Park Fiction presents: Unlikely Encounters in Urban Space – full transcription of all talks at the groundbreaking conference

Park Fiction presents: Unlikely Encounters in Urban Space

This is the complete transcription of the Park Fiction presents: Unlikely Encounters in Urban Space Conference. Contributions by Ala Plastica (La Plata), OUT – Office for Urban Transformation / Isola Art Center (Milano), Stephan Dillemuth (Munich), expertbase (B, HH, M), Galerie für Landschaftskunst (HH), Ligna (HH), Maclovio Rojas (Tijuana), Jelka Plate (B), Raqs / Sarai Media Lab (Delhi), Schwabinggrad Ballett (HH) revolve around the congress issues:

What are constituent practices?

How can unlikely encounters be made more likely?

How can local knowledges get into a global exchange?

05saraishudd

A short intro to the groundbreaking congress and it’s participants and a lovely video by Abbildungszentrum Peter Ott / Doro Carl for Park Fiction from 2003, can be found here:

http://park-fiction.net/park-fiction-unlikely-encounters-in-urban-space/

14eröffuteUte Meta Bauer at the conference

 

The texts have never been proofread by the speakers – so there are still mistakes and misunderstandings in it. If you want to quote any of this, get in touch with us: organisation@park-fiction.net

05MargShudChrisMargit Czenki, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Christoph Schäfer
Small parts haven’t been translated from the German original. Enjoy it.

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(C) Park Fiction and the Authors

05chrMargSaraiDisk
Christoph Schäfer, Margit Czenki
UNLIKELY ENCOUNTERS day 1
Cassette 1ShuddhaThank you very much, Christoph, for that very generous and kind introduction. We’re going to structure the presentation this morning in three. My name is Shuddha – Shuddhabrata Sengupta, it’s too long a name, don’t bother with that. I work with the Raqs Media Collective, which is a collective of three people: myself, Jeebesh Bagchi and Monica Narula. The Raqs Media Collective is one of the co-founders of Sarai, the space that Joy, Shveta and I work in, in the Media Lab there.shuddha_beckerShuddhabrata Sengupta (Raqs /Sarai), Jochen Becker
I’ll tell you a little bit more about Sarai and what we do, as a prelude to the presentation that Joy and Shveta are going to make about a project called the cybermohalla Project, which is the substantive part of our presentation. I wanted to make a few remarks about the themes of the conference, because I think that they’re a very important cluster of ideas that all of us at this present moment need a lot of thinking about. I’m very glad that Christoph made this reference to the meeting at the No Border Camp, because one of the things that quietly and successfully was done during that meeting of maybe 16-18 people was the unofficial but important declaration of the last International. We decided that the last International has happened, it has been constituted now, and there is no need to really state it, it exists. We’re all a part of the last International, it’s not the first, not the second, not the third, but the last International. It’s an important criteria in my mind, because I think that we live now in a moment where, as Christoph said, you can either choose your confrontation with power and invest a lot of your energy in that confrontation with the state, with power, an be exhausted and be beaten down and be sent to prison, or you can look for a smarter way. I think that the way of the last International is a smarter way. It’s not to talk to the state, it’s not necessarily to talk to power, but to create conversations between different kinds of nodes across the world and constitute another world in practice. Not anticipate another world but realize it through everything that we do. For me that’s the really important part of a meeting like this congress, because it’s another unofficial congress of the last International, like every congress, like every meeting, like every encounter that we have in different parts of the world. Even those of us who never heard the word “last International” are now already a part of it, and I thank you for allowing us this opportunity to meet once again and reconstitute the last International.0251saraishudd
A couple of things that I wanted to think about and leave these thoughts for you is the role of cities in an emerging public consciousness. One of the questions I asked yesterday of Christoph is: “Hamburg is a port city. Where is the street where the ropes were made?” Because every port city must have a street where – if it’s a port city that existed before steam ships – there must have been one long stretch where long ropes were made. I know Liverpool has them, I know Rotterdam had them, I know that other port cities elsewhere in the world have always had a street where the ropes were made. And then Christoph told me: “ It’s the Reeperbahn. That’s the rope street.” That’s actually a very fascinating idea, because if you think of the first encounters that the world began to have with itself, which is a legacy of the cities like Hamburg. I come from a city which is landlocked, there is no sea. I grew up fantasizing, dreaming about the sea, but people also in some ways are harbour city, are haven, because Delhi was an important part of a network of trade routes where people and ideas travelled in the then known world, quite actively. One of the things that is important in such cities are, of course, streets where ropes are made, which then take the ships. And also places of rest, of refuge for travellers. The “Hafenstrasse”, the idea of a harbour as a haven, as somewhere where you can find refuge on your travels, is for me a very important one and it connects to the word “sarai”, which we chose as a name for our centre, because sarai is a space for rest, where people from different practices and parts of the world, and different backgrounds, different histories, can meet and encounter each other. Basically, have unlikely encounters, encounters that they did not think would happen, but happened. For me, that notion of this encounter between strangers, which is unlikely, between people who were strangers that become friends and colleagues, is very central to a new notion of our practice today. I don’t see a future for art practice that creates objects only for contemplation. I see a future for art practices, cultural practices and political practices that pave the way for these encounters to happen. That’s for me the only important function, for any kind of cultural intervention: what can remake the world through these conversations, through these encounters, through very, very mundane, simple, everyday acts of meeting between people. So, even if an artist or a cultural worker goes through life without making a single object, if they have prepared the ground for a lot of unlikely encounters, I think they have constituted a very important and simple practice. That’s why we need streets with ropes, that’s why we need sarais, which are spaces where people can rest and talk and have conversations. That’s why when Shveta and Joy were coming here to do a small workshop with a few young people, we had a conversation about why we are doing this, what’s the point of – as we used to say – travelling across seven seas to another port, to talk with seven people about the street that they live in and will always live in. I think the point is to see the relationship between your street and the world. It’s to do with the fact – another theme of your congress – of the relationship between the local and the global. For me, the time has come for us to realize that the local is the global. The world is in your street. There’s no escaping it, and it’s not something to romanticize, it’s not something to be frightened of, it’s something to accept and work with. If you work on any street in Hamburg or for that matter in my city, in Delhi, I can see the world, the entire world on that street. If I look at the pavement, I see things that come from China. If I look at people, I know that they’re wearing clothes that come from all over the world. I know that the ideas, things that they speak, things that they listen to, things that they read constitute the world in their everyday lives. This is the very special, important moment in the 21st century, of cities like ours, that we live and recreate the world every moment in our lives. Yesterday we were on this fascinating tour of this St. Pauli area, and I was really struck by the inventiveness with which, for instance, the space of the Red Flora was recreated. We went out to look at the balcony, and outside the balcony there was this interesting moment – I don’t know, some of you must have been there – we talked about who’s looking at what. Are people looking at the Flora, are people looking out at the plaza from the Flora balcony, and what’s the theatre there, who’s the actor, who’s the performer, who’s the audience? One of the things that I saw accidentally was – of course you have the Portuguese café everyone referred to – next to it is a little shop called the Didar. I don’t know if you noticed it, it’s an “Imbiss”, or a deli or something like that. The word “didar” is very fascinating, it immediately burned itself into my consciousness, because didar in the language that I speak – and I’m sure it’s the same word, the language that we speak in Delhi is Hindustani or Urdu – the same word travels in Turkish and Persian and Arabic. Didar means “a gaze”, an encounter. So you have a didar of a friend, you look at a friend and position that as an encounter, you consider that as something important, and lots of painful love songs are written about waiting for the didar. So it’s kind of interesting for me that you can step out of a balcony of the Flora, look outside the street, just have a conversation about who’s looking at what in the city , who’s constituting agency, who’s constituting cultural intervention, and I see a sign that says didar. It immediately brings to mind an idea that I’ve learned from comic books. I don’t know if any of you know of a series of comics called “The Invisibles”, which is written by Grant Morrison, it travels the world. It’s a group of anarchists who constitute the “Invisible College” and they’re always saving the world, but there’s an idea in the comic books that every city has secret signs. It’s an old idea, but it’s nice to think of it as a comic book that 16-year-old kids would read and rethink the idea as part of a comic book. It’s a very popular one, a Marvel title. One of the things it says is you always have to keep your eyes open for the shop signs, for the reflections of shop signs in public, on the street, because everything is a secret sign for something that’s going on. I think that the role of people working in art, culture, cultural practices, who work with city spaces, is to actually decode those secret signs that connect and constitute the world as we know it today, because the fact that we can speak to each other in a language that all of us can understand is the world’s greatest secret. This is the one thing that power does not want us to do. The one thing that they want to do is to say that if you live in Hamburg, Delhi is elsewhere, if you live in Delhi, then a city in Argentina is as far away from you as possible. This is the biggest lie. This is what they really want us to know. By making these conversations, by seeing each other’s signs in each other’s problems, by someone like Shveta spending four days with two Turkish-speaking, but German schoolgirls, in a city like Hamburg, talking about what they see outside their door, we’re actually in every small way negating that lie, because we are constituting relationships between our spaces. The positing of relationships between our spaces, making a new map of the world, is for me a very important part of a possible cultural practice, which brings me to the idea of a cybermohalla. The word cybermohalla, which was chosen with great thought and deliberation, has some value to it. I like words, so I think about words. Obviously cyber constitutes the meaning of cyber space, cyber… whatever, you know, all the tacky, geeky, nice, flashy things. Mohalla is another Hindustani – Persian -Turkish – Arabic word, which means “neighbourhood”. The word cyber has another root, which is from kubernetes, which is where the word cybernetics comes from, which is about navigation. A kubernaut in Greek is a navigator, and for me, on the one hand, cybermohalla is about a group of kids in a city like Delhi in a squatter settlement (and squatter settlements in Delhi are very different from squatter settlements here: I’ll come back to that in a moment) who work with free software computers to revision their world. They’re not learning computers to do things with computers, they’re learning to type and to speak, to work with sound recordings and with digital photography in order to re-imagine the world that they live in. So it’s basically an interpretive exercise. In that sense, it’s also about navigating your neighbourhood. Now, why would you want to navigate your neighbourhood? Your neighbourhood is something that you know so well already, your neighbourhood is something that you’ve lived in all your life. When we think of navigation, you think of Prince Henry the navigator, you know, the Portuguese guy who sort of mapped the crossing of Africa into India or something like that. You think of navigating strange and unknown territories. You need a map precisely for strange and unknown territories, but I think that realizing that the world is in your neighbourhood makes it a strange and unknown territory, and makes every act of walking down the street and looking at things, and talking about and thinking about the signs that you see in the streets, become an act of navigation. So cybermohalla for me, the secret meaning of cybermohalla is about navigating your neighbourhood, which incidentally happens to be just ordinarily the world. It isn’t just the square kilometre around you. So, the cybermohalla project, which they’ll talk about in greater detail right now, is located in Delhi, which is a city of about 14 million people. It’s the fastest growing city in South Asia, one of the fastest growing cities in the world. It’s a city constituted by enormous degrees of violence over the last three hundred years: invasions, massacres, depopulation. So that it is nobody’s city anymore, and I, and all of us who have come from there, if you talk to anyone in Delhi they’re always the children of migrants. No one’s grandparents were ever born there, I mean, some people’s were, but by and large it’s a city of people who have left something else to come and make a new life. That’s the kind of character that it has. It’s been visited by repeated instances of large-scale violence, the latest being 1984, which is imprinted in my consciousness, because I was growing up then and in about three days after the assassination of Indira Ghandi, in an organized pogrom, about 6000 people were killed, because they were Sikhs, and there was a political motive in attacking Sikhs. Before that, in 1947, one of the largest movements of human populations occurred when India and Pakistan were created as new states and people left Delhi and went to Pakistan, and people arrived from Pakistan into Delhi. So it’s a city with a very tenuous hold on the self, no one really belongs there, no one really cares for it. We’re probably the first generation that’s actually born there now, and we have a strange feeling for it, but our parents don’t, or our grandparents never did. So it’s a city it’s easy to hate, because it doesn’t want you there, it’s an imperial city, it’s this heart of the South Asian empire. It was the heart of the Mongol empire, the heart of the British empire, it’s the heart of the empire of the Indian state. So it’s a city that wants to drive its inhabitants away and make larger and larger room for power, which is why we talked about parks. Here you want to save parks, there we hate them: some people can’t really look at a park and feel anything good, because a park is a means by which you reclaim a space and drive people out of it. The spaces that the cybermohalla project is located in: I will talk very briefly about it. One is a squatter settlement at the very heart of the city, which is constituted of basically illegally constructed houses. When you talk of squats here, you talk about occupying spaces that exist, occupying structures and buildings that exist. When we talk about squatter settlements in Delhi, it’s about building structures that do not exist. It’s about occupying a piece of land or territory, and then you make your own life, because obviously there’s no provision for social housing, there’s no provision for any form of social security for the vast majority of working people in the city. So you have a large industrial city, which never thinks about where the people will live, that doesn’t matter. People who live to come to work in the factories and the establishments of the city, have to occupy the zones that they see. Every year, for the last 20 or 30 years, they have concerted demolition drives, so this settlement, for instance, lives under the constant shadow of a police action. In 1975, the largest demolitions were inaugurated with the state of emergency. The state of emergency in India lasted for three years, fundamental rights were suspended. The first thing that the state did in a city like Delhi was bring in bulldozers, and bring in police detachments with guns and just squash settlements, just bulldoze settlements into flat nothing and then take people out and throw them at the outskirts of the city. Today that politics has changed and become even more lethal, because it’s connected with an idea of who is a citizen and who is not. Just as you have a very vicious, racist politics over here in Europe, the similar racist politics exist in other parts of the world, including India, and of course it’s directed against outsiders. In this case, for instance at the city of Delhi, it’s directed against the so-called figure of the Bangladeshi immigrant, who is seen as the great threat to the city services and its infrastructure. So we’re always told there are 15 million Bangladeshi inhabitants in India, and they all have to be removed by force. So the government is now constituting an identity card project, which will differentiate between those who are Indian and those who can prove that they are not Indian, and 15 million people will have to be deported. In the city of Delhi alone the figure is about 6-700,000 people who will have to be deported. Now, the point is that if you are poor and a Bangladeshi looks like an Indian, who looks more or less like anybody else – take Joy, for instance. His parents come from that part of the world, I mean, he won’t be deported because he lives in a legal colony of former refugees, but new people who have come in, who are poor, who have Muslim names as opposed to Hindu names, whether they are from India or Pakistan, are in danger of deportation, and settlements like where the first cybermohalla project is constituted is one of these. So it doesn’t matter whether you are Bangladeshi or not: as long as you’re poor, as long as you don’t look as if you quite all right, you can be deported, you can be thrown out from your life. Your house will be demolished, people will come in the middle of the day, suddenly, with an administrative order, with the police force and bulldozers, and demolish your houses. How do you constitute cultural intervention in spaces like this? This is the question all of us have been trying to work with for the last two or three years. We decided to begin work with young people, because for them the space of imagination is still an active one. For their eldest, for their parents, the space of imagination is closed by the almost relentless assault on everyday life. If you’re a teenager you still have a chance, you can sort of go out of your house and do something. For us, the importance of cultural intervention there was not so much the reclamation of public space: you can’t do that. In Delhi you can’t go to a public space and try and occupy a building, within two minutes there’ll be a police force. It’s very efficient. They won’t ask you questions, you won’t have a lawyer, they’ll just pick you up and throw you out or put you in prison or make you whatever. So what is the space that you reclaim? In our minds, the idea was a reclamation of consciousness. The only space you can reclaim is the one in your minds, and the one that connects your minds to other people’s minds. It’s a very invisible, quite practice. You don’t see signs of it. I mean, when we come to Europe and when we come to a space like the Red Flora, for me it’s always a dream, because you can see people writing things on the wall. You can’t do that, there’s no way you can do that and get away with that in a city like Delhi. You can do that maybe in the middle of the night if you’re writing an advertisement for matrimonials or for a religious party or something like that, but to just draw graffiti doesn’t even occur to you, because there is a law that says if you do that, 5 years in prison, immediately. So the graffiti and the ideas and the inscriptions that you have to make on public space have to be made invisibly, have to be made quietly, and you do that with writing, with talking, with maybe just being together, thinking about things together, and that’s what for us the cybermohalla experience has really been fascinating about. It’s about a group of two spaces, where mainly are 14-15 young people, most of them women, most of them from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds, whose parents are workers or have been thrown out of work, who do small piece work in houses like outputted labour, sit and talk and think about their lives. That’s all that they do. There’s nothing more, and the project makes no other claim. So very often we’re asked: what’s the point, what’s the use? We say that it’s useless, there is no use of anything that’s going on here, except to say that a process of communication, a process of conversation and of writing, of writing your thoughts down so that they become inscribed as memories and those memories don’t get taken away from you, are important. Maybe sometimes of tape recording a few conversations, maybe sometimes of taking a few photographs of your wall and then circulating them amongst yourselves, maybe building a kind of web interface where you can place these materials: your thoughts, your images, your sounds, so that they can communicate with other thoughts, images and sounds, that’s all that you do. For us, we’ve realized that that’s as important as a form of constituent practice as visibly reclaiming public space, because if you try to visibly reclaim public space, you spend more of your energies trying to combat the court order than you do in visibly reclaiming that space. Once, if there comes a time that we can do that sort of thing, of course we will, but until that time, until those times exist – maybe they never will come, or maybe they will come, if the last International is successful, they’ll come – but until such time, you write on the walls of other people’s minds. That’s what the cybermohalla experience is all about. I think I’ve spoken long enough, and I’d like now to pass the microphone on to Shveta, who is going to tell you more concretely and more detailed about the work that they do.

