What the f@#* is FACK MSUV?
Performing the museum as a common good*
Liberation of time/space - FACK MSUV is a social-artistic operation, the temporary “liberation” of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina (MSUV) in Novi Sad, which may as well be seen as a sui generis occupation, or re-appropriation, of the museum having the aim of making it open for new forms of use and more directly accessible to the artistic and wider community. FACK MSUV is a collective action initiated by the f.a.c.k. platform from Italy, in collaboration with the occupied and self-managed cultural venues MACAO (Milan), SALE.Docks (Venice), Teatro Valle Occupato (Rome) and Embros Theatre (Athens), which brings together numerous artists, activists, scholars and other cultural workers who operate in the ex-Yu region and internationally. The management of MSUV is complicit in the operation, even though they are also practically without any foreknowledge as to whom is involved or how or what is going to happen. Without having been given any written project description or list of participants, and not having signed any contract of collaboration with the initiators – the only thing that the management knows is that the museum premises will be occupied and used by an undetermined number of participants during a preliminary agreed period of time (and perhaps longer). Accepting the given terms of collaboration, the museum’s management de facto renounced, albeit only temporarily, its institutional prerogatives of power pertaining to selection, curation, organization, programming and governance.
New use of the museum - The FACK MSUV operation is not specifically targeting MSUV or its employees – it is about reversing and questioning the dominant, centralized and representative model of cultural institution and its corresponding mechanisms of power and control, which more often than not serve the personal and political party interests of the decision-makers. This is a common structural issue and not a human resource problem or the programming problem of a specific institution – thus, there’s nothing personal! The fact that the management of MSUV has backed the initiative to liberate the museum demonstrates that employees of cultural institutions themselves often feel like captives of the bureaucratic and ideological mechanisms operating within these institutions – and therefore (even secretly or unwittingly) crave freedom. In that sense, this operation not only relieves the museum of its staff, who claim and administer it according to customary patterns (which are under scrutiny), but the staff also liberate themselves from the museum and its institutional mechanisms, are given an opportunity to participate in the collective experiment of conceiving a radically different institution – a new museum.
The museum as a common good - The FACK MSUV operation imposes a temporary suspension of the power relations within a public institution, i.e. along its hierarchized management-executive chain (director-curators-administrative/technical serviceshousekeepers-janitors) – and thus carries out its de-institutionalization. The aim, however, is not to create a chaotic, disorderly situation where everyone does what and how he pleases, but, on the contrary, is to obtain through a self-regulated and structured participatory process a free, vacant space for critical and creative reflection and inscriptions. The intention is to rehearse in practice a new model of self-management, i.e. co-management of cultural institutions, as a direct bottom-up initiative of the artistic and wider social communities that is performed in collaboration with specific institutional agencies. Thereby, MSUV is transformed from a primarily representative exhibition space into an open laboratory, a venue for the particular social-artistic experiment of the re-institutionalization of a museum, now conceived as a common good.
Coming art - In addition to being an opportunity for a collective performance of the museum conceived as a common good, the FACK MSUV operation also opens up the space for a wider critical reflection on what sort of art/artist (and, consequently, what sort of art education and art institution) we actually need in a contemporary run-down society subjected to the interests of global capital and new economic-financial elites, with increasingly visible social inequality, growing state control and repression, and restrictions of personal and collective rights and freedoms. According to philosopher Giorgio Agamben, the coming politics should deal with “happy life’ – not with the bare life of humans, which is a playground for exercising contemporary biopolitical power – it should deal with different “forms of life” or the ways in which each of us is attached to a particular use, gesture, practice, relationship... to our being in common, where everyday life becomes a playground for an exercise of a powerless power of “whatever singularity” – of coming community. Aren’t those the forms to be tackled by the coming art as well?
