INSTITUTE FOR HUMAN ACTIVITIES (sic) and its “Gentrification Program”
Eight hundred kilometers upstream from Kinshasa, on the river Congo, the Institute for Human Activities mobilizes the modalities of art production and launches a five-year Gentrification Program. The opening seminar of this program takes place in a specially created bamboo settlement in Congo and investigates the gap in criticality that arises in the transfer from the zone of artistic production to the zone of reception. At the same time, it is the kick-off of the actual process of gentrification. http://www.berlinbiennale.de/blog/en/projects/a-gentrification-program-by-institute-for-human-activities-23006
The proposition for the “Gentrification Program” features this imagery:
Any thinking and feeling person would be insulted by such imagery. Another “provocative artwork”? The task of a real human project is not to denounce the racist pigs at Berlin Biennale, but to announce their systemic institutional racism and avoid the void of fascist speculation, which prevails in all Serious Culture. Berlin Biennale is obviously no exception. Is this “Radicalism”? If we agree with Roger Taylor’s claims laid out in his 1978 book “Art, an Enemy of the People” that the modern concept of art is historically founded by the European aristocracy in order to celebrate the old cosmological and social order (slavery, “genetic” privileges of the ruling class, etc), we would admit that all of the worst aspects of the 2012 Berlin Biennale (under Artur Zmijewski’s leadership, and “co-curated” by the proud Russian art actionist group Voina with the Biennale’s political support for their National Bolshevist (Nazbol) friends) are a radical manifestation of art, which has a prevailing social function to provide “common culture” to contradicting social classes and shove away the debate about and solutions to persisting racism and other issues inherent in capitalist society. The picture above is a rather frank example of this. A more subtle example of instrumentalisation by Berlin Biennale 7 (BB7) is the story of “Deutschland schafft es ab” – an art action by the artist Martin Zet – which turned out to be a staged media scandal with curatorial and funding institutions behind it. In this case, the artist’s potentially fruitful attempt was to expose the political climate of Germany, where Thilo Sarrazin, former appointed Finance Senator (SPD) of the Senate of Berlin and former appointed executive board member of the Bundesbank, authored the anti-Muslim and anti-Turkish rant “Deutschland schafft sich ab” and held the first top “non-fiction” bestseller since 1990. Instead, the federally funded art fair did nothing more than invert Martin Zet’s project proposal through countless re-makes (without even a precarious agreement from the artist, since he had not been offered a formal contract to sign with the Biennale management). In effect, it was not the issue of the highly infamous yet fully swinging German racial profiling that was discussed through “Deutschland schafft es ab”, but the privileges of the art establishment: “What are the limits of art?”
In order to make further inquires into the “Gentrification Program” as such, one has to analyse the context surrounding this racist filth. It must be noted that the term “Gentrification” itself was first used by sociologist Ruth Glass in 1964, in order to describe the process in post-WW2 London, where some of the historical working class neighbourhoods were targeted for middle class invasion. (The Oxford English Dictionary defines “gentrify” to mean: “[to] renovate and improve (a house or district) so that it conforms to middle-class taste”).
Secondly, the BB7 has attempted to incorporate the POLARIS INTERNATIONAL Limited project into its ranks through inclusion of its logo in their sponsors/partners list. Following a POLARIS issued call to “take part in a parallel BB7 program in order to enlarge one’s penis”, the BB7 apparatus broke the link. We must stress that the POLARIS team has never attempted to collaborate with BB7: on the contrary, the POLARIS project manifests a fierce opposition to real and boring bourgeois gentrification events such as BB7. The “Gentrification program” appears to be a plagiarism of the POLARIS concept and its simulated incorporation into the void of BB7.
POLARIS INTERNATIONAL Limited team has been active since late Autumn 2011. They have been continuously issuing numerous sarcastic “projects” and statements as if they were corporately related to the BB7. This was done in order to expose and generate discussion around the intentional and systematic blind-spots of the establishment event. After an intensified attack, BB7 decided to dissociate itself from POLARIS, and through their own style and methods they started working on the incorporation and simulation of POLARIS content and its aims. For example, the website for the aggressively racist “Gentrification Program” (no matter whether it is a scam or not) features a “transcript” of an e-mail very similar in style to ones sent out by the POLARIS Team (“Nicholas Bourriaud” and others; formerly on show in okk/raum29 at Prinzenallee 29 in Berlin Wedding 13359). While POLARIS has practiced “uncreative writing” (also advocated by Kenneth Goldsmith, Stewart Home, etc) by making use of spam e-mails from their own mailboxes and swapping a few names and terms in order to generate rumour and discussion about the “commodification of art”, art’s systematic role in gentrification, supremacy, vanguardism and racism of the ruling class culture, the “Institute for Human (sic) Activities”, on their own behalf, published this transcript:
Dear Madam, Sir,
We would like to invite you to participate in the opening seminar of the Gentrification Program, which takes place this June at the settlement we created for this occasion. The 7th Berlin Biennale kindly co-produces this event. For a limited number of guests, the Institute for Human Activities covers visa and travel costs.
