Veranstaltungen: Dokumentation


Culture against corruption. Film, conversation and dinner

IRRESISTIBLE? A symposium on the phenomenon of CORRUPTION

Saturday, 17 June 2017, 19:00-21:00

PDF-Icon Culture against corruption - German

Rael Artel (Art Museum Tartu, Estonia)
Serhij Leshchenko (deputy of the Ukrainian parliament, investigative journalist, Ukraine)
Leon Kahane (artist, Germany)
Kateryna Mishchenko (publicist and curator, Ukraine)
Moderator: Katharina Raabe (Suhrkamp publishing house, Germany)

On Saturday afternoon, a number of guided tours through the city were offered to enable participants to discover aspects of Berlin past and present. In the evening, they met to attend a cultural programme in the FORUM Factory in Kreuzberg, organised in close cooperation with the Goethe-Institut Ukraine. Entitled “Culture against corruption”, the evening was devoted to the subversive power of art in the fight against corruption.

Corruption – from Latin “corruptio” in Latin – originally means “to contaminate” or “decay”, moderator Constanze Abratzky said when opening the evening. However, corruption could also have an inspiring effect, for example in the critical reception by the arts. The second part of the project IRRESISTIBLE? due to take place in Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova in autumn 2017, will focus on precisely that aspect, Katharina Görig of the Goethe-Institut in Kiev said when opening the discussion with Constanze Abratzky. Among the events are the exhibition The Great Cube, a number of theatre performances and a film festival. The penetration of corruption into the field of culture has encouraged the aesthetic engagement with the issue, according to Görig.

Civic obstacle course

IRRESISTIBLE? – A symposium on the phenomenon of corruption - Culture against corruptionIRRESISTIBLE? – A symposium on the phenomenon of corruption (© bpb/Dorothea Tuch)
The film show opened with the short film Livoberezhna by director Oleksiy Radynski. Livoberezhna (link) was created for the project IRRESISTIBLE?. The images, very quiet and atmospheric, first show an unfinished building in Ukraine hidden behind a white cover. Other shots show more unfinished or “dilapidated” buildings. The last take culminates in the meeting between the German infrastructure minister and Vitali Klitschko, currently mayor of Kiev. Katharina Mishenko, curator of the Goethe-Institut, explained that the depiction of the meeting was a symbol of hope, but it was dashed because of the great number of unfinished buildings and bridges. The director perceives a “civic obstacle course” in the city of Kiev, since it is rather difficult to move around because of the multitude of unfinished buildings.
The film leaves it to the viewer to see the connection with corruption, which is not particularly difficult because of the suggestive impact of the images.

Everyday nature of corruption

To understand the following film, Art of Giving by Stanislav Menzelevskyi, Anna Onufrienko and Oleksandr Teliuk, the word “blat” is crucial, Abratzky pointed out when introducing it. “Blat” stands for a relationship that gives a person access to something; it could be seen as a kind of currency.
IRRESISTIBLE? – A symposium on the phenomenon of corruption - Culture against corruptionIRRESISTIBLE? – A symposium on the phenomenon of corruption (© bpb/Dorothea Tuch)
Adapting scenes of Soviet and post-Soviet films from the archives, the focus is on types of corruption commented on with cinematic and musical means. It ends with the slogan: “Blat is an art of giving.” Curator Mishenko stressed that the film addressed the everyday nature of corruption that had become deeply ingrained in body and soul. The last film in the show was Mezhygirya by Volodymyr Tykhyy. Shot in the fashion of a documentary, it deals with the Law on Access to Public Information in Ukraine (2011) and the corrupt machinations of former President Viktor Yanukovych, which had been quoted as examples in several earlier discussions at the symposium.

Culture against corruption?

After the show, a panel discussion looked at Culture against corruption. Curator Mishenko reported that Yanukovych's former villa had been turned into a museum, which enabled artists to deal with the issue indirectly. Moderator Katharina Raabe wanted to know about the artistic value of documentary films. Artist Leon Kahane spoke of his own experience, describing what he sees a trend in the arts to move from the abstract to the concrete.
IRRESISTIBLE? – A symposium on the phenomenon of corruption - Culture against corruptionIRRESISTIBLE? – A symposium on the phenomenon of corruption (© bpb/Dorothea Tuch)
Yet is art really able to play a role in the fight against corruption, and can it be used as an effective anti-corruption agent? In the view of politician and journalist Serhij Leshchenko, works of art such as those shown here account for a large part of the resistance against the system. It is important to make known the enormous extent of corruption, because awareness of the problem is absent in many cases. Art could also help to come to grips with the past, Mishenko added. The iconic imagery of corruption used, for example in Art of Giving, has deep roots in everyday life.

Friendship and corruption

Cultural activities are also imbued with corruption, Rael Artel, head of the Art Museum in Tartu, Estonia, warned. However, it is difficult to draw an accurate line between corruption and normal, friendly cooperation. Often, resources circulate between certain artists, and the awarding of commissions reveals the fine line between friendship and corruption.
Artist Kahane replied that the art scene depended on cooperation and relationships that had grown in the course of working together. Accusing curators of corruption because they award a commission to an artist they know from previous good and smooth collaboration is problematic as this makes real corruption relative.
IRRESISTIBLE? – A symposium on the phenomenon of corruption - Culture against corruptionIRRESISTIBLE? – A symposium on the phenomenon of corruption (© bpb/Dorothea Tuch)
Raabe noted that the ambiguous and varied employment of the term corruption leads to its inflationary use. Corruption should be limited to the economic, political and social sphere. With regard to the role of the arts in fighting corruption, Kahane pointed out that the currently widespread politicization of artistic work and of artists themselves could lead to abridged narratives of complex content. It is not in the nature of artists to be scientists, and rarely are they experts in certain politicized areas; they are often only able to deal with an issue in the short-term, which some works of art also show. The evening ended with finger food and drinks enjoyed alfresco in the FORUM Factory in Kreuzberg, with many more occasions for interesting exchanges with the panellists until late at night.

Summary: Simon Clemens

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