Freedom of expression, 2008 - 2009

Problem Outline

Forming of an authoritarian state structure, a raw-material economy based on monopoly of state corporations, and limited freedom of expression and free enterprise are characteristics of political and economic situation in Russia. While level of bureaucracy and profits of oil companies go up, well-being of people and quality of life go down; pressure on democratic rights and freedoms leads to isolation of communities, marginalization of independent innovative cultural practices, and a lack of perspectives for self-expression, especially for creative young people.

Search of enemies inside and outside the country becomes a pattern of the national politics. In cultural field such politics suggest a refuse to recognize foreign experiences and to explore other cultures, languages and viewpoints. In these circumstances development of international contacts is again of a significant importance. It could contribute both to translating best foreign practices and to overcoming growing international isolation. It is of a particular importance to promote contemporary arts and culture which could secure openness towards developments of democratic and pluralistic models.

Cultural sector is not recognized by the state as an important one. State monopoly in the field of cultural heritage, a wide network of the cultural institutions controlled by the state seem to be strong enough not to leave a space for «marginal culture» - galleries, independent theatres, artists, clubs, journals and etc. to realize their projects. At the same time a new cultural sector depending on grant support and its own entrepreneurial activities, is experiencing difficult times. Aside from lack of financial resources, another problem is absence of space for presentations and communications with communities. Creative industries are an important part of contemporary cultural practices. Nowadays most of independent cultural institutions work as social entrepreneurs and they need all kinds of support. It is the sector which contributes to the development of democratic ideas and innovative cultural practices. Entrepreneurial activities in the field of culture secure sustainability of the projects and make them more independent from the state bureaucracy.

Creative people are main capital of the countries with post-industrial economies. One of the critical issues in contemporary Russia is a brain drain, and especially as regard to young creative people who see greater opportunities to realize their intellectual, civic and spiritual potential outside Russia. Just as the personages of the Chekhov's plays were aspired «to Moscow", young fashion designers, architects, art-managers and artists are inclined to leave for London, New York and other more free and creative cities. This intention is no longer completely determined by ideological issues or financial problems. Young creative people look for freedom of creativity, freedom of self-expression and entrepreneurship, search for a special «density» of creative milieu. Providing more opportunities for self-realization of young creative professionals could change climate in the society and prevent creative people from leaving the country.

Culture is a good point to start talking about burning issues which otherwise provoke aggression and extremism. Such issues as development of tolerance and democratic way of thinking, etc. could be solved with the use of «cultura» approach. It is important to stimulate creativity and freedom of self-expression because these are inseparable from freedom and democracy.

Project Aims:

  • Stimulate development of a democratic cultural policy in the Russian regions to secure freedom of creativity and self-expression; Develop creative industries and cultural entrepreneurship in the Russian regions;

  • Strengthen local communities through cultural and creative activities;

  • Develop a Russian model of «creative communities» (creative clusters) in pilot-cities, based on combination of creative and cultural resources, openness, and self-expression of each citizen.

Project Tasks:

  • Promote new projects in the field of contemporary art and creative industries in the regions;

  • Research and presentations of creative and cultural resources of the participating regions;

  • Inclusion of young people into a discussions on problematic social issues;

  • Development of a network of young creative professionals in the regions.

Relevance of the Project:

The project uses complex approach and combines an interactive performance, discussion program and a seminar aimed to develop local projects and to unite creative young people, representatives of cultural sector, universities and local authorities. It gives an opportunity to present innovative cultural project and to initiate discussions of important social issues. At the same time the project stimulates young regional professionals to create their own initiatives and enables them with new technologies of work.

General framework for the project is formation of a creative community model. Development of creative communities includes close attention to problems and needs of citizens, opportunities to realize creative potential of a community through innovative cultural projects, open communications and increasing number of spaces where new cultural products could be produced and presented - companies in creative industries sector and creative clusters uniting companies and people. Development of creative communities means also public events with participation of many people (performances, exhibits, public discussions).

Another vital feature of the project is its focus on Russian regions. Today in Moscow one can see rather active development of new cultural initiatives - cultural entrepreneurs settle in former factories and plants and convert them into cultural centers. Anyhow active people in the regions are lacking information and technologies to create similar places. With regard to the development of creative industries it is planned to work with Krasnoyarsk, Petrozavodsk, Samara and Vladivostok.

Project Partners:

Josef Bois Theatre

Regional partners in Krasnoyarsk, Petrozavodsk, Samara, Vladivostok

Actions:

Project includes an interactive performance «A Society of Anonymous Artists», discussions «Creativity in Contemporary World», and seminars «Creative Industries - Entrepreneurship in Culture» to be organized in five cities (Krasnoyarsk, Petrozavodsk, Vladivostok, Samara, and Moscow).

Interactive performance «A Society of Anonymous Artists» is a further development of artistic experiment initiated by a creative group of Georg Genoux, Arman Bekenov and Nina Belenitskaya and realized in the form of interactive performance «Democracy.doc».

Famous German artist Josef Bois claims that every person is an artist. This idea is underlying for the performance. Accompanied by the performance leaders, the spectators take part in a story which is created right in their presence. The talk concerns creative ability of a person and spectators will be able to discover their own talents. The talk on creativity will not be limited to the arts, paintings, music or cinema. A person's life, his/her biography will be regarded as a creative process.

The performance leaders are Vera Polozkova, a young poetess, well-known in a Russian part of Internet. Vera Polozkova, at her young age of 22, has managed to publish a collection of poems and to become one of the most popular authors of the Russian Livejournal. And Mikhail Kaluzhsky - a journalist, columnist and a public figure who has a great experience of working in the regions.

The performance takes place in a small hall, which instead of a usual stage has an open space in front of the spectators' chairs. When the audience enters the hall, performance leaders are already there, on «the scene» and they talk to each other about creativity and realities of contemporary life. Gradually the leaders get people involved in this informal talk. Each spectator can enter on the scene and speak for oneself, his/her own creative experience and credo. Thus each performance presents a new story about different people and their lives.

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Supported by the Open Society Institute www.soros.org