Category: We have a situation here


The Art of Regime. Minsk, 15.08.2020. Photo Curtesy of Lesia Pcholka

The School of Mutation within the framework of the iteration  We have a situation here: Dmitry Vilensky moderates an online conversation with Belarusian curators Olga Kopenkina, Antonina Stebur and artist Aliaxey Talstou on Tuesday April 27th at 18:00 CET. Join us on Zoom Meeting ID: 811 0333 6056 – Streaming online on IRI YouTube Channel – Share the FB event

After a devastating bombing or a political victory, there’s no time for art. That is to say no time for contemplative reflection, for philosophy. It is time for action; solidarity or celebration, and anything else seems inappropriate.

Doa Aly, “No Time for Art?”

We are pleased to invite you to the talk with curators Olga Kopenkina, Antonina Stebur and artist Aliaxey Talstou, who will focus on various forms of artists’ organization, activist practices and strategies that have emerged during the mass civil uprising in Belarus.

Since August 10th, 2020, the day after the Presidential elections in Belarus, marked with the state’s fraud to ensure Alexander Lukashenko’s pre-determined victory, until now, Belarusians have conducted a peaceful but fierce political-aesthetic mobilization that was met with the unprecedented use of violence by the authoritarian state. The confrontation between people and the state resembled almost the Manichean dualism of good and evil: a good, peaceful and tolerant nation, most famously symbolized by the march of women-in-white waving flowers, is impeded by an evil force embodied by the mustached male dictator and heavily armed police force – an image that rather obscured the real social and political forces that stand behind the protest than illuminated them.  

What became clear, though, is that Belarus is experiencing the cultural renaissance amidst civic unfreedom. The proliferation of street activism, protest-oriented art and political imagery, as unforeseen as it was, has been one of the most astonishing outcomes of the political unrest there. Across the country, professional actors, musicians, painters, book illustrators, commercial graphics and Instagram artists weaponized their skills to make works that instantly became icons of the protest. Their work has often merged with creativity and activism of the regular citizens, who employed aesthetics as a tactics in their everyday protests, seeking to cross-fertilize creative and emancipatory energies, between experiences of suffering and resistance.

The conflation of art and political activism, of course, is not a new thing. From the Paris Commune to Russian Revolution to Occupy Wall Street, artists and intellectuals never simply cater to the needs of rebellious masses – they forge a new creative linkage between themselves and “militants,” and, as philosopher Alain Badiou argues, find new spaces where “politics is possible.” After it became clear that factories in Belarus failed to establish themselves as the central force of the uprising, in classical Marxist sense, artists began to utilize cultural institutions, repurposing them – in a partisan way –  into platforms of radical positioning. Many artists and cultural workers abandoned “normality” of exhibiting their works in official art galleries and cultural centers and joined the struggle by staging actions of solidarity on the streets, similar to actors and musicians, who refused to perform on stages of the state-run theaters and concert halls, and instead, played in the outside public spaces.

Discussions among Belarusian art practitioners are centered around the question: What should artists do during a revolution – echoing the debate artists around the world have conducted for decades.  In one such a debate, Egyptian artist Doa Aly asks: In time of a revolution, is there time for art? Do artists have to represent themselves – individually, or collectively – within a common struggle?Or, do they become a sort of “martyrs” who “kill” their own practice to blend with revolutionary masses? Does the expression “time for action” really imply “no time for contemplative reflection”, or art?While merging the category of ‘artist’ with that of ‘protestor,’ do artists distinguish their role from any other professional, or a citizen, who employs tactics of “visual activist” in their struggles? Can the new forms of political organizing that emerge during the protest, with its focus on depersonalization and decentralization, protect cultural producers from the state violence and ensure their survival in the future? Other questions are at stake: Can artists disassociate their practice from the idea of fine art market and its neoliberal institutions (private galleries, privately-funded art spaces, cultural hubs, etc.), in a context, where such institutions, as opposed to state-run art centers, foster new communities, while facing the consequence of becoming a target of government’s repressions? When joining the public outcry to release political prisoners, among which are a former banker and cultural entrepreneurs, will artists in Belarus re-join neoliberal capitalism? Or, can they create a “third position,” from which they can negotiate autonomy and spaces of resistance within the capitalist hegemony? Isn’t it the future that calls us now?


Olga Kopenkina is an independent curator and art critic. She was an artistic director of the 6th Line gallery, the first privately-funded non-profit art center in Minsk, Belarus. Based in New York City since 1998, she has curated numerous exhibitions, including “Sound of Silence: Art during Dictatorship” at Project Space in Elizabeth Foundation for Arts,  New York, 2012. Kopenkina is a contributor to publications such as Moscow Art Journal, Art Journal, Artforum, ArtMargins, Hyperallergic, Brooklyn Rail, and others. She teaches at New York University.

Antonina Stebur (born in 1984) — curator, researcher. Graduated from the European University of Humanities (2009) and School of Engaged Art “Chto Delat” (What is to be done?) in 2019. Antonina is a co-founder of the #damaudobnayavbytu project on gender discrimination in Belarus, a co-founder of the research group on activist art “Spaika”, member of the “AGITATSIA” research group. She is one of the authors of “The History of Belarusian Photography” book. She is a co-curator of the exhibition “Every Day. Art. Solidarity. Resistance,” which is currently on view in Mistetsky Arsenal, Kiev, Ukraine.