0341saraishveta9Shveta Sarda (Sarai Media Lab, Cybermohalla)

I’m going to speak from a paper. Thank you, Shuddha, for providing the context for cybermohalla from where I’ll be speaking now. As Shuddha has already mentioned, we at Sarai have been working with 25 young people between 15 and 24 years of age in two media labs, in different locations in Delhi, the city where I live. These labs, named compughar by the practitioners, are equipped with computers (3 computers each), which work on free software, a scanner, a sound booth, portable recording units and digital and analogue cameras. Critically, these labs are self-regulated spaces. Currently, we’re engaging with the dimensions of what these self-regulated spaces could mean. Leading up to this congress, my colleague Joy and I have been in conversation in a workshop situation with four young people in St. Pauli. What are the chances that a young Turkish girl, as Shuddha puts it, meets an Indian traveller in a German street to talk about her experiences of living there? A young German girl takes some moments to unpeel the layers of time on the surfaces of the walls and doors that gently open into everyday spaces, and together, they talk about seeing through sound. Together, witnessing the moments of creation of spontaneous urban mythology about thresholds that must be traversed to build connections. Someone might ask: What is the significance of such an experience? These unlikely encounters are moments where strangers meet and make each other small gifts to carry away to their everyday lives, where the familiarity of everyday is settled in gentle ways: faces of strangers passing by come near, nooks and corners, pillars and posts and colours acquire a significance, so we may recreate the world every day. When together we make conversations that through the particular move towards questions, sights, sounds, metaphors that resonate across cultural practices. I must say that the concept of unlikely encounters and constituent practices are helpful in understanding my own practice and the practice of the compughar. And it is through these that I draw on the experiences of
Cybermohalla to speak with you today.

„Unlikely Encounters“ are encounters, meetings and connections across cultural
and class barriers, made possible. These are meetings between different life
worlds – the difference is not only of spacial location, but significantly, of
experiences, of everyday creative resources, of ways of negotiating lived
realities. The encounters are, then, between two different locations within
social, educational and cultural heirarchies. Implicit in this definition is
the problem of thinking and translation of life worlds. The question the
encounters pose is – what will be the dialogic frame of the two worlds who are
meeting?

Let us first look at the frame of one of these worlds. This is a world which
is visible, articulate. It has a vision for the „other world“ – one of
„empowering“ it. It is a particular vision – a khas nazar – that is based on
the perception of the other world as a „space of lack“ that needs to be
transformed through intervention.

In this context, I would read Constituent Practices as practices that question
these all-pervasive transition narratives. They search the gaps between the
infantilisation, the perception of this „other world“ as a ‚waiting room‘ of
history.

How do the texts and conversations at the labs help me understand these
processes? To Yashoda, a khas nazar – a special look cast at her – sometimes
produces a feeling of suffocation. She writes, „What can be said of the looks
that are not from strangers, but well-wishers? They seem unfamiliar sometimes.
What are these looks? They leave a trace of suffocation in my life which
otherwise seems to be going on just right. Even if I want to tell others about
these looks, I can‘t. Because I don‘t understand them myself. Because in the
trial of looks, there are no eyewitnesses.“

Shamsher writes that it is sometimes akin to standing in a crowd. He asks,
„And if we were to stand in a crowd and look at one another, what would the
eyes of the crowd say to us? Move! Get out of the way!“

But, Yashoda continues, there is a need to differentiate between these various
‚looks‘, and to go beyond what the eye perceives. She writes, „When I see
crowds, I remember Shamsher‘s question. When I pass by the crowd of the
market, the bus and the street, so many looks cross mine. In these I sometimes
see lust, sometimes a need to hurry past, sometimes a shyness, sometimes
problems, and sometimes emptiness – where there is no interest in either the
self, or in those around them. A crowd‘s eyes don‘t just tell us to get out of
the way. Because they are not comprised of just one person with a single
thought. There are kinds and kinds of people in a crowd. In a crowd one
doesn‘t necessarily always see only goons, brothers or friends.“

Azra insists experience cannot be understood only through the visual field.
The distanced view from afar presents reality in a two-dimensional,
colourless, flattened frame. It‘s just like looking at a crowded market by
standing on an overbridge. It will always seem non-navigable. Walk through the
crowd. There are gaps in the crowd through which we find our way. It is a
gesture at moving away from privileging of the visual field as a mode of
representing the unfolding reality.

Experience, she says, needs to be „entered“ and experienced through tactility,
bringing near, moving into. Texture, mobility, velocity, energy, a dash of
colour lend faceless two-dimensionality life force, animate it, make it
palpable. The impediment in translation between life-worlds is that we push
away, distance, immediately comprehend through familiar frames. By standing at
a distance, we create between ourselves and another reality, a thought-gap.

This is the gap which needs to be entered.

The inner world of this – our second – life world is of intimacy, anger,
restlessness; it lives with different intensities of indignity and humiliation
born of the contempt and derision felt at the perception that it needs to be
transformed. It lives in the troubled terrain of entitlement to, and gratitude
for, as well as a suspicion of the gestures of transformation through
intervention. The question of livelihood, to enter the labour market, to earn
a living with diginity mocks at all attempts to create a small space to
narrate and share experiences. The overriding question that acts as a fullstop
– „What will you get out of all this?“ – lingers as a shadow.

Constituent Practices have to traverse these small gaps and lingering but
weighty shadows.

***

No two experiences speak the same language. The creation of, and an emphasis
on, difference means a sorting and categorisation of experiences as
oppositional, and marks them in a heirarchical structure of signification. How
can different experiences become integral to one another, and how can they be
in dialogue with one another?
In one interaction at the LNJP lab, Masooma, writing about her passport sized
photograph, circumvented a description of herface by calling it aam, ordinary.
The reading of the everyday as ordinary because of its familiarity and
proximity led the conversation to explore its other – ie khaas, or special –
through the lens of the binary of the ordinary|special look. Within the
everyday, are there incidents which, being away from the ordinary, impress
upon us a need to examine them, or reflect upon them?

