Artist Cinemas presents
Andriy Rachinskiy and Daniil Revkovskiy, Labor Safety in the Region of Dnipropetrovsk | War and Cinema: Week #2
Wednesday, June 24—Tuesday, June 30, 2020
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Andriy Rachinskiy and Daniil Revkovskiy, Labor Safety in the Region of Dnipropetrovsk (still), 2018.

Join us on e-flux Video & Film for an online screening of Andriy Rachinskiy and Daniil Revkovskiy’s Labor Safety in the Region of Dnipropetrovsk* (2018), on view from Wednesday, June 24 through Tuesday, June 30, 2020.

This work by artist-duo Rachinskiy and Revkovskiy utilizes the form of compilation film, a novel practice of moving-image production that’s flourishing online. 

The artists had conducted an in-depth research into the social-media accounts of workers of some of Ukraine’s industrial enterprises,—notorious for poor labor conditions and environmental damage (ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih, Dnieper Metallurgical Combine, and Southern Mining Company, to name a few). Having assembled a vast archive of online videos shot and uploaded by industrial workers, the artists had produced a found-footage disaster movie where environmental atrocities are piled up in a devastating tragicomedy of a suicidal war on nature waged by humans. In the background, a class war is raging as well. Industrial management, factory owners, and the government who make this perpetual ecological disaster possible remain mostly invisible in the film, while the workers deploy their ultimate weapons—mobile phones—to expose the evidence of this “class war from above.” In the midst of this (post-) industrial hell, the film’s action is interspersed with unexpected situations of humaneness, humor, and comradeship.   

The industrial area chosen by the artists to source this footage is highly symbolic. The region of Dnipropetrovsk in Central Ukraine is one of the largest clusters of heavy industry that emerged during the Soviet era, and a birthplace both to politician Leonid Brezhnev and artist Ilya Kabakov. In the post-Soviet period, this region produced a whole class of nouveau riche oligarchic elite—including Ukraine's current president, media mogul and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyi (who, in an astoundingly ironic moment in the film, appears on a jewelry-advertising billboard, made back in the days of his acting career). Labor Safety in the Region of Dnipropetrovsk is a vivid manifestation of a loose film movement that is referred to as ‘Ukrainian political film’. 

Labor Safety in the Region of Dnipropetrovsk is presented here alongside an interview with the filmmakers by Oleksiy Radynski​. The film and interview are the second installment of War and Cinema, a program of films, video works, and interviews convened by Radynski, and comprising the second cycle of Artist Cinemas, a long-term, online series of film programs curated by artists for e-flux Video & Film.

War and Cinema will run for six weeks from June 17 through July 29, 2020, with each film running for one week and featuring an interview with the filmmaker by Radynski and other invited guests.

*Labor Safety in the Region of Dnipropetrovsk continues to be available online on this link.

Andriy Rachinskiy and Daniil Revkovskiy in conversation with Oleksiy Radynski ​

Oleksiy Radynski (OR):
Where does your interest in environmental issues come from?

Daniil Revkovskiy (DR):
For me, it started with a trip to the Donbass region in 2011. I was really impressed by the industrial scale of the cities of Mariupol, Makeyevka, Alchevsk, Yenakievo, Gorlovka, Avdeyevka, etc., and by the ignorant attitude of the factories’ management towards toxic emissions and human labor. 

Andriy Rachinskiy (AR):
I've always been interested in this topic. At some point, I became specifically interested in industrial regions with city-forming metallurgical enterprises, and their problems. This happened when Daniil and I were working on our project in the city of Kamyanske (formerly called Dniprodzerzhinsk) in the region of Dnipropetrovsk. 

OR:
It seems there's a kind of vicious circle there: these enterprises are destroying the environment, but there's also a process of self-destruction due to poor management. 

AR:
Yes, and as a result comes unemployment, alcoholism, drug abuse, and population outflow. We don’t see a way out of this vicious circle. 

OR:
What do you think this region is going to be like in, say, twenty years?

DR:
It's really hard to say. I think the mining for ore and other fossils will go on, while metal production may stop due to strong competition from Asia. But this is a very subjective vision.

OR:
How did you approach this footage in terms of editing?

DR:
It was important for us to have a look at this problem from the point of view of the workers themselves. This was probably the most important motivation to make this work. Their optics are very vital. And they have an easygoing and cheerful approach to this fucking hell. 

We saw a certain logic of filming that was common to many of the authors of these videos. So we tried to structure this logic. We also wanted to avoid constant action, so we edited in some calm sequences. 

OR:
It's important to know that filming is strictly forbidden in most of these enterprises. Before we even talk about the dangers of posting the videos online.

DR:
We found a video by one metallurgist who composed a poem about labor conditions at his workplace, and recited it at the factory. He got fired after that.

OR:
Can you tell me more about your methods in searching for these videos?