Aliaxey Talstouis an artist, curator and writer. He worked as a curator of gallery CECH in Minsk and a project leader at Status: Role of the Artists in Changing Society project. His two films, Observing solidarity and If the past will not end are currently on view at the exhibition “Every Day. Art. Solidarity. Resistance.” at Mistetsky Arsenal in Kiev, Ukraine.

Recommended readings:

ZAPANTERA NEGRA | An Artistic Encounter Between Black Panthers and Zapatistas

Photo Curtesy of EDELO, Zapantera Negra. The installation was at Fresno State University H street graduate gallery.

The School of Mutation within the framework of the iteration  We have a situation here holds an artistic encounter between Black Panthers and Zapatistas on Thursday MARCH 11th at 19:00 CET. Join us on Zoom Meeting ID: 894 0222 3075 – Streaming online on IRI YouTube Channel – Share the FB event

What is the role of revolutionary art in times of distress? When Emory Douglas, former Minister of Culture of the Black Panther Party, accepted an invitation from the art collective EDELO and Rigo 23 to meet with autonomous Indigenous and Zapatista communities in Chiapas, Mexico, they addressed just this question. Zapantera Negra is the result of their encounter. It unites the bold aesthetics, revolutionary dreams, and dignified declarations of two leading movements that redefine emancipatory politics in the twentieth and twenty-first century.

The artists of the Black Panthers and the Zapatistas were born into a centuries-long struggle against racial capitalism and colonialism, state repression and international war and plunder. Not only did these two movements offer the world an enduring image of freedom and dignified rebellion, they did so with rebellious style, putting culture and aesthetics at the forefront of political life. A powerful elixir of hope and determination, Zapantera Negra provides a galvanizing presentation of interviews, militant artwork, and original documents from these two movements’ struggle for dignity and liberation.

EDELO (Where the United Nations Used to Be) 

In the Fall of 2009, over one hundred displaced indigenous community members occupied the offices of the United Nations, located in San Cristóbal de las Casa, Chiapas, Mexico. The offices were taken over in the hope of gaining international attention from humanitarian organizations. After a few months of the occupation, the United Nations simply decided to find another building and moved.

A few months later, Mia Eva Rollow and Caleb Duarte, repurposed the building.  It is a part of an investigation into how Art, in all its disciplines and contradictions, can take the supposed role of such institutional bodies to create understanding, empathy, and to serve as a tool for imagining alternatives to a harmful and violent system that we do not have to accept.

Inspired by the 1994 indigenous Zapatista uprising, where word and poetry are used to inspire a generation to imagine ‘other’ possible worlds, EDELO has retained the name of the UN office.  From 2009 to 2014, EDELO, Where The United Nations Used to Be, was an artist run project in Chiapas, Mexico that created sculptural performances and community events through relational aesthetics, social practice, and social sculpture. EDELO centered its practice as an intercultural artist residency of diverse practices and an ever-changing experimental art laboratory and safe house. The work at its core focused on the lessons and use of art by the EZLN, the Zapatista autonomous indigenous movement in Chiapas, Mexico that has used art as a main tool to demand immediate and drastic social and economic change as a response to 500 years of invisibility, oppression, and neglect. The works consisted of artist residencies in Zapatista territory as well as at our art center and gallery. The emerging aesthetic was one of urgency in the face of the continuing clash between colonial and Mayan Mexican indigenous worldviews. 

EDELO Migrante  2014 – Present

Once an experimental intercultural art space and residency of diverse practices inhabiting the building of the former UN, Edelo is now nomadic collectives creating works with diverse communities in the Americas.

Our work is of urgency. It is theater, sculpture, social practice, dance, painting organizing festivals in the spirit of true collaboration and shared authorship with the communities and art spaces that we work with.  URGENT ART is a specific working methodology that collaborates with artist from different disciplines in the development of art. It encourages us to listen to what communities are expressing and turning that into a visible living experience. This augments the possibilities of converting experienced moments of tragedy into situations of healing.


The School of Mutation within the framework of the iteration  We have a situation here holds this online conversation with Natalia Arcos on Tuesday FEBRUARY 23rd at 19:00 CET. Join us on Zoom Meeting ID: 826 5547 0474 – Streaming online on IRI YouTube Channel – Share the FB event

The Zapatismo Movement breaks in many respects with traditional forms of politics. It does so by opening spaces at a creative distance from the State, and by constantly experimenting with innovative ideas and strategic perspectives. In this session, I will give an insight on the organic role that aesthetics and poetics have played in the politics of this revolutionary movement. In the first part I will provide a general overview on this theme. Some of my views are informed by the fieldwork that I conducted in Chiapas, México, between 2013 and 2020. Then, I will talk and show my experience of curating two exhibitions on Zapatista art in Nottingham, England (2015) and Havana, Cuba (2018).

See more here:


Natalia Arcos (Santiago de Chile, 1979) has a Degree in Theory and Art History from the University of Chile and a Master in Contemporary Art from Paris IV-Sorbonne University, where she was the first latinamerican accepted. As an independent curator, she has done twenty exhibitions in Chile, Argentina, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Cuba, England and Greece. From 2008 to 2013, she was Programming Director of the Chilean Television Channel specialized in art, ARTV. From 2013 to 2020, she was member of GIAP (Grupo de Investigación en Arte y Política) based in Chiapas, México, where she also directed the center for artistic residencies. Natalia was collaborator on the books “Los latidos del corazón nunca callan: poemas y canciones zapatistas” and “Para una estética de la liberación decolonial”invited by Professor Enrique Dussel. Actually, she follows a Master Degree in Sociology of Art at CESMECA Institute of University UNICACH, México.