Combing through everyday incidents with a sensitivity for ‚special look‘
significated certain incidents that may otherwise have passed by unnoticed.
This got translated into some texts – incidents made alive by being marked as
‚a departure from the usual‘.

Interesting as the observations and texts that emerged from thinking with the
binary were, they were individual evaluations of exdperiences categorised
through their being different from other experiences. The fixity of
experiences, and the boundedness of the resultant categories (of the texts)
did not speak with the experiences of the group. In the conflictual categories
resulting from the ordinary|special, the interconnections between them was
missing. It was not just the heirarchical categorisation of the relation
between the ordinaryand the special, but also the lateral relations between
them, which emerged as being of value.

What emerged was a hyperlinked thinking, where connections between and with
different thoughts and experiences is emphasised. Where it is in thinking
about the differential nature of experiences which allows for a fluidity of
categories and therefore an interactivity between them, which allows for a
movement between thoughts, experiencesand contexts.

Each narrative is then a suggestion for the emergence of other experiences.
It evokes multiple, multiplying narratives. A context then gets created where
linked narrations of different locations, circumstances, intimate experiences,
lived realities can emerge. And with this emerge, possible routes of
intermediate perception. Where others‘ experiences accrete.

***

To end, I would like to draw your attention to two forms of moral economies
that act as powerful impediments. One is the moral economy of transition
narratives, and the other, the moral economy of intervention. These operate
through the economy of gratitude and the processes of instrumentalisation, or
processes that appropriate experiences and utterances into predetermined
purposes and frames – say of secularism, nationalism.

There is a need for reconstituting the conceptual and imaginary world. How can
questions be asked that resonate into each others‘ life. And – how can the
language of gift and hospitality be understood and brought into life to have a
trajectory of engagement? This also brings us to understanding that a
conceptual framework can come from other practices – free software opens up
one such possibility.

The challenge before us, therefore, is of building creative resources to
refuse processes of instrumentalisation. This can be done through a self
regulated space which cultivates every thought – and this context has to be
constantly worked on, created.

What such a practice gestures towards is a peer to peer network of multiplying
unlikely encounters and constituent practices which refuse dominant practices
and moral economies.

0381saraijoy1

Joy Chatterjee (Sarai Media Lab / Cybermohalla)

I will be talking about concrete practices and their relation with forms of
knowledge, from our engagement in Cybermohalla. This is very significant for
our reflection on being producers of knowledge. What we are trying to follow
and understand are the intricate web of processes of how a group develops
together – as a group, and not through becoming an aggregate of specialised
selves – and how it generates within it a capacity for self recognition, for
intersubjective recognition, for understanding the social biography of the
neighbourhood and developing a sense of, and addressing diverse publics.

Our experience has been of working between diverse media forms. These are
diaries, animations, wall magazines, conversations, interviews, recordings,
readings, mailing lists. Working with these forms makes possible the
articulation of, and so the production of different knowledges. The multipying
dimensions of media forms, then, produce multiple forms of engagement, a
practice in and between different registers. And so they make available
diverse creative resources which make thought processes more agile, receptive,
and vulnerable.

Let me elaborate this through sharing with you our experience of this
multiplying multiplicity. What I will do is talk about them through separated
categories, though these categories are, of course, fluid in practice.

1. The first media form – the act of writing. Over the last two years at the
labs, a sustained and regular practice of writing has emerged. Everyone writes
in diaries – small notebooks with ruled sheets – the kind they perhaps use in
school. Some of these writings are in the biographical register – eg Naseem
Bano‘s poignant text about the transformer in the house which steps up the low
voltage. She writes, „My father had bought the transformer from the money he
got by selling our house in the village. It is the only thing we have to
remember our father by. Now our house here is permanent – that is, made of
brick and mortar. But the transformer continues to be kept in the same place
as before. There is no chance it will ever be moved from there.“ Or Dheeraj‘s
everyday antics brought out in texts like one about the day he drank petrol
thinking it was water! And Lakhmi‘s ironic writings about his experiences at
school.

Some writings are in the register of space – Yashoda‘s text about the
staircase that transforms into a meeting space every morning when people line
up to fill water. Nilofer‘s thick description of a tea stall she passes by
every day. Or Azra‘s cinematic description of a room – she writes, „My friend
was sitting with her back to the door. So there was very little light on her
face. Each time there was a sound outside, she would turn, and the light from
the door would sharply define her profile. Light was also coming in through
the window. But there was a recently constructed red brick wall in front of
it. So the light bounced off this wall before entering from the window, and so
was red in colour.“

And writings are also through an engagement with another biography – by
writing about a face, whether imaginary or through conversation. Shamsher
writes about Dilbagh Khan „who is forty years old and whose eyes are always
red-rimmed from the amount of alcohol he drinks. Who drives an auto-ricksha
and beats up his wife and kids every day.“ Or Yashoda, who writes about the
beautiful and young Phool Bano who she has heard has lost her senses and roams
around the streets all day, laughing at passers-by and spitting at them.

There can be other ways! What these do is open up ways in which you think – eg
space can then be thought through soundscape, light, colour, and in its
materiality.

2. Narrating to each other.
The texts that are written in these notebooks are shared with one another
through the practice of reading ones own text to another, and the act of
listening. This act of narrating, and listening, leads to thinking about what
questions can be asked of each others‘ experience, what words can be found to
link each others‘ experience. Questions that are asked then are incorporated
into the telling. Words and phrases that resonate with others‘ experience find
themselves in newer texts, in other tellings.

3. Conversations
This is another very important form. Talking through question and answers, and
conversations without question-answers. Nisha explains, „When you talk through
question-answers, you define a boundary within which the conversation will
flow, choose a target through which you figure out what you want to say. In
conversations without question answers, baatcheet mein suggestions pe
suggestions nikalte rehte hain, aur baatcheet chaltee rehti hai. Aap dayra
nahin banate aur apne aap ko kholna padta hai – the conversation proceeds
through suggestions upon suggestions, where the self has to open up to the
other.

4. E-mail
The Cybermohalla mailing list is another form, where postings have an
improvised texture. Mails posted on the list are often addressed to
individuals, though meant for the whole group, they have references to
gestures of peers, and nature of interactions with them, writings about
immediate experiences that have not been made sense of yet, about encounters
in the city while travelling from one lab to another, accounts of interesting
incidents and conversations through the day, quick reflections and questions
that everyone could think through. It has not yet developed into a full form.
But it is definitely a different mode of expression, though still in its
preliminary stage.

We understand these forms as „peer forms“ – forms that have evolved through
peer to peer interactions. Through these forms experiences and reflections can
talk to one another, tease and cajole each others‘ thoughts and over time, the
group develops a complex culture of self and intersubjective recognition.

5. Wall magazine.
This is a primary „public form“ of the labs. Texts are written and selected
for a twelve page wall magazine designed and produced at the lab. It is then
photocopied and circulated in the locality by being put up on public walls.
Till now, three wall magazines,named Ibarat (or Inscription) have been
published. Translated versions of the same can be found on the Sarai website
(www.sarai.net)

Now, having spent the childhood in the locality, and having grown up within
the neighbourhood, the CM young practitioners are faced with an interesting
problematic. There is still a struggle to achieve a mode of addressing the
locality. That is a movement from an experience of being addressed – by the
world of the adults — towards being in a position to gift something to the
locality, and evolving a mode of addressing their neighbourhood.

The problem is which topics to discuss, which tone to adopt – it is a problem
of what their vantage point ought to be. The first three wall magazines were
on names of the lanes in the colony, on work, and about the trip to Bombay.
But after that, there was a pause to search topics which will find a thematic
resonance in the colony.

6. Photographs.
Photographs are both digital as well as bromide prints. The two, however, do
not displace one another. Rather they create a different dynamics around one
another. The bromide prints create an immediate sociality around them –
through being arranged in photo albums and seen, individually, in groups or by
being passed around. The digital photographs create around them a mediated
sociality of being seen on the computer screen, or through a limited number of
print outs that can then be circulated. They, however, make for quick
downloading and manipulation on the computer and find their way into the
animations made.

7. Animation.
Animations, or animated drawings (which you see on the screen behind me)
reveal an enigmatic inner world of stories and rhythms. My sense is that a
play of unravelling and revealing, that is accretive, draws the group into
exploring narration through animations. Interestingly, it is the practice of
creating animations which pulls and propells them into narrating through
drawing – something they rarely do on paper otherwise.

8. Sound.
These are analogue recordings – self-recording (readings, eg), recording
ambience, interviews in the locality and the city. At present we have about
forty hours of recordings ranging from a confrontationist interview with an
old grandmother, to a walk through the neighbourhood, to recording a circus,
to self stuttering.

The question now is what creative resources these practices are building. What
is interesting is that the practice of taking photographs, recording sounds,
creating animations seems to have an archival impetus, rather than being
object oriented, or with an „output“ in mind. They are constantly worked with,
and also catalogued and logged.

This archive then, will create a centrifugal force, where instead of being
worked with to be presented to a public, it may create a pull – the „public“
must come to see it.

Sarai CM researchers, on their part, engage with the labs on the „peer and
archival forms“, to see what public forms they can take, to be pitched to a
more abstract public. The bilingual publication of texts, images and
animations, „Galiyon Se / by lanes“1, and installations, different forms of
publications (notebooks, boxes with CDs and booklets) are examples. The
movement between the „public and peer forms“ has started producing a very
productive thinking on accessible, mobile micro forms – postcards, booklets –
that can travel diverse spaces with the possibility of a return to the lab
with other experiences, other practices.

Shuddha after Joy’s talk

Thank you, Joy. I just thought that I’d conclude by making a few remarks about the kind of infrastructure that is behind these labs. The entire work, including the animations, the textual work, the work with photographs, is done on free software platforms. We are always big advocates of free software for two reasons: one is that if you want to sustain a realistic practice with new media in a space, in a squatter settlement in Delhi, to try and do it with legal Microsoft Windows software is impossible, because it’s too expensive. It’s practical. The other fact, of course, is that free software – we work in a new Linux platform – are made on Gimp and Open Office (and all the work is done with free software programs), are also things that we can customize, so there’s a lot of work that we’re doing right now to try and customize the free software resources to our specific local needs. An important consideration is language, because up till now a lot of the work is done in Roman alphabet-Hindi, but now we want to work towards a desktop which is in Hindi and Urdu script. So working with free software gives us the freedom – for programmers who work with us to enter the source, transform it and recreate it for new users. You can’t do that with propriety-closed software. So that’s just a plug-for-free software. Joy mentioned the making of books. This is one of the books; it’s called “By lanes”. It’s a bilingual publication, which includes a lot of the first years of writing; it’s available for sale at the counter. Also, I was asked to make a small announcement about this book, which is a Sarai Reader that we produce every year. These are not for sale, but you can download them in their entirety. Every article in this is available for free download as pdf’s from the Sarai website – that’s www.sarai.net – and you can also order them from Amazon or Autonomedia in New York, they are willing to sell them. So that’s just by way of a kind of conclusion. The cybermohalla experience most importantly for us demonstrates that – when we started out there was a lot of scepticism about working with teenagers or young adults between the ages of 15-20, who are school dropouts, mainly young women who’ve never seen a computer in their life… What will they do? What point is there in this kind of experience? I think for us, because of the fact that reclaiming public space was not a possibility, reclaiming public space through communication however was a possibility, and that’s why we chose to work with new media forms. There is a great reluctance and resistance in many parts of India, for instance, saying that if you’re working with working-class kids, why work with technology? It’s not a feature of technology that we work with technology, it’s because every other mode of working is actually closed down. So you can only form ways of resources for memory: by using computers you can print a wall magazine, make a little animation movie, do a little sound recording, work by manipulating photographs. So it opens up many possibilities that would have otherwise closed down. It’s important to recognize that the cybermohalla labs are located in spaces that have irregular electricity connections. You can have a power breakdown for 4-6 hours every day in the summer, which means that you have to think about how you do things when the power goes. You have to think about the fact that the house itself and the surrounding neighbourhood can one day be destroyed, or there can be violent police action that just destroys the neighbourhood. So you have to think about resources and tactics that keep alive a kind of practice in this form. It’s been an interesting journey so far. We’ve now started working in another lab in the southern part of the city, where the young people from the first lab now go as trainers and animators to the second lab along with Shveta, Joy and other people. So with that I will end our presentation. Thank you very much.

