Dead Air Gossamer Fog, Zurich Omsk Social Club Credits Puppi Blakeson aka Ingeborg Wie

Dead Air Gossamer Fog, Zurich Omsk Social Club Credits Puppi Blakeson aka Ingeborg Wie

Text and interview by Dalia Maini —

I want to set the atmosphere.
Before reading I invite you to open the link below and listen to the audio piece:

I chose to introduce OMSK Social Club with Burial because was the first artist mentioned when I asked about the influence Mark Fisher’s theories had on their practice. In fact « as kids we listened to Burial walking the streets of London, Manchester, Glasgow and Berlin. We lived these spaces he (Mark Fisher) came from, but what influenced us more was his later works, his thoughts on the hole motif, escape and living hell – this is one of the points of departure we work from. An illusion is just as real as you make it» replied their multiple voice.

Omsk Social Club is a collective of “many” based in Berlin, constantly mutating and broadening. They choose to keep the names of singular participants hidden since the nature of the group is rhizomatic and speculative. They told me their artistic concept and praxis come from their life and the subculture that represents them: « these spaces of emotion, politics, aesthetics, fears and lust we had experienced became our strongest inspiration. But we didn’t want to document them we wanted people to be able to live inside them». Following this their practice is based on the use of traditional, but renewed, methods of Live Action Role Play (Larp) and Real Game Play (RGP), games where players embodies the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Through them Omsk engage the participants-players in transitional states that could potentially be fiction or hidden – so unlived- reality. Every player, during the time- based RGP session, becomes both creator and actor of an unpredictable game scenario, where topics such as rave culture, survivalism, catfishing, desire&sacrifice, positive trolling, algorithmic strategies and decentralized cryptocurrency are taken as urgent issues. Through the analysis of the constructed nature of the virtual ego OMSK enacts an experience that is a crossroad between the techno-capitalist culture of modernity and the personal, so intimate, experience of the singular. Cryptoraves often are the containers of these RGP session, technoparties where being for one night an otherness. They are called “crypto” because only through the process of computer mining -an integral part of a cryptocurrency network, used to generate and release new cryptocurrency- future gamers have access to their character, the location, and details.

Dead Air - Installation_Omsk Social Club 2018 Images Courtesy of Player Robyn aka Sylvia Rybak

Dead Air – Installation_Omsk Social Club 2018 Images Courtesy of Player Robyn aka Sylvia Rybak

Dead Air - Installation_Omsk Social Club 2018 Images Courtesy of Player Robyn aka Sylvia Rybak

Dead Air – Installation_Omsk Social Club 2018 Images Courtesy of Player Robyn aka Sylvia Rybak

So I thought being important to accompany our discourse with a sound that probably was echoing in their hears for long nocturnal hours and still inspirational for their works.

DM: Why this name? What is Omsk and why social club, isn’t any club “social”?

Omsk – Omsk was the city to which Dostoevsky was sent to after he was found guilty of trying to create social reform with culture – he said he was literally buried alive. All these add into Omsk’s makings metaphorically and a Social Club is a traditional spot in the north of England something between a pub and a political think tank, that would never call itself that, but for arguments sake. It’s a place where people meet, talk, drink, gossip, fall in love, get into a fight. We see ourselves in both these worlds one of the very desolate – extreme human strike that Dostoesky had to deal with and that of the other. We create with the players a space that’s constantly in limbo.

DM: I love when you speak about unlived reality, how many of them do you think exists?

Omsk – more than a human mind could ever compute.

DM: Do you think there is an alternative to capitalism? If yess, can you see the end of Capitalist Realism and further are you trying to experiment some worlds after it’s end?

Omsk – Every world is a fantasy even the one you or we live in we just say it’s a reality because that’s what we have been taught to say…these ideas are our main impetus to the way we work… with uncertainty comes new theory, the uncanny is often our catalyst and who gets to decide where an idea begins and where it ends, once it has started our works do believe in the end of Capitalism but to what we do not know, nor do we think we are the best-suited people to open such a world. The excitement we have is that we open the door to a world/s but then so many people have the key is just rhizomes with other people intentions. We provide a frame for chaos to ensue.

Cryptorave 9, Athens Biennial, 2019, Athens - Omsk Social Club and Medien Gruppe Bitniks - Credits Mike Tsolis

Cryptorave 9, Athens Biennial, 2019, Athens – Omsk Social Club and Medien Gruppe Bitniks – Credits Mike Tsolis

Cryptorave 9, Athens Biennial, 2019, Athens - Omsk Social Club and Medien Gruppe Bitniks - Credits Mike Tsolis

Cryptorave 9, Athens Biennial, 2019, Athens – Omsk Social Club and Medien Gruppe Bitniks – Credits Mike Tsolis

DM: Would you define your practice political? While Thinking about your RGP projects, I found some similitudes with the anti “folk- politic” theories of Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams[1]. You are using, not avoiding, the results and the media of capitalism to create a possible society.

