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first of all, i would like to specify on what for me is the illusion of reality which we are expected to hack here. in the common reading of the film :Matrix: there's a quite buddhist idea that the world around us is a Matrix, a program, an illusion, which we are called to hack, personally. developing this popular reading of :Matrix:, let's note that according to buddhist doctrine, illusion is inextricable from avidya, ignorance, or literally non-knowledge. so i would like to concentrate on the conditions of knowledge and non-knowledge in our society. a lot had been said last times about the types of knowledge production. how do artists and activists generate knowledge? what is the experience of sharing a common knowledge?

the cultural side of globalization had been many times notoriously described as 'Spectacle': a monologic translation of imagery, historical vision and criticism denied, an attention-capturing medium, a propagandist brainwash machine. this is not only about visual industry, cinema and TV, but as well about the very organizing principles of a capitalist society. the life in European cities is subordinated to economic needs. under the invasion of investments, cities reorganize their inner structures. the spaces formerly known as public are privatized or turned into surroundings of shopping malls. educational system and political rhetorics work on producing a specialized worker in knowledge production industry. and the average European citizen, and the Eastern-European especially, lives in conditions of full ignorance about these conditions imposed on him. he (she) doesn't think of alternatives to conditions prevailing, nor of their historical roots. and what i first of all would like to call 'hacking the illusion of reality' would be exactly the illumination about the spectacular nature of our everyday surroundings, about the historical conventions laying in fundaments of our urban environment, of our societal institutions. during last time we've seen certain movements, disciplines and practices directed at elaborating knowledge on such subjects. I would here focus on two sides of the knowledge production: documentary and history.

with the rise of anti-globalist movement we see an increasing interest in documentary films. they document struggles,
reflect developments, communicate experiences, conduct social research. in last years there grows a number of symposiums and festivals, dedicated to critical documentaries and video-activism, such as :Globale: in Berlin. the Swedish theorist Stephan Johnsson insists, that today documentaries represent us the same critical function, as XIXth century critical realism in literature. what is very central in documentaries - let me take as examples 'The corporation' by Mark Achbar and the others, or 'La Dignidad de los Nadies' by an Argentinian filmmaker Fernando Solanas - is that they show us some basic conflicts in society, which we can't contemplate usually because we're limited by our social habitus and perspective. this is a perspetive on globalization, on the international order of capitialism, the state which we live in.

not many of us would know how the General Motors company abandoned the economy of its own homeland small Arkanzas town (in order to build new factories in Mexico), if Michael Moore wouldn't tell us about it in 'Roger and me'. not much would we know how the genetic experiments have abandoned the fauna of the Africa's largest lake Victoria and about the famine on its coasts, if Hubert Sauper would not have shut his 'Darwin's nightmare'. nor would we be aware of the working conditions of the poor salt diggers in Malaysia, miners in Donetskii bassein in Ukraina or Pakistanis on the corporate ship factories, without Michael Glawoggers's 'Workingman's death'. the documentaries show us that ours is the world of deep contrasts, divisions and unequalities.

usually in the countries of Western Europe the anti-capitalist struggle is expressed and articulated in terms of protest against unjustice of social division, about diminishing conditions of the welfare state, cutting labour guarantees and social programs, surveillance, militarism. the conditions in Eastern Europe are much more confused, because many in the intellectual audience share the idealistic pro-capitalist views. those views had been developed by the idealistic Cold War Eastern intelligentisa, and then implemented into real politics during the post-communist transition era. the social agenda of contemporary art is relatively low. as well, educational system and political rhetorics are based on many extremely problematic points such as 'free market'. the Eastern Europe regularly fails to identify itself historically. there have been many demands of conducting a public trial of communism, which all failed. many governments try to escalate a search for national identity by explicitly denying history or re-interpreting it - such as Baltic states governments - but their attempts, invoked by a political order, are too short to meet any requirements of historical accuracy or consistency, acceptable enough for the population. pseudo-historical discourses rule the agenda, proven by humorless measures such as rehabilitation of Bendera fighters in Ukraine or an establishment of a 'National Unity Day' at 4 November in Russia, instead of 7th November. prevailing amnesia towards domestic past is immediately supported by misinterpretation of the international history. the story of fights, conflicts and solutions in the entire XXth century is left to professional historians. please let me exemplify that. do many people here know what is cybernetics - the science which had changed the world introducing the computers? do many people know - maybe not between you, but between your friends and intellectual circuits - how the whole national economy had been reorganized under the rules of cybernetics, namely the Chilean socialist government of Salvador Allende in early 1970s? or do many people know of the cancellation of Breton-Woods agreements on firm international currency - an event which eventually led to deregulation of world markets and paved the way for globalization? these are crucial realities, crucial for our understanding of historical conditions of the capital. leftism is sometimes considered as reading and citating French postmodernist classics, such as Baudrillard or Deleuze, leaving aside any questions of political economy.