Cassette 1, Side 2

Discussion

– Thank you very much. I thought maybe we could have short questions and then I’d suggest what we could talk about.
– I just have one very practical question. You were talking about these houses and what the circumstances are, but I still didn’t quite get if it’s a public space, if it is a flat where you meet. So where do the people meet and how do you get in contact with teenagers?
– Shuddha: We work quite closely with an NGO called ANKUR Society for Alternatives and Education, which has been working in these two communities for a very long time. It is a collaboration quite actively between them, and they’re very important as the co-authors in a sense of this project and Sarai. They already have many activities in these spaces. So we meet in one of the spaces; it’s the one legal house, which is actually a community health centre downstairs, and upstairs there is the office of the NGO. We have a room there which becomes a self-regulated space, so the young people look after that space on their own. It’s the one place that will not be demolished. If there is an evacuation it will stand. The surrounding area, for instance in the LMJP lab, is a settlement which is now about 35 years old, so it’s got some life and a history, so it’s not very easy to remove. There are always attacks but it still has a certain tenuous hold. They have networks with local politicians. It occupies the land between a big public hospital and another wing of the public hospital. In theory, the land belongs to the Delhi state government, which then can give it to the hospital if it chooses to, but since they’ve occupied it for 35 years it’s difficult to remove it in one go. So it’ll take some time, but the settlement that was right next to it was converted into a big park where no one goes.
– Just a very short question as well. On the photos we saw one with posters and one with graffiti. I just wonder whether that is possible or if it’s forbidden, because you said that it’d be dangerous to do it. Are there special neighbourhoods where that is possible?
– Shveta: No, the graffiti that we saw here was inside the building, this legal structure. The posters that you saw are put up usually during election times. So during elections there’s painting on the wall, or there are advertisements that are put up. Specifically, the graffiti is actually the wall leading up to the door of the lab, which is inside.
– Shuddha: If you go into Delhi, every wall inch is covered with either graffiti or with posters, but you have to be a force to be able to do that, in the sense that the posters are always of political parties or of religious organizations, or the graffiti is often of a commercial nature: it’s advertising services. The wall space is actually auctioned, so the space of the wall becomes transformed into a commodity. It’s an informal economy, and people buy and sell the wall space. There can be actually a lot of conflict over that, because somebody might have auctioned off a wall and then somebody else comes in and puts a poster. So there’s a lot of money as well as muscle power that goes behind the appropriation of wall. If you’re a political party, it means you have a relationship with the local police station, you pay them something under the table and they let you put a poster or they look the other way. So if you’re not an organized force that can come on with influence with the local police, then you can’t do that.
– Just one more question. Shveta, when you say it’s inside the house, do you need to use the inside walls to inscribe things, or what was written down there? Is it part of making it visible?
– Shuddha: No, I think that particular graffiti is just a kid scrolling his name. But in the inside of this lab they actually do have a lot of material.
– Shveta: The inside walls are actually used for writing and putting up things. So there are paintings, comic books that are made, small booklets that are put up, a lot of stickers from the writings that are done in the lab as well as translations of some words, some pictures or photographs that have been taken.
– I’m just curious to hear something about your background. What’s your education, and how did it all start with? Since you were not really introduces, can you say a few words about that?
– Shuddha: About all of us?
– Yes, I’d like to hear about all three of you.
– Shuddha: I’m part of a collective called the Raqs Media collective, and we started out as documentary filmmakers abut 12 years ago. I studied filmmaking and before that anthropology. We very soon realized that as documentary filmmakers there’s no point continuing, because you either make films for television that in a way you don’t like, or you do nothing. So we spent many years doing nothing and sometimes doing films for television. Then the three of us, that’s me and my two other colleagues, Jeebesh and Monika, who are not here, worked with two other theorists to set up the space Sarai as a place where people like us can make projects that they would want to do. So that’s the reason why we did this, because we were fed up with doing nothing for a long time.
– Shveta: I have a degree in social work. I graduated about a year and a half ago now.
– Joy: I have an art degree, went to film school, then I worked as a designer for television and industry, and now I work in Sarai.
– Christoph: I’m a bit bowled over, because all the questions that I might have asked were already answered so in depth, but it all has happened in a very fast and condensed way. One thing that you discussed and Katrin asked you about was this going on the outside wall or not going on the outside wall. We yesterday had a small discussion by the fire. One of the things that touched me the most was the workshop we did with the children in St.Pauli. At one point we had this question: there’s this girl Gina (she’s at school now); she brought along terribly interesting stories. Shveta noticed this and we discussed whether we should talk about these stories directly. It was quite clear that it had to be done within a private, intimate and trusting relationship. Shveta said we were not at that point at all, we were in the process of starting a group in which each participant must trust the group to confide such intimate thoughts and thus “collectivise” them. I understood on the spot, and later on I realized that my own desire to have such a group was very much telling about the kind of group I would like to have or be in, where speaking about such things would be possible. I found it interesting that you went on about this in your lecture, in depth but very fast. Yesterday the discussion was much about where this does lead politically, on the one hand. What I found very strong in your experience was the aspect of perception, and I think that cannot be found in any group or collective project in Europe. This aspect of perception has a very active function. Maybe you could comment on that.
– Shuddha: Yes, I think the whole idea of perception, which is so invisible – almost like: how do you have a politics of looking in the street? How do you have a politics of looking at yourself, looking at your friends? It’s very important, because I think a lot of the first judgements that we make of people have actually to do with what we decide to see. A lot of the work with the cybermohalla experience has been talking about what do you see. Constantly asking: Look outside. Who are these people? What are they doing? What are they wearing? In India, and perhaps over here as well, a lot of energy is spent in decoding how people appear in front of us, and that becomes the first cornerstone of prejudice. What decision do you make about a person, depending on what they’re looking like? How do they dress? How do they speak? How do they stand, slouch? For us, we found that this was one of the basic things that we needed to work with a lot: how are people seeing the world and seeing each other. This kind of relates to this private-public thing, because it immediately brings up a lot of your judgements. How public do you want to make your judgement? One concept that I found very interesting to deal with was the idea of necessary secrets: you don’t always say things. There is a certain way in which the people in the cybermohalla group take a lot of pictures of their space, but they’re very reluctant to give them out for people to see. They say: “I would like you to see the pictures I’ve taken of the street, but why should we show you the pictures of our wall? It’s not important. You have to come here to see that, there is no necessity of representing ourselves beyond the point.” That comes from two things: one thing is that the wall magazine that they make, Ibarat, they do put it up in their neighbourhood in many places. That leads to many interesting conversations, because the local boss of the neighbourhood, who sometimes thinks he should be there, is not there, or if he’s there, then why is he there? I remember when we made the book and there was a little reading. A lot o young people came and read from the book. They went back and had a lot of problems in their neighbourhood, because the boss (every neighbourhood has a boss, he’s the one who controls the informal and formal networks of power) said: “This is all very well, but you’ve talked how the electricity comes here and what we do; what if that creates a problem? This gives us a bad reputation.” So it was a very interesting encounter between this very seasoned, local kind of mafia (but not like a bad guy: he’s a cool guy, but he’s got an anxiety about the neighbourhood) and these 18-year-old girls. So they had a little meeting about the meaning of this book. Why is it there and what will it do? Then the boss realized that a lot of it was not apparent to the outside world. It was a communication between the neighbourhood that was more visible than what was visible to the outside world. So then he said that as long as other people don’t understand what’s going on, it’s not a problem. This is an important thing, because there are two purposes to the communication: one is how do you talk about yourself to the outside world, and second, how do you talk about yourself to yourself? So there’s a lot of coding that goes on in communication, which is quite deliberately meant to make it difficult for someone else to understand. Very often, we have the experience of people going to the cybermohalla lab and asking them questions, and the kids never answer them. They ask other questions. They’ll say: “No, you tell us.” It’s always a kind of game as to who reveals what about themselves, which is interesting because of the fact that if you live in a situation where every piece of information you deliver yourself may be used against you, then you have to be very careful with what you say and what you don’t say. So whereas there can be a politics of making yourself visible all the time, there can also be a politics of qualified visibility or a little game with visibility.
– To come back to our fireplace discussion yesterday, it actually started with the structure of your work, Sarai, the centre, the Raqs collective, which do not seem very transparent or not clear. I suggested that you needed a place, computers etc., for very practical reasons. Margit argued it was just the opposite, that it was a tactical move to make it a bit unclear and maybe not accessible to the police or power. I thought it could be interesting to start with a different situation in Delhi and maybe Hamburg. Maybe I’m projecting things on Delhi or India, based on what I’ve heard about ex-Yugoslavia, that suddenly you had to define yourself or your neighbour as an ethnic, social person based on divisions and religion. Suddenly your best friend was defined as the Other. So you start to have this prejudice. Maybe the difference here is what Deleuze called “control society”, which is a kind of gas, and sometimes you have to fix that gas. I have the feeling that here it has to be fixed. I don’t know if that’s understandable.
– Shuddha: Whenever I come to Europe, I’m always curious about the articulation of a lot of political positions on the one hand, very openly, and the almost complete non-articulation of a lot of other things. For instance, I’m always curious about the migrant communities, like the Turkish community in Germany and their internal problems. I always go in a German city and ask: “Where are the Grey Wolves?”, because they’re are there. The Turkish extreme right is always present in Germany. The Turkish left is also always present in Germany, they’re always fighting, but no one knows this. It’s like an internal conversation, in a sense. It’s maybe also a question of not saying some things to people that may be present in Europe on another register. So while some things are always said, there are also some things that are not said. In India, I think we come from a political culture where everyone is saying a lot, actually all the time. They never stop talk, politics is an entertainment. If you go into a bus or a tea stall, there’s nothing else to do, people will start political discussions as a way to pass the time, but a lot of things also don’t get said in a similar way. So while I agree with you that it’s possible for a range of expressions to occur, if you go on the surface in India it’s also politically very vibrant – there’s a lot of disagreement, everyone talks, everyone makes noises – but then there’s also a subtle underground of things that are not said, which have to do with prejudice, which have to do with political spaces that don’t exist or exist very fragilely. I recognize what you’re saying, but whenever I come to Europe, I also see the same things that I see in India.
– Going back to what Christoph started talking about, what is the political issue of making precise descriptions? Do you have to synthesize it or what does it mean?
– Shuddha: The problem is – and I think it’s the problem of all politically engaged cultural intervention – that we’re often trying to address the state to correct something. Assuming and having a trust that this is possible, if there is something wrong with the immigration law, we ask the government to make a better immigration law, which is a very necessary thing to do. People should keep doing it. But on the other side of your brain you should always think that they will never do that. In fact, if you raise the question of an immigration law, that will make it worse. So what do you do? You do continue to precisely state your objectives, but I think you also continue to state what is necessary for you in order to survive with dignity. So you find some ways and you find some means that don’t always let out its secrets. So the kind of precise statement: “This is what we are, this is what we do, this is what we would like to achieve, this is what we desire” has its own place, and then the vague, or the secret, or the complicated or the ambiguous statement that says: “This is what we want if this is what you say, otherwise I would like to do the opposite”, also has its place. This is why I came back to the idea of the reclamation of consciousness. I think if you’re not part of the power structure, you’re supposed to improve your life: get a better house, get a better electricity connection, get citizenship, get a hand pump maybe or a vaccination. These are seen as the great objects of desire, whereas they should be the most mundane things. Everyone should have a vaccination and a hand pump and electricity. I find that a lot of the politics in terms of empowering people with disadvantage actually limits them saying: “If you get this, this is fantastic.” This is the question that we often face in India when people read these texts that are very subjective, very deep, very personal, full of secrets that these young people are writing, a lot of people say: “This is not a demand for a better health care system.” So what’s the point? I think that a better health care system is something that should exist, you should be able to demand something more fundamental and more important from your life. Often those who are deprived are also deprived by many of us on the left of demanding and articulating basic, fundamental desires: recognition, a conversation, the ability to have pleasure, for instance. The entire politics of the left in India I found anti-pleasure. If you’re having a good time, it’s wrong. So you have to be sort of in pain and say: “No, we’re poor, we’re struggling.” The moment anyone decides to turn on the music and dance, it’s wrong. If you ask these kids: “What is political?”, they’ll say nothing, because for them “political” is a bad word. “Politics” is the local boss, who articulates something with the local political parties, who negotiates the votes and gets the electricity connection. They, on the other hand, are writers. That’s what they will say: “We write. We don’t do politics. We write and take pictures.” I think they are addressing more fundamental questions about: What kind of person do I want to be? To give you an example, one of the spaces is predominantly Muslim and most of these young women are Muslim (there are some others who are not Muslim). During the Ramadan many of them keep the Rosa, they will keep the fast and they will do the Namas, the prayer, five times a day, cover their heads and everything. At the same time, the same person who does that will also say: “The real bastard in the neighbourhood is the Imam of the mosque.” If one started saying: “What is the politics of this statement? If you’re saying this, why are you keeping the fast? If you’re doing this, why do you put the veil on your head?” The point is, the moment I say that, then it will become a retreat into: “Are you questioning who I am?”, because it’s the space of the contradiction between placing the veil on your head and at the same time saying: “I think the Imam is a real bastard”, that’s where the real politics lies. This needs to be stated in a trusted space. She can’t say: “The Imam is a bastard” on the street. If she says that, there’ll be a problem. So you create an atmosphere of trust where some things can be said, with the understanding that they will not go out of the room, but in their saying, the person who says that becomes somebody that they did not imagine they were. In just saying it to someone else, it changes who you are. It may be that no one else will really hear it, but having said it you become someone else. That’s a very intangible ground, you can say that the politics of this life lies there, in the things you can say in a room with a few friends.
– I think I’m understanding what you’re saying. What you just described, that was a certain power in the utterance, and when something is articulated and how it can actually change you. Just to clarify it: what we’re dealing with here is a construction of a language in common through images and words and writings. What I liked was the almost methodical breakdown of different types of – you hear the conversation with questions and answers, the conversation without questions and answers – and I think there’s a good distancing effect, because it doesn’t appear to be just about personal expression and the super importance of that. That can become – we were talking about perception before – a highly closed, subjective thing and the interest here is exactly this kind of blending of different subjectivities, which creates like you said this secret language, or more opaque language that is in common. I’m just curious, when you have the groups in different neighbourhoods, are there any encounters between them? These two separate languages in common that have been developed. What happens when there is an encounter between these two different labs?
