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On AICA On Ukraine

Post #1913 • March 14, 2022, 2:31 PM

Last fall I submitted an abstract to the 53rd Congress of the International Association of Art Critics, titled “Art After Liberalism.” They rejected it, so I ran a crowdfunding campaign on its behalf and published the paper on my blog. In severe summary, the essay made the point that liberalism, the order that originated in the West which emphasizes tolerance, equality, individual rights, and market economics, is foundering, and that competing visions of progressive and conservative postliberalism had begun battling for the future.

This has now devolved into a hot war. NATO represents interests in the Biden regime and its allies in Canada and Europe, and is progressive postliberal. Russia is conservative postliberal. Ukraine is complicated. Ukrainian-Russian tensions go back more than a century and Ukraine itself is divided between nationalists and Russophiles who have been killing one another periodically for that entire time. Nationalist combatants in the present conflict turn up regularly in photographs sporting the Wolfsangel or the Black Sun. (Apologists for the Azov Battalion say that the crossed Wolfsangel should be read “IN,” as an abbreviation for National Idea, or Ideya Natsiyi. Roll that bit of Ukrainian around on your tongue and ask yourself if it reminds you of anything.) Their commander-in-chief is a member of the progressive postliberal World Economic Forum and a Jew. It is a coalition of enemies of enemies all the way down. Remember how the United States funded anti-Soviet, highly factionalized Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, and bin Laden emerged from the ensuing chaos? Imagine that, all over again, but this time with neo-Nazis instead of Islamofascists, and you have a fair idea of what's going on and how well it promises to turn out.

It is possible to take no one's side here except the hapless civilians, and I would argue that this is the only moral stance. Putin is the unambiguous aggressor and much blood stains his hands. That said, NATO has been flicking his ear for his entire tenure. Evidence of United States interference in the election that installed Zelenskyy abounds. Also it turns out that the US has for some time been supporting lethal biohazard research in Ukraine. (This is not a conspiracy theory. The legacy media has been doing everything in its power to characterize that long-known fact as misinformation, which now means “here's some information you missed because it makes the progressive postliberal regime look like liars and idiots and we're trying to suppress it.”) The calamitous withdrawal from Afghanistan led by our senescent, speech-slurring president raises the reasonable question of why Russia should feel reluctant to tolerate such activity in a bordering state.

Meanwhile, the WEF wants to put the world under the yoke of a network of progressive postliberal despots who can cut off dissidents from healthcare, travel, voting rights, commerce, or even money itself at the push of a button. And as always, Nazis suck. One wishes that all of these bad actors would join hands and skip merrily off of a cliff.

This brings us to AICA's recent statement in support of Ukraine. Most of it is banal.

AICA International (International Association of Art Critics) expresses deep sadness at the news of current military actions against Ukraine, ordered by the leadership of the Russian Federation and condemns all acts of military violence.

AICA International expresses solidarity with all the people affected by this conflict and strongly appreciates all actions undertaken so far by our members engaged in humanitarian help.

AICA International summons the parties involved with the war to respect civilians and to preserve cultural heritage, as a global patrimony and an irreplaceable treasure for the local culture and identity.

Et cetera. My issue here is that I have been a member of AICA for eleven years and this is the first instance I can recall of the organization taking a side in a military conflict. Then we get to this, emphasis mine:

It is time to show our solidarity and humanitarian assistance to support public and private actors in the cultural sector of Ukraine. It is a joint responsibility to cease all forms of support and cooperation with the Moscow regime and Russian state institutions, and not to accept the presence of Russian representation at international art events.

Pardon me, what does this organization profess to do again?

As currently stated, AICA’s main objectives are:

- to promote art criticism as a discipline and contribute to its methodology

- to protect the ethical and professional interests of its Members and co-operate in defending their rights

- to maintain an active international network for its Members, with the aid of available technologies and encouragement of face-to-face encounters

- to contribute to mutual understanding of visual arts and aesthetics in all cultures

- to stimulate professional relationship across political, geographical, ethnic, economic and religious boundaries

- to defend impartially freedom of expression and thought and oppose arbitrary censorship.

In other words, AICA has thrown its principles in the geopolitical trash fire and has fully joined the progressive postliberal regime as it agitates towards greater conflict with conservative postliberalism. The above URL links to supplementary statements from regional AICA chapters. This hails from AICA sections of several Eastern European nations:

The Boards of Regional Sections of AICA in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia strongly condemn all acts of military violence undertaken on Ukrainian territory by the forces of Russia and Belarus. We also declare solidarity with the victims of the onslaught and look with hope at their heroic defense of their country. Слава Україні! Glory to Ukraine!

