assertion becase all possible resources, forces, interests and, in the final resort, other people or someone else, groups of people work towards that objectivisation, towards that subordination. Even if a pseudo-anarchic structure were to be built… then in any case there would arise groups or structures who will begin to turn all that…

To systematise it.

Yes, to turn it into a hard bone-like content mass. And it is easier to reject these dogmas because they have not managed to become a political disenchantment. History persuades us that the lesson of the 20th Century didn’t prevent Kibbutzim fit a secular idea of the commonwealth of property along with a defence of the growing and sacred borders of the state of Israel. All this needs to be rejected. This constant self- assertion. This is like an endless trial.

Is there some kind of ideal model for the existence of a person? Is this possible? So see it for yourself: so that nobody could usurp you, you don’t intersect with anybody? 

It’s difficult for me to say. It all depends on a the human being. It all depends on the person. A person must overcome that which was imposed on him …

Globally.

Globally – there’s a movement towards an anarchic model.

After which everything will once again run around in circles?

Without a doubt. There’s a certain range or continuum, of course. Like in the song: “Everything which is not anarchy is fascism” We find ourselves between these two poles. Fascism, clearly, not in terms of the Italian model or some other but as a kind of generic term. Fascism as absolute dictate, absolute and total control. And then there’s the other pole: anarchy as some kind of absolute freedom. In fact between them everything oscillates.

And in the middle is everything normal between these two extremes?

I’ve never thought about what can be found in between. I don’t know what’s in between. In between there is a dull liberalism with its shoddy political correctness.

I’m trying to understand what aim you have in that essentially closed circle. You understand that which would be wonderful will never in fact be realised.

In actual fact what is it that changes society and in general gives us some kind of transformation. Certainly not any political templates or schemes, because it is precsiely our work on cultural codes which is the most significant thing here. Conceptual precedents influence how people relate to that which happens around them, it is one’s reflexes produced by one’s relationship to different situations. Which associative models are activated there and how the individual gives a situational response. The person may give a quick response or may, reflecting, make a decision. And it is this field where the struggle takes place. Of course regimes change. There was a Soviet regime (tr.n here Pavlensky uses the pejorative word formed from the word Soviet which is hard to translate into English), before that there was the monarchy, the Russian Empire and now there is this regime. In any regime the military and security services are those with power. In 1917 there was a revolution, there were changes and there were significant changes in the cultural sphere. In art and in terms of how people related to each other. There was a movement for 15 years and then a reaction, the Bolsheviks smothered everything and things were forcefully rolled back.

Do you have some kind of “Super-idea” regarding what you are doing? Where are you taking all this? What point between fascism and anarchy seems to you the most appropriate?

One undoubtedly needs to push everything in the direction of anarchy because…

So that something moves at least a little bit?

Even for things to remain as they are one already needs a certain effort. If one makes a great effort one can move things a little further. There is a very strong force moving us towards the other side, towards fascism and absolute subordination. Working towards this are the strong resources of state apparatuses, an entire system of authorities. This is a constant collision. It will not cease. For me it is on this field where the head on clash takes place. It’s ridiculous to dream that those forces which are an obstacle will eventually dissolve, disappear somewhere and then we will suddenly find ourselves in anarchy and live under a different model. I think there is a more realistic perspective on things. But if we are to discuss things theoretically then, of course, when you loosen certain frameworks, move some borders further away then you will help others, those who come after you.

A trip to Moscow Tsiolkovsky’s bookshop(1) On Aleksei Tsvetkov’s ‘Column Left, Marx!’ (or Fifty Shades of Red)

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A copy of Alexei Tsvetkov’s latest book published by the radical Russian publisher ‘Free Marxist Press’.