– Shveta: The two labs are very different, as Shudda already mentioned. LNJP is a non-legal settlement and Dakshinpuri is a resettlement colony, that is when non-legal settlements like LNJP were cleared up in the late 70’s and resettlement colonies were made for transporting the people from where they lived to these new colonies. The interactions are almost on a weekly basis, or some of those interactions are in terms of gifts of hospitality, where eves (?) are celebrated and so forth, but what is interesting is that the experiences of both spaces are extremely different. The sense of mobility that’s in the resettlement colony, the pressure for livelihood there, the perceptions that there are of another space, of another religion in the resettlement colony, are very different from the experiences at LNJP. The interactions a lot of the times have been about these ways of looking at one another, but because the conversations are about experiences, about travelling in the city, encounters with strangers, outside of these ways in which they look at one another, it’s through these smaller stories and everyday realities which somewhere do resonate in our lives (because we live in the same city) that these are actually the zones where those interactions and transactions take place.
– Shuddha: To also state the extremely different cultural backgrounds: one is a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood, which is the non-legal settlement. The former non-legal, now legal settlement is predominantly lower cast, which is a different kind of social category altogether. However, the status of legality makes it possible for people there to have more permanent jobs, just because they have a legal status. So this distinction between “Your house can be broken down any moment and ours won’t be” is an interesting one. Although the kind of income level of both the settlements may be more or less the same (or there can be unevenness there), but just the perception that if you’re from that kind of neighbourhood and you have that kind of name, today in Delhi that’s a problem. So you recognize that. They had to actually find ways and means, like Shveta is saying, of referring to third things, of things that are not specific to their lives, in order to find a kind of bridge and then talk about each other’s lives. If you put these two kinds of people together, they are the kind of people who have been accustomed to fighting each other for a very long time in this city. So when there are communal rights, it’s usually one kind of people in one neighbourhood who will be mobilized to burn the houses of the others, and then you put these two groups together and their kids together, immediately there will be at the back of everyone’s mind, whether they’re saying it or not, that question is always there.
-Shveta: One thing that Shuddha mentioned when he was talking earlier, which is for me very significant when I’m working at cybermohalla, which is that because certain people belong to certain spaces, they’re allowed to speak about certain things and not beyond that. Usually the reason we make a very concerted, conscious effort not to “representationally” frame the localities in terms of class, status or religious backgrounds, is also because while it’s possible for us in this context to speak about the differences between religion and mobilization of people on religious and communal lines, what is also important is that these are not the spaces where one enters the discourse of secularism.
-Shuddha: Secularism is a very particular word in an Indian context. It’s like a Republican idea of “Our differences don’t matter and we’re all the same people”. That’s the discourse of the state up till now. Now, of course there’s a very different discourse, there’s predominantly far-right Hindu discourse, but normally it’s like saying anti-fascism of the kind that says we must forget that there are class differences. It’s that kind of lame social-democratic idea. When you’re talking about identities in India, in the context of Delhi, it’s always placed in the binary: are you going to talk about your being a Muslim, or are you going to talk about your being a Hindu, or are you going to talk about this vague nothing called Indian? That doesn’t mean anything to anybody, but it’s something that we hear all the time, it’s something that we learn in school and so on. The emphasis on concrete experience, on what the generator, what the electricity supply, what the bus, what the guys looking at me across the street does is actually it allows you to talk in a language and a vocabulary that doesn’t have to say this all the time. Although these are the reasons why many things happen. The reason why a particular settlement will be more easily destroyed that another is to do with the fact that some of the people there are Muslim, of course, but then how do you talk about this without getting into [trouble]? Because that’s what everyone wants you to do. They want you to talk about your being Muslim and Indian, but can you talk about your being an 18-year-old woman instead? That’s the ground we’re talking about, because then you can have a conversation with another 18-year-old woman also about the things that matter to 18-year-old women.
– It’s not necessarily about privileging one or the other, so it’s this multiplicity of experiences and languages which is good. Talking as an 18-year-old woman, talking as a bird flying in another dimension, if that’s possible to find another person to talk to that way. I don’t know much about the history of India, but I do know that there was this caste system, which is like a super kind of coding of identity and a transparency of it, and I can see the interest in trying to develop and subvert the constant demand for saying: “This is who I am, and this is where I am from”, which is an oppressive thing even here in the West, because we have this whole thing of the subject – I am doing this, I am doing that, I love you, etc. and it’s always I, I, I.
– Shveta: The “I” is terribly important though, because it’s through everyday experience that we enter in the conversation. One example that I can take is that of the experience of heat. This is an interaction in LNJP that I only heard about much later, but electricity as Shuddha mentioned is very important. Electricity supply is intermittent, it comes and goes, in most of the houses it’s not even legal, and there is a local network through which electricity is procured. The experience of heat for someone who lives on the second floor of a house, where there is a workshop underneath which works with iron smelting and has in the heat of summer the bright hot sun beating down from the roof, how can an experience like that speak with other experiences? Because it is a significant experience outside of the experience of poverty and of identity, specifically. That would be something that, when we are talking about creative resources within the group so that there are concepts that are developed from those experiences and from linking with other experiences or asking questions that do find resonance in other people’s lives, because those questions can be asked outside of the identity politics that one works with and works through every day, is actually something that…
– Shuddha: Because normally what happens is that if you get into a conversation where people start talking about “I’m Muslim”, then they never talk about anything else. Then the question of electricity supply, the heat, the fact that you can move freely in the city, these all become secondary and the primary conversation becomes: “You look at me this way because of this.” So when we started working with this we said: “’Let’s start working with categories that you have to get to, which allow you to talk about things that you’ve never talked about in your life, perhaps.” For instance, in the non-legal settlement, a real issue even within the Muslim population is who is Indian and who is Bangladeshi, and it’s going to become a real issue very soon. Of course we could address that question quite explicitly, but the moment you address that question, you get kind of caught in a trap of “who has the right to do what”, instead of saying: “What are the things in our neighbourhood that affect us all, immediately?” We’re not saying that if those questions are raised immediately you ignore them, but it’s a way of talking about all of these experiences that perhaps make people think about: O.K., this is so, but then what about something that happens to someone who doesn’t have my kind of name? To come back to the question of looks, because the moment you hear somebody’s name or the way they’ve draped a little bit of cloth on their head, you know who they are. In India, all these clothes become read immediately. So they’re very subtle, they’re very fine, but people start looking and making judgements immediately. So to dissect looks themselves and the act of looking and the act of looking as a prelude to judgement it’s something that we’re constantly working with.
– I kind of understand your project as creating a space of inscription or to offer some material conditions for self-representation and how this is perceived by others as well. At one point you were talking about silence or the necessary secret that people own. I just wonder, because everything that you do is a matter of representation – you’re talking about pictures, you’re talking about words – if silence can be a speech act, if this is a way of empowerment as well as a way of showing force or power or maybe even violence. Is there any means in the things that you show or that are open to the public that talks about the silence?
-Shuddha: Again, silence: the moment you talk explicitly about what you’re silent about it ceases to be a silence. So I think a lot of the strategies are like games. So one of the things that they do a lot is play with what’s called “The memory game”. It’s an associative practice. It’s like a cadavre exquisite, like what the Situationists used to do, an exquisite corps: you start with one sentence, go into another, go into another… We played this game initially as a game of “snakes and ladders” – it’s a common game that children play: if you go down one road it means you drop dead, and if you go down another road that’s a ladder and then it leads you to another utterance. So we said: “What are the words that are snakes, and what are the words that are ladders?” That was a very interesting exercise, because of these naming categories that made you drop dead and then you couldn’t go further, and naming categories that lead to other categories. So it’s often through means like that, which are very indirect, which are very oblique, that you get a sense of what people want to talk about but will not speak about. The distinction between what people may be communicating with each other without ever talking about it directly, through a lot of word games. In one of the contexts – again, this is a different cultural context between the two labs – within the LNJP context, within one of the labs, which is the predominantly Muslim lab, there is a long history of a very articulate, verbal culture, which always talks in puns and riddles. It’s a part of everyday life. So everything can become a metaphor: electricity, for instance, is a great metaphor. People: it’s not just neighbourhoods, but people have power cuts. You can say: “He’s blown his fuse”, like we say in English. So people say: “His voltage has gone up” and things like that. So everything is coded in terms of metaphoric statements, riddles, puns, but in the other cultural context, where language is not such a living entity, it’s more direct, it’s more blunt, statements are more clear, but they can also be more clear. That’s the legal settlement, that’s the place where people can speak quite clearly what they mean, whereas here it’s as if by playing a lot of games with language you refer to things obliquely. So that’s one way of locating silences within occurrences. I don’t know if that answers your question.
– I do have a question concerning the strategies of empowerment that might be embodied or are embodied in your projects. I think this question also refers to a lot of people sitting here, because we’re talking a lot about the situation in India, in Delhi, and the strategies that you choose to work there. As you consider yourself an artist or at least the art world incorporates you e.g. through the documenta, within this field, do you start at least now after the documenta, or after being here, to use this field of art as another strategy of empowerment, or is it even more important than what you do at the place in Delhi? I don’t know, it’s a question I also have for other projects.
– Shuddha: It’s a question of where you locate yourself while you do what. The cybermohalla project is a Sarai project, it’s a project of the space that we created. What we showed at documenta was a project of the collective that I’m a part of, which is a Raqs project. So Raqs is like an entity, like an author that resides in a space called Sarai. In that sense, there is a clear distinction between what we consider to be our utterances – and I will say always our utterances are the Raqs utterances, are the art projects that we author – and the projects that we participate in or catalyse, because we don’t claim authorship of those projects. What is interesting, of course, I don’t know if this makes sense to you in Hamburg, but in Delhi no one will recognize me as an artist, because artists do all kinds of things. Of course they work in galleries and so on, but we’ve never worked in galleries, we’ve never been a part of that kind of institutional framework. Now after documenta,
now after we’ve had another project in the Venice biennale it’s going to get worse, more people in Delhi will recognize us as artists, and I’m quite worried about that , because then you have to go to a lot of galleries and in Delhi it’s kind of boring, but it means that the ability to insert oneself strategically within the art world is not something that I discount or look down upon, because I think that given the structure of what can be said in which context, the art world at present – it may change – has a lot of confusion. It doesn’t know what art is any longer. The art world is very confused about what is artistic practice, and I think that is a very productive time for people like us, because it enables us to make statements and enter into discourses, articulate them in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. So I don’t know whether that’s the case for Park Fiction, but at least now we can say if someone says: “Your work is very interesting, what would you like to do for such and such an event?” It’s not the event that’s important any longer. I didn’t even go to the Venice Biennale, I don’t care, but we made a work that we would otherwise not have been able to do. It’s not a question of even funding, because there’s no funding usually for these things. It’s a question of an opportunity to create something that may live beyond the context of the art world. So whereas the cybermohalla project is something that is a kind of ongoing laboratory of social experiment, which is something else altogether (and by experiment I mean not something that we experiment in a lab on other people but people together try out in a way that they didn’t try out before), our artistic projects, that is my investment in artistic projects as Raqs Media Collective is someone different, and that has a different kind of trajectory. I don’t know if that answers your question.
– I’d like to come back to the question of politics. I was very impressed when you said that something should be clear, we should have medical care, we shouldn’t fight for that. I think we have to fight for different things but that’s one kind of politics, the other kind one shouldn’t forget is what Park Fiction calls wish production. So things beyond the obvious and the way you describe things are things to fight or to work on, things beyond the needs, beyond being a kind of victim or excluded, but I think the two ways are necessary because you won’t get the medical care without fights. On the other side, you shouldn’t forget to produce your wishes.
– Shuddha: That’s an important distinction, and I’m glad you made this point. The fight for medical care is to sustain the world as it is. Everyone should have the right to have a productive everyday life. They should be able to go to work after they’re sick. That’s what medical care is about. The fight to get things beyond medical care is to create a way that does not exist, and that’s a distinction. Whereas we all have to fight to maintain our life in a healthy way, so that we don’t drop dead every day, for me the fight for medical care, the fight for housing, the fight for transportation, the fight for equal rights in a civic right discourse is very important, and I don’t dismiss it at all, but it’s to maintain the world as it is. To create another world, which is also the beginning of another kind of political sensibility, is to talk about: having it the way as it is, now what do we do with it? I think that the mistake that we often make is to collapse these two as if one is more important than the other. There are those who say that we can fight about other things once we’ve got medical care. I don’t think so. I think even if you’re sick, even if you’re dying of hunger, you still have the right to create your desires. In fact I think that’s even more important then, because the chance to articulate and create your own desires makes everything else also possible. If I don’t desire to live, why should I desire to be healthy? A lot of us forget this relationship when we articulate our politics, and we create a false hierarchy or priority. I am never for a moment saying that the struggle for a good health system is not important, I think it’s extremely important, but what is equally important is the struggle to define what is health. We forget the important philosophical dimension of everything that we do. I think ultimately also that weakens the struggle for a good health system, because is a struggle for a good health system one that makes you pay a lot for drugs that you don’t need, or is it a struggle for a kind of work that makes you not fall sick? That’s the question then. For those of us who are working in culture, it’s extremely important, because we’re the navigators of our neighbourhood. We’re the people making the sightings of the hills and the mountains and the plains. We’re saying: “O.K., we’re here right now, but that’s where we need to go next, and if we don’t make those sightings, we will never move from here to there”. That’s why it’s very important in that sense.
– Sounds like a very perfect final word. So thanks again, Shveta, Joy and Shuddha, and please use the chance to speak to them. All other artists, all groups are present in this room. Just a half an hour ago, Mariette Schiltz and Bert Theis arrived from Milano, and Luis Humberto Rosales is here, Ala Plástica is there, Ligna, the Schwabinggrad Ballet, Till Krause is there, so please use the chance to meet and talk. We will have an extra long lunch break now. I advise you to please use the restaurants in the neighbourhood for this and come back in time. The next point will be starting really in time, at three o’clock. Maybe we should start a bit earlier? No? O.K., but we will start at three, see you later then, an have nice talks.