The School of Mutation within the framework of the iteration  We have a situation here holds this online conversation with Free Home University co-founder and curator Alessandra Pomarico on Tuesday JANUARY 26th at 19:00 CET. Join us on Zoom Meeting ID: 828 0098 9996 – Streaming online on IRI YouTube Channel – Share the FB event

What’s there to unlearn?  How to reclaim a wider ecology of knowledges, and creatively decouple from the conditionings reproduced by the dominant western neoliberal educational system? As the current crisis is rapidly showing, our paradigms are insufficient to preserve life, and constitute rather a threat. institution of knowledge production are complicit in creating asymmetrical, exploitative and extractive dynamics towards other beings, cosmogonies and economies. 

A radical shift needs to be produced, and revising the education project is central in this call for a societal transformation: exploring radically different ways of learning, where knowledge is not separated from bodies, places, actions and considerations of how life can be lived by humans and other than humans- in respect of our interconnected and interdependent relations. 

How can we form coalitions and take responsibility in creating learning spaces devoted to regenerate communities? How autonomous self-organized learning spaces, and pedagogies as politics can help us shift from hegemonic epistemologies and from narratives that drive the world in our unsustainable present? Is art a tool to challenge the monoculture of the mind, the fragmentation, the isolation, and help us disinvest from a culture that commodifies life?  

Alessandra Pomarico will share from her experience as part of  Free Home University, a 7 year  ongoing experiment at the intersection of art, pedagogy, activism and community building, and from the eco-justice movement ecoversities alliance.


Alessandra Pomarico (PhD, Italy/ US) is an independent curator, writer and educator working at the intersection of arts, pedagogy, social issues, and nano-politics. Member of the global Ecoversities Alliance ( dedicated to reimagining higher education, Alessandra is the co-founder of Free Home University, artistic and pedagogical experiment focused on generating new ways of sharing and creating knowledge by experiencing life in common  ( Also a co-founder of Ammirato Culture House, and residency program Sound Res, recent collaborative projects include M.E.D.U.S.E (Mediterrenean Ecofeminist Decolonial Union for Self Education) and # Faju/Healing, a session for the New Alphabet School, a project of HKW.


The School of Mutation within the framework of the iteration  We have a situation here holds this online aerial session between Krёlex Zentre and the Institute of Radical Imagination on Tuesday JANUARY 19th at 19:00 CET. Join us on Zoom Meeting ID: 826 3273 6832 – Streaming online on IRI YouTube Channel – Share the FB event

Krёlex zentre
— is a fictitious art institution that does not exist in reality, therefore it is more correct to call it a para-institution (or parastitution). The two employees of this organization — Maria and Ruthia — work mainly with imaginary worlds, helping their inhabitants connect to our ‘physical’ version of reality to exchange experiences and collaborate.

Phantom Office
— is one of the forms that our para-institution can temporarily take in physical reality. The office operates in unreal-time mode, which helps keeping the office’s portals half-open towards different versions of reality. Phantom office is an unstable form that can only exist for a short period of time called Airtime.

— is the time when Maria and Ruthia are connected and able to talk about their work, show examples and answer questions about the future, the past, the universe and themselves. This becomes possible due to the fact that airtime differs from normative straight time, opening access to queer temporalities, which makes the causal relationship between questions and answers slightly confusing. They also use sympathetic communication channels to forge connections with otherworldly places in order to check the capacities of the channels and find out what is happening outside our time-space continuum. What exactly viewers will see through those connections remains uncertain due to the physical limitations of the inter-world communication system. That is why Airtime events are usually more unpredictable than they ought to be, and all descriptions are strictly probabilistic in nature.


Krёlex zentre is an imaginary art-institution and a theoretical platform designed for cultural workers with clearly multiple/mixed identities and weak sense of belonging — queer, translocal, uprooted, diasporic, fluid, ghostly, neither fish nor flesh, etc.). It is also a poetic/artistic collective consisting of Maria Vilkovisky, Ruthia Jenrbekova, Ramil Niyazov, Maria Neff and other less identifiable and more facultative members. Krёlex Zentre does not exist but rather oscillates between Almaty and Vienna since 2012.

THE BECOMING-PLANT OF BODY POLITIC | Assembly with Michael Marder

Assembly with Michael Marder, facilitated by Dmitry Vilensky. The School of Mutation within the framework of the iteration  We have a situation here holds this online meeting on Saturday December 5th at 19:00 CET. Join us on Zoom Meeting ID: 825 2708 7936 – Streaming online on IRI YouTube Channel.

Recently art world has started to welcome many types of artistic works which deals with broad issues of vegetation. We observe them in forms of installations which includes real plants, the films which document different ways of alternative agricultural developments or speak about ecoversity and we could remember many other examples of the artistic approaches and care for the new forms of previously ignored subjectivation. 

Looks like that these processes are interconnected with general political turn which could be explained as a move from nomadic relationship to a sedentary one. And this situation is definitely accelerated with the current pandemic. 

This issues we will discuss with Michael Marder

The vegetalization of body politic is well under way, but we lack the language for articulating such a momentous development in the lives of our societies. Our imagination of the political realm still relies on figures and tropes derived from the animal world, positing body politic as a healthy or sick organism with one or two vital centers of power and a totality of members subordinated to centralized authorities. I suggest that, in order to start thinking through the vegetalization of politics, it is crucial to consider the process of becoming-plant in general and to view this process as fundamental to any sort of becoming. Thus, two objectives will animate our encounter: appreciating the ground rules for becoming-plant and transposing them onto body politic. (M.M.) 