Back in Russia – and that means one of my first trips will be to the two bookshops where you can be sure that all the necessary books are to be found. Since Moscow is a city with a decreasing number of bookshops- according to a report by the Moscow Times in late July there are now only 226 bookstores for a population of 12 million and few of these bookstores will stock radical publishers my first trips are to Falanster and Tsiolkovsky. Tsiolkovsky, indeed, is associated with the writer Alexei Tsvetkov whose latest book is the first book I rushed out to buy.

The writer Aleksei Tsvetkov at Tsiolkovsky bookshop.

Tsvetkov, the writer and activist (not to be confounded with an older generation Alexei Tsvetkov – also a writer but more a poet and essayist rather than an essayist, novelist and activist that would describe the younger Tsvetkov) was recently awarded the prestigious literary award, the Andrey Bely prize for his book novel ‘The King of the Drowned’ and has written a fine book entitled ‘Pop Marxism’ that surely deserves some consideration from foreign publishers regarding having it translated.  The new book by Tsvetkov is a pun on a military command and could be rendered something like ‘Column Left Marx’. In a Facebook remark a few months ago Tsvetkov joked about writing a book entitled ‘Fifty Shades of Red’ and this surely would be a fine title. It moves from Tsvetkov’s superlative essay on the Last Soviet Marxist Evald Ilyenkov (which I translated here) to another similar piece on Lenin’s rival Bolshevik philosopher and sci-fi author Alexander Bogdanov . Considerations on the Russian revolution and the figure of Lenin are then followed by a piece on What Is Contemporary Marxism? And then finally we move to the German Red Army Faction (RAF- Three Red Letters).

From the Rote Armee Fraktion to Fassbinder marks the barrier from politics and theory to the cultural front with Tsvetkov attempting to answer the question ‘what makes Fasbinder a comrade?’ Tsvetkov stays with film trying to explain how we can understand the apparent ‘Hollywood Marxism’ of films such as Hunger Games, Elysium etc. After a piece on Besson’s Lucy, Tsvetkov takes us into the realm of poetry where he gives us a political map of Russian poets: liberal stoics, rightist national pessimists and leftists awaiting Mayakovsky finally find a classifier who can write with some nuance on their political stances. Political music is the next subject. Finally in the cultural section Tsvetkov explores the magazine Bolshoy Gorod and dissects their cultural politics with the suggestive subheading of ‘An attempt at a Class Reading of Liberal Propaganda’. Then Tsvetkov subsection number three is entitled ‘Personal’ but here, of course, the personal is political. Chapter titles are ‘My First Meeting’, ‘My First of May’ and then a short piece answering the question ‘what were my first inner revolutions?’ Noting that the artist Anatoly Osmolovsky once stated that he became a leftist after viewing Godard’s ‘Pierrot le Fou’, Tsvetkov’s also undertakes an analysis of those moments of inner revolutions that turned him to the left. Further pieces describe the short-lived Russian Occupy moment – the ‘Occupy Abai’ experiment in May 2012 in Chistiye Prudi. A curious week or so in the life of Putin’s Moscow: a time when Central Moscow was occupied even by a grazing cow. A trip to London (entitled ‘London Calling or Chupa Chups with Marijuana’) and a piece on Tsvetkov’s intriguing ‘eurodroog’ (I’m not sure if this Burgess neologism exactly fits but neither does ‘Euro friend’ quite capture this character) and their conversations about Russia.  The final section is devoted to childhood- though, mainly Tsvetkov’s daughter appears at the main interlocutor and dramatis personae in this section. I remember Toni Negri’s first translator into English once telling me how he sent a letter to him (probably before emails) asking him how Negri would explain the Marxist theory of time to his seven year-old daughter. Negri, apparently, never replied. Emery surely had the wrong interlocutor, for Tsvetkov shows us how in both this book and in his earlier ‘Pop Marxism’ there is a leftist thinker prepared to explain Marxism as much to his young daughter as to political activists and university students but then, as Tsvetkov suggests with his first piece here entitled ‘The Child as Teacher’, it is as much his daughter who explained Marxism to him as vice versa. The pieces here entitled ‘Children’s Politics’, ‘Children’s Mysticism’ and discussions of Soviet children’s literature such as ‘Neznaika on the Moon’ are promising leads to a new genre in which Marxist thought can be formulated.