05lignaLIGNA

T: We are Ligna, from the “Freier Sender Kombinat” (FSK: Free Radio). Michael, Ole and I have been working together since 1996 on diverse forms of radio shows and interventions, and it’s on these that we’re going to base our presentation here. First of all we want to introduce you to the context of free radio we work in, and how it has been constituted in Germany, especially in Hamburg.
O.: After that we’ll talk about radio theory and the radio theory debates we’re coming from.
T.: Then we’ll draw a linkage to urban space, which is the main theme of the conference, by focusing on controlled city spaces in which we undertake our radio interventions.
O.: We’ll introduce you to our radio interventions, playing some of our works, which include radio plays. At the end we’ll show you a film that documents our “radio ballet” in Hamburg last year.
T.: As I just mentioned, Ligna is part of the free radio landscape in Hamburg and doesn’t operate separately. We’re inextricably tied to the structures of the FSK.
O.: The FSK was launched in 1992, when various groups joined efforts to produce free radio. It’s locally run, non-profit radio, which means we can’t air any commercials. We only broadcast in Hamburg. We’re completely independent from state funding and governmental influence. Given the current political situation of our city, it’s obviously quite nice not to be dependent on the right-wing senate.
T.: When we founded the FSK, it was decisive for us to realize that the time of the left-wing movement had ended, that the Left had fragmented in various groups. Free radio was not to become a kind of vessel to contain such disintegration, but to offer a space of critical reflection instead. Free radio could also host new left-wing ideas, critically rethinking the Left’s appropriation of the radio medium.
O.: At the same time, the FSK carries on with the left-wing tradition that fosters self-organization as a sociopolitical practice, which means the appropriation takes place by going through the whole process on our own, from renting the space and setting up the studio to finding out how broadcasting works out.
Basically, the political structure of our radio is based on people getting together and associating in order to run free radio. That’s why our radio’s structure has always been the subject of controversy: the question was which structure could be the best to put emancipationist principles in practice. Also important to us at the FSK was not to take our location in a city for granted, but to establish a connection to the local, doing grassroots work. When we launched the FSK, we thought people would listen to the program and come by the studio if there was something with which they didn’t agree. Of course it never worked out like that. We never wanted our radio organization to remain some abstract idea, but to become concrete through a discussion process.
T.: Communication is a very important aspect of free radio. Another issue in the evolution of free radios in Germany that stems from the 70’s concerns alternative information sources. Free radio has always seen itself as the location where suppressed information gets disseminated, based on the assumption that public information is manipulated by plainly leaving out specific facts. Throughout the history of free radio it’s always been important, e.g. in connection with the anti-nuclear movement, to resist by providing a counter-position with alternative content.
Of course free radio has always referred to media theory or the history of leftist media practice. There’s a text by Berthold Brecht that’s been decisive for free radio’s identity, and it has been handed down as radio theory. Basically, this text dwells on the transformation of radio from a distribution apparatus into a communication apparatus. Here’s a short excerpt:
“But aside from the dubiousness of its function – he who has a lot to offer, will offer too little – radio is one-sided when it should have two sides. It is merely an apparatus of distribution; it only shares out. And now on the positive side, that is to turn to the positive side of radio, here is a proposal to give radio a new function: radio should be converted from a distribution system into a communication system.”
O.: A crucial aspect of this excerpt is the devaluation of distribution. Brecht thought radio was merely a distribution apparatus. Apparently the fact that radio disseminates the voice through many radios is not satisfactory enough for him; he thinks the transformation of radio into a means of communication is more important, and that is the interpretation that other free radios have adopted.
T.: The interpretation of this text by Brecht, that is to understand communication as a means of interaction, has been significantly shaped by another key work in free radio history, an essay by Hans Magnus Enzensberger called “Constituents of a theory of the media”, which challenges communication in that listeners must leave their passivity in order to become broadcasters. Here’s a passage:
“For the first time in history, the media are allowing a massive participation in a societal process, and its practical means can be found within the mass itself. Such a practice could drive the communication media home, which don’t live up to such a denomination. At its current state, media such as TV or film don’t serve the purpose of communication, rather hindering it. They don’t allow for any interaction between broadcaster and listener.”
O.: To quote Enzensberger, the means of production and radio are already in the hands of the masses. People own them; they have them at home. The media have only one setback: they impede communication, which is seen here as being interactive. Following Enzensberger, any transistor radio can be considered a radio station. The distribution of radios, its massive availability as cheap commodities is seen as a chance by Enzensberger, but this chance can only be grasped when the setback is removed.
T.: Following up on that, the appropriation of radio as means of production entails transforming the technical potential of media. However, this appropriation isn’t thought of as practice, but always as a whole reversal of the medium, and this reversal is projected into the future. The medium must be reversed and transformed technically in order to become political; only if that process is carried out in the hands of the masses, can radio become a true revolutionary medium. The medium can only be appropriated if that process of reversal is accomplished. We think that this appropriation can never be set off because the reversal simply doesn’t take place.
O.: On the other hand, the medium of radio is already in the hands of various free radios, which means the appropriation has taken place in some way. Yet this appropriation is unbelievably conservative: this kind of radio reminds us of German public broadcasting of the 70’s.
T.: Hence the alternative information provided by free radio is framed by ruling bourgeois notions of radio practice. We think that the very inconsequence that Brecht criticized in radio is adopted without rethinking the inconsequence of one’s own media practice.
O.: The interesting thing about this inconsequence is the fact that free radio ethics are firmly entrenched in the dissemination of alternative information, which presumes that radio somehow manages to transform the conscience of listeners. By disseminating concepts that change the listeners’ conscience, they become politically active beyond the act of listening to radio.
T.: Another contradiction of free radio lies, on the one hand, on the leftist ideology that seeks out a radical societal change, and on the other hand, on the fact that it’s permanently censored: because it works legally, it can be prosecuted; pirate radios can exert pressure without being exposed to prosecution.
O.: Our group is endeavored to free radio, which means we assume that free radio already exists, but it hasn’t been accomplished yet. We don’t intend to neutralize the paradox we just described, but rather to launch other radio practices. We assume that these practices can only be brought about in specific situations, and we will introduce you to some of them.
T.: Since we’re dealing with practices – and if we reconsider how former media practice has fared and rethink its possibilities – it’s important to keep in mind that the appropriation of the medium of radio isn’t concluded. Appropriation doesn’t end after transforming the apparatus, rather it is a practice that must be exercised through process, and forms in which it can take place must be thought out. Our next point argues that the specific structures of radio impede thorough appropriation.
O.: The distribution apparatus can’t be fully appropriated due to its distribution and diffusion. We’re going to elaborate on that and state our critique of the ruling radio practice more precisely by commenting on our work.
T.: Here comes the part that deals with radio and our radio practice. First, we address the question of broadcaster and listener. We want to introduce you to a program that we’ve been airing regularly since 1995. It’s called “Ligna’s musicbox”, a kind of reversed request music program, in which listeners get to call in and play their own music.
O.: The idea of the program is simple. Listeners call from home, from where they’re momentarily listening to the program and play their chosen music – e.g. “Your weirdest record”, “Y” or “From my parent’s LP cupboard” – and we try a little telephone and radio interconnection. We knew other radio stations do music request programs, boasting of their huge archives and sorting out the requests before going on air. That’s not how we thought of fulfilling anybody’s requests. Music request programs are a typical radio format and we wanted to adapt it to free radio. That’s why we thought it would be more interesting if people called in and fulfilled their own requests by playing them from their homes.
T.: The program has diverse implications for media theory. The first and most obvious one means the listeners become broadcasters for the duration of their song. It’s important for us not to simply reverse the broadcaster-listener correlation, which has often been emphatically underlined in free radio theory. So it’s not about switching the broadcaster and the listener, but the moment this person is broadcasting, the inherent radio hierarchy of broadcaster and listener becomes visible – or even better: audible. That’s the main idea behind “Ligna’s musicbox”.
O.: Precisely this hierarchy can be sensed by the listeners who call in. They can’t listen to themselves on radio – except if they have another one at home – but they get to go through the experience of being broadcaster and listener.
T.: Of course there are selection criteria regarding who gets to participate in the program, so it’s not completely egalitarian. We favor men with record collections as well as people with a certain need to show off, therefore the program mirrors a music and group socialization.
O.: It’s very important for us that the distribution of listeners in urban space and the diffusion of listening radios become audible. In this case, a living-room broadcasts to other living-rooms, so that the most diverse reception situations become audible.
T.: The listeners react to each other, but not directly, always mediated through radio. Incoming calls react on former ones. For us, direct communication is not as significant as the distribution of music through all radios, which makes it possible to refer to earlier calls.
O.: “Ligna’s musicbox” makes a new radio practice possible: to broadcast by holding the phone in front of the loudspeaker. The fact that it’s so easily set up is important for us, so as to establish new practices in everyday life.
T.: A decisive aspect is the uncontrollability of it. We can’t foresee which direction the program will take, which song will be played next. We do have themes for each program, but we can’t tell how people will call and react to them; it simply can’t and shouldn’t be planned, we prefer to leave it to chance and the listener. That’s a major aspect of the other interventions that we will present to you.
O.: “Ligna’s musicbox” stages the unexpected.
T.: We take each caller on air. There is no pre-selection, as in other radios.
