Averklub Collective: Manuš means Human
exhibition at Kunsthalle Vienna, 2021
(collaboration on the exhibition as a member of the collective)
The Averklub collective is the outcome of a collaboration between the Romafuturismo Library (how the Josef Serinek Library) and the association Aver Roma. This was to culminate in the establishment of the Aver Club Cultural Centre in Chánov. The collective put together and now offers a daily cultural and leisure programme in the premises of what used to be the nursery school, which is open to all residents of the housing estate. It is at present setting up a social enterprise in order to improve the social and economic situation of the local population. This is a self-supporting initiative that has stepped in to compensate for the lack of structural solutions. The Averklub collective researches the silenced history of the Roma and other socio-political questions relating to excluded localities in the CR and beyond.
The members of the Averklub collective are as follows: František Nistor, Roman Šváb, Radek Šváb, Nikola Nistorová, Dana Bažová, Helena Pompová, Zuzana Cicková, Markéta Strnadová, Ladislava Gažiová, Jakub Jurásek, Zbyněk Baladrán, Alexey Klyuykov.
Manuš Means Humanis the title of a book by Vincent Danihel, a Czechoslovak communist politician of Romani origin. The book was published in 1986 and in it Danihel analyses the historical development of the status of the Roma in society. By using the same name in the title of the exhibition we want to draw attention to what unites people rather than dividing them. We want to show that, over and above the multiplicity of cultures, genders, nations, etc., there exists another level of belonging that is open to all without exception. Aware of the individualism that could result from this, we place the collective principle of mutual belonging in the forefront of our activities. We might regard this level as a socialist principle. We see it as a perspective facing the future, and as the only possible way of organising and relating to others within human society. We do not believe that this is possible within a society organised along capitalist lines. Conscious that the word socialist cannot capture exactly what we mean due to the confusing historical and conceptual associations that surround it, we are nevertheless prepared to risk being misunderstood.
The exhibition demonstrates this vector using the example of Romani art. Rather than simply recounting a comforting story of Romani art, it attempts instead to show that any such attempt at a cultural or ethnic exoticism simply defers and complicates genuine emancipation and inclusion within the broad collective of the European social community. The exhibition presents artefacts and documents relating to events that took place over the past seventy years in what used to be Czechoslovakia. It puts together a fragmentary picture of why the inclusion and cultural development of the Romani population is impossible without social justice. The truth is the Roma enjoyed greater social justice when integrated into the former communist countries, a source of resentment in today’s liberal climate. Thirty years of a renewed capitalist order has failed to achieve what was at least partially accomplished under the previous regime. We see this as a challenge and perhaps even the beginning of positive changes in the future.
Pohled do výstavy Manuš znamená člověk, Kunsthale Vídeň, 2021
6:47, Full HD, 2021
The failings of the workers in general may be traced to an unbridled thirst for pleasure, to want of providence, and of flexibility in fitting into the social order, to the general inability to sacrifice the pleasure of the moment to a remoter advantage. But is that to be wondered at? When a class can purchase few and only the most sensual pleasures by its wearying toil, must it not give itself over blindly and madly to those pleasures? A class about whose education no one troubles himself, which is a playball to a thousand chances, knows no security in life – what incentives has such a class to providence, to “respectability”, to sacrifice the pleasure of the moment for a remoter enjoyment, most uncertain precisely by reason of the perpetually varying, shifting conditions under which the proletariat lives? A class which bears all the disadvantages of the social order without enjoying its advantages, one to which the social system appears in purely hostile aspects – who can demand that such a class respect this social order? Verily that is asking much! But the working-man cannot escape the present arrangement of society so long as it exists, and when the individual worker resists it, the greatest injury falls upon himself.
Thus the social order makes family life almost impossible for the worker. In a comfortless, filthy house, hardly good enough for mere nightly shelter, ill-furnished, often neither rain-tight nor warm, a foul atmosphere filling rooms overcrowded with human beings, no domestic comfort is possible. The husband works the whole day through, perhaps the wife also and the elder children, all in different places; they meet night and morning only, all under perpetual temptation to drink; what family life is possible under such conditions? Yet the working-man cannot escape from the family, must live in the family, and the consequence is a perpetual succession of family troubles, domestic quarrels, most demoralising for parents and children alike. Neglect of all domestic duties, neglect of the children, especially, is only too common among the English working-people, and only too vigorously fostered by the existing institutions of society. And children growing up in this savage way, amidst these demoralising influences, are expected to turn out goody-goody and moral in the end! Verily the requirements are naive, which the self-satisfied bourgeois makes upon the working-man!
The contempt for the existing social order is most conspicuous in its extreme form – that of offences against the law. If the influences demoralising to the working-man act more powerfully, more concentratedly than usual, he becomes an offender as certainly as water abandons the fluid for the vaporous state at 80 degrees, Réaumur. Under the brutal and brutalising treatment of the bourgeoisie, the working-man becomes precisely as much a thing without volition as water, and is subject to the laws of Nature with precisely the same necessity; at a certain point all freedom ceases.
When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another such that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call his deed murder. But when society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live – forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence – knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which does not seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission. But murder it remains.
It is for this reason that it must be called social murder.
Social Murder, in Condition of the Working Class in England, (edited)
Friedrich Engels, 1845