By the way Tsvetkov’s book has just been nominated for the Nose Literary Award. The award is based on the number of votes from the public and Tsvetkov has promised to sing the Internationale from the stage if awarded main prize. So get voting! Tsvetkov’s book is published by Kirill Medvedev’s excellent and undersung Free Marxist Press. I’ve already written about their excellent volume entitled ‘Sex of the Exploited’ and in my next post I hope to mention a few more books by this publisher – including Medvedev’s own translations of the poetry of Victor Serge and Kirill Adibekov’s fine translations of Kenneth Rexroth (Abdibekov’s is one of Russia’s most interesting, but lesser known, film curators) and has worked on some fine film programmes for one of Russia’s best film festivals 2morrow/Завтра Another book discovered at Tsiolkovsky yesterday was Ilya Falkovsky’s ‘Book of the Living’ -a kind of veiled autobiography by another extraordinarily important figure in Russia’s underground culture who needs to be discovered soon. But all this is for a future post.

The logo for Kirill Medvedev’s Free Marxist Press

Hypocrite politique – mon semblable – mon frere (the equal logic of Putin and Bildt versus the logic of social protest).

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That events in Greece and the astounding victory of No in the referendum over the troika’s austerity diktat’s will have consequences far beyond Greece is obvious. Much too early days to tell what all these consequences will be- I think that much depends on the mobilization of forces in Greece and Europe. But there is a certain angle to this story that few are talking about. Few commentators are turning their memories or attention to another revolt which happened not too long ago- notably,the Maidan along with what were the anti-Maidan’s. It’s obvious that Greek’s Syntagma revolt is not a replication of the swell of popular activity in various parts of Ukraine in 2014 but Paul Mason’s use of the term ‘People’s Power’ is surely an accurate one in so far one can call both Syntagma and Maidan popular earthquakes against ‘unbearable situations’ and stifling political realities.

Daniel Trilling was one of the few on twitter to mention Maidan and ‘Syntagma’ in a tweet after the referendum result with this observation: Suspect the overlap between those who praised Maidan protests and those who are praising Greece’s “No” is quite small.  Indeed. For months now pro-Maidan liberals have been highlighting what they saw as the European left’s hypocrisy over Maidan. Now the boot is surely on the other foot. Now it is those Euro-liberals who fully deserve their full share of being charged with hypocrisy. Not only that but their tools and their language are slowly and surely becoming more Putin-like as time goes on.

What have been the reactions of the Carl Bildt’s and Martin Schulz’s and the Euro-establishment to the Syntagma revolt? Threats of regime change, massive use of TV propaganda, use of fear tactics, hissy fits all point to a certain symmetry to Russia’s establishment vis-a-vis. Carl Bildt’s tweet stating that Greece has refused the help that other Euro countries have offered them and that this is tragic carries that unmistakable whiff of the undertones of Putin-speak and the same mafia-like logic of spitefully punishing the renegade (even if that ‘renegade’ is an entire people). The fact that 61% of the Greek people have said ‘no’ to all the television channels, the Euro-establishment, and ‘everyone who is anyone in Greece’ and Europe suggests that it is not just Putin who has lost touch with reality but Merkel and her minions too.

It is surely time to forge new transnational forces in the two different parts of Europe (East and West) before these become impossible. Indeed the logic of a Second Cold War suits both the Bildts (who immediately tried to ratchet up this Cold War and opposing block logic in a tweet today stating that Greece doesn’t want to reform. Ukraine is doing it. Greece got massive help. Ukraine got very little by comparison) as well as the Russian establishment. Corporate logic (of the Gazproms and western banks) demands this.