Suggested Materials

Marder, Michael, “Resist like a plant! On the Vegetal Life of Political Movements”, Peace Studies Journal, Vol. 5, Issue 1, January 2002. p. 25. quoted from


Michael Marder is IKERBASQUE Research Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU), Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. His writings span the fields of phenomenology, political thought, and environmental philosophy. He is the author of numerous scientific articles and fifteen monographs, including Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life (2013); Phenomena—Critique—Logos: The Project of Critical Phenomenology (2014); The Philosopher’s Plant: An Intellectual Herbarium (2014); Pyropolitics: When the World Is Ablaze (2015), Dust (2016), Energy Dreams: Of Actuality (2017), Heidegger: Phenomenology, Ecology, Politics (2018), Political Categories: Thinking Beyond Concepts (2019), and Dump Philosophy: A Phenomenology of Devastation (2020) among others. For more information


Assembly with Keti Chukhrov. Moderated by Dmitry Vilensky 
The School of Mutation within the framework of the iteration  We have a situation here holds this online meeting on Tuesday November 3rd at 19:00 CET. Join us on Zoom Meeting ID: 867 9598 6726

This urgent question in the name of the gathering could be considered at the core of many debates on what were those changes in human life that were brought (or accelerated) by a pandemic. 

Epidemics, through the declaration of a state of exception, are great laboratories of social innovation, the occasion for the large-scale reconfiguration of body procedures and technologies of power”

Paul B. Preciado, The losers conspiracy

A shift from an anthropocentric society gives shape to the new subjectivities. Never before the mass application of bio-politics was so present in our daily life. We could simplify and see that the voices have split into two general positions – those ones who defend from different perspective the traditional approach to human beings whose bodies are sacred as the bodies of subjects and whose personal and collective meaning of existence stands exceeds the limitations of their physical life. And those who (quite in the vein with Donna Haraway) consider the body to be similar to “any other component or subsystem, that can be localized in a system architecture whose basic modes of operation are probabilistic, statistical”.  

This transformation which is rather common observation of many scholars can be celebrated or could be resisted and together with Keti Chukhrov we focus on one specific human activity – the possibility of mourning and how these key social rituals could be performed during pandemic and why they are not reclaimed either by artists or by societies. 

On the Libidinal Motives of the Denied Mourning.

The first days of the pandemic brought about the dimension of eschatology – the abnormality intervening into the daily life of speculative capitalism. This eschatological abnormality oscillated between regrets about inability to commit the acts of sacrifice or mourning in the conditions of self-isolation (Agamben) and the global lock-down consensus. Quarantine had the effect of the uncanny inevitability, yet it evoked the moods and attitudes that could have evolved into experiencing temporality eschatologically; it could as well reveal the necessity of the radical suspension of capitalist circulation in terms of consumption, and its reconsideration in terms of distribution and production. This suspension of capitalism’s libidinal elements, nevertheless, did not happen: moreover, the civic moods proved to be even more prone to the capitalist condition than the governing institutions. It is interesting in this connection to see how the reluctance to heed the death toll and inability to mourn are tied with the libidinal regimes of desire. Freud, Butler and Derrida will help us to unwind this paradox. (K.C.)

Recommended materials: 

Political Action beyond co presence (a panel discussion with participation of Keti Chukhrov, Judith Butler, Alexander Bikbov and Greg Judin) 

David Cayley, 2Questions About the Current Pandemic From the Point of View of Ivan Illich”, Published on April 8, 2020

Paul B. Preciado, “Learning from the virus”, May/June 2020


Keti Chukhrov is ScD in philosophy, an associate professor at the School of Philosophy and Сultural Studies at the Higher School of Economics (Moscow).  In 2017-2019 she has been a Marie Sklodowska Curie fellow in UK, Wolverhampton University. She has authored numerous texts on art theory and philosophy. Her full-length books include: To Be—To Perform. ‘Theatre’ in Philosophic Critique of Art (European Un-ty, 2011), Pound &£ (Logos, 1999),  and a volume of dramatic writing: Merely Humans (2010). Her latest book Practicing the Good. Desire and Boredom in Soviet Socialism (University of Minnesota Press/e-flux 2020) deals with the aspects of non-libidinal socialist political economy. She authored the video plays “Afghan-Kuzminki” (2013), “Love-machines” (2013), “Communion”(2016), which were featured at the Bergen Assembly (2013), the Specters of Communism (James Gallery, NY, 2015), the Ljubljana Triennial U-3 (2016, cur. B. Groys), etc. Her latest play “Global Congress of Post-Prostitution” premiered at the Steirischer Herbst festival, (Graz, 2019).

THE SHOW MUST GO ON, BUT NOT UNDISTURBED | Dmitry Vilensky & Joanna Warsza and Florian Malzacher

Discussion on the production of pandemic public sphere with contribution of Joanna Warsza and Florian Malzacher. Moderated by Dmitry Vilensky 
The School of Mutation within the framework of the iteration  We have a situation here holds this online meeting on Wednesday 21 OCTOBER at 16:00 CET. Join us on Zoom platform by clicking on the link Meeting ID: 889 1093 5697

In last days it has become more then obvious, the pandemic is here to stay. A long winter ahead full of anxiety, solitude but also time to think and re-think. It is obvious to say that at the moment of pandemic the access to art has changed dramatically. It is not about lockdown when this encounter was almost completely impossible (the excuse to leave the flat for the meeting with art did not work). Performing arts are even in more trouble, since you can encounter art in intimacy, and it is so much more complicated with arts designed for creating assemblies.

