The fourth informal urban initiatives conference Delai Sammit took place at the ZIL Cultural center in Moscow on April 19-20.
The Delai Sammit / DIY Conference is the embodiment of practical philosophy of personal involvement and collective action with the idea of changing oneselves, one´s society and cities. The conference provides space for learning and interaction among people who are not indifferent to their cities. The Delai Sammit focuses on the most interesting and effective cases of civil actions and initiatives aimed at creating a friendlier urban space. (http://delaisam.org)
I was due to go to Moscow anyway and, after hearing about this event from partizaning.org. I suggested help with the running of the event. I wanted to be involved and get to know people. I wanted to go home and do something, something other than stuffing my face with sushi and stocking up on buckwheat.
My role turned out to be awkwardly announcing the speakers, keeping the time by discreetly waving A4 sheets of paper with the minutes left and running after the lovely sound technicians when the mic ran out of batteries. The job was tiring and a bit stressful as I was very conscious of my Russian with an Irish accent (last time I had to come on stage and make sense through the Russian language had been over 10 years ago).
Initiated by the civil initiatives community:Ecowiki.ru Community Project, Partizaning Project, Moscow Youth Multifunction Center, Guerilla Gardening Movement, Greenhouse of Social Technologies Project and opened by Darya Melissina and Tatyana Kargina, the festival had four strands: Urbanism, Street Art, Self-Organization and Advocacy.
The Sammit was launched with lectures and discussions on April 19. The Green Room, where I volunteered, presented the speakers:
Daniel Latorre (USA) — expert of Project for public space (PPS), ideologist of the Digital placemaking concept that has been used to develop and implement online tools for changing urban space by the citizens. Daniel spoke of the importance of public spaces in the lives of the citizens both as physical entities and symbols. He discussed the Gutenberg parenthesises and the invention of printing press as the start of nations and control. He presented social media and map making for understanding and communicating social movements. Some examples of post-digital networking techniques that he discussed included taxi drivers as agents for revolution in the East. His lecture was followed by a workshop that took place on Sunday.
Alain Bieber, art critic, curator and author of Rebelart.net, one of the most influential street art and art activism blogs, and books Art Agenda and Urban Interventions.
Margarita Augustin, specialist in Art History, researcher at the Department of Art History at the University of Freiburg (Germany). A great text my Margarita is here (in Russian).
Sasha Kurmaz, street artist and photographer from Kiev. He showed photographs from Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kiev, the place or the protests, barricades and fights. Through his photography he captured the ways that people coped with the long-term living on the street. He was amazing.
Vladimir Turner (Czech Republic), urban interventionist who combines documentary techniques, urban art and activism in his works. He spoke of the gallery as a graveyard of street art, stating that an exhibition by recently deceased Pasha 183 in Moscow Museum of Modern Art is taken out of context in MOMMA and looks like an “MTV skate shop decoration”. “The gallery isn’t the street the street is the gallery”. Dejecting any kind of commercial art, he spoke of ethical choices we make when agreeing to exhibit or sell out art.
Other talks were presented by Transparency Russia, Greenpeace, and Richard Reynolds of Guerrilla Gardening Raimonds Elbakjans, director of the youth street culture and sports movement Ghetto Games to name a few.
Speakers from Ukraine were most certainly the ones I found the most exciting, challenging and inspiring. Activist and artist Alexandr Wolodarskij spoke about volunteer medical help in Kiev during the protests. He really was unreal. I bought his book. There was a stall by Radical Theory and Practice independent publisher, presenting translated anarchist writings, as well as books by Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian artists and activist.
Sunday, April 20th was a working day.
World art activism fair under the curatorship of Alan Bieber, focused on privacy and surveillance. Hairstyles to cheat face recognition devices and mobile phone cases that insure privacy were some of the highlights of the fair. There was a fashion show at the end that presented all the work made throughout the weekend.
Daniel Latorre conducted a Hackathon, a marathon of developing new useful web services and mobile applications for active citizenship. The task was to develop a concept for a self-organised place for meetings, art shows, exchange of knowledge and skills.
I participated in the discussion on activism, where we talked about the structure of the place. We decided on the format of an apartment, with kitchen to host cooking lessons, lunches, and philosophical discussions. The sitting room was dedicated to art and performance, the nursery – for kids activities, the study – for workshops and presentations, the garage -for cycling enthusiasts, library for books and the balcony/yard – for gardening and outdoor games, etc..
Daniel suggested some practical techniques for testing the concept – for example calling a friend and explaining the idea and the title and seeing if they understand it, or approaching a person in a park and chatting to them about the idea.
The organization was great, bar the strange location in the building (we practically sat on a stairwell) and hence terrible acoustics.
I went because I wanted to meet the people who live, work and make in the country where there is no democracy. I wanted to gain faith and I did. I met some amazing people. There was no talk about politics. No complains about the lack of funding or the bureaucracy. People just got together and got on with it.
I wanted to be somewhat useful. I don’t know if I was actually any good, but hey I kept the place going for a day, even if my oratorical skills are not the best.
Everyone was really lovely though, even the presenters whose names I got wrong, or the projector stopped working on them, or the presentation got delay – the usual perks. Tanya and Dasha, the organizers, were great and mostly left me to my own devices. There was no break at all, but the lentil cutlets and vegan carrot cake from EkaLoka kept me going.
Overall, I loved it. Definitely learnt a lot.
Photography: Anastasia Artemeva and Aleksandra Sapygina