Art and revolution - One of the aims of the FACK MSUV operation is to problematize the (non)existing relation of post-Yugoslav societies and their cultural institutions to the heritage and values of the People’s Liberation War (NOB) – the anti-fascist struggle and socialist revolution from the Second World War. Specifically the (non)existing relation of the MSUV to the history and architecture of the building it has “temporarily” inhabited since 2001. It is a building conceived in the style of the so-called socialist modernism, designed in the 1960s (by the architect Ivo Vitić) specifically for the Museum of the Workers’ Movement and People’s Revolution. The intention is to (self)organize a critical guided tour of the permanent exhibition of works from the collection of the former Museum of Revolution, which was refashioned during the 1990s in the nationalist key and is still located in one of the halls of the building (the exposition is now curated by the Department for Contemporary History of the Museum of Vojvodina). This is an odd situation, in which an institution dedicated to revolutions in art occupies a space in the institution formerly dedicated to people’s revolution, both being a product and instrument of the dominant state ideology in their respective periods – formerly universalist and communist, and nowadays nationalist and neo-liberalist. This situation calls for an unusual intervention: an additional occupation, this time “bottom-up”, which, in between those opposing museological and ideological apparatuses, temporarily launches an autonomous experimental zone wherein the artistic machine and the revolutionary machine crossbreed to produce a hybrid and exciting form in which both art and politics are radically challenged and transformed.
Social-artistic laboratory - The FACK MSUV operation includes different, open-to-thepublic and free-of-charge activities, events and situations taking place during the day (and into the night) in and around the museum premises, as well as other locations around the city: morning classes, workshops, assemblies, debates, work presentations, screenings, concerts, DJ sets, performances, collective actions, urban interventions, installations, joint housekeeping and consumption of meals, football matches and chess games as well as afternoon siestas, idling and slacking, coffee & cigarette chats, chillouts in the museum and the city, etc. All events are shared out according to a tripartite scheme: workshop dimension (emancipatory transmission of knowledge and [don’t]know-how) – strike dimension (assembling on work/production conditions) – fiesta dimension (dispersion of work power/energy and free sharing of culture/art); which refers to the early industrial workers (and lately workerist) “refusal of work” tradition, but also to the Duchamp-inspired “leisure in art” strategies. The operation is intended to reverse the way in which the museum normally functions, from a closed collection-exhibition space, subject to commodification of the art production / art market, into an open laboratory wherein work, experience and knowledge is horizontally distributed and elaborated in the context of community and mutual solidarity according to the anti-economy of gratuitous(ness) and gift.
Numerous activities of the FACK MSUV operation, from cleaning the space to public relations, from keeping an online collective diary to cooking, are self-organized and executed by different workgroups mutually coordinated at the regular noon plenary meetings. In the work of the groups and in the making of decisions that address common issues, problems and needs, as well as collective actions, everyone can participate on equal terms – from janitor to director, including interested neighbors and passers-by. It is possible to join one or more workgroups, or form new ones, but also to operate solo outside the groups (preferably on a similar wavelength with the others). The groups can work together, merge, transform, resign or dissolve… The workgroups are not formed according to disciplinary criteria or specialized competencies (as in capitalist division of labor), but rather as playgrounds for developing a non-disciplinary (and un-disciplinary) problem oriented and desire oriented work methods, that depart from the usual procedures of work – even from what usually is evaluated as “work”.
Equality of intelligences - The open call for participation in the FACK MSUV operation addresses ALL who want to contribute to the experiment with artistic and/or theoretical interventions, or partake in any other way. Participants are chosen by means of selfselection, i.e. according to the principles of a chain of mutual confidence – everyone selects himself and everyone can choose and invite someone else whose work earned his/her confidence. Thus established relations, including the relations with the museum management and staff, are in themselves an experiment that tests the Rancierian hypothesis of trust in the capacity of intelligence shared by all. Each participant assumes responsibility for his/her actions during the stay in the museum. ALL participants are credited on equal terms (in alphabetical or random order) as: co-authors, co-organizers, co-producers and co-performers of the FACK MSUV operation. During the stay in the museum, the operation hosts self-organized free joint meals, and those who travel to Novi Sad are provided with free accommodation. Concerning the specific character of the operation, it is warmly recommended that the participants plan for their permanent presence during the whole duration of the event.