What could be a new postcovid public sphere. Some people keep believing that it is a chance to build new relations based on care, celebration of reproductive work and mutual support. Others, in a deep pessimist way, predict that new reality could look more as a dystopia – with atomized individuals, full of fear, totally broken financially, psychologically and ethically, addicted to social media, when only online gallery showrooms survives. 

Most likely we can expect that future reality stays, as a hybrid of this opposite scenarios and we – art workers, could contribute to the proliferation of certain models. Those of us who criticize and attack the art system as it used to be, now need to show a courage of finding a way out and despite all failure try to create a new situation which help us to move forward 

Let’s start this discussion with a very simple question – can you imagine any art events which people will join even if they feel certain hygienic insecurity? What could be a role of public art in a new formation of the commons?  What would be art’s role in over-coming the isolation, the fear and taking care more about the mental health? How to go on… since we have to, but we can not go on undisturbed… 


Joanna Warsza is a Program Director of CuratorLab at Konstfack University of Arts in Stockholm, and an independent curator interested in how art functions politically and socially outside the white cubes. She was the Artistic Director of Public Art Munich 2018, curator of the Georgian Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale and associate curator of the 7th Berlin Biennale among others. During the spring of 2020 together with Övül Ö. Durmusoglu she co-initiated “Die Balkone: Life, Art, Pandemic and Proximity” in the windows and balconies of Berlin’s Prenzlauerberg where they both live. They are currently preparing the third edition of the Autostrada Biennale in Kosovo for summer 2021. 

Florian Malzacher is an independent performing arts curator, dramaturge and writer. 2013 – 2017 he was artistic director of Impulse Theater Festival (Germany), 2006 – 2012 co-programmer of steirischer herbst festival (Austria).

THINKING WITH SOME FRIENDS OF THE VIRUS | Dmitry Vilensky & Some friends of the virus

The School of Mutation within the framework of the iteration  We have a situation here
holds this online meeting on Thursday 15 OCTOBER at 20:00 CET
Facilitated by Dmitry Vilensky, with The friends of the virus

We ask you to kindly register here to allow us to better organize the meeting
and join us on Zoom platform on October 15 at 20:00 CET clicking on the link

On 22 of March some friends of the 16 Beaver initiative have published first issue of the zine The Society of the Friends of the Virus, Vol. 1

The project starts with provocative open letter to the virus:

Dear Virus, We want to write to you this communication, as a short note of thank you. To our human companions on this planet, such a gesture would appear a betrayal, since at this very moment you have been declared as an enemy of humanity . Not since the events of September ll has there been such unanimity and propagation of fear and the mobilization of uncritical construction of an enemy toward relinquishing further power to states and exposing our most intimate (i.e., personal and impersonal) details ? habits to the observation, surveillance, determination. In some states, even what …

16 Beaver Group has been inhabited since 1999 by a wide range of artists, intellectuals and activists who have for more than 20 years been involved in conjoining and considering the interrelations between art, political thought and action. Its name is based on the address where the space was initiated just below Wall Street.

Different friendships, collaborations, and initiatives have resulted over the years, including regular meetings, encounters, collectively produced situations and occasionally public-actions. Among the many anchors weaving the practices of those involved in the material and virtual space together has been the very question of what constitutes politics and a political activity today. And where do art and learning play a part in this process of rethinking life in common. 

the Society of the Friends of the Virus exists as a series of publications in the form of zines, and has extended into a series of weekly thematic online assemblies, where some of the ‘friends’ have been invited to share and discuss questions which they feel the virus has provoked or opens us all to reconsider. 

In this conversation, we will be joined by several contributors from the Society to think together the “mutations” in the social fields and how they may alter our conceptualizing of agency and even ‘what is to be done’ or as the Society has written, What/How is to be undone?

All publications of the Society of Friends of the Virus can be found on the website

Society Against the State

Society for Cutting Up Men

Society of the Spectacle

Society of the Friends of the Text

Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge

Société Anonyme

Society Must Be Defended

Postscript to Societies of Control

We begin with this list to map out trajectories of the invocations of ‘society’ which could be some reference points, in a sharp counterpoint to uncritical invocations of the term society, including the dubious ‘civil society’ notion which shall be familiar to readers of this text.

The exigency of the Society of the Friends of the Virus has been very precise, like the periods of 2001-2007, 2008-2019, this conjuncture, which we have sometimes referred to as the epoch of the virus, opens up to a critical shift in the way state and capital organize themselves in relation to the forces which stand opposed to their monopolization of the meaning and form life acquires in this century.

The attempt to find a way to struggle at every level of our lives and affirm what it is we are willing to do with our bodies in the conflicts of ‘interest’ (in all the variances and vagaries this word calls) that are laid ever more apparent before us.

Those who side with moderate steps and keeping things as they are, well, they will work to erase this moment as quickly as possible if they can. Turning it into a phenomena or event which they may later ‘reflect upon’ as yet another purloined letter for discourse produc- tion and ultimately oblivion. They will say, we were either mad or naive, unrealistic in assessing the powers of states and capital to recoup the gains of this entire viral affair. But this is the composure of impotence guised as intelligence.

