Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Boris Johnson on why salaries are a luxury

"Young Londoners will now have to do 13 weeks unpaid work for their £56 a week dole money". 

Guest Blogger Boris Johnson explains the benefits of unpaid work.

Reactive from the left wing press has been predicable in response to my new scheme.  In fact, this is excellent news for young Londoners as they will now be able to gain valuable experience that the country could not otherwise afford to give them. Those who claim that this is 'work', and as such should be paid,  are just bleeding heart liberals who don't understand economics. People focus too much on money these days. What's important is that, today, I can unveil a plan to create 200,000 jobs over the next four years.

Labour's introduction of the minimum wage has been disastrous for this country - I mean, what business can afford to pay £6.08 per hour in the current climate? That's £228 a week, £912 per month or potentially a massive £10,000 per year for a full time temp! We're just not competitive any more. 

(Chris) Grayling took a swipe at the Labour party and those campaigning against "workfare". "The usual suspects will cry 'slave labour''. They always do. But they are the people who believe that young claimants have the right to sit at home playing computer games. I simply disagree."

I agree with Chris Grayling - we must end this "something for nothing" culture. It's long overdue for good, honest, businesses to be able to employ these people - without having to pay them. The rise in tuition fees and repeal of EMA should ensure there are plenty of young people available for the new 'workfare' scheme.

Working Class 'pride' now seems laughable. Unless you are generating wealth for the economy, you are a drag on the economy. Thank God we deregulated the City in the 80s - the bankers are the only ones who contribute anything nowadays.

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is the Mayor of London. He was born in New York and educated at the European School in Brussels before attending Eton and Oxford University.  His father is employed by the World Bank.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

On Militant Art: Part 4 - Voina

Voina: "Dick in FSB Captivity"
Gavin Grindon claimed that most Art Activism merely mimics activism in a "context without consequences". He also tells us that at while Art Activism is currently very popular, drawing down funding and support from liberal art institutions, it is also being criminalised and excluded as 'terrorist' by political establishments: the legal definition of 'terrorism' being extended to include non-violent civil disobedience: the 'eco-terrorist' for example (Art Monthly 2010 #333 pp 9-12). Art Activism sits in a difficult position: if it merely re-presents social conflict in a gallery setting, or within the gallery system, it can come across as just playing with real, big issues and have no real impact. On the other hand, as Boris Groys points out (Art Power 2008), if art becomes embroiled in politics and creating social change it risks becoming mere activism (and losing the 'art'). The Voina art collective raises the question of how contemporary practice can straddle this boundary of making socio-political art with an impact that can also be judged aesthetically - 'as art'. 

Voina (which means "War" in Russian) is a Russian art collective, founded in 2006 by husband and wife Oleg Vorotnikov and Natalia Sokol. Other key members include 'Preseident' Leonid Nikolayev and Alexei Plutser-Sarno (AKA Plucer).  As with previous examples of militant art on this blog, Voina operate in the Dadaist tradition. Examples of their performances include:
How to snatch a chicken: the tale of how one cunt fed all of Voina
a live public orgy at the State Biological Museum to mock the election of Dmitry Medvedev; a 180-foot-high projection of a skull-and-crossbones on the exterior of Russia's parliament; theft of a supermarket chicken by inserting it into a member's vagina; flipping police cars over; setting fire to a prison transport van; and painting an enormous cock on a drawbridge facing a police building (formerly the KGB Head Quarters) in St. Petersburg.  

One of Voina's supporters, the radical curator Andrei V. Yerofeyev, was fined...
for "inciting religious hatred" in connection with a show of "Forbidden Art" he co-curated Moscow's Sakharov Museum [...] In 2009, Voina had stormed the court when charges were brought against him. Assuming the persona of a band called Cock in the Ass, Voina members performed a raucous punk song titled "All Cops are Bastards" in court as a theatrical gesture of solidarity with Yerofeyev and his co-defendant. (Art Info)
Cock in Ass
This, no doubt, reminds us of a more familiar political protest in Russia (due to the current high levels of media coverage): that of the female Punk Band Pussy Riot who have been sentenced for two years for performing a protest song (which may have featured bad language and anti-Putin sentiments) in a cathedral. Voina, despite their more radical stunts, have so far evaded such harsh sentences. Two members, imprisoned for their role in Palace Revolution (where they up-turned Police cars in St. Petersburg) were released in March after Banksy rasied their £90K bail money from an online auction of his work. The BBC described "Palace Revolution" as involving:
...31 activists; five to do the heavy lifting, while the rest filmed what was happening, acted as lookouts and distracted the police by pretending to be lost tourists.(BBC)
While Grindon draws our attention to the use of anti-terrorist laws against the likes of Green Peace, with the likes of Pussy Riot and Voina we have seen charges of political, racial, religious or ideological hatred levied at the artists (you know you're in trouble when they pull that one out... it's like health and safety... no one feels they have the authority to challenge it). Just making a protest wouldn't get Pussy Riot put in prison - but if the protest (in a cathedral) were to be interpreted as being motivated by religious hatred... This is the danger of puritan attitudes towards Islamophobia - suddenly a comment or action can be exacerbated and you can be attacked as an extremist (extremist/terrorist, it doesn't matter which). This is worrying indeed as we are already in a situation where only a very narrow spectrum of political ideologies is deemed acceptable - in the US 'Liberal' is a dirty word on a par with 'communist' nearly (imagine the horror!). In the UK we have no real left wing parties anymore (you can't really call Respect a party and Labour/Lib Dems are committed free-marketeers), while on the right UKIP are considered acceptable (just about). The lack of democratic representation drives people towards the English Defense League, British National Party (although they've recently taken a kicking) or the National Front. 

