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Where Do You Stand on This? by M Theresa Brown

This is an article bound to bring opinions to the surface and ignite that perpetual  dialogue of "what is Art?" Read the article in its entirety before coming to any conclusions about the artists or the actual art piece and ask yourself where you stand.  Would this happen in the US? Has it happened in the US?

Is this political? A marketing ploy? Self indulgence? Enlightment or Ho hum?  Art or Hogwash? Are these really artists? Did the award committee accomplish its mission?
Controversial art

A giant penis spray-painted on a bridge has won an art prize.
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
Published: April 13, 2011 (Issue # 1651)

The controversial “Dick Taken Prisoner by the FSB” — a 65-meter penis painted on Liteiny bridge to face the FSB (former KGB) headquarters in St. Petersburg when the bridge was raised — won the Culture Ministry-backed Innovation prize at a glitzy ceremony in Moscow on Thursday.

The night of the ceremony, the key members of the radical art collective Voina, which was responsible for the art stunt, wrote a petition in defense of a recently imprisoned anarchist, ate some stolen food and were bitten by bedbugs at a secret anarchist hideout in St. Petersburg.

The 400,000-ruble ($14,288) award was given to them after weeks of a tug-of-war between culture bureaucrats, who at one point canceled Voina’s nomination, and art experts on the jury, who threatened to walk out if the art group were excluded from the competition.

“The award is our carte blanche,” said Oleg Vorotnikov, whom the group describes as its ideologist.

“Now we’ll take the mission entrusted to us by the state with full responsibility and continue to bash cops with the Liteiny Dick in a big way. As laureates of a state award, we’re allowed to do just anything!”

On Tuesday, national state bodies reacted to the award. The Public Chamber issued a statement describing giving the award to Voina as a “slap in the face of common sense and those citizens who consider the image on the Liteiny Bridge in St. Petersburg to be banal hooliganism” and accusing the Culture Ministry of “inappropriate and unprofessional behavior.”

The Culture Ministry responded that it was against nominating Voina’s artwork from the very start and that it viewed it as “hooliganish, provocative and unworthy, from both an artistic and moral point of view,” but chose not to interfere with the work of the jury, Interfax reported.

Vorotnikov, his artist wife Natalya Sokol, their toddler son Kasper and Leonid Nikolayev, the group’s “president,” do not use cell phones or even Skype in order not to be traced by counter-extremism Center E operatives. Its agents, they say, followed the artists and attacked them after a press conference they held upon the release on bail of Vorotnikov and Nikolayev, who spent three months in jail on charges of criminal mischief for another art stunt.

That offense — overturning police cars as part of a stunt titled “Palace Coup” — is complicated by accusations that their goal was to incite hatred of the police “as a social group,” and could be punished by up to seven years in prison.

Voina (War) was formed by Vorotnikov and Sokol, who were then philosophy students at Moscow State University and installation and photo artists, in 2007.

“We came to Moscow from the provinces, graduated from university and looked around: What’s happening? What’s about to happen?” Vorotnikov said.

“But it looked like nothing was happening or about to happen. Pus and vomit. We don’t want to live our lives like this.”

Vorotnikov compared Voina to Renaissance men.

“What’s the phenomenon of the Renaissance? The monks left their classrooms and cells and went out into the real world. Throughout the Middle Ages, they accumulated knowledge within monasteries and became scholars, far more educated than the aristocracy. Then they stopped hiding, went outside and impressed the world with their intellectual brilliance and many talents.

“As for us, we have gone out from art into the public sphere, into the environment of social troubles and political struggle.”

Voina’s daring and uncompromising activities have been compared to the impact once produced by punk rock.

“Punk has influenced me a lot, even if I was an A-grader in humanitarian disciplines in school (but didn’t care about math or sciences),” Vorotnikov said.

“I mean I wasn’t a punk, but I got very excited about punk, so the parallel is relevant. The only difference is that punk was about self-destruction to show that there was no future. With us it’s just the opposite, we believe that there is a future, that the future is with us and we’re creating this future for you right now.”

Both the “Palace Coup” stunt, referring to the murder of Tsar Paul I in the Mikhailovsky Castle, and the “Dick Taken Prisoner by the FSB” that was drawn near the notorious Bolshoi Dom (Big House) that was built in the 1930s to house the FSB headquarters and was a symbol of fear during the Stalin era of repressions and through to the current day, were inextricably linked to St. Petersburg.

Voina originally moved to the city after Nikolayev started to experience problems with the state security services following a political stunt in Moscow, up to the point where his mother witnessed him being seized near the entrance to his home. According to Vorotnikov, Nikolayev had a bag pulled over his head, and was pushed into a car and told he was being taken “to a forest to be liquidated.”

Vorotnikov said the art group came to St. Petersburg to participate in the banned May 31 Strategy 31 rally last year in defense of the right of assembly, and ended up staying in the city for months, having decided to make a “new career in a new town.”

“Every Voina stunt is concrete,” Vorotnikov said.