O.: That’s our practice, the groundwork from which we developed other works. As this program was aired every two weeks, it enabled us to rethink our practice in new ways. Another subject in our work on which we have based various radio shows is the uncanniness of the diffused voice. What we’re doing here right now, talking on the microphone and transmitting this voice to the listeners, broadcasting it to the radios of the FSK listeners, has an uncanny quality to it.
T.: We would like to illustrate this with a text by Günther Stern, called “The ghostly and radio” (1930). Günther Stern later changed his surname to Anders and became relatively well known under that name. The interesting thing is that contrary to Brecht, he sees no possibility in appropriating the medium, but resigns precisely because of the voice’s diffusion and distribution.
O.: Anders introduces an interesting music concept: the neutrality of space. He talks about the origins of music being nowhere and everywhere it is listened to. Radio destroys precisely this neutrality of space. To Anders, music is in any place a radio broadcasts the voice. Let’s listen to an excerpt from Günther Anders, in which he describes the experience in more detail:
“One steps out of the house. The music of the loudspeakers still rings in one’s ears. One is in the music. It is nowhere. Ten steps away, the same music resonates from the neighboring house. Since music is here as well, music is localized both here and there, planted in space as two poles. But it’s the same music. What’s shocking about it?”
T.: What’s shocking to us, answers the same text by Günther Anders, is the identical diffusion of the voice through the loudspeaker. Each loudspeaker claims to be a separate voice. Stern speaks of the Doppelgänger aspect of radio voices. So radio always exists in plural form. The voice gets distributed over innumerable radios, which is what we’ve denominated as diffusion before. One encounters the voice in plural, coming from everywhere, and none of the places it’s aired from can lay claim to originality, or they can, but as plurality. Of course we’ve been familiar with the plurality of the printed word for centuries – newspapers, books, ever since the advent of the printing press – but also records were already a mass product by the time Günther Anders published this text. What marks the uncanniness of radio is the diffusion of the here and now, of the immediate presence that we associate normally with the voice.
O.: Through radio, the voice acquires a spatial quality, it is detached from the speaker, it can’t be traced back to the speaker. Each broadcasted voice is identical to the voice of the speaker, and that’s why Stern talks about “illegitimate” ghosts.
T.: The effects of this diffusion can’t be controlled by the speakers.
O.: They have a certain life of their own, and that means the materiality of this detached voice is uncanny in itself. Stern sums up that while it is possible to accustom oneself to this uncanniness, it’s impossible to internalize it. He doesn’t believe in collective strategies to appropriate the uncanniness of this medium. While Brecht seeks to ban the uncanniness of distribution through collective appropriation, Stern doesn’t think it’s worth to appropriate radio because it stays uncanny, which means the ghosts are much quicker than the process of appropriation.
T.: So the appropriation of the medium is limited by its very alienation and ghostliness. Stern describes the voice as becoming foreign to oneself, a kind of extended human prosthesis that he can’t appropriate.
O.: This uncanniness has lead to radio being deemed a medium of control. There’s a slide we have showing a bizarre scene from the early 1930’s, in which many people are listening like hypnotized to a radio set. Actually, the ideas that hold radio as a medium of control are quite prevalent. Earlier on we introduced you to a leftist discourse that sees the manipulation of public information as a byproduct of the mass media. The idea that listeners are spellbound by radio plays an important role in a left-wing practice of appropriation. So far we’ve described two aspects of the voice: its spatial quality is either feared because of its ghostliness or its ability to exercise power through hypnotic control. Both sides don’t allow for an appropriation of the medium. Why? Because both deny that the actual listening to radio, which transforms space, can bring about other radio practices. That’s why we think it’s so important to deal with this uncanniness. If we realize that it hinders appropriation, then we can conclude that it is this very ghostliness that must be challenged.
T.: It must be challenged, and it may be embedded in a practice. We’ve already demonstrated that it can take place at home, in the living-room, but it may also take place in public space. Here we have an interesting contrast: on the one hand, the uncontrollability of the voice – its uncontrollability through radio – and on the other hand, the increasingly controlled city. It’s at this space that we want to draw you a picture of the collision of the uncontrollable with the augmenting control of the city.
O.: This morning we’ve heard about the urban structure of Delhi and the awareness of its public space. In Hamburg, everyday life is increasingly controlled; in other words, everyday life is placed along other controllable and predictable situations. Surveillance cameras have become common place, affecting everyday behavior: in a way, subjects who are controlled by surveillance cameras end up controlling their own behavior and mustn’t be disciplined any more. It’s the surveillance that produces a certain predictability of situations. Behavior that deviates from the norm is ruled out.
T.: Increasingly, the city gets partitioned by zones in which each behavior pattern can be predicted. Zones of consumption stand out in that only certain things are possible there. Each zone regulates behavior patterns: that which is possible in one zone becomes impossible in other zones. The most extreme case is the central train station, where sitting on the ground is already prohibited behavior. We’ll get back to that later.
O.: Public space is being privatized. The central train station is a prototype of this development, which will take over the downtown area and its shopping quarters. It will be impossible to have a political public space in these areas.
T.: Radio can inform about this development, and this is what we’re constantly doing at the FSK. It’s a practice that makes sense, but it threatens to become self-satisfied if it doesn’t use radio to intervene in the situation, counting not only on the ability of radio to change the listener’s conscience, but also radio practices in public space.
O.: We’d like to illustrate this with three cases. We’ve developed various models for radio to intervene in various situations. It’s about destabilizing the controlled city by creating uncontrollable situations, attempting other practices in public space and blurring the partition by zones, by opening up the space temporarily to another form of public participation. These models are based on the prospect of scattering listeners with transistor radios all over the city space, making radio site-specific and adapting radio to the situation of its reception.
T.: These models make up the framework for diverse modes of radio operation and they are still a work in progress. The first model is about making radio-listening public. Our action in December last year involved broadcasting an open invitation to radio-listening in public space. The context for that was the eviction of the alternative trailer community “Bambule” in Hamburg on November 4th, 2002. It lasted for ten years, and it was defended victoriously already in 1994. “Bambule” was shoved around the city and it hasn’t been able to find a place to settle in until this day. FSK covered the development almost in its entirety and participated in the accompanying demonstrations.
O.: It’s interesting that all demonstrations that were to be held in downtown couldn’t be carried through. We did a radio program related to that in which Olaf Sobczak (from the “Urbane Panik” group) interviewed Ulf Kalkman, a member of Hamburg’s retail sales association. Kalkman argued the problem was the quantity of people a demonstration would involve. First, they were concerned about a potential loss in sales volume, which would be detrimental during the Christmas period. Second, the downtown area would be already too full by that time to allow for demonstrations and larger crowds could cause conflicts. He suggested timing adjustments that would allow people to shop during the day and demonstrate in the evening. Quite a cute plan to which we’ll come back later. The point is that during this period, every time a large group of people tried to make its way into the city center, it was blocked off by a three or four-ring security cordon and plenty of water cannons. It was like a medieval city: the castle’s gates were the water cannons; the demonstration was deflected around them.
T.: In our opinion, one of the conceptual downfalls of the Bambule movement was the fact that it focused only on the eviction of the trailer community. That theme was pinned down and no real discussion regarding the political context of such eviction developed.
O.: In such a situation free radio can give its own input, suggesting topics of discussion, broadcasting informative programs. That still seemed too little to us, because we wanted radio to intervene. That’s why we invited our listeners to radio-listening in public space, and here goes the jingle for it:

[Kraftwerk song “Schaufensterpuppen“ (mannequins) ]

– Don’t buy any shit. Buy radios.
– FSK 93,0 megahertz.
– Open invitation to radio-listening in public space.
– On Saturday, December 14th, 1 – 5 p.m.
– In spite of great participation, there hasn’t been any Bambule demonstration in the city center.
– The police barred ideas expressed on the streets from entering the heterogeneous public space of the city center.
– The freedom to shop before Christmas proved to be the ultimate commodity.
– The city center stands for a space of pure consumption.
– That’s why freedom of opinion was displaced to the St. Pauli and Schanzenviertel neighborhoods and reduced to a minimum there.
– Saturday, December 14th, 1 – 5 p.m.
– Don’t buy any shit. Buy radios.
– FSK 93,0 megahertz.

[music]

(song fragment) We’re moving / breaking the windowpane…

(from “Bambule”, a film by Ulrike Meinhof) We’re taking action. What’s taking place? A ”Bambule” (an uprising). Everything’s smashed up, the cops, it’s all over, bang!
– Then we’ll just have to do it again.
– (Police) End of announcement!

O.: “Don’t buy any shit / Listen to radio” was a 3-hour radio program that functioned practically like a sound truck and a demonstration. There were declarations as in a rally, with slogans, music and live coverage from the demonstration (which is something that could be done more often). We invited the listeners to take their radios into the city and to build a diffused demonstration – not an assembly, but a diffusion. Our acoustic “Hamburg City Guide” functioned as a lead for the people there, introducing them to specific city center locations, and directing the diffusion. Of course it was up to the people involved where they’d like to “broadcast” the program.
T.: About 500 people participated. It was a very heterogeneous situation, which meant people could appropriate this situation any way they liked. It was clear that having all these radio carriers on a Saturday in the city center could make more things happen. So a lot of different people joined this thing and made other interventions, because it was clear to them that there were enough people around to cover them in case they did something that would normally cause trouble.
O.: Of course plenty of people were ordered out by the police, but we also engaged in lots of discussions about the current situation of the city with the passers-by who would hear the radios, so that the radios in our hands effectively transported political ideas into the city.
T.: Now we’re going to hear another fragment of the same radio program, this time a few ideas gathered around the question of how to act during a diffusion.