What the f.a.c.k. is (not)…
f.a.c.k. is a flexible, multilingual and ambiguous acronym for a cluster of concepts that refer to forms and places of community, participation and artistic/political action. f.a.c.k. may be read according to one’s needs, wishes or moods as: ‘fraction’, ‘faktum’, ‘forum’, ‘fiesta’, ‘fabrique’… / ‘action’, ‘agora’, ‘autonomia’, ‘arte’, ‘act’... / ‘contemporary’, ‘cantiere’, ‘container’, ‘comunità’, ‘commons’… / ‘kultura’, ‘kommune’, ‘kasbah’… or simply as fack! to the policies of ether subsumtion or repression brought forward by the neoliberal governance and it’s various apparatuses of biopolitical power.
f.a.c.k. is open, informal, transitional, (con)temporary, collective, fluid what-does-thishave-to-do-with-art platform for exploring new models in (self)management, (self)organization and (self)production in the fields of art and culture. f.a.c.k. is transcultural and trans-national phenomenon, a mobile and variable task force dedicated to participatory and critical transformative practices and utopian projects situated in the border zones of (non)institutional operation.
f.a.c.k. is a conceptual open-source tool intended for shared use and collective elaboration, applicable in the ideation and realization of non-disciplinary and undisciplined situations, operations, actions and events, performable in various formats, formations, contexts, time-frames, urban and pastoral environments.
f.a.c.k. is not a fixed collective pursuing a monolithic identity politics or aesthetics, nor a registered association or non-governmental organization, nor an art movement or group, nor a project or manifestation, nor a performance or exhibition, nor a festival or art colony, nor a workshop or seminar, nor a commune or squat, nor a network or... f.a.c.k. is formed, deformed and reformed with each new initiative and event, which may assume at a certain point one of the abovementioned forms, combine some of them or discard them all in favor of experimenting with new non-formats and non-identities.
But then what the f@#* is f.a.c.k.?
Here is the space where you can give your definition (if you really need one): ___________________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________
and here some historical facts that can be of use to you in doing it:
The f.a.c.k. platform was initiated in 2012 in Cesena (Italy). So far, f.a.c.k. has realized several operations in the form of a temporary (from two days to three weeks) «occupation» of a scarcely or problematically used public and private spaces, with a view to experimenting and reflecting on different participatory bottom-up models in arts and culture and to critically re-examining the dominant social, economic and artistic system and the role imposed upon the artists therein. f.a.c.k. came along on the wave of the Italian phenomenon of “cultural occupations” or “liberated spaces” launched in 2011 with the occupation by a group of artists and activists of two abandoned public spaces for culture in Rome – Ex-Cinema Palazzo and Teatro Valle – as both became objects of real estate speculations risking to privatize and transform them, the former into a gambling place and the latter into a nightclub. Important moment in the genesis of f.a.c.k. was the action of taking over the abandoned Torre Galfa skyscraper in downtown Milan by the collective MACAO in May 2012, when more than 1,000 people took part in the temporary transformation of the building into a new autonomous and self-managed art centre. f.a.c.k. is part of an informal network formed out of various occupied cultural spaces across all Italy, including the Nuovo Cinema Palazzo, Teatro Valle Occupato and Angelo Mai Altrove from Rome, Asilo Filangeri from Naples, Teatro Copolla from Catania, Teatro Pinelli Occupato from Messina, Teatro Garibaldi from Palermo, MACAO from Milan, Teatro Marinoni and S.A.L.E.Docks from Venice.