We have lived long enough to see the fruits of these objectivities, which produce the most docile subjectivities. To shift our perspectives and our bodies in the lines where we see the faults, the fault lines of our deteriorated existences, and where desire wrests open paths which we have either been too fearful or too alone to embark upon.

Those paths do not lead to the existing institutions, they call for a multiplicity of strikes, exits, and this is why we intervene in this moment. Destroying the highly militarized states seems as improbable as voting our way through them. What this moment of stoppage opens is the possibility to take a deep collective breath, and not return to the states we have been living in and reproducing through our ‘participation’ and endless ‘activities of compliance’.

Our lives are structured like a performance organized by another who determines the rules and in which we are invited to ‘participate’. We know all about these forms of participation and they are as false as the pre-scripted roles and potential set of actions allotted. Everything is possible, in accordance with everything unquestionable.

To find our ways, we must discover new choreographies of our own collective un/making. Our names and biographies identify us and also stand in our way. We must take distance from ourselves to rediscover again the art of distances, most importantly from capital and state.

A l’amitié à venir,

The Society of the Friends …

Since March 2020 the Society has published four volumes:





Two supplements:

PERSPECTIVES Supplement Vol. 2

PERSPECTIVES Supplement Vol. 3

Five films:


And organized more than twenty assemblies with friends from 16 Beaver Group and Centre for Parrhesia:


On this occasion, we will be joined by some of the animators of the Society for a conversation about art, life, politics, strike and whatever questions you may have in relation to their published materials.

ART EDUCATION IN LIMBO | Dmitry Vilensky & WHW Akademija (Zagreb) and School of Engaged Art (Saint Petersburg)

Mladen Stilinović’s text-based work Drei Tage bis zum Ende der Kunst (2002)

School of Mutation within the framework of the iteration We have a situation here. The online meeting is on Thursday July 23 at 19:00 CEST. Facilitated and composed by Dmitry Vilensky, with WHW Akademija (Zagreb) and School of Engaged Art (Saint Petersburg) 
register here

A dialogue between two informal art schools – WHW Akademija (Zagreb) and School of Engaged Art (Saint Petersburg) 

Art practice was always adventurous journey into unknown – to shape something which not yet exist, or it is already with us but people need some navigation to discover it. Such practices were often happening at the back ground of more or less stable world outside art. Now the background for art making is changing – the whole societies stays in limbo and no experts could predict what would happen in a next few days. 

The global pandemic has already completely transformed the situation with education from elementary schools to Universities.  The “temporary” shifting of all classes online has created a crucial dispute about the future of pedagogy and relations inside schools. What is the community of learners would mean nowadays? And how this situation has influenced the art education which was always based on personal live encounters with mentors and between students? 

Also we are faced with deep transformation of the whole idea what art could and should be. The shift of art practice into direction of reproductive work, care, therapy, healing and community building has questioned the whole convention of art making and its distribution. 

What do we teach and how do we learn during pandemic? 

How does our school survived under this condition – what have we already learned? What do we gain and lost already? 


WHW Akademija is an independent, tuition-free interdisciplinary study program for emerging artists founded by the curatorial collective What, How and for Whom/WHW in 2018.  The name of the program, like that of the collective, includes the acronym for the three crucial questions of economic organization, What, How, & for Whom. Based in Zagreb, Croatia, the program accepts 8–12 fellows per year. Its aim is to work with the participants in Zagreb over the course of seven months on new forms of self-determination based on modes of critical reflection, curiosity, and encounters among artists, artworks, arts professionals, scholars, and practitioners in various disciplines. The program consists of a series of intensives, experimental exercises, workshops, and seminars, as well as a range of exhibitions, performances, and discursive programs that are in large part open to the public.  WHW Akademija is realized in partnership with the Kontakt Collection, Vienna. The collection focuses on experimental and neo-avant-garde art in Central, Eastern, and South-Eastern Europe from the late 1950s onwards. See more here

The School of Engaged Art was initiated by Chto Delat collective in 2013 The School of Engaged art is a radical art education initiative with the goal of establishing a community of cultural workers which use art practice as a tool for transformation of society based on the values of justice and equality. The School is established and operate inside Russian social and political situation where basic democratic freedoms are under threat, in conditions that offer no support for any critical culture, and where there are no academic programs in contemporary art at all – this situation demands to develop its own tactics and method how to survive and reclaim the access to art and public sphere. The curriculum of the school is a hybrid of poetry and sociology, choreography and street activism, political economy and the sublime, art history and militant research, gender and queer experimentation with dramaturgy, the struggle for the rights of cultural workers with the “romantic” vision of art as a mission. A central component of our school is the care for collective practice.  We are convinced that a community of learners together are able to challenge the status-quo of artistic life and combine horizontal and delegation power structure. In the last 7 years we worked closely with about 140 young professionals who are now play a decisive role in the local cultural life – organizing public campaign (feminist-queer, precarious workers, conferences and exhibitions). The project is realized with the support of Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Moscow and Chto Delat Mutual Aid Fund. See more here:


Image from @Reco

School of Mutation within the framework of the iteration We have a situation here. The online meeting is on Thursday July 16 at 19:00 CEST. Facilitated and composed by Dmitry Vilensky, with Oxana Timofeeva.
register here

Today provoked by pandemic situation we hear more and more often different proposals for establishing Universal Basic Income (UBI). The UBI is often presented as the only measure which could save human life in front of growing precarity and forthcoming competitions with AI and robots. 