At the same time, we appeal to all artists, cultural workers and institutions in the region, but also in all other democratic countries, to take immediate steps within their capacities to support the citizens of Ukraine and their culture.... Organizations that already engage in ongoing humanitarian assistance to war victims should become role models for galleries, museums and festivals across Europe. We also support public and private actors in the cultural sector who cease all forms of support for the Moscow regime and its allies. In the face of the war declared by Russia, it is unacceptable today to cooperate with the country's state institutions as well as the oligarchs who support President Putin's actions, nor to accept the presence of Russian representation at international art events.

“Glory to Ukraine”? Some of us are old enough to remember the 52nd International AICA Congress, in 2019. The theme was Art Criticism in Time of Populism and Nationalism.

Due to globalisation, migration and ecological problems, critical voices and politicised statements get more and more popular in this world. The increase of nationalism and the rejection of alien cultures, guided by fear and uncertainty due to real threats like civil wars and terrorist attacks, are part of this. Artists pay more and more attention to phenomena like these, the politically motivated focus of investigation thereby poses a particular challenge for art criticism....

In order to be heard and to position art as an expression of society rather than as a luxury good and financial investment, the intervention of critique in cultural-political debates about "populist" decisions by influential actors seems unavoidable – with a view to international developments as well as to one's "own front door". What other power does art criticism have in dealing with neo-nationalism, racism and discrimination?

One of the proposed topics was the “effects of populism, Neo-Nationalism and censorship in art critical practice challenge of critique through populism as a topic and style of artistic practice.” Papers were read with titles like “Social Sadism as Free Speech,” “Art Criticism in Times of Political Polarization,” “Anti-Feminist Lexical Arsenals of Spanish National-Populism,” “Democracy in on the Defensive: East European Art Criticism in the Era of Illiberal Globalisation,” and “Populism vs Democracy and Social Media.” (It should be remembered that nationalism was implicated, with scorn, in the 2016 election of Trump. I witnessed an internal discussion at AICA-USA from the following year in which one member—now on the board—declared his disgust at the rest of us that we tolerate the membership of a single professed Trump supporter.) In three years the organization went from regarding nationalism as the most dire scourge of the era, to calling for cultural boycotts on behalf of Ukrainian sovereignty and mouthing anti-Russia jingoism that would have made Ronald Reagan feel self-conscious.

AICA Italy, to its credit, stated that “Our closeness is also directed to the entire community of Italian artists who have been working with dedication abroad for years, building important ethical values with the Ukrainians to make solidarity and brotherhood flourish.” AICA Ukraine snapped at them:

The rhetoric in the letter of the Italian colleagues could have taken place before the Russian boot plundered our land. At a time when Russian missiles are flying overhead, Russian projectiles are literally destroying hospitals and schools. During 13 days of war, the Russians took the lives of 40 innocent Ukrainian children and wounded hundreds more. The question of solidarity with these people is not relevant! Warm appeals to "brotherly love" and "sharing of knowledge about diversity of cultures" eloquently testify to the ignorance and misunderstanding of the real situation.

The AICA Ukraine expresses its deepest indignation at the position of Nuova AICA Italia and considers such statements inadmissible in light of the brutal bloodshed brought to our land by the Russian nation.

With all due respect to AICA Ukraine, only the Italians seem to remember what AICA is for. In a separate statement from AICA Italy to their colleagues in Russia:

We also condemn any type of censorship in Italy which could occur in schools, universities, exhibitions and events and which could attack the historical and cultural heritage of Russia. Malevich, Dostoevskij, Tchaikovsky, to give examples, must not be exploited by war and by the political ideologies of any Country.

That ought to be the express position of the parent organization, as such figures are prejudicially removed from arts programming the world over and Western arts entities are now basically demanding disloyalty oaths from Russian artists.

War is vile, but it's facile to condemn bombing and not the ethos that leads to bombing, which is interventionism. It is hypocritical in the extreme to deplore nationalism except when it promotes globalist interests. All who remained silent as Xi Jinping and Justin Trudeau crushed recent peaceful protests may continue their silence, as far as I'm concerned, regarding Putin's lack of appetite for human rights. And it will not do to cherish Ukrainian sovereignty while maligning individual sovereignty out of the other side of your mouth.

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