In memoriam: Oleg Kireev

On Friday April 3, 2009 we received the terribly sad news that our friend and ever inspiring colleague Oleg Kireev from Moscow had died, apparently as a result of suicide. We are left behind as friends and colleagues, bereaved and puzzled by this dramatic fact. Kireev was a prominent guest in some of the most important projects in the art / media / politics triangle, which we had the honour developing at De Balie. Kireev was a crucial figure in circles of free culture, media activism and the arts in Moscow, one of the most demanding environments for such activity one can think of.

This unexpected turn of events leaves us wondering if the environment that Kireev was working in might have proven too demanding for this enigmatic personality. He will be dearly missed by his friends and colleagues, but his work was also too important to be interrupted so prematurely and in such a dreadful manner.

In 2002 Kireev executed a street performance in Amsterdam, as part of the Debates & Credits art project co-organised by De Balie, "Militsia in Amsterdam", a study in the mechanisms of obedience - in his words. Kireev patrolled Amsterdam streets for several days, followed by a camera, dressed up as a typical Moscow Militsia officer, checking personal identity documents of random people on the street. The level of compliance he encountered was astounding.
You can read the chilling and at times hilarious report in the web journal of Debates & Credits.

The performance, originally intended to introduce a foreign element from Moscow daily street-culture into the Amsterdam environment, foreshadowed the transformations of public security policies in The Netherlands. Soon after, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the obligation to carry identification papers in public space was reintroduced for the first time since the period of German occupation during WW II.

In recent years Kireev was mainly working as a writer, editor and translator of writings on media and political activism, art and independent cultures. His wit, spirit and sharp analytical insight will be severely missed in Moscow and in many other places.

Our feelings go out to his family, friends and loved ones...

Amsterdam, April 4, 2009