Oliver Ressler

Oliver Ressler’s projects deal with processes of democratization, analyzing them in filmic installations that refer to specific case studies. Concerning the over ten years of turmoil first evoked by such events as the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001 and the same year’s summit of the World Economic Forum in Salzburg, Ressler’s strategy has always been to apply scrutiny in the form of videos of and interviews with participants in the anti-globalization movement; results include the video This is What Democracy Looks Like (2002). Here, The Sound of Music—usually used to entice American visitors into taking tours through Salzburg during the summer—had to give way to the drumming sounds that accompanied the Robocop-uniformed police as they encircled and effectively trapped peaceful demonstrators for hours without letting them eat, drink or urinate.

Collaborative projects involving artists and political scientist Dario Azzellini have confronted the issue of civil disobedience in the context of the Italian anti-capitalist demonstration unit “Disobbedienti”; this group evolved out of “Tute Bianche,” an activist group whose members wore white overalls with padding in order to resist police forces and push through police lines, thereafter marching together in large blocks—as they did during the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001. Here, the same old question posed by the American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau in his famous 1849 essay “Resistance to Civil Government (Civil Disobedience)” is still at issue: “Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man?”[1]

Another done work with Azzellini in 2006, 5 Factories – Worker Control in Venezuela, analyzed changes taking place in the manufacturing sector by interviewing workers in five different factories. The protagonists talked about alternative models of self-organization and increased control by workers as a result of the “Bolivarian Process,” which provided hope that modes and conditions of working would change. Ressler’s projects thus pose questions about the shifting parameters in both democratic and post-socialist societies: while these are undergoing processes of transformation, outcomes in terms of the development of the democratic condition per se remain unclear.




[1] Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Resistance to Civil Government, edited by William Rossi, second edition, New York: W.W. Norton & Company,1992, p. 245.

1970, Knittelfeld / AT


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