Their logic will demand a new momentum in the new Cold War just as the logic of the nay-sayers from Greece to Armenia in their common resistance to austerity will require its own momentum and internationalist thrust. Especially now that there will be a growing common logic to protests from Ukraine (as long as national logic subsides) to Russia and Armenia. A logic of primarily social demands- whether it be the work to rule by doctors in Russia, Electric Yerevan’s response to hikes in electricity prices along with Greece’s defiant resistance to austerity should find a common thread running through Maidan, Bolotnaya, Syntagma and Liberty Square. A logic that would threaten the Putin’s and the Gazprom’s, the Ukrainian oligarchs and the Carl Bildt’s, Angela Merkel’s and troikas of the world who not only speak with the same language of power but are even beginning to share the same intonation and tone of voice.

Notes Towards a Manifesto of Kibalchich Cosmism

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Nikolai Kibalchich, regicide and pioneer of space travel.

In line both with the fact that I have been feeling for some time that individual texts are no longer adequate to the situation in which one finds oneself in locally, nationally, globally and cosmically and in line with a certain despair at the ways in which nationalist (or exclusivist or partial) hysteria is gaining ground I want to propose a kind of collective manifesto (or a group of collective manifestos) that can be written in various ways to be determined. All I have is the title of the Manifesto: ‘Towards Kibalchich Cosmism’ and a list (to be published gradually) of quotes, texts and examples of human resistance and liberation.

A mention of Kibalchich on facebook a few weeks ago and a quote from the 1920 Cosmist Manifesto restoring that memory through association today led me towards the idea that Kibalchism has great potential as an idea responding to the present human stage of our imprisonment in national and nationalist or geopolitical logics. Cosmism, space travel and the expropriation of cosmism by Eurasianists, or rather the God, Tsar and Fatherland version of cosmism should surely be countered by a new form of cosmism. If Nikolai Fedorov’s ideas are expropriated by a variety of Huntingdon-inspired nationalists then why not formulate a Kibalchichesque Cosmism as alternative. Kibalchichesque Cosmism can become a universal alternative precisely because it is inimical to national and hierarchical ideologies and there is no chance that Kibalchich can be appropriated by establishments anywhere. A regicide who used his scientific theories both to dynamite tsars and to clear the path to space exploration, Kibalchich is surely the ultimate cosmist who can speak up for universal liberation. Interestingly the fact that he was the paternal uncle of Victor Serge (or Victor Kibalchich) may indicate another key reason for developing a form of Kibalchichism.

Nikolai, arrested and jailed for lending a prohibited book to a peasant, was also a pioneer in rocket propulsion and was the explosives expert for Narodnaya Volya who eventually assassinated Alexander II.  Arrested and imprisoned soon after he still worked on his scientific ideas even at death’s door before his execution:

“When his men came to see Kibalchich as his appointed counsel for the defense,” said V.N Gerard in his statement to the special committee of the senate, “I was surprised above all by the fact that his mind was occupied with completely different things with no bearing on the present trial. He seems to be immersed in research on some aeronautic missile; he thirsted for a possibility to write down his mathematical calculations involved in the discovery.”

The idea that space exploration was first discovered by a regicide surely indicates one thing: real progress will be achieved through liberation and liberation through revolt. So if the global investment banking class wish to expropriate Nikolai Fedorov (by some accounts a control freak and eugenicist), migrants, proletarians and other marginalised groups still have their Kibalchich at hand

What can Kibalchich Cosmism be?

Kilbachich didn’t have time to develop a fully thought out theory having been locked in prison cells and dying at the hands of the tsarist hangmen at the age of 27 or 28. Yet surely just like Luther Blissett, Nikolai Kibalchich needs some form of collective identity re-appropriation. In the figure of Kibalchich universal revolt can surely be reconnected to the idea of universal liberation and scientific progress. So why not turn his name and his example into a collective theory.

The aim of my next post is to list texts and historical figures which and who (to my mind) could be the inspiration for this Kibalchichesque Cosmism.