Others may come independently.
If you are unable to come to Congo, there is an opportunity to attend the event in Berlin on June 30, 2012, as the closing event of the 7th Berlin Biennale.
We would be truly honored if you would take this proposal into consideration.
The above-mentioned website also features their correspondence e-mail, which we asked our readers to ignore, since correspondence with the initiators (led by the sad artist Renzo Martens, who in his other work, attempts to “live out” exploitative movie characters played by his Klaus Kinski) would only generate free content for such stupid projects of BB7 – contrary to the actions of the naive Occupy folks (officially invited to create a zoo-like presence in the HQ of BB7), most of whom have obviously signed no contract and are more than happy with their exploitation. Once again, contrary to their “will” to discuss racism, issues of class and gender (through official claims to seek social justice (or, “do politics”) rather than make art), the BB7 “team” is known for obscuring the problems of society and instead generate even more “content”, “debate” and, in effect, empty marketing for their own kind.
The statement of the 2012ISTHESEASONFORTREASON team is reinforced by comments found in rare, seriously critical reviews of BB7 (see for example Rosa Perutz article “TRUST YOUR ANGST“ at http://perutz.copyriot.com/). Zmijewski? Zmijewski! The Berlin Biennale 7 is a “Festival” that repeatedly re-staged the work “of” the talentless hack, “masculinist” and anti-semite Zmijewski himself. The Biennale experienced opposition in the past, especially in 2010, when a number of activists opposed the art fair’s expansion into the historical Berlin working class district of Kreuzberg by barricading in and then destroying artwork in one of the main exhibition venues. The Biennale is a gentrification program that shoves away debates about inequality in the city of Berlin. The Biennale, in a practice similar to Martin Zet’s work, attempts to extend the “limits of art” (which factually means the “power” (Zmijewski) of the middle class middlemen artists), and, in the case of the sponsored “art” project in Congo, extends the disparities between “proletarian” and “capitalist” “nations”! All of this was done in a typical fascist fashion – be it by Nazbol (whose cause both BB7 and Voina champion), Al Qaida, IRA, ETA (legally present in the Berlin Biennale through the work of Jonas Staal as an attempt to struggle for “Real Democracy”), or their groupies.
Our comrades DAMTP (DAta Miners & Travailleurs Psychique) have already staged actions against and analysis of racism persisting in Germany. Strangely, the “Gentrification Program” “takes place” in Congo. Berlin has a special “symbolic” relationship with Congo, namely the Berlin Conference of 1884. The conference included the newly unified Germany into the ranks of the old colonizers of Africa. We will not discuss the later genocide in the present Namibia in this article, but for those are still ignorant about the issues in question, we want to remind you that the Herero and Namaqua indigenous peoples sent a delegation to Berlin Charite in autumn 2011 in order to (once again) ask for public affirmation of and official apology for the genocide of their rebellious ancestors. Also, they brought back to Africa a collection of skulls of their brutally murdered ancestors that Charite has held since the genocide. Germany has never issued an apology for this terrible crime. This racial extermination led to the foundation of German Nazism, which is, contrary to what most “leftists” believe, not entirely different from liberal democracy, but is instead its maturation and radical fruition. The BB7 discourse is inseparable from these manifestations of ruling class culture and sits comfortably amongst them.
Despite having failed to create a media storm around the described issues due to our unpopular positions, POLARIS has been widely read and talked about, and has also attracted a number of careerist artist pigs who wanted to meet “us” (under the name of Nicholas Bourriaud) in order to discuss propositions for “gentrification business”. We hold our actions successful to an extent: Zmijewski, Voina and their bourgeois culture in its official and underground manifestations should be exposed. Furthermore, they should be kicked into the void of non-existence that is so much embraced by their kind. Destroy serious culture now!
The endnotes of this article are in the direction of thinkers and activists of the Black Atlantic, brilliantly described by Paul Gilroy, which is adequate for contemporary society and is the way “forward”. Simultaneously, the POLARIS team would like to stress the importance of George E. Kent’s ten key values of proletarian post-modernism from the 1960s. We are sure that in the years of hard struggle which are unfolding before us, comrades will time and time again have recourse to these straight-forward yet penetrating and thought provoking points that offer succour during those periods of darkest gloom which we shall no doubt pass through before the golden rays of the rosy dawn of communism bless our smiling cheeks:
1. The insistence upon a tough-minded grip on reality.
2. A willingness to confront the self searchingly and even with laughter.
3. Patience and endurance.
4. Humour as a tool for transcendence.
5. A sort of dead-end courage, that is not so dead-end.
6. An acceptance of the role of suffering in retaining one’s humanity and in retaining some perspective on the humanity of the oppressor.
7. A high development of dissimulation and camouflage.
8. A sense of something more than this world and of its rhythms.
9. A deep sense of the inexorable limitation of life and all that we associate with the tragic and tragicomic vision.
10. Ceremonies or poise in a non-rational universe. (The hipsters and the cool-cats pla