Omsk – Yes, we are political (yes), but we are not political artists. Real Game Play is a fiction, but it’s a fiction that has the potential to become very real. This is the path we use to create a space in which people can think about themselves, society and the world outside. We have had the most engaging conversations with participating people on identity, voice, simulation, reality, the self, the other. The conversations are endless, they fork and spasm and last for months on end, some even years and we guess lifetimes. This is our work, it is constantly living and morphing and gaining new perspectives but not only from us, we are not game masters.

DM: How did you arrive to the idea of mining as a way to access to the Cryptoparties?

Omsk – The work is functional, you do mine Monero [2] currency via a pool mining site when you press mine? Hence we used a real solution to provide the basic concept, we want people to see these spaces as functional not just fictive.

DM: The roles you gave sometimes are very hybrid, neither just human, or animal, or natural but between the cyborg and the “humus”. How much are you interested in analysing how the gamers embody their new self and behave with each other?

Omsk – We observe but we never analyse we are here to facilitate whatever people need to embody, to be honest they normally know themselves. We aim for empowering the individual not directing them. This is the reason why all the works we create are neither rehearsed or scripted. Even the characters are fairly open for interpretation so people can explore what they want to and the worlds remain adaptable and in flux.

Deep Intimacy - Gold and Beton - OMSK SOCIAL CLUB, Cologne, 2017.

Deep Intimacy – Gold and Beton – OMSK SOCIAL CLUB, Cologne, 2017.

DM: Something that really fascinates me is the imaginative effort you ask to the participants to play a new self, you give them space to think and just few coordinates. How much do you think our imaginative thought is affected by utopian/dystopian prefiguring of the future?

Omsk – Actually we think that this imaginative effort comes a lot from empowered thinking, as in as soon as the person is not afraid to commit to any idea things become very fluid – almost “natural”. We are more interested in showing this rewiring is actually quite effortless if you have a community to aid you. This does not mean that you will have a comfortable enlightened moment inside Omsk, quite the opposite, in our most immersive works, life is tumultuous and rages inside all that is present. These heavy dense emotions can be lust, discomfort, trolling or any other shade of the human psyche. But what we aim to do is… in the workshop beforehand we hope to build enough connection to the core community (physically and mentally) that even the hardest spaces, you are able to go through because you trust the people who are inside their too. We generally all cry or feel a great sense of loss and euphoria after each work and the most profound closeness is often described between players that have worked together, even if they hurt each other in game. A core player once showed us this meme, it was two tarot cards from the Raider-Waite[3] deck, one was The Sun that said “this is what they tell you enlightenment looks like” and then next to it there was The Tower and it read “this is actually what enlightenment looks like”. We think it describes Omsk completely.

DM: How much is important time in your practice? I mean, people need time to get used to be something/ someone different.

Omsk – Long durations and commitment are definetly near to our works, we require a lot from those who participate, but we hope we provide a lot in return. Most people who come to Omsk works; return over and over again, it is very much a living community now. We work against a typical system of art viewing but that’s not out of some radical spite, it’s just that that system does not work for us in all cases of our practice.

DM: Do you think the setting of your RGP or Cryptorave as the “objectual” production of your art?

Omsk – Yes…experience of the mind is just as valid as a piece of Art as a displayed object, one has memories, one has gossip they can share. One of the main aims in Art is to possess the viewer, an unforgettable painting or a stomach-lurching video clip is Art, not the material it is made from…Art is emotive, not physical…it is also very personal and collective – that’s why we know we make Art.

Deep Nation Kreuzberg Pavillion, Berlin, 2018

Deep Nation Kreuzberg Pavillion, Berlin, 2018

Luckly I had the chance to experience one of their RGP and Cryptorave in Berlin. For their Cryptoparty organized for the Transmediale Festival I have been mining for 11hrs to receive the character to embody: Fierce. After that experience as Dalia, but innerly keeping Fierce, in my ears is resonating Deep Intimacy, 2017 one of their stunning audiopiece… who is she a projection a phantasy of my own needs.

OMSK Social Club has exhibited across Europe at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich, Bergen Kunsthalle, Gold and Beton Cologne and “Vomit Apocalypse” for Glasgow International and Kunsthalle Zürich. Last October they attended The Eternal Internet Brother/Sisterhood residency in Sri Lanka curated by Angelo Plessas. Their last cryptorave was in the frame of Athens Biennial.

[1] See N. Srnicek, A. Williams, Inventing the Future Postcapitalism and a World Without Work, Verso, London 2016

[2] Monero is a cryptocurrency created in April 2014 that focuses on privacy, decentralization, scalability and fungibility.

[3] The Rider-Waite tarot deck (originally published 1910) is one of the most popular tarot decks in use for divination today in the English-speaking world. The cards were drawn by illustrator Pamela Colman Smith from the instructions of academic and mystic A. E. Waite, and published by the Rider Company.