SocialToolBox/Iconoclast 1998 (1998-2007)


IC-98 (”Iconoclast 1998”)
was founded in 1998 as a reaction to the
restrictions of academic writing. From the beginning, the group has tried to
act as freely as possible, always putting the context and the idea before
the medium, and the group-subject before the individual, never minding the
barriers between different disciplines (academic, artistic or activist). In
practice, the world of contemporary art has proved to be the most flexible
environment for diverse projects, being a free zone of experimentation within
the society at large. Though the label ART has an enormous power to neutralise
any message, and regardless of the fact that art world increasingly resembles
the high fashion industry, it nonetheless offers possibilities to put forward ideas
without the preconditions of academic work (rules, objectivity), the market
(surplus value, capitalist modes of distribution), or activism (the threat of
dogmatism). In fact, in IC-98’s idealist-pragmatic programme the projects are
labeled art only for strategic reasons – the strategy works as long as the
concepts of art do not come to dominate the discourse. The same applies to
the individuals working in the group: you call yourself artist, just because it is
institutionally convenient, because the very concept of ARTIST is obscure.

IC-98 does not confine itself to one medium. The medium of choice always
follows strategically the context, its history and the present situation, and the
objectives in question. Typically, the working methods have contained inter-
ventions and installations in public and gallery spaces as well as in publications.
In recent years, IC-98 has concentrated primarily on the production of free
distribution books. The books, distributed in editions of 500-2000, are collage-like,
heterogenic assemblages, or toolboxes, of text, models, instructions, images,
diagrams and drawings. Typically, an individual project combines multiple media
to present a multifaceted whole – and to connect it to other projects.

Free distribution books

Over the past years, we have mostly concentrated on free distribution books. The books are not documentation of our work but the work itself, heterogenous assemblages of texts, images, drawings, diagrams, instructions and exercises, composed around chosen themes, typically dictated by the context in question or by a strategic necessity. Sometimes the book stands alone, sometimes it is supported by an installation or other elements. Compared to public projects or interventions, a book is light, nomadic and easily distributed. When it becomes part of the multitude of printed material in public circulation, it loses its possible aura – and works on the same level as ideological and religious propaganda, educational material and advertising.

Our books are amalgamations of fact and fiction – they can be read as such, as stories. But they should also be used as portals and toolboxes. Or approached as scripts. Their meaning should open in use. For us, a book is an open construction, designed for something, not primarily a unity in itself. In this sense, a book as we see it is closer to a manual: it does not offer an image of the world but, on the contrary, is part of it.

It should not be regarded as a typical artist book, as it is mass produced and possibly distributed without a label of art. From literarature it differs in the fact that it is collage-like, pragmatic, anonymous, and distributed outside the capitalist modes of exchange. The books are distributed for free, either in a museum, in a gallery or a public space – however, the “coding” of reception should kept to minimum. In the ideal situation, the manual would just be suddenly found. With a free and accidental mode of distribution, the book escapes the logic of capitalism: it is free of charge, outside the economy of monetary exchange, a gift which must not be returned. Thus it is democratic: its use does not require funds, technical skills or access to media. Even language skills are not necessary, as there are usually segments of narrative images and diagrams included. It can be carried in pocket – the reception takes place in lived time, not in a specified space.

Typically, we include metaphorical drawings into the books. The drawings are an important part of our “writing”, not illustrations. They might be called illuminations, in a very broad sense. Despite of being tied to the context of the book they are included in, the drawings form a series of their own, Theses on the Body Politic.

In all honesty, it must be said that the principles outlined above are idealist and the actual use of books has changed over time. As the first ones emphasised the tool-function, the latter have been somewhere between fiction and non-fiction – and closer to the centres of the art world (which is often also a financial necessity). Distributing a book for free in a major exhibition (Foucault’s Sleep in ARS 06) cannot be called very subversive. This we are ready to admit.

Iconoclast Publications 1

"The Administration Building": An Introduction, 1998

Iconoclast Publications 2

Psychogeographical Exercises (ST.1), 2001

Iconoclast Publications 3
A Monument for Moments of the Living Present (ST.3), 2002

Iconoclast Publications 4
Truth/In/Formation (ST.4), 2003

Iconoclast Publications 5
Run and Die, 2004

Iconoclast Publications 6
Forays, 2005

Iconoclast Publications 7
Auri sacra fames, 2005

Iconoclast Publications 8
Foucault's Sleep - Models for a Proposal, 2005/2006

Iconoclast Publications 9
Akseli Virtanen, The Place of Mutation, 2007

Download the books at SocialToolBox or share them via karagarga/demonoid.

at 11:33 AM  

Chto delat? (2003-2007)

Chto delat/What is to be done? was founded in early 2003 in Petersburg by a workgroup of artists, critics, philosophers, and writers from Petersburg, Moscow, and Nizhny Novgorod (see full list of participants on the web site) with the goal of merging political theory, art, and activism.