[text published in MASKA Performing Arts Journal, issue 169, Spring/Summer 2015. Translated from Serbian into English by Irena Šentevska (revised version)]
PARTICIPATING (IN RENDOM ORDER OF APPEREANCE)
THEATER EMBROS (GR) / MACAO(IT) / SALE.DOCKS(IT) / TEATRO VALLE(IT) / SIMONA SENZACQUA (IT) / HOSSEIN TAHERI (IT) / VLADAN JEREMIĆ & ART LEAKS (SRB/INT) / ZAVOD SPLOH (SLO) / ALESSIO CAVALLUCCI (IT) / LUCA BERARDI (IT) / ABELE GASPARINI (IT) / ART OF BEING MANY (D) / LIZ RECH (D) / HAMBURGER GÄNGEVIERTEL (D) / LEDA SACCHETTI (IT) / NHANDAN CHIRCO (IT) / BRANKA PARLIĆ (SRB) / KNAP (SRB) / BRANKO POPOVIĆ (SRB/IT) / BORIS KOVAČ (SRB) / MARIA ZACHAROGIANNI (GR) / LIANA GIANNAKOU (GR) / RENA RÄDLE (D) / SAMO KUTIN (SLO) / ANA KRAVANJA (SLO) / VID DRASLER (SLO) / JOST DRASLER (SLO) / MARKO KARLOVCEC (SLO) / TOMAZ GROM (SLO) / SPELA TROST (SLO) / SANJA KOJIĆ MLADENOV / MSUV (SRB) / JOVAN JAKŠIĆ (SRB) /SONJA JANKOV (SRB) / EDUARDO CASSINA (E) / LIVIA DUDAREVA (LIT) / DIMITRIS COSMIDIS (GR) / NIPOŠTO (NIPOŠTO BP) / RADIO GARBINO (IT) / CURIO KITECHA (SLO) / DRAGANA ALFIREVIĆ (SRB) / DEJAN SRHOJ (SLO) / MARJETA KAMNIKAR (SLO) / IVANA KORAĆ (SRB) / ALEKSANDAR BEDE (SRB) / SVETLANA MILIĆ (SRB) / BARBARA NOVAK (SLO) / FERDINANDO MAZZITELLI (IT) / FLORA VANNINI (IT/FR) / CRISTINA FIORDIMENLE (IT) / / ANGELO CASTUCCI (IT) / FRANCESKO X (IT) / IGOR LEČIĆ (SRB) / BOSILJKA ZIROJEVIĆ (SRB) / JOVAN GVERO (SRB) / ELENA AGOSTI (IT) / CHRISTIAN MASTROIANNI (CHRIS YAN) (IT) / CATRINEL CATANĂ (RO) / VLADIMIR TEGELTIJA (SRB) / UNA JANKOV (SRB) / DRAGAN JANKOV (SRB) / CRISISART (IT) / SCOTT D. MCGEHEE (US) / TPO (IT) / CRISTIAN CRESCENTE (IT) / GIAIME BARDUCCI (IT) / GREGOR KAMNIKAR (SLO) / MOTEL TROGIR (CRO) / LIDIJA BUTKOVIĆ MIĆIN (CRO) / MAAM (IT) / GIORGIO DE FINIS (IT) / FABRIZIO BONI (IT) / MARIA CERBASI (IT)/ ELI MCBETT (IE) / ANTOINE CASSAR (MT) / SONJA RADAKOVIĆ (SRB) / STEFANOS MONDELOS (GR) / VASIA PARASKEVOPOULOU (GR) / ZALAB (IT) / IGOR BURIĆ (SRB) /LOBOTORIJA (SRB) / BORJANA VALČIĆ (SRB) / NEBOJŠA MALEŠEVIĆ (SRB) /CAMILLA CAMILLI (IT) / CARLOTTA BISELLO (IT) / ROTOR (A) / MARGARETHE MAKOVEC (A) / AZRA AKSAMIJA (US/A/BIH) / URSKA ZENKO (A) / EVA MERAN (A) / ANUSCHKA SOPHIE JANICKE (D) / ZORAN POPOVIĆ (SRB) / VOJISLAV MARTINOV (SRB) / MARKO ERCEGOVIĆ (SRB) / LUKA KULIĆ (SRB) /ELENA AGOSTI (IT) / SLOBODAN VOJVODIĆ (SRB)/ RADHARANI PERNARČIČ(SLO) / STANISLAV DRČA (SRB) / SINIŠA TUCIĆ (SRB) / DRAGAN ILIĆ (SRB/AUS/USA) / ... AND MANY OTHERS YET TO APPEAR
* The following text is a revised version of open call for participation in the FACK MSUV operation of “liberation” of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina, which was carried out during the first week of July 2014 and which brought together about 60 participants from different countries. The plan is to continue the experiment next year, for a longer period of time, under the working title NEW mUSEum – stay tuned!