Comuna under construction in Kraków
Comuna under construction is shown in Kraków/Poland as part of Oliver Ressler's exhibition:
Socialism Failed, Capitalism Is Bankrupt. What Comes Next?
on view: 05.08.2011-28.08.2011
Curator: Anna Smolak
Coordinator: Renata Zawartka
Oliver Ressler's exhibition Socialism Failed, Capitalism Is Bankrupt. What Comes Next? takes on board issues connected with political transformation of a country and the problem of the social response to capitalism during a crisis. More and more frequently, Poland finds itself in the role of a mentor to the EU’s new candidate countries, so the present exhibition provides an opportunity for scrutiny of the political reality of countries in transformation as well as reflection on the side effects of capitalism.
In the exhibition we will see three works, which confront different social models in the process of political transformation. The two-channel video installation Socialism Failed, Capitalism Is Bankrupt. What Comes Next? (2010) refers to the predicament of the Armenians after the fall of the Soviet Union. The central film, which was shot in Armenia’s largest bazaar in the poor part of Yerevan, meaningfully known as ‘Bangladesh’, records the dramatic deterioration of the standard of living and great social diversification of Armenian society. The tone, which prevails in the opinions voiced by the locals, is one of resignation in the face of degradation, unemployment and ever-present corruption from the political class in power; the hopelessness heightened by images of abandoned factories, where once thousands worked.
The facade democracy and seemingly free market, which disguise a system of feudal social relationships, have resulted in a forceful reawakening of pro-Soviet sympathies; freedom and independence have turned out to be unwanted goods. Oliver Ressler’s artistic method, closely related to the techniques of the documentary – based on objectivity and the search for truth – is apparent in the very first, provocative words of one of the participants: “You can film Mount Ararat, and then say that people under the mountain live very well, show the VIP houses and say ‘See how Armenia progresses! See how much money the country has and it can live this well, people can live in such houses…’, and nothing more. If you want to record lies, no problem, we can offer words of approval and praise.”
Oliver Ressler’s trademark is to construct space for the interviewees to express their opinions, without a direct interference from the artist himself. It appears that the relationship between Ressler and the protagonists of his films arises from the artist’s external position, which on the one hand relies on observing their predicament and on the other hand gives to those whom he portrays hope that their protests will be heard.
Comuna Under Construction, a documentary by Oliver Ressler and Dario Azzellini, was finished in the same year. The film shows the grassroots process of the development of democratic social entities in Venezuela, part of the process of the modernisation of the poorest, highly populated barrios of Caracas.
The filmmakers record assemblies of community councils, in which the people themselves decide over the prioritisation of their needs and where social structures and strategies for action are forged. The struggle for the improvement of living conditions is part of what Hugo Chavez labelled “socialism of the 21st century”, which tries to dismantle ossified administrative structures of the corrupt former representative system and replace it through a truly democratic system.
Before our very eyes, the Venezuelan people are trying to find a path for a democratic transformation which is exacerbated through internal and external conflicts. The film exposes the mechanisms of achieving people’s power. Its form is subjugated to its subject matter: crude shots and long takes, with no traceable sense of the artist’s presence. This method of filming results in creating the ambiance of a profound commitment. The boundary between an artistic activity and political activism is blurred.
Capitalism not only failed in societies in a state of transformation. The recent crisis in Western Europe and the United States has demonstrated that also in mature democracies, the economy and the life of the people depend on the dictatorship of the multinational corporations and the banking system. It is the citizens and not financial institutions which have borne the brunt of the crisis; institutions ‘too big to fail’ – thanks to their complex connections with the world of politics.
Galeria Sztuki Współczesnej Bunkier Sztuki | Pl. Szczepański 3a | Kraków | Polska