"The Electrification of Brains"
Idea and realization: Dmitry Vilensky (Chto Delat /What is to be done?)
Special thanks to all artists, authors, translators, and friends who made this publication possible.
In a word, the bourgeoisie creates a world in its image.Comrades! We must destroy that image!A spectre is haunting Britain: the spectre of communism. All the forces of the old and new imperialism have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: British Petroleum and pop music, the Eurodollar and anti-trade union laws, Elizabeth the dunce and Wilson the traitor.
(transcribed and commented by Thomas Campbell)
* Normal font = “Marxist” voiceover monologues (male and female); “–“ + italics = diegetic speech; red font = “revolutionary calendar” voiceover (with child); green font = “feminist” voiceover monologue; purple font = “televised reactionary harangue”; boldface = sound garbled, translated from the Italian subtitles or guessed at; italics only = non-diegetic “songs and revolutionary whispers”; orange font = inserted hyperlinks, comments, and quotations.
01. Old Questions
All those who understand that aesthetics, politics, and economics form a vital nexus believe that art can reveal with particular force the most acute problems of social development. History is a clash between different groups who defend not only their right to speak out, but also their vision of the future. If we wish to continue the political project today we must first pose the old question: Who is the subject of historical development and knowledge? And we must actualize the simplicity of the old answer: the struggling, oppressed class itself (Benjamin).
I vividly remember a strange broadcast a few years ago. On one of the first days of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, a senior CNN correspondent was riding in an armored vehicle. Jubilantly, he stuck a direct broadcast cell phone camera out of the window. He exclaimed that never before had this type of live broadcast been seen. And that was indeed true. Because one could hardly see anything on these pictures. Due to the low resolution, the only things in sight were green and brown blotches, slowly moving across the screen. Actually, the picture looked like the camouflage of combat fatigues; one could only guess at what these abstract compositions were supposed to depict.
What Are the Current Characteristics of Vernacular Video?
― Displayed recordings will continue to be shorter and shorter in duration, as television time, compressed by the demands of advertising, has socially engineered shorter and shorter attention spans. Video-phone transmissions, initially limited by bandwidth, will radically shorten video clips.
Already in their own times, Russia's revolutionary artistic avant-gardes of the 1910s and 20s offered a highly desirable point of reference for artists outside of Russia. Be it for those who were hoping for a subsequent spreading of the revolution towards Europe, or for those who, after the frustration of those hopes in the early 1920s, believed that artistic practices could proceed to form an independent starting point for revolutionary tendencies within bourgeois capitalism.
In one of his essays , Jacques Rancière asks: what type of fiction is the genre of documentary film? His answer is that a documentary is not the opposite of a feature film only because it presents images of everyday life or evidence from archives instead of falling back on actors interpreting a fabricated story. It is rather a different mode of cinematographic fiction, a different way of constructing a plot, breaking down a story into sequences or assembling shots to form a story, of prolonging or condensing time. According to Rancière, a documentary film is both more homogenous and more complex. More homogenous because the person who conceives the film is also the one who realizes it, documentary cinema is thus the epitome of the author film; and more complex because sequences of heterogeneous image material are usually connected.
It's all a matter of confronting the visual elements one way or another. It's all a matter of intervals.
Dziga Vertov, "Kinoks: Revolution"
The journal of the Left Front of the Arts, LEF, was where the fathers of Soviet and world cinema, Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov, first announced their theoretical projects. It was still difficult, however, to sense in these brief manifestos ("Montage of Attractions" and "Kinoks") the principal differences in how the two men saw the nature and tasks of (Soviet) cinema. These would become apparent later, in the late twenties, and would be impartially discussed in the pages of New LEF.
Published at http://www.mnsi.net/~pwatkins/public.htm
Analysis and knowledge > Direct political action > Creating alternative media
If we can somehow develop the idea that individuals and community groups - i.e., the public - can and should play a greater role in deciding and creating what they (we) see on the mass audiovisual media (MAVM), then we will have taken a major step forward.
Central to this proposal is the concept that the ideas and initiatives of the public, if absorbed into the creation of the mass audiovisual media, would help break down many of the existing hierarchical forms and practices.
I began to make films because of I was interested in forms that allow the presentation of artwork beyond the boundaries of art, a field I sometimes find restrictive. The majority of my films could be understood as attempts to afford more visibility to activist practices and social movements by describing actions, organizational forms, possibilities of agency, and underlying theories from the perspectives of the protagonists involved. Since my films do not take a "neutral" stance, they are often accused of being "partisan," and this is something people often hold against me. However, I doubt that this "neutral" stance is even possible, since the very definition of "neutrality" derives from social power relations.
If one approaches the ubiquitous Jean-Luc Godard from the "other side," the other of Peter Wollen's "Two Avant-gardes," it seems that the experiment is what made it possible (for Godard and others) to make film politically in an ideal film world. What did this mean to experimental filmmakers? In how far is (and was) their work political?
>>> I thought I had written this down somewhere in my notebook, but its not there. Maybe I wrote it somewhere else.
>>> Maybe you dreamed it, or maybe you should make sure no ones ripping pages out of your notebooks. They could be stealing your ideas.
>>> In any case, I am interested in the camera. Or what it means to see a camera; the frame that is presumed when one sees a camera.
published at e-flux journal Nr 11
The poor image is a copy in motion. Its quality is bad, its resolution substandard. As it accelerates, it deteriorates. It is a ghost of an image, a preview, a thumbnail, an errant idea, an itinerant image distributed for free, squeezed through slow digital connections, compressed, reproduced, ripped, remixed, as well as copied and pasted into other channels of distribution.
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 with the goal of merging political theory, art, and activism.
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 an international newspaper called Chto Delat. 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:
Tsaplya Olga Egorova (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), Oxana Timofeeva (philosopher, Moscow), and Dmitry Vilensky (artist, Petersburg). In 2012 the choreographer Nina Gasteva has joined a collective after few years of intense collaboration. Since then many Russian and international artist and researchers has participated in different projects realised under the collective name Chto Delat (see descriptions of each projects on this web site)
Chto Delat collective in Kronstadt in 2005
Standing: from the right: Oleynikov, Gluklya, Timofeeva, Shuvalov, Tsaplya, Riff, Penzin
Sitting: Magun and Vilensky)
Our Principles: Self-Organization, Collectivism, Solidarity
The Chto Delat platform unites artists, philosophers, social researchers, activists, and all those whose aim is the collaborative realization of critical and independent research, publication, artistic, educational and activist projects. All of the platforms initiatives are based on the principles of selforganization and collectivism. These principles are realized through the political coordination of working groupsthe contemporary analogue of soviets.
The projects undertaken by any of these groups represent the entire platform and are closely coordinated with one another. At the same time, the existence of the platform creates a common context for interpreting the projects of its individual participants. We are likewise guided by the principle of solidarity. We organize and support mutual assistance networks with all grassroots groups who share the principles of internationalism, feminism, and equality.