Since then, Chto delat has been publishing an English-Russian newspaper on issues central to engaged culture, with a special focus on the relationship between a repoliticization of Russian intellectual culture and its broader international context. These newspapers are usually produced in the context of collective initiatives such as art projects or conferences.

The group was founded in May 2003 in Petersburg in an action called “The Refoundation of Petersburg .” Shortly afterwards, the original, as yet nameless core group began publishing a newspaper called Chto delat/What is to be done? The name of the group derives from a novel by the Russian 19th author Nikolai Chernyshevsky, and immediately brings reminiscences of the first socialist worker’s self-organizations in Russia, which Lenin actualized in his “What is to be done?” (1902). Chto delat sees itself as a self-organizing platform for cultural workers intent on politicizing their “knowledge production” through reflections and redefinitions of an engaged autonomy for cultural practice today.

The platform Chto delat is coordinated by a workgroup including following members: Olga Egorova/Tsaplya (artist, Petersburg), Artiom Magun (philosopher, Petersburg), Nikolai Oleinikov (artist, Moscow), Natalia Pershina/Glucklya (artist, Petersburg), Alexei Penzin (philosopher, Moscow), David Riff (art critic, Moscow), Alexander Skidan (poet, critic, Petersburg), Kirill Shuvalov (artist, Petersburg), Oxana Timofeeva (philosopher, Moscow), and Dmitry Vilensky (artist, Petersburg).
Chto delat works through collective initiatives organized by “art soviets,” inspired by the councils formed in revolutionary Russia during the early 20th century. These “art soviets” want to trigger a prototypical social model of participatory democracy, translating an open system for the generation of new forms of solidarity into the realm of contemporary cultural work. The “art soviet” takes on the function of a counter-power that plans, localizes and executes projects collectively.

Usually, this process results in artistic interventions, exhibitions, or artworks (video films, radio plays, performances), which, in turn, trigger new issues of the newspaper. Most of these projects have a two-fold intent: on the one hand, we are interested in the translatability and actualization of left theory (classical Marxism, post-structuralism, post-operaism, critical theory) and artistic practice (situationism, documentalism, urbanism, realism) under post-Soviet conditions and how this relates to parallel efforts elsewhere. On the other hand, we have also often focused on actualizations of the potential of the Soviet past repressed in the course of Soviet history, floating signifiers that need to be captured and used before they are subsumed totally by the present mode of production.

To give a few examples: in 2004-2005, Chto delat carried out an artistic examination of a working class neighborhood in Petersburg, attempting to actualize the communitarian utopias of its constructivist urbanity through the community, adrift with an enactment of Debord’s derive. This research into the Fordist utopia of the late 1920s and its incomplete, uneven transition to late capitalism was presented in two exhibitions and a newspaper. Another actualization of the Soviet legacy can be found in the project “Builders” (2005), in which the group restaged a classical socialist realist masterpiece from the late 1950s, which then falls apart and comes back together. In September 2006, Chto delat collaborated on a project called “Self-Educations”, an international exhibition and seminars-program at the NCCA in Moscow, dedicated to alternative, community-based forms of self-learning as emancipatory practices.

All of these projects have been accompanied by newspapers. 17 newspapers have been produced so far. The newspaper is fully bilingual (English/Russian). The editorial process draws artists, critics, activists and philosophers into a heated editorial debate, which results in theoretical essays, art projects, open-source translations, questionnaires, dialogues, and comic strips. This take-away publication is distributed for free at congresses or exhibitions, social forums and rallies where it reaches a broader cultural public. A complete set of issues, as well as documentations of art projects and current information can be found on this site.

David Riff and Dmitry Vilensky

Since 2003, the workgroup Chto delat has been publishing a newspaper. The newspaper is edited by Dmitry Vilensky and David Riff in collaboration with the workgroup Chto delat.

The newspaper is bilingual (Russian/English), and appears on an irregular basis (roughly once every 2 months). It varies between 16 and 24 pages (A3). Its editions (3,000- 9,000 copies) are distributed for free at cultural events and exhibitions by its producers. A visual documentation of the newspaper’s production and distribution can be found in the Art Projects section here.

Each newspaper addresses a theme or problem central to the search for new political subjectivities, and their impact on art, activism, philosophy, and cultural theory. So far, the rubrics and sections of the paper have followed a free format, depending on theme at hand. There are no exhibition reviews. The focus is on the local Russian situation, which the newspaper tries to link to a broader international context. Contributors include artists, art theorists, philosophers, activists, and writers from Russia, Western Europe and the United States.