As correctly and precisely mentioned by previous panel of IRI:

it is a necessary condition in order to rethink our extractivist ecological model, to correct many race and gender asymmetries and, last but not least, to change the art world’s present neoliberal structure. UBI must be seen as a tool to open up new subjective spaces, alternative to the dominating entrepreneurial individualism and focused instead on commons and care. 

At the moment looks like that some affluent societies could come closer to implement this measures not at universal/global level but at their national proximity – regulated by local governments and national agencies. 

If we look back, we could discover that something similar to BI was already existed – in the West it was called welfare system, in the socialist countries it was a system of all-embracing social support and exchange of basic work/services for basic wage covering basic housing, basic food and basic health care. 

I think that we should analyses what is basic? 

Within welfare state it was pretty clear that bureaucracy has an expert power to calculate how many calories one should consumer a day, how often one need to new underwear, how many sq. meters should be sufficient for one person, what kind of medical services should stay accessible and at which quality level. So, it did not differ much from the situation when one speaks about regulation of prison’ population or orphanages. 

In general we are demanding the return to some bio-political regulations which right now sounds like a golden age of humanity which was later kind of annihilated by the assault of neo-liberalism. 

But we definitely not returning – we reconsider this radical survival strategy in completely new political situation. And we should stay sensitive to this new challenges. 

To recognize them more precisely we suggest to reconsider the BI through the concept of the gift. Right now young generation do not remember that the topic of the gift economy was the most fashionable in artistic and intellectual discourse during the nineties. Jean Baudrillard (after Marcel Mauss and Georges Bataille and some other anthropologists) in his work differentiate between the symbolic realm and the realm of signs and signification. According to his ideas “signs can be exchanged like commodities; symbols, on the other hand, operate quite differently: they are exchanged, like gifts, sometimes violently as a form of potlatch”. And he warns us that contemporary society more and more often converting this “symbolic” element into commodified signs. This we could watch very clearly in the tendencies of art world. 

Anthropologist Marcel Mauss studied the notion of the gift, particularly the notion of the “hau” – the invisible energy emanating from social relations which keeps valuable objects in circulation – to imagine a socialist state or rather commons, based on non-commodified and generalized reciprocity permeating all social relations. 

According to Georges Bataille, there are two types of economies: the general and the restricted one. Restricted economies are human activities subordinated to the production, accumulation, and growth of individuals, households, states, etc. The general, or planetary economy is the one of the non-productive expenditure. In nature, it is presented by the sun which gives light and warmth to all living beings without ever receiving anything back. In case of humanity, the general economy becomes the gift economy. How does the gift economy relate to the contemporary condition of total capitalist alienation of labor, and especially artistic labor? What is the connection between labor as our essential activity, and the gift?

So we would like to suggest to look deeper what the idea of gift means nowadays and see if we could re-approach the BI – as a new form of unconditional gift system. And as we know that any gift is a manifestation of sovereign power it imposes a certain rules of exchange – putting someone into position of debt. Gifts are not innocent and to operate inside gift economy one need to acquire a special knowledge and type of behavior – then we could reclaim a gift – basic income not as a basic compensation to temporary save our life (and as a general recognitions of our humanness) but as a precondition for plenitude of living in commons. 

So we would suggest the basic questions in relation of the transformation of art system in connection with possibility of establish BI 

1) If artists receive BI (in its minimal or utopian version) as a kind of a “gift” should they consider their artistic manifestation as a gift to society and do not demand additional remuneration? How do we combine BI and new market regulations which keeps competition afloat? 

2) With implementation of BI the old dream which haunting art world might come true: everyone becomes an artist and do not need a special institutional recognition. Would BI diminish a professional approach to art and undermine the difference between professional and amateurish approach? 

3) Would artist with BI need art system at all or they manage to establish their own system of the distribution of artistic practice – making it more local, more social and convivial?   

4) The implementation of BI could be hardly imagined practically at global scale. Like industrial revolutions it could start from the most affluent countries and then (hopefully) spread around globe. How could we soften the growing inequalities between the artists with BI and those who do not have any support? What kind of international structures of redistribution we might need? 

5) If we consider BI not just as a gift, but more as a dole could it be particular “poisoned” for the artists which system put in the position of returning gift in a form of “welcomed” withdrawing from work and from any additional responsibility of the cultural institutions?


Oxana Timofeeva is a Professor of the Centre for Practical Philosophy “Stasis” at the European University at St. Petersburg, leading researcher at Tyumen State University, member of the artistic collective “Chto Delat?” (“What is to be done?”), deputy editor of the journal “Stasis”, and the author of books History of Animals (Maastricht: Jan van Eyck, 2012; Moscow, 2017; London: Bloomsbury, 2018), and Introduction to the Erotic Philosophy of Georges Bataille (Moscow: New Literary Observer, 2009). She is also author of numerous contributions to e-flux journal and other art magazines.

Recommended readings:

The Case Against a Basic Income by DANIEL ZAMORA

David Graeber on basic income 

Can a Universal Basic Income rid the world of bullshit jobs?