DR:
We were mostly searching on Vkontakte[1], which has geolocations linked to an online map. We tagged major enterprises and searched the accounts of workers who listed them as their workplace. Then we looked at their social media connections—who was liking their photos, for instance—and searched through those accounts, and so on.

OR:
Did you use this method before?

DR:
Yes, we used it to identify the snipers from Russia who participated in the Donbass war. 

OR:
Did you manage to identify many of them?

DR:
Yes, several dozen. 

OR:
This is huge. What did you do with this discovery?

DR:
We’ve just used it for our research. 

OR:
So, this wasn’t a civic investigation in the vein of Bellingcat?

DR:
I really like Bellingcat, but I didn’t know anything about them at the time. It’s interesting that most of the snipers’ accounts are deleted by now.

OR:
Can you tell me about your other experiments with social networks, like your Memory online community?

AR:
I created Memory as a community on Vkontakte in 2012. Later on, Daniil joined me as a second admin, and that's when the community started taking the form that is maintained to this day. It's focused on controversial events of Soviet and post-Soviet history. At the moment, Memory has about 150K subscribers.

DR:
For instance, we published material about the Novocherkassk workers’ massacre of 1962. Or about an industrial atomic explosion that took place in the Kharkiv region in 1972. Or about the repression of Chechens during the wars in Chechnya. But mostly, we focused on Ukrainian historical memory. At some point, the community became really popular. We never expected to attract such a huge audience.

OR:
What motivates your interest in Soviet and post-Soviet history?

DR:
We always had a particular interest in the analog photo and video documentation produced by accidental participants in, or witnesses of, events that we were researching. This kind of documentation was a mass practice during Soviet and post-Soviet time. 

AR:
We didn't really have a strict concept of publication. We were simply studying vast amounts of historical materials every day, and we would always find something that had never been published before. Memory was the first community with this particular focus on Vkontakte, although others emerged later on.

OR:
Do you think of Memory as part of your artistic practice?

AR:
At the time, we saw it purely as a historical project, not an artistic one. But the methods of searching, selecting, and structuring information that we developed with Memory have had a conisderable influence on our artistic practice.

OR:
In an interview with filmmaker Yuriy Hrytsyna published here last week, we discussed the notion of bumblefuck as an important inspiration for post-Soviet artistic production. You seem to be working with this source in your projects as well.

AR:
Many of our projects are related to the industrial regions of Ukraine that are now often referred to as bumblefuck. In 2018, we made the project KTM-5, about a tram accident that took place in Dniprodzerzhinsk in 1996, at a time when all public transportation in Ukraine was in a totally derelict condition. Back then, a tram with malfunctioning brakes hit a concrete fence, killing thirty-four people and injuring more than a hundred. Our latest project, Mischievous (2020), is about the “runners” in the city of Kryvyi Rih—which is what the gangs that waged bloody wars between city districts were called. We had projected this story on Zaporizhia, another industrial city in Ukraine. We made up new names for the gangs, complete with insignia and costumes, and a “headquarters.” We also created an information stand for an imagined police department telling about the policemen who had died in the gang wars, and recreated an investigative experiment with one of the gang members. 

OR:
Tell me about Darkness, your recent project from 2019, that was based on Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now.

AR:
For this film we partly recreated the plot of Apocalypse Now, moving it to the near future of Ukraine—a future in which war and death became a new religion, an inevitable and indispensable part of reality.

DR:
I play the mad colonel, and Andriy is the officer on a mission to eliminate me. For this project, we “recreated” two rooms: Andriy's office, full of surveillance photos and secret documents on the object of his pursuit—that is, me—and my own office, with my desk, weapons, books, and personal diary, in which I write about the scary near future of Ukraine.

[1] Russian social media and social networking service.

-
Andriy Rachinskiy and Daniil Revkovskiy are an artist-duo based in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Their projects are based on structuring and rethinking materials found in urban space, archives, and social networks. Their works have been shown at Kmytiv Museum, Artsvit Gallery (Dnipro), Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz (Berlin), etc galerie (Prague), Yermilov Center (Kharkiv), and Galeria Labirynt (Lublin), among other venues. In 2020, they received the public choice award of the PinchukArtCentre Prize for their project Mischievous

Oleksiy Radynski is a filmmaker based in Kyiv. His films have been screened at Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, Institute of Contemporary Arts (London), DOK Leipzig, Bar Laika by e-flux, and Kmytiv Museum among other venues, and received awards at a number of film festivals. His texts have been published in Proxy Politics: Power and Subversion in a Networked Age (Archive Books, 2017), Art and Theory of Post-1989 Central and East Europe: A Critical Anthology (MoMA, 2018), and in e-flux journal. After graduating from Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, he studied at Ashkal Alwan’s Home Workspace Program (Beirut). Radynski is a participant of the Visual Culture Research Center, an initiative for art, knowledge, and politics founded in Kyiv in 2008. Currently, he is a BAK Fellow at basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht. 
Vimeo.

For more information, contact program@e-flux.com.

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