“They are born from the surrounding reality. St. Petersburg is the best city for activism that I’ve been to, and I was happy to be put in prison in the city, which is the cradle of three revolutions. The prison gave me a permanent residence here — now I’m a Petersburger.”

Vorotnikov sees Voina’s lifestyle, which includes refusing to work and living on food stolen from supermarkets, as part of the group’s art.

“Our principal position is that art doesn’t finish anywhere, because a work of art is an expansive act in its nature; it includes things, it doesn’t exclude them,” he said.

“You can’t separate works of art and hooliganism. There’s no border between them. Works of art easily include hooliganism.

“I can’t say what drives culture forward more effectively — drunk hooligans or uptight housewives. My view is an avant-garde one: We’ll build culture together.”

The decision of the jury — comprised of leading contemporary art experts — to award the prize to Voina caused backlash from a local culture official.

Speaking at the City Hall-sponsored Sergei Kuryokhin Awards ceremony in the city on Friday, the St. Petersburg culture committee chairman Anton Gubankov used the opportunity to denounce Voina.

“This is real art, while Voina is a crappy publicity stunt,” Gubankov was quoted by Fontanka.ru as saying during the ceremony.

“It’s not what Gubankov should be thinking about — his attitude to Voina, I mean,” said Vorotnikov.

“He should be thinking about where he will run away to from the people when his bosses betray him, because the people have been wishing death to officials for centuries, and now the situation has become ripe once again.”

Nikolayev and Vorotnikov were released on bail in late February after paying 300,000 rubles ($10,715) each out of the 4.5 million rubles ($160,735) donated to them by British street artist Banksy, who heard about their imprisonment on the BBC and whom they now describe as an honorary member of Voina.

Now that they are free, they say they intend to spend the Innovation prize and the rest of the money donated by Banksy on helping political prisoners.

“That’s a very important issue to us; we’ll add the Innovation money to Banksy’s millions and put it at the disposal of Russian political prisoners,” Vorotnikov said.

“Now we’re campaigning in support of Taisia Osipova, on whom Center E planted drugs and who has been in prison for five months now with a severe form of diabetes, which contravenes the law. But even that is not seemingly enough for the Center E men; now they’re taking Taisia’s five-year-old daughter Karina away from her. The mechanism of depriving her of parental rights has been put in motion.

“There are quite a few situations like this in Russia. The state makes activists rot in prisons for their political position. An end should be put to such practices!”

The Voina artists have no doubt that the current political regime in Russia will fall, but admit that the problem is bigger than that.

“We’ll get rid of the regime, it’s a little, specific problem of Russia as a whole,” Vorotnikov said.

“But what should be done with philistines who have fallen slavishly in love with the police? We don’t believe that police officers can change for the better — and inside every philistine, there’s an entire police precinct!

“We promote a heroic lifestyle, freedom in everything, a totally uncompromising stance, and the lofty ideals of the first Russian revolutionaries — the Decembrists. There are more than 200 activists in our group. The best part of society is with us forever.”



The Power of Social Networks by M Theresa Brown

The Power of Social Networks

Although I have shared my insights and successes about social networking before, mainly Facebook, there is not much I can improve upon in this article from marketing book author, Penny Sansevieri!

I am ALWAYS sharing with artists that ALL businesses operate in essentially the same fashion..and an artist's business is no different when it comes to the basics such as marketing, social networking, customer relations, etc. :-)

However, no social networking site is a magic bullet unless you can develop the discipline to keep it up! Work the areas that you can give appropriate time to...but don't use "lack of time" as an excuse not to work at least two areas online!

A nice, clearly written article from a writer's perspective!
Theresa Brown of www.ArtCareerExperts.com

The Power of Social Networks

Penny Sansevieri of www.amarketingexpert.com/

These days, you can't go into a coffee shop, bookstore, or turn on your television without hearing about social networks like Facebook, and Squidoo. These sites have exploded in recent years with members and an influx of money that's kept them growing.

The idea behind social networks isn't a new thing, but the concept of socializing online developed and morphed as more and more people spent time in front of their computers. The idea being that you could socialize, network, gather, communicate and meet friends in an online venue, rather than, let's say a coffee shop. Years ago, before social networks, we met people in clubs, organizations, bowling leagues. We may not have had "profiles" like we do on these social networking sites but the concept was still the same: like attracts like and similar interest-based people gathered in places that supported these common interests.

As we continue to delve into this Web 2.0 world, you'll start to see more niche social networking sites like those built for wine lovers, car lovers, and book lovers. The more focused a site can get, the more the network expands. And how many sites should you be on? As many as are appropriate to your message and you have time to manage. If you've got a book about cars then by all means, join the car lover's network. Got a book about travel? There's a travel lovers social network as well (we've listed a few of these niche networks further in this chapter).