Voina are currently on the run. Although they are wanted by Interpol, they managed to co-curate this year's Berlin Biennale with Artur Żmijewski, who organised political actions for the Biennale supporting causes including freeing Belarus’ political prisoners, the Occupy Movement, and opposing the recent international arrest warrants issued for Oleg Vornikov and Natalia Sokol. 

So, how do Voina address Grindon's accusation that art activism cannot "make a difference" and/or Groys's position that if it does "make a difference" it risks losing its status as art?

Take the example of fire-bombing a Police transport: this is clearly a militant and illegal activity. It is, perhaps, more easily accepted as activism than art. Voina member Alexei Plutser-Sarno explains that by burning it the group “stirred up discussion” in the entire country [... and that such] actions are an adequate reaction to all those batteries, tortures and arrests of innocent people, to the situation when thousands of political prisoners are kept in jails all over the country.” Writing for Art Info (January 2012) Voina's position on the definition of art: 
the difference between performance art and political activism is art’s public nature and the importance of laying claim to your work. “If an activist secretly burns a cop truck at night, it won’t be art. It will be the revenge of an activist,” Plutser-Sarno wrote. “But to burn it openly and proclaim to the entire country: ‘I am an artist. I burned down your prison, symbol of totalitarianism. This autodafe is our art action,’ then it becomes a piece of art. We made people discuss it as an artistic action.”(Art Info) [Plutser-Sarno is currently in hiding abroad].
Crazy Leo
This definition is not incompatible with US artist Mel Chin who, speaking about his activist art piece Operation Paydirt (which aimed to find a solution for the high lead contamination in the soil surrounding New Orleans) told Claire Bishop that his work can be judged aesthetically and politically as a landscape without lead pollution would be beautiful. Another action at first seems less militant and more Dadaist. Leonid (crazy Leo) Nikolayev climbs onto a police car with a blue bucket on his head "to protest against the widespread use of blue emergency lights by officials who cannot be bothered to sit in Moscow traffic jams" (BBC). He then runs blind down busy streets trying to avoid arrest: a police officer pulls the bucket off his head only to reveal another, smaller, blue bucket. This may seem comical and absurd (and it is) but it also fits into an anarchist tradition in that it challenges authority and by 'doing' helps others to see that we can be more free, live without fear and be braver. 
Decembrists Commemoration: Public Execution in the Supermarket

There are many more examples which I do not have the time to recount here (but videos can be seen on Plucer's own blog). Here are a few of the more outrageous stunts. Judge for yourselves, but we here at Malaised feel that Voina are one of the most ground-breaking and cutting edge performance art activists in the world right now:
In Decembrists Commemoration Voina staged the mock lynching of five people in Moscow's largest supermarket. The five victims represented Jews, Central Asian Immigrants, and homosexuals - "a special gift to the Russian corrupted authorities, who incite homophobia, misanthropy and anti-Semitism; as a result the killings of Central Asians guest workers [...] have become an everyday reality in Russia."  (Plucer). Of course, the action was also to remind Russians of the libertarian ideals of the country’s first revolutionists - the five 'Decembrists' hanged in 1826.
Cop in a cassock
Also in a supermarket a Voina member dressed in a police uniform covered by a Russian Orthodox cassock and large cross, shoplifted alcohol and food "with the impunity enjoyed by priests and cops in today’s Russia". Following  on with another large corporation in the food industry Voina stormed McDonald's hurling stray cats behind the counter "As a result the fast-food products were spoilt, hungry cats – fed".
Mordovian Hour
Two days before the election of Dmitry Medvedev, Voina staged a live public orgy at the State Museum of Biology. '
While five couples were copulating, the Voina chief media artist Alexei Plutser-Sarno, wearing a tuxedo and a top-hat, was holding a black pre-electoral banner reading "Fuck for the Heir - Medvedev’s little Bear! [...] in Russia everyone fucks each other and the little president looks at it with delight". Voina mocked the farcical and pornographic elections in the country, as Medvedev just inherited the V. Putin's presidential throne".
Fuck for the Heir - Medvedev’s little Bear!

