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Updated: Oct 8, 2020

28.11.2019, The Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL, 6-9pm.


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We would like to announce that the Beastly Pyramids event on 28 November has been cancelled due to the UCU - University and College Union strike being held at UCL at this time (25 November-4 December). As UCU members we will be taking part in the strike. We hope to pick up on many of the themes raised in this event later in the academic year - more details TBA.

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Bruce Nauman, Animal Pyramids, 1989.

Beastly Pyramids

Reflections on hierarchy, power and animality in the Museum.

Confirmed participants: Agnieszka Kurant, Bryony May Dunne, Alena Ledeneva


How is hierarchy (political, economic, racial, sexual, inter-species) represented (and denied): in the city, in art, in architecture and in the Museum?


For human beings, pyramids are blatant representations of hierarchy (and of death, inheritance, violence, money as well as the cosmos).


Pyramids reproduce and consolidate inequality and oppression; but they also provoke reflection, resistance and rebellion. For termites, on the other hand, pyramids are emblems of collaborative endeavour (although for moles, they are the debris of a much more individualistic act of burrowing).


How do Museums represent, resist (and deny) these hierarchies and pyramids? By "decolonising" a natural history Museum at an elite educational institution in the middle of London - without repatriating its collection, much of it stolen or acquired through looting and other acts of violence - are we actually perverting the Power Vertical? Or are we, in fact, acting like the purveyors of a Ponzi scheme, pretending that the Pyramid does not exist, and thereby making it grow even higher, more violent, and more destructive? Is there a way to “blow up” verticality of the pyramid from the bottom? Or does critique always the solidify the inescapability of its form by cementing the cracks?


The good news is that Pyramid schemes always collapse; the bad news, is that it's always the beasts at the bottom who bear the biggest burden.


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Beastly Pyramids will take the form of a heterodox symposium divided into several (condensed and intense) "stor(e)ys".


Each storey will leave time for contributions from the audience, but it will be organised around a lecture/performance by an invited artist; and a corresponding thinkpiece delivered by a scholar or writer.


Beastly Pyramids will reflect on themes of hierarchy, power, politics, economy and sexuality in the interaction between humans, animals and nature; and within the animal world itself. This vortex of interactions has one common central core: the issue of power, control and domination.


This theme relates to both the core themes of Perverting the Power Vertical, our conceptual platform; but also to our theme for 2019-2010, PiraMMMida, which is inspired by the East European pyramid schemes of the 1990s.


Stor(e)ys:

1. Architecture: Building Babels and Gizas 🥒

Agnieszka Kurant: 10 mins

Respondent: TBC


2. Mythology: Hunting the Unicorn 🥒

Bryony May Dunne: 10 mins

Respondent: TBC


3. Power: Informality and Animality 🥒

Alena Ledeneva: 10 mins

Respondent: TBC

Updated: Oct 22, 2019

4.11.2019, The Masaryk Room, SSEES, UCL, 1-3pm.


Perverse pyraMMMids of wild capitalism under attack. Moscow 2016.

"The Perils of Perversion in The Age of Populism"

A PPV Reading Week Reading Group (PPV ReWeReGo) with Keti Chukhrov


Is it actually subversive to be perverted? Or do liberal democracies and capitalist institutions fully subsume perversion into their dominant ideologies? What form does perversion play in the politics and aesthetics of post-socialist authoritarianism, and in the alt-right populist authoritarianism of the late 2010s?


In 2013, Keti Chukhrov wrote:


"We know how often criticism has been prohibited in post-Soviet countries. But at the same time, these cases of prohibition do not mean that the authority is against perversion or subversion, but rather that the authority itself must remain the principal source of such perverse acts. The Russian conceptual writer Vladimir Sorokin has shown well in his writings how the drive for perversion manifests itself in the behavior of an authoritarian and sovereign power. In this case, perversity and transgression have nothing to do with freedom, even if the stance remains quite different from the post-Fordist Western treatment of the role of subversion."


In this reading group, we will re-visit Keti's short text, written in the wake of Pussy Riot's arrest and Putin's return to the Presidency; but at a time when the global normcore neoliberal center felt confident that it was holding its ground. What has happened during the intervening half-decade, as the forces of alt-right populism have swept to power throughout the world? How has power become perverted, and should we respond by politicizing perversion?


Essential Reading: Keti Chukhrov, "Epistemological Gaps between the Former Soviet East and the 'Democratic' West". First published in E-Flux #41, January 2013.

Extended version re-published in Ana Janevska (et al.) 2018 (eds.), Art and Theory of Post-1989 Central and Eastern Europe: A Critical Anthology. New York: MoMA Primary Documents. Download here.


Due to space constraints, attendance in PPV will be limited to 20 people. Please register by emailing politicalaesthetics@gmail.com


1pm: Gathering, lunch

1:30pm: Introduction by Keti Chukhrov

2pm-3pm Discussion and consumption


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Updated: Oct 21, 2019

1.11.2019, The Forum, Institute for Advanced Studies, UCL, 6-8pm.


Perverted Utopia: The Politics of Fictional Institutions and Other Communist Pyramids”

A lecture by Gluklya



The practice of Natalya Pershina-Yakimanskaya (Gluklya) closely orbits the notion of utopian agency as a strategy to critique power, and to awaken sensitivity to everyday oppression and its normalising effects.


In projects such as “Carnival of the Oppressed Feelings”, “Museum of Utopian Clothes” and “Utopian Unemployment Union” the notion of distance from reality plays a crucial role in destabilising the institution and its hierarchies, which naturally tend towards closing down potentialities for change and reform, or of any deviations from the chosen path; and in the construction of new forms and structures - such as communist pyramids, composed of human bodies - which might function as deviant engines for rebellion or change.


PPV invites Gluklya for an evening of utopian, perverted and pyrammidal reflections on the agency of resistance in her continuous artisic practice, which create heterotopic public spaces, agoras in times of extreme (hidden, invisibilised and therefore normalised) alienation, capitalisation and commercialisation.


Gluklya's artist talk will be followed by an interactive workshop where the audience will be invited to become co-authors of the growing perverted community (perhaps rhizomatic, perhaps pyrammidal) of utopian institutions challenging the static, everlasting nature of the political status quo.


🥒18.00 - 18:30: artist talk by Gluklya (moderated by PPV convenors)

🥒18.30 - 18:45: Q&A with the audience

🥒18.45 - 19:15: utopian institutionalism co-creation workshop

🥒19:15 - 20.00: reception


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PPV#10 is organised in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art at the UCL Department the History of Art.

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