The Creeper Museum and the Weeds of Education: Towards a De-Meaned Ministry of Minimum Enlightenment
Location: Masaryk Room, UCL SSEES
Please note: This event will be held IRL (In Real Life). Hybrid online participation via Zoom will be enabled. Registration is required.
The talk addresses the issues of social inequality in cultural and knowledge production in the context of contemporary Russia. More precisely, it focuses on methodologies and results of two art projects – The Ministry of Enlightenment (St Petersburg, Russia, Summer 2021) and The Arrival (ongoing in the UK). Both projects are based on the approach I call ‘performative lectures’, which stands for exploring opportunities for more horizontal and open forms of public education. Performative lectures are taken from university rooms to various urban locations, where they co-exist with other cultural practices, agents, sounds. A performative lecture is not a plant to cultivate, but rather a sporadically-growing weeds in the garden of enlightenment. The first series, The Ministry of Enlightenment, follows the discussion on the recent law ‘on enlightenment activity’, regulating educational activity in Russia beyond official study programs. It concerns not only by possible restrictions on public educational activities crucial for many cultural workers and art institutions, but it reformulates the very concept of enlightenment itself and the social inequality in knowledge production invested in it. The lectures were held in urban locations of St Petersburg we called the new ‘salons of enlightenment’: a car garage (шиномонтажный салон), spa salon and swimming pool, and a beauty salon. The ongoing project, The Arrival, explores changing relations between space, body, and culture in the context of new forms of travel. The project is structured around auto-ethnographic experience and a historical investigation of the Russian culture of the 19th-20th centuries. It includes two performative lectures to be held at the France-UK border (The Border) an aircraft hangar in the British countryside, and the concluding themed Ball at Pushkin House.
The talk will followed by a conversation with Olesandr Dmitrenko also known as YouTube blogger Pohititel Aromatov, a media-artist and one of the Arrival participants. It will concern the role of new media in cultural production, and how categories of ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultures can be demolished.
Win a ticket to The Ball (17 December, Pushkin House)
UCL students and staff are invited to prepare a short story, poem or speech (maximum 50 words) on the theme of The Ministry of Enlightenment – to be submitted by 5pm on 16 October via email to firstname.lastname@example.org; or via Twitter (please tag @UCLSSEES and @FRINGECentre and use the hashtag #MinMinEnlight). Attendees will be invited to read out their creations following the conversation between Kuleva and Dimitrenko; and the author of the best work (selected by Kuleva, Aromatov) will receive a ticket to The Ball at Pushkin House (held on 17 December at 7pm).
Dr Margarita Kuleva is a sociologist of culture, interested in exploring social inequalities in the art world and creative industries mainly in Russia and the UK in order to develop fairer working conditions in the sector. Primarily, she works as an ethnographer to discover the ‘behind the scenes’ of cultural institutions to give greater visibility for the invisible workers of culture. She is currently based at National Research University Higher School of Economics, St-Petersburg, where she works as an Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology, holding the position of chair of the Department of Design and Contemporary Art.
Olesandr Dmitrenko is a media artist working in viral comedy. Oriented towards a Russian-speaking audience, he conducts his artistic statements in drag and is known best for his role as ‘Shura Stone’ - a cashier working in ’Pyaterochka’ (a chain of Russian supermarkets), the wife of a local police officer and the mother of a teenage boy.
PPV #24 has been organised by FRINGE and PPV in collaboration with Pushkin House. It is supported by The Centre for German and European Studies (DAAD) and HSE University, St Petersburg. It is presented as a part of the public programme for Desire International, an exhibition currently on view at Pushkin House.