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WHAT IS DEMOCRACY?, A film by Oliver Ressler

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Oliver Ressler


A film by Oliver Ressler
118 min., 2009

“What is democracy?” is not one question, but is actually two questions.
On the one hand, the question relates to conditions of the current,
parliamentary representative democracies that are scrutinized critically
in this project. On the other hand, the question traces different
approaches to what a more democratic system might look like and which
organizational forms it could take.

The project asked “What is democracy?” to numerous activists and
political analysts in 15 cities around the world, in Amsterdam,
Berkeley, Berlin, Bern, Budapest, Copenhagen, Moscow, New York, Rostock,
San Francisco, Sydney, Taipei, Tel Aviv, Thessaloniki and Warsaw.
The interviews have been recorded on video since January 2007. Even
though all interviewees were asked the same question, the result was a
multiplicity of different perspectives and viewpoints from people living
in states that are usually labeled “democracies”.

This pool of interviews builds the basis for a film in eight parts,
which (re)presents a kind of global analysis about the deep political
crises of the Western democratic model. In one video, Adam Ostolski
(Warsaw) explains that originally “the modern idea of democracy was
connected to the notion of progress” and parliamentary states “had some
tendency to become more and more democratic by including new types of
political actors, such as workers and women. […] But since the 1980s,
since the neoliberal trend in politics and economy we have a regression
of democracy.” Lize Mogel (New York) notes that situation changed in
such a way, that when you think about representative democracy today
“you are not necessarily talking about individuals being represented,
but more capital being represented.” Nikos Panagos (Thessaloniki) even
argues that “representation and democracy are incompatible terms.
Therefore, under no circumstances could the present system be called a
democracy. It is just a sophisticated form of oligarchy.” While some
subjects in the videos elaborate their ideas of direct democracy or
decision-making processes of indigenous communities, David McNeill
(Sydney) raises the issue of whether it makes sense “to continue
contesting for the right to own and define the term democracy” or
whether “it has been so corrupted and polluted by the conservatives that
claimed ownership of it, that it is better to be surrendered.”

The film discusses the contested notion of “democracy”, which is misused
for the maintenance of order by those in power, while at the same time
“democracy” still represents an ideal hundreds of million people in the
South desperately want to achieve. Today it seems almost impossible to
be against “democracy”, even though it is getting emptier and emptier. A
potential strategy could try to fill what is called “democracy” with new
meaning. In this sense, the film presents a multi-layered discourse on
democracy, which expresses a broad field of opinions that go beyond the
borders of nation-states and continents.

The eight parts of the film have the following titles: “Rethinking
representation”, “Politics of exclusions”, “Secrecy instead of
democratic transparency”, “New democracies?”, “Is representative
democracy a democracy?”, “Direct democracy”, “Reclaiming Indigenous
politics” and “Should we consign the Western democracy model to the ash
heap of history?”

Concept, interviews, camera and sound recording: Oliver Ressler
Interviewees: Kuan-Hsing Chen, Noortje Marres, Lin Chalozin Dovrat,
Thanasis Triaridis, Tone Olaf Nielsen, Jo van der Spek, Cheikh Papa
Sakho, Wolf Dieter Narr, Tiny a.k.a. Lisa Gray-Garcia, Joanna Erbel,
Yvonne Riano, Trevor Paglen, Tadeusz Kowalik, Adam Ostolski, Boris
Kagarlitsky, Michal Kozlowski, Lize Mogel, Rick Ayers, Nikos Panagos,
Macha Kurzina, Gabor Csillag, Zachary Running Wolf, Jenny Munroe, David
Video editing and production: Oliver Ressler
Image editing and subtitles: David Grohe
Animation: Zanny Begg
Composition and sound editing: Rudi Gottsberger
Footage: Sierpien 80 (© Telewizja Polska S.A.)
Special thanks to Louisa Avgita, Kai Bauer, Zanny Begg, Karen Bennett,
Christine Boehler, Paul Chatterton, Amy Cheng, Eyal Danon, Hilla Dayan,
Miklos Erhardt, Takis Fotopoulos, Frédérique Gautier, Peter Grabher, Hou
Hanru, Laila Huber, Manray Hsu, Jens Kastner, Caroline Lensing-Hebben,
Geert Lovink, Margarethe Makovec, Davor Miskovic, Nikos Panagos, Ted
Purves, Gerald Raunig, Natalia Romik, Walter Seidl, Katharina Schlieben,
Gregory Sholette, Kuba Szreder, Nora Theiss, Dmitry Vilensky, Tom Waibel
Translation for English subtitles: Harold Otto
Translation for German subtitles: Otmar Lichtenwörther
Translation for French subtitles: Lucile Gourraud-Beyron

Grants: ERSTE Foundation, Kulturamt der Steiermärkischen
Landesregierung, Kulturamt Stadt Graz, Otto-Mauer-Fonds, Biennale de
Lyon, 2009



Medienwerkstatt Wien (A), 29.11.2009, 18:00
Moderation: Maren Richter
Für weitere Veranstaltungen im Programm „Other Dimensions“ siehe:

“The Law of Capital: Histories of Oppression”, curated by Marina Gržinić
and Sebastjan Leban, Place: City Museum of Ljubljana (SI), 15.12. –
20.12.09, http://www.mestnimuzej.si

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