while in today's West the understanding grows that something crucial had happened, that within recent years some silent consensus in society had been undermined. namely, this is the social contract between labour and capital. the society tolerated governments' military politics in an exchange to guaranteed employment and welfare. today, governments prolong the same military politics, simultaneously cutting social guarantess and increasing unequalities, with no compensation for these losses. citizens rights reduced, governmental and decision-making responsibility dispersed between powerful institutions and centers, thus forming 'governmentality', or interplay of interests. for the long time the art, in its classical meaning, had been intended to mirror the reality, to reflect the reality. given this convention is still true, how can artists and activists mirror, or reflect, or map these conditions of uncertainty?

i think, for this an experience of an activist is very essential. there's a remarkable idea of 'understanding by doing'. for those who whenever had participated in any kind of activist actions, the feeling of an immediate contact with the System can never be forgotten. it gives a lot of 'physical' understanding of 'how that works'. at May, 1998 at Moscow i was between the organizers of an action 'Barricade on Bolshaya Nikitskaya' which celebrated the 30th anniversary of a Parisian student revolution. we blocked the traffic at one of central streets of Moscow by a barricade under red flags with slogans from the French revolution. the incredible feeling of solidarity and the actual experience of how a mass event happens, how do react the public and the authorities, is a source of knowledge.

this was a case with 'Against all parties' campaign. as some of you might now, this year the article :Vote against all: for the electoral bulletins had been cancelled by the Russian parliament. it was enabling people to express their distrust towards the politics, and the law regulated, that if the :Against all: vote wins the majority, then the elections cancel, and noone of previous candidates can run for the next elections. this meant, voting :Against all: has capabilities to collapse the whole representative system. the campaign :Vote Against all: had been the activist initiative i was involved in at 1999. the initiative didn't have funding, but included actions and leaflets. i can say, that at December 1999 parliamentary elections we couldn't see much effect of our agitation, but after several months, at Spring 2000 presidential elections, the :Against all: was one the main 'candidates' - i believe, partly due to our agitation. as the sociological surveys now show, the cancellation of the :Against all: option this year had been of the most unpopular measures taken by the present government.

a little later, by the turn of the millennium, i turned my attention towards the less obvious medium of a sociality - the new media. after the participation at the Amsterdam festival of tactical media next5minutes at 2003 i started advocating that kind of media and recently published a 'Cookbook of a media-activist'. this was a kind of an introduction in the topic for the Russian audience, where i told as much as i can about the pirate radios, urban TV stations, art of campaigning and free software. again, we're faced with a knowledge producer who comes from below, from the grassroots. whether you write of a political blogger or an underground radio station, of a civic campaigner or an Open code programmer, they're all activists coming from below, from the bottom. the case of documentaries and video-activism is also appearing from the bottom, from the one immersed into the events. some newly appearing collective forms of knowledge, such as Wikipedia, are also created by mostly unonymous users of the Internet. so, most of contemporary forms of knowledge rely on the experience of sharing and participation. please let me demonstrate a couple of film excerpts: from the US activist project Paper Tiger TV on the activists of Buenos-Aires collective of Indymedia, and from a film :La Commune: staged by a film director Peter Watkins in France at 2000, and casting non-professional actors from Parisian poor and homeless, in a reenactment of a 1871 revolution.

cuts from
'Argentina, Indymedia and the questions of communication' - 29.00 - 34.00
'La Commune'

what you see in these excerpts, is that they show in advantage of gaining knowledge through experience. they're telling that there's no other way of extracting the knowledge, for an eample, from books, but just immediately from the experience and action. what i also find especially brilliant about these pieces is that they show conditions of poverty and exclusion, they reveal the history of struggles against capitalism.

so, i think that there're many conventional agreements which underlie our so-called post-communist societies, concerning labour, property, privacy, collectiveness, individuation, history, and i think that considering the true conditions of globalization, claryfying the picture of the world would be the first step for subverting them, for hacking the illusion of reality that is specific to our so-called post-communist conditions.


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Artistic contribution

to Political Potential of Art

Oleg Kireev

Russian Federation


„let's hack the illusion“


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