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at 12:49 PM  

Mary Ann Caws - The Eye In The Text (1981)

The Eye in the Text: Essays on Perception, Mannerist to Modern (Princeton Essays on the Arts Series: No. 1)

Mary Ann Caws is Distinguished Professor of English, French, and Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and has taught at Barnard College, Princeton University, and the Université de Paris at Jussieu. She has held Guggenheim, NEH, and Getty Fellowships, experienced (delightfully) two residences at Bellagio, and served as the President of the Modern Language Association and the American Comparative Literature Association. She has published a series of illustrated biographies: on Dora Maar (Picasso's Weeping Woman), on Virginia Woolf, on Marcel Proust, on Pablo Picasso (particularly in his relation to poets), and on Henry James, and writes mostly about the subject of art and text (The Eye in the Text; Robert Motherwell with Pen and Brush; Glorious Eccentrics: Modernist Women Painting and Writing). She has published a memoir (To the Boathouse), written on and translated French poets (André Breton, Yves Bonnefoy, René Char, Robert Desnos, Paul Eluard, Pierre Reverdy, Tristan Tzara) and found herself Surprised in Translation. For some odd reason, she enjoys editing anthologies (the HarperCollins World Reader; Surrealist Painters and Poets; Surrealist Love Poems; Surrealism; and the Yale Book of Twentieth Century French Poetry.).

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at 8:45 PM  

Mark Von Schlegell - High Wichita (2007)

Mark von Schlegell's fiction scrambles the codes of traditional science fiction and fantasy with high literature and philosophy into a psychedelic weave of theory and pulp tradition.

In High Wichita you are, roughly said, led through the process of dealing with aesthetic artifacts in the future.

Share this via demonoid or karagarga. Mark von Schlegell is published by Semiotext(e) & Pork Salad Press among others.

at 12:48 AM  

Bert Könighofer & David Kleinl - Notes on Breakcore (2006)

Aaaron Spectre/Drumcorps, Ambassador21, Amtrak, Baseck, Bong-Ra, Christoph Fringeli, Nicolas Chevreux (Ad Noiseam rec.), Dan Doormouse, Dev/Null, Dj Scotch Egg, Drop The Lime, Eiterherd, Electric Kettle, Hecate, Hrvatski, I:Gor, Jason Forrest, Kid606, Knifehandchop, LFO Demon, Mike Paradinas(u-zig), Parasite, Pure, Rotator, Society Suckers, Tim Terror + Rik Mayhem, Venetian Snares, Xanopticon, mm.

Karagarga / Demonoid.

at 5:27 PM  

6 documentaries about the work of Christo & Jeanne-Claude (1987-2003)

Deborah Dickson - Christo in Paris (1990) / Karagarga / Demonoid

It took Christo & Jeanne-Claude ten years to get permission from the Parisian government to to wrap the famous Pont Neuf in Paris, France.

Albert Maysles, David Maysles & Charlotte Zwerin - Running Fence (1978)
/ Karagarga / Demonoid

This video documents the creation of a 24-mile silk fence which runs through Marin and Sonoma countryside to the (and into the) sea, that Christo erected in the '70s. Much of the 58-minute running time it taken up by his local fights to get permits and permission to run through ranches, over roads, and into the beach property.

Ellen Giffard, Albert Maysles & David Maysles - Christo's Valley Curtain (1974) / Karagarga / Demonoid

Short and to-the-point documentary covering Christo's first large public work - the bright neon-orange valley curtain in Colorado, which spanned the gulf between two small mountains.

Henry Corra, Albert Maysles & Grahame Weinbren - Umbrellas (1994) / Karagarga / Demonoid

1760 umbrellas were put up by Christo & Jeanne-Claude close to Interstate 5 near Gorman in California in Oct 1991 (for only 3 weeks).

Albert Maysles - Islands (1987) / Karagarga / Demonoid

Using 6.5 million square feet of floating pink fabric, Christo and Jeanne-Claude encircled eleven islands in Miami's Biscayne Bay, extending the perimeter of each island by 200 feet. An elaborate undertaking that involved legions of contractors, engineers, attorneys, and seamstresses, Surrounded Islands also required extensive consultation with marine biologists and ornithologists. Ultimately, the project benefited its surroundings: Christo and Jeanne-Claude's crew removed forty tons of garbage from the uninhabited islands.

Evoking hibiscus flowers and flamingos, the vibrant woven polypropylene fabric was sewn to correspond to the contours of each island. As the unfurling began on 4 May 1983, the islands themselves seemed to bloom. The artists and their crew of 430 surrounded the last island three days later. Remaining on view for two weeks, the work was visible to the public from the causeways, the land, the water, and the air.

Albert Maysles - Interview with Christo, Jean-Claude and Albert Maysles (2003) / Karagarga / Demonoid

at 1:43 PM  

Chris Burden - Documentation of Selected Works (1971-74)

This video consists of 11 works by Chris Burden, whom throughout the video explains what we see as well as sharing thoughts on some of the more general issues regarding representation of performance. Included are Shoot (1971), in which Burden allows himself to be shot in the arm; Bed Piece (1972), in which he stayed in bed in a gallery for twenty-two days; and Through the Night Softly (1973), in which Burden is seen dragging himself over shards of broken glass. Also included are: 220 (1971) Deadman (1972) Fire Roll (1973) Icarus (1973) B.C. Mexico (1973) TV Ad (1973) Back to You (1974) Velvet Water (1974).

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at 10:22 PM