Radio "October"

My first encounter with the workers at the paper factory "October" took place in 2008. I participated in the exhibition "Politics in the Street" and was gathering unneeded factory rubbish for my project. I was given two assistants - Natalia Alekseeva and Vera Andreevna - senior workers who had worked there for over 20 years. Over the following years, I often went back to the factory with exhibition projects. During one of those return visits, while collecting materials for the exhibition "The Machine and Natasha", I found out that during the Soviet era the factory used to have a radiostation. The radio room used to be in the same place where the manager's office is now. In order to keep the workers' spirits up and their energy level high, for dozens of years, from that room were broadcast the workers' favorite Soviet pop songs by Kobzon, Obodzinsky, Pugacheva, etc.

That story stayed in my memory. I really wanted to bring back that radio for the workers who were still there. I knew, of course, that it would be impossible to do that in the same way as it had been done in the 1960 -1980s. There weren't neither that many listeners (only 10 people had remained from the large factory staff), nor proper workshops (there was only 1 functioning workshop and even it functioned only one month a year at most). The only remaining option was that I, together with the remaining workers, would create a temporary radio station whose broadcasts would become a radio show about the everyday of the factory workers!

Have you ever thought about how the cutting room team works and how they live in the midst of contemporary art? If you're just a viewer, you most probably haven't. And if you have a stronger connection to the production cycle of contemporary art, you've probably thought about this but only from a functional point of view. Having retained some traces of craftsmanship, contemporary art is surely and irrevocably acquiring the characteristics of a collective industrial production. It's not just that the quality of the artistic teams with a clear division of labor is often clearly higher than the quality of one-man works. And it's not just that the production's quality indicators are undoubtedly the best, especially in a situation where quality is relative in nature. In order to create the radio broadcast, while working on the Biennial exhibit, I stationed myself with the assembly team and refused to participate in any other projects. My initial thought was to produce a critical project against the Biennial movement but then it became obvious to me that this doesn't make any sense. The Biennial movement can no longer be a suitable target for criticism. I figured out that I actually need to feature a criticism of contemporary art as a particular means of capitalist production.
Because, it's not a secret to anyone that the specifics of the work relationships in the sphere of art put the artist at cross purposes with the small-scale coworkers. Regardless if he wants this or not, the artist relates to the cutting room team (and in the case of a real working factory - to the workers) as an exploiter. The only way to participate in such a system is to be on the side of the workers and turn their everyday routine into an artistic act.

I had already started my work when I learned about the existence of a small play called "Radio 'October'", written by the revolutionary poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and the theorist of industrial art Osip Brick in 1926. The play is about a celebration of the ninth anniversary of the October Revolution at a time when the bankers and the government decide to enslave the workers all over again. Fortunately, the full of hope appeal coming from the radio is a reminder of the great achievements of the proletariat from all around the world and a call for all workers to continue the fight. The plot of this play may sound utopian now. Nevertheless, the hundred-year old problems still haven't lost their relevance, even though they may require new solutions today.

Radio "October" is a radio show recorded on several vinyl records and created from collated sound bites from workers of the paper factory "October" as they're assembling special projects for the 4th Biennial of Contemporary Art in Moscow. The audio installation will be set up in the workers' changing room right next to the closest workshop. The access of viewers to the room will be approved by the workers and will be granted only with their permission. I earned the money necessary for the project implementation in one month of work as an assemblyman in CCI PROEKT_FABRIKA.

Arseniy Zhilyaev