Perverting the Power Vertical: Politics and Aesthetics in the Global East
PPV is a restless but rooted seminar and event platform convened by Maria Mileeva, Michał Murawski and Denis Maksimov.
This theme is taken from the name of a 2011 movie about MMM Global, a bank and pyramid scheme established in 1990 by financier and fraudster Sergei Mavrodi (1932-2018), also said to be responsible for the Bitcoin surge of 2018.
Which power verticals hold sway over the Global East (and south and west and north)? And how can we identify alternative styles, shapes and geometries of power – horizontals, diagonals, perpendiculars, transversals, skews and intersections – within and without the (past, present and future of) the “trans-socialist” Global East?
The “Global East” is an enormous, inchoate territory, encompassing myriad distinct political and economic systems, as well as cultural and aesthetic proclivities. However, for all its diversity, the territories of the Global East are tangibly marked by the mutually-intelligible legacies of state socialism – a collapsed (but lingering) systemic cosmos centred around Moscow: from interlinked typologies of prefabricated housing, to the spatial and stylistic effects of shortage economies, to the everyday rhetorics and aesthetics of hyper-centralized bureaucracy (and the attendant modes of irony, satire, over-identification and subversion).
PPV deploys the notion of the Power Vertical – a term used by political scientists to refer to Vladimir Putin’s brand of post-Soviet authoritarian governance – as a conceptual pivot. What are the aesthetics of the Power Vertical? Are they resolutely upright and ostentatious, like Moscow’s proliferating neo- Stalinist skyscrapers and turbo-charged Victory Day Parades? Or are they happy-go-lucky, dissipate and chaotic, like Putin’s villainous trickster wink (or Trump’s insomniac Twitter sessions)? Moreover, in the era of resurgent populisms, re-militarization and the oligarchization of capital, are the styles and shapes of the Power Vertical making a mark on the global political-aesthetic New Normal?
While seeking to make sense of the Power Vertical, PPV also looks beyond it, exploring the heterodox shapes, styles and ideologies populating the Global East, and emanating from it to the wider world. Moreover, it aims to probe ways in which scholars can collaborate with artists, architects and activists from across the Global East: not only to analyse the Power Vertical (not only to take the Power Vertical seriously), but also to develop tactics and strategies to ridicule, trick, twist, undercut, queer, resist - and pervert it.
PPV functions under the auspices of the SSEES FRINGE Centre. In 2019-2020, PPV is generously supported by the UCL European Institute through its Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union; PPV is also supported by The UCL Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art and UCL Culture; and is organised in conjunction with the UCL Institute for Advanced Studies and The Avenir Institute.
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