Social networks, also referred to as social media, are places where people can join and become members of an online community. And why does this matter? Well, for a few reasons. First off, consider the Internet one big networking party. As such, you really want to participate, right? So you show up at the networking party (in this case Facebook or Squidoo) and you network. Meaning you connect with others who are interested in what you are doing. And much like a real-time networking event, you give first and ask for the sale later. In fact, in most cases you don't even ask for it. If you give enough, eventually you'll make the sale.

People join social networks for a variety of reasons: to socialize, share and/or self-promote. The one caveat to this is that social networks are not receptive to marketing messages or sales hype, but those sitting on these sites are looking for answers and advice. In fact your presence on a social networking site should be 80 percent education and 20 percent sales. Users on social networking sites want friends, mentors, experts and guidance. If you can offer this to a social networking site or sites, you can certainly grow your list.

The Right Way to Approach a Social Networking Site

There's an old saying that goes: fake it till you make it. This is not true of social networking. You can't fake anything. The best sites are those with an authentic voice. Social network members can sense an individual who is pretending to be just an "average joe," but is really just looking for a quick sale. The worst thing you can do is constantly promote your book.

Users join social media sites to socialize, learn and get to know what you're offering. Be helpful or be gone. That's the motto of the social networks. Remember that social media (much like anything on the Internet) is a trust-based model. You gain trust by helping, advising, educating, or enlightening your readers. Seth Godin, who started one of the best social networking sites out there today (Squidoo.com), is a great example of what to do when promoting yourself. He offers helpful advice, tips and insights but rarely promotes his book. Does he sell books? You bet he does, but he's helpful first, and a sales person second (sethgodin.typepad.com). The point is, gain someone's trust and you'll probably gain a sale, too.

Tips for Social Networking Sites

The first piece of this is to figure out what your message will be online. If you're going to expose details of your brand, book, business, or life, figure out what you want to expose or, I should say, what's necessary to expose in order to get your message across. This is important because once you start branding yourself on the 'Net via social networks, you want to be consistent.
Next, remember that the first word in social networks is "social," that being said, these networks only work if you interact with them. Whenever appropriate (and this will vary from network to network), join groups, be sociable, be interactive. Participate. You can't just show up at a party and sit in the corner. Well, you can, but you probably won't get asked back.
If you can spend a half an hour to an hour or so a day on your networks, that's great. Don't overdo the time you spend on them or you'll burn yourself out. If you can use the social network feeds to have them syndicate your blog to the site, the updating of your social networking page will be done for you. To a greater degree, anyway. You'll still want to get in there and tinker, update content, add friends, etc.

Fan Pages and Facebook

Since Facebook is the dominating force out there, let's talk for a moment about Fan Pages. Why would you want one? Well first off, you're in the business of marketing and as such, Fan Pages are business pages, so you'll really want to consider pulling your book followers off of your profile and sending them to your Fan Page. Also, Fan Pages are indexed and searched by Google so you'll get great ranking with a Fan Page, more so than you would with a Profile.

Fan Pages, once you know your focus and message, are easy to create and update. You just want to stay on message and know what your followers want.

Tips for Effective Social Networking

Leverage other social media: If you have a strong presence on another social networking site like Twitter or YouTube, then I recommend that you use that to promote your Facebook Fan Page. Let folks know where to find you and never, ever forget to add "Follow Me" buttons to your website pages and your blog.

Tagging: You can drive more interest to your page by tagging an author or a popular Facebook page to a status update, photo, or video. It's easy to do this in Facebook, you can also tag an article that a high profile member ran on their page.

Step outside of your social circle: Try getting away from your inner circle and migrating out to other people who might be good networking opportunities. While it's fun to stay connected to all your college buddies, that's not the main focus of your Facebook page.

Selling on Facebook: Facebook now has an application that can add a store page to your Facebook Fan Page. What this means is that you can start selling your books and products from your Fan Page.

Slow and steady wins the social media race: The best Facebook pages (and this is true for any social networking site) are built over time. Slow growth is best when it comes to social networking sites, so don't force a sudden surge of growth. This will also keep you from getting booted off if you add friends too quickly. Facebook watches for people who are adding hundreds of friends at a time and will lock your page if they think you're over-promoting yourself.

Don't be shy: The purpose of Facebook is to connect and interact with other members, so don't be shy! Interact with people on your friend list by commenting on their news, and pictures, and/or wishing them a happy birthday. Doing all these things will help others to get to know who you actually are instead of just knowing your name.

Content, content, content: Remember that it's important to add content. You can do this by uploading a video, adding the RSS feed from your blog, and a variety of other things.

Keep updating your Page or Profile: Don't let your profile get stale. Update your status, add photos, and answer wall messages and emails.

Add your Facebook page to your blog: Make sure and add your Facebook page to your blog. You can have your web person take care of this for you; it's a simple widget that gets added to let people know you have a Facebook profile.

Social media is a great way to market yourself and your book. When Facebook is integrated with other social networking platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and Squidoo, it can be an enormous boon to your inbound marketing campaign. Just remember, your website needs to convert the folks you're sending there.

How would you like a free marketing evaluation of your book? Find out how by emailing me! penny@amarketingexpert.com

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