Further reading:

Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Aesthetics of Assange

Julian Assange addresses the crowd outside the Ecuadorian embassy today
Julian Assange appeared in public today, for the first time in 61 days. A small group of pro-Assange protesters lined the pavement opposite the Ecuadorian embassy where Assange is claiming asylum and the rest of the surrounding streets were taken up with a large police presence, press and tourists. The atmosphere was friendly but excited as the Met Police helicopter circled overhead (presumably to help catch Assange should he make a bolt for it). A few diplomatic cars with blacked out windows sped away and one person in the crowd commented "that's it, he's gone". But he wasn't gone. He did appear, slightly later than his advertised 2pm slot, on a balcony - just out of reach from the police (both physically and legally). 

But what does this mean in aesthetic terms? Assange knows better than anyone that since around 9-11 we have entered into a Bond Movie. The (seemingly) loan baddie Osama takes on America and the West in a daring terrorist attack, unbelievably hitting the Pentagon and the WTC. Then some of his henchmen hit the media: a one eyed man with hooks for hands called Abu, a man who decapitates statues with a razor-tipped top hat and another man who releases all the world's secrets via the Internet... you can't make it up.

The great American intellectual George W. Bush, during his presidency, simplified the War on Terror that followed for us, by explaining that "you are either with us or against us" and often adding that the terrorists' motives were simply that that "hate freedom".  With Assange though there is a problem, to invoke Spinal Tap: there's a bit too much fucking freedom if you ask me. In fact Assange has crowned himself price of truth and freedom - how can we fight against that? This reminds me of George W's response to the Yes Men's prank website and the satirical campaign "Yes Bush Can!" that followed in the run up to the 2000 election. While the website was only intended to highlight hypocrisies on the real Bush website George W didn't like it at all. In fact he said that they had gone too far and that there should be limits on freedom of speech (imagine Spitting Image being taken to court...) At the same time as the Assange case we has Pussy Riot beginning their 2 year prison sentence for... well, playing an anti-Putin Punk protest song in a cathedral. I guess the church could be pissed about trespass (although I'm pretty sure they're supposed to forgive trespasses) and maybe not Punk fans but guess what? The Russian Orthodox Church called for clemency! So who prosecuted? And for what? It's a joke. You might be able to convince me that they broke a law but a two year custodial sentence? We all know this is about Putin sending out a message: criticise me, and you'll end up in prison.
One of two diplomatic vehicles (with blacked-out rear windows) leaves the embassy unchallenged

Meat wagons line up outside Harrods
 This makes it very difficult to call for limits on freedom of speech without sounding like a right wing fanatic. But I reckon there should be limits. Surely releasing defence plans (read "weaknesses") is irresponsible. We are operating in an information age vulnerable to cyber attack but old school defence has always guarded its secrets - think of the Cold War or even Bletchley Park. Certain information in the wrong hands can cost lives.

Back to aesthetics and we can now see that Assange is evoking cinema (Bond baddies), music (Punk and protest songs in general) and art (specifically protest art and culture jamming in the Yes Men!). He was also evoking Eva Perón through the manner of his address. I also feel the white hair adds an element of Bond baddie and the French-sounding name coupled with the Australian-British(?) identity adds a kind of suave debonair sophistication also found in Bond movies. Furthermore Assange appears to have made the US and UK act as if it is they who are in a Bond movie. Cold War era espionage and trickery are back on the table. Do they really think we are so stupid that we won't see through these sexual assault "accusations"? Anyone with half a brain cell can see it's a set up. Just as anyone with an ounce of moral fibre or sense of justice can see that Pussy Riot have been fitted up: it's political. But I have a solution: Assange should offer to stand trial, in Sweden, in absentia. He could appear via video link. If found guilty he should give himself up and serve the sentence, if not in Sweden then in the UK or Ecuador even. Surely the UK couldn't object to him being moved from the embassy if he were going to prison? (whether in Sweden or elsewhere). 
Met Police Helicopter presumably waiting to track Assange should he make a run for it!

So, aesthetically, we can expect the UK or US government to poison Assange by ascertaining only he in the embassy eats a certain food product (Vegemite I expect), or kill him with a poison blow-dart the next time he appears on the balcony. Perhaps Assange will evade the blow-dart and escape to Ecuador on a jet-pack? Assange could be said to have brought issues of freedom of speech and the policing of the Internet into the public conscious and debate and artistically this could be seen as operating in the same mould as the Yes Men and many others (see my posts on Militant Art for examples).

Monday, 13 August 2012

Thomas Bresolin: Сучьи войны (Bitch war)

Following on from our post about Chris Burden, Martin Lang makes a connection between Burden and a contemporary artist who inflicts violence on himself, on others and encourages others to inflict violence on him. For 'Bitch War' Bresolin carried out an eight-day hunger strike culminating with a performance in which he was force-fed (see the video below).

Read Martin's full review on a-n online here (or see below) to find out how he links Bresolinand Burden and how he thinks Bresolin's eight-day hunger strike was not out of solidarity for prisoners, but for starving artists.