THE ART CARE AND CARE ABOUT ART | Dmitry Vilensky & Janna Graham

Photo Catastrophes, performance at MUAC by Chto Delat

School of Mutation within the framework of the iteration We have a situation here. The online meeting is on Thursday July 9th at 19:00 CEST. Facilitated and composed by Dmitry Vilensky, with Janna Graham.
register here [registration open until Wednesday July 8th at 12:00 CEST]

The questions for the assembly:

  1. The practices of care do not need a critical apparatus. Aiming for good and wellbeing – they themselves become an unconditional good. Can we care critically, or can we criticize with care?
  2. How can we formulate the good of art and how will it differ from the immediate humanitarian benefit of caring for life in general – the reproductive labor?
  3. How to build relationships of equality in a situation of care?
  4. Your favorite art projects, which is based on the practices of care?
  5. Many art institutions in their recent statements speak about their priority of caring for artists in their programs. What manifestations of institutional care do we need to continue our work in art?
  6. Practices of caring can be considered as part of the practices of the participatory and community based art with their old dilemma – to do “for” or to do “with/together.” Is it possible to combine these positions?
Continue reading “THE ART CARE AND CARE ABOUT ART | Dmitry Vilensky & Janna Graham”


Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images – source online new CNN Channel 3000

We open the first appointment of the School of Mutation with the iteration We have a situation here. The online meeting on Thursday July 2nd at 19:00 CET is facilitated and composed by Dmitry Vilensky with choreographer Alexandra Pirici.
register here [registration open until Wednesday July 1st at 12:00 CEST]

Today all of sudden we happen to live in the moment when the burden of historical injustice become unbearable. These situations usually pop up at the moment of revolution or popular uprising and it demonstrates how the system of power is constructed and still rooted in the old system of oppression. The culture and art always have always been pleading a leading role in forming a historical block and , establishing a certain image of power which could inspire, scare and glorify certain dominant narratives. 

Now from Ukraine to Bristol, from US to Latin America the dark history of capital accumulation (real and symbolic) is being revisited – and we remember well that there are no any documents of democratic the progress which are not also documents of violence. The monuments start to fall again and empty places in the cities are filled with temporary manifestation of the popular uprising. This destruction of the monuments could be considered as collective healing, the a gesture of outrage and emptying the of space for new celebrations. 

Should these temporary memorials be preserved for the future under the supervision of the old power which did not disappear? Or should they be replaced with by more solid memorials celebrating the current struggles and creating a counter-narrative re-codifying the dirty memories from the past?

Do the current popular movements need any forms of monumentality? Or is their power is manifesting through the series of tactical and often spectacular acts of destruction, occupation, temporary altars, wheat pasting etc.?

Monumentality as aesthetic category is traditionally determined as a quality of the sublime. Its content is socially relevant and expressed as a large sculptural form imbued with heroic and epic themes that affirms positive ideal” (The Great Soviet Encyclopedia)

To paraphrase this statement one could say that nothing could be more sublime as people struggle for liberation and what could we/ or should we reclaim as a new forms of monumentality?

Ruth Noack in her recent FB post has shared rather popular position: “The sculptures should remain as a mark of the violence society once was happy to condone, but, of course, they cannot remain without the strongest gestures of resistance, protest, dissent. I would opt for adding counter-memorials and make them be powerful!”

Do we share this position? Should artists be involved into this practice, as long as they are part of the movement? 

The artists still have access to funding and commissions for the new public project, like the recent open call to monument commemorating victims of slavery in Paris. Or like widely demanded call for new historical public commissions compared to New Deal time.

For example: in the current situation – the French ministry of culture does not wait till people occupy the space in front of Louvre and make their own monument – instead they say that “the work of art must be harmoniously integrated into the garden and take into account site constraints.” – this approach demonstrates of certain forms of normalization of the rituals of commemoration and monumentality.

How could artists counter this approach, or produce art pieces inside this commissions which generate a popular support? Do we need artists at all at the time when occupations of public space often function as most powerful visual manifestation of our time – total installation with on-going performances, altars to the victims of the struggles, educational circles and political assemblies? 

Some reference materials to the works of Alexandra Pirici

These articles on Co-natural mentioning the references to US monuments that were used in the work in more subtle ways


Alexandra Pirici is a Romanian artist with a background in dance and choreography who works undisciplined, across different mediums. Her works have been exhibited within the decennial art exhibition Skulptur Projekte Munster 2017, the Venice Biennale – Romanian Pavilion at the 55th edition, Tate Modern London, New Museum – New York, Art Basel Messeplatz, The 9th Berlin Biennale, Manifesta 10, Centre Pompidou – Paris, Museum Ludwig Cologne, the Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven, Russian Museum St. Petersburg, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, HAU Theatre Berlin, Museum of Modern Art Warsaw, Chicago Architecture Biennale, among many others. Alexandra Pirici works in museum contexts, theatrical frameworks and the public space. She choreographs ongoing actions, performative monuments and performative environments that fuse dance, sculpture, spoken word and music. Her works deal with monumentality or the history of specific places and institutions in order to playfully tackle and transform existing hierarchies. They also reflect on the history and function of gestures in art and popular culture or on questions about the body, its presence, absence or image and the politics of capture. Her performative artworks are part of private and public collections as live actions.

Dmitry Vilensky is an artist, educator and cultural environmentalist with no art degrees. He elicits situations and relationships. No one knows what he is up to right now: perhaps he is editing a new issue of Chto Delat’s newspaper, or maybe administering the Chto Delat Mutual Aid Fund, or editing a film, or talking with the participants of the School of Engaged Art, or making a set for a new play, or sitting in the assembly at Rosa’s House of Culture editing presentation for another conference. Most likely, he is doing all this and dozens of other activities at the same time, surrounded by various comradely compositions of bodies and minds in his hometown of Saint Petersburg, at Zoom and in many other places around the world. Born in Leningrad in 1964. He lives in Saint Petersburg.