The notion of power is normalised on the basis of the masculine, patriarchal and agonistic forms. The measures of the success and effectiveness in power structures in any societal organisations, from political to art institutions, are bound to this canon as if it is ‘natural’. The purpose of this seminar is explore mechanisms of perverting the concept of power towards feminine and queer alternatives.
Per/verting the Power Vertical (PPV) departs from the analysis of the notion of Power Vertical in the “Global East” from diachronic and synchronic perspective. The “Global East” is an enormous, inchoate territory, encompassing myriad distinct political and economic systems, as well as cultural and aesthetic proclivities. However, for all its diversity, the territories of the Global East are tangibly marked by the mutually-intelligible legacies of state socialism – a collapsed (but lingering) systemic cosmos centred around Moscow: from interlinked typologies of prefabricated housing, to the spatial and stylistic effects of shortage economies, to the everyday rhetorics and aesthetics of hyper- centralised bureaucracy (and the attendant modes of irony, satire, over-identification and subversion). This project deploys the notion of the Power Vertical – a term used by political scientists to refer to Vladimir Putin’s brand of post-Soviet authoritarian governance – as a conceptual pivot. What are the aesthetics of the Power Vertical? Are they resolutely upright and ostentatious, like Moscow’s proliferating neo-Stalinist skyscrapers and turbo-charged Victory Day Parades? Or are they happy-go-lucky, dissipate and chaotic, like Putin’s villainous trickster wink (or Trump’s insomniac Twitter sessions)? Moreover, in the era of resurgent populisms, re-militarisation and the oligarchisation of capital, are the styles, shapes (and PASSIONS) of the Power Vertical making a mark on the global political-aesthetic New Normal? While seeking to make sense of the Power Vertical, this project also looks beyond it, exploring the heterodox shapes, styles and ideologies populating the Global East, and emanating from it to the wider world. Moreover, it aims to probe ways in which scholars can collaborate with artists, architects and activists from across the Global East: not only to analyse the Power Vertical (not only to take the Power Vertical seriously), but also to develop tactics and strategies to ridicule, trick, twist, undercut, queer, resist and pervert it.
One of the goals of Power Vertical is to consolidate an as horizontal-as-possible network/community/collectivity of people (scholars, writers, activists, architects, artists, professionals and amateurs of all kinds), who work on or are interested in the politics and aesthetics of the Global East: both across different faculties within UCL (students and researchers at SSEES, Bartlett, The Slade, Art History, Geography and other faculties working on common themes are unaware of each other’s existence), beyond the university, across London and further afield. We will encourage members of our community to recommend invitees for our seminar series. A priority is to invite as many speakers as possible who live in East Europe, Eurasia and the broadly-defined Global East itself, rather than those who are based in the UK or at UK universities (although the latter will by no means be excluded from the work of PPV).
PPV is convened by Michał Murawski (Lecturer in Critical Area Studies,SSEES), Masha Mileeva (Teaching Fellow, Art History), Denis Maksimov (co-founder, Avenir Institute). PPV is co-organised by a committee of research students and early career scholars from across UCL, led by Dzmitry Suslau (PhD student, SSEES/Anthropology), Eleanor Rees (PhD student, SSEES), Marta Zboralska (PhD student, Art History), Nadezhda Gobova (PhD student, Bartlett), Marta Kotwas (PhD student, SSEES) and Marko Ilić (Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, SSEES).