Nika Dubrovsky is an artist who believes everyone is an artist.
Originally from Russia, where, after an education in visual arts, she was involved with the cultural underground of the 80s, she immigrated to the United States in 1989, right after the communist regime fell. Interestingly, once in the US, Nika seemed to take up the same position she had under totalitarianism, in circles of cultural critics and activist.
One of Nika’s recent projects is the Museum of Care, the concept of which comes from an essay of the same name which she wrote with her late husband, David Graeber, during the pandemic of 2020. The essay imagines a world in which the office buildings left empty by lockdowns are turned into communal spaces, or Museums of Care, after the pandemic, the way royal palaces were turned into state museums after the French and Russian revolutions. The idea of art, and the place of art and the artist, are important to Nika Dubrovsky’s, and for that matter David Graeber’s, cultural critique, which is why I wanted to interview Nika for this podcast.
Nika and I talk about the underground art scene in Soviet Russia, the Proletkult, in which everyone is an artist, the idea of direct vs. indirect action, the creation of autonomous zones, like the Zapatista communities or Rozhava, and at the end I ask Nika three questions about her article, co-written with David Graeber, “Another Art World” which critiques art institutions as they exist today – among other things.
❤️ Time stamps (please add 30 seconds to account for the intro):
03:14 – Nika’s origins and Samizdat
06:27 – The Museum of Care
10:50 – “The Government is the Government, the State is the State” (and meeting David Graeber)
13:29 – Visual Assembly, the Role of the Artist, Proletkult and how Everyone is an Artist
20:02 – The War Against the Imagination
23:20 – Storytelling, Creative Refusal, Schizmogenesis
24:44 – Technology
26:39 – Extinction Rebellion and Direct vs. Indirect Action
30:50 – Taking direct action and autonomous zones
40:15 – The Mona Lisa and Its Value
42:09 – Three Questions About Another Art World
42:47 – A Summary of “Another Art World”
44:17 – Question 1: Isn’t the internet a social experiment in what happens when everyone can be a creator and, if so, why are there still winners and losers?
01:00:40 – Question 2: Even if everyone should have the access to the means of producing art, isn’t art also an act of service which requires expertise?
01:12:29 – Question 3: Why use the word “communism”?
The Museum of Care website: https://museum.care/
The Museum of Care (article): https://davidgraeber.org/articles/the-museum-of-care-reimagining-the-world-after-pandemic/
David Graeber Institute: https://davidgraeber.org/
Another Art World (essay): https://www.e-flux.com/journal/102/284624/another-art-world-part-1-art-communism-and-artificial-scarcity/
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