– How do I act during a diffusion?
– We all know how awful it is to shop in the city center before Christmas.
It’s much better to take a radio along as acoustic companion to protect oneself against all the Christmas carols and sausage stalls.
A radio that also conveys matters of political interest.
One’s own clothing doesn’t assure acceptance, but it is an indispensable guarantee for free movement within monitored spaces.
– Diffusion doesn’t equal with assembly. Compared to a demonstration, a diffusion doesn’t work through closeness, but through appropriate dispersion in space.
(…)
– Diffusion doesn’t work with sound volume, but through distribution of many radios all over the city center.
Be aware of the noise level regulations.
Nobody can prohibit radio-listening in public.
(…)

T.: The noise level regulations weren’t really an issue. A lot of people were ordered out by the police, even people who were listening to radio very quietly, which was ridiculous because the whole Christmas business going on was way louder. However, diffusion proved to be an advantage since it would involve only few people at a time,who could therefore remain flexible. Towards the end of the “Hamburg City Guide”, we lead the people towards the “Neuer Wall” – which is where the streets get narrower – and that’s where it all got louder, because the streets would reflect the sound.
O.: The idea was to confront the exchange of commodities in the city center, in order to make clear that public space has to be more than a space of consumption. On the other hand, we focused too much on the alleged problem of quantity [that argued against demonstrations in Hamburg’s city center]. We realized it was more sensible to extend the time allowed for demonstrations than to ask for longer opening hours for retail sales.
T.: That leads us to our second model, called “An evening walk through a dying city. An exercise in utopian public space”. We had been invited by the “Schauspielhaus” (Hamburg’s main playhouse) on occasion of the series of events called “Go create resistance”. We wanted to address the “problem of quantity” by using the city center as demonstration space during the evening, being aware that it would cause less trouble at that time of the day. We wanted to review the question of which kind of public sphere this space of the city center allows for.
O.: We saw the city center as a mundane space – with people running around, a space where one can only go shopping, very functional. During our evening walks through the city center we perceived it as a deserted planet, a strange space. We thought we were making an expedition: as we encouraged our listeners to explore this space, we noticed how they held their radios with antennas: they looked like aliens examining a place foreign to them. We proposed five ways to deal with this double sense of alienation.
T.: We wanted to examine the idea of the city center by night as a space where a utopian public sphere can be apprehended. We didn’t want to animate the city center’s night life, but to enjoy its desolation as desolates, and to allow for another kind of appropriation of that dysfunctional space, whose normality is built upon being a consumption zone.
O.: There’s a certain discourse on cities were people lament themselves saying: “Oh gosh, by night the city centers feel like dead, and that’s so awful.” We thought it was really nice not to have any commodity exchange during the evening. Only then does it become a great space to rethink the public. The five “exercises” we proposed to reflect on this theme are titled: “Diffusion”, “Pavement blocks”, “The sleep of commodities”, “Walking” and “Train station”. We’ll play the whole “The sleep of commodities” for you:

– An evening walk through a dying city. An exercise in utopian public space.
– Welcome to the third exercise “The sleep of commodities”.
– Radio is to blame for the forsaking of public space.
– You have a radio. You listen to radio.
Radio is yours. The radio voices come from far away.
(Many voices speak simultaneously) The radio voices ask you to:
– Turn around until you find a vitrine.
Go there and stand closely in front of it.
– The store windows mirror your radio antennas. Behind the store windows, a desert planet opens up. It wasn’t waiting for you. You face this abandoned planet as aliens from a distant star. The commodities rest within window displays and houses. The commodities sleep. The commodities sleep badly under the store window’s light.
– The radio voices ask you to:
– Look at the store windows as if in a mirror.
Check your outward appearance.
Rearrange your hair.
Smooth out your eyebrows.
Check your posture and correct it.
Observe the range of commodities. Verify the range of commodities.
Go against the grain by using the commodities against its purpose.
(„Bürstet das Warenangebot gegen den Strich.“)
– The radio voices ask you to:
– Establish contact with the commodities and their dreamworld.
– Speak to the commodities in the same way they address you.
Knock on the windowpane.
Touch the store window. Press hard against the windowpane. Does it resist?
Take your face very close to the windowpane.
Press your ear against the windowpane.
– The radio voices ask you:
– Let the commodities sleep.
Take out the barricade tape from your bags and fasten the tape to the store window.
[music]
Leave the place quietly.
[music]

O.: The commodities don’t want to wake up any more to the predictability of their exchange. About 80 – 100 people participated in the action.
T.: The third model takes us back to the train station – the train station as the
prototype of urban development in which the city space is under
increasing control and space that used to be public gets privatized.
O.: We were commissioned by the Hamburger Kunsthalle (Hamburg Art Gallery) to
develop the radio ballet, and the Gallery also invited a Berlin group called “hyper
video tracks”. Their work was titled “ordered public space” (formierte Öffentlichkeit)
which dwelled partly on the history of Germany’s video movement. Their position ran
counter to the one-sided understanding of public space we’ve addressed
before. We did some brainstorming on the use of radio. We concluded that we could
create a diffused public space that functions differently from the ordered one. The
Hamburg Art Gallery is closely located to the central train station. Of course its
property rights forbid things like begging, sitting on the ground and even
hanging around, actually anything considered “unnecessary lounging” – which we
found out by going through their “house regulations”. Unnecessary lounging refers to
any behavior that diverts from travel or consumption, for train stations have been
turned into shopping malls with tracks attached.
T.: These regulations were enforced by a committee of security people
and German federal border police, as well as by video surveillance monitoring every
corner of the main station. For example, there are 140 video cameras at the Leipzig
central train station, in which we just performed our radio ballet as well.
O.: Anything that could point to a potential neglect of the space must be eliminated.
According to the Deutsche Bahn, a space that gives the impression of being
neglected affects the sense of security of travelers and consumers.
T.: There is nice a example of this in “Everything must go”, a film by Olaf Sobczak
and Irene Bude – a train station representative justifies control by stating more or less: “If we allow a cyclist to pass through here and we don’t stop him from doing it at once, soon enough we’ll have hundreds of them and chaos will go off”. They are constantly looking for crystallization points of disorder – they must be removed in order to keep the space under control, which generates a completely paranoid system of control that sees a potential germ of disorder in every corner.
O.: Actually, it’s interesting that this whole privatization of public space is legally a gray area, because the law establishes that train stations are public spaces. Of course they can be privatized, but they must maintain this public character, which means no people can be banned from the train station, because the people refused will eventually have to use the trains and come back. We set off at this legal gray area and asked our listeners to come to the train station with their radios. We aired a choreography there. It was about specific gestures that were banned from the train station, and were to strike back at this space.
T.: It was important to transmit these gestures to people through headphones, so it was different from the radio demonstration, which was about making as much noise as possible. The choreography was a quiet event. About 200 – 300 people came to the Hamburg main train station to participate in the radio ballet and to “diffuse”.
O.: We’ll play a part of the Hamburg choreography, so that you can hear how it worked.

ligna2

– And now have a lot of fun with the radio ballet and we’ll get back to you in 49 minutes.
– Welcome to Radio Ligna at FSK on 93,0 megahertz.
The following radio ballet examines the gray zone between permitted, obscure and forbidden gestures. The first voice gives the title of the gesture. The second voice describes the related movements to follow. The third and fourth voices will read out statements on radio ballet, gesture and public space during calm breaks.
Become a part of Ligna’s radio ballet.
See to it that you get enough space around yourselves.
Don’t look anybody in the eyes.
Refrain from focusing your eyes on anything.
Don’t talk to anybody.
Concentrate on listening.
Concentrate on your movements.
Listen to radio.
– Do not go on the tracks.
– Take your feet a bit apart. Extend your arms at shoulders’ height. Stretch your hands out. Turn your palms to look forward.
– Overview.
– Turn your head to the right. Turn it left. Look straight ahead of you.
– Rectilinearity.
– Balance on an imaginary or actual straight line while extending your arms. Stop. Bring your arms
down.
– Body checkup.
– Search your whole body.
– Walk.
– Take a few steps.
– The video surveillance of amusement areas ban the unexpected as unpleasant situation.
– This control sets borders not only around locations like the main station, but also between the body’s
gestures that move about public space.
– Control creates an order of permitted and forbidden gestures. Video surveillance is a prosthesis
protecting against stimulation, making travelers and passersby immune to the public realm of space.
– Gradually, the forbidden gestures become the predictably unexpected. The unexpected makes its
way in through radio ballet.
– Dance.
– Forget yourself and skip around.

[music]

O.: The radio ballet was laid out as “exercise”; the gestures repeated themselves.
It had three parts. There were lots of moments in which gestures could be exercised.
That was the ballet’s response to the daily control at the main station, which means
one moves in the train station and certain gestures don’t take place any more, one
has accustomed oneself to behave in a certain way. The radio ballet is something like
a counter practice.

ligna3
T.: We had the opportunity to reintroduce banned practices into these spaces with
the participants, and the idea was to experience in one’s own body how diffusion
enables such practices. Control affects the body directly, it blocks out certain
possibilities of bodily practice and that’s what mattered to us: to reintroduce them and
allow for them to be experienced in order to confront the inscribing of control into the
body.
O.: The participants’ involvement in the radio ballet enables the individual to act in a
non-conforming way and to remind of a forgotten practice in controlled space. The
staging of an abstract constellation of listeners at the main station becomes the
premise for political action. The constellation turns into a cooperation and therefore
becomes organized.
T.: Many people made the interesting observation that another kind of normality
prevailed during the ballet. Normally very little is permitted – e.g. already sitting
around can get somebody removed from the main station – and the diffusion made it
“normal” for a period of time to sit around on the ground or smoke a cigarette. It
changed the whole picture of the space.
O.: Our hope would be for such practices to continue. With this we get to the second
point of this action: an actual transformation of space through the materiality of
gestures. The radio ballet reintroduces forbidden gestures into the space of panoptic
control, and at every corner the predictably unexpected becomes concrete. We had
this vision of somebody who sits in the control room, and suddenly all the
surveillance cameras show people violating regulations, and therefore all security
people must be sent to all these areas simultaneously. An overload… Radio ballet
brings the censored back into the space. All over the space the “house rules” are
being diffusedly overturned, and the ghostliness of it renders the space uncanny in a
way.

ligna1
T.: And that’s why it can’t be explained; no flyers were handed out. We didn’t want to spell out this insecurity through an explanation that would somehow dissolve the mystery of it, but to leave it as alienation in the space. Precisely this alienation is the materiality of the forbidden that interests us. That’s why it wasn’t our aim to create conscience. It wasn’t about enlightening people about the space, but about introducing through performance precisely that which gets obliterated through the space’s order. It was to be left in its state of alienation and fearfulness in this space.
O.: We left it to the participants of the radio ballet to explain what they were doing if
they were asked about it. We didn’t want to control that. We’re concerned with
uncontrollable situations. We suggested gestures. The people changed the situation
at the main station and it was up to them to decide how they wanted to discuss that
there.
T.: Radio became the medium of the unexpected and enabled a practice that didn’t
depend on being clearly drawn out or regulated as to how it should be undertaken. In
our opinion, that sets radio ballet apart from the techniques of control that reign in this
space. There are no penalties for the “wrong” execution of unexpected acts. We want
to encourage non-conformist acts and it is not our wish to control them, but to make a
practice possible.

Discussion

– Thank you for your presentation. I have some questions myself, before others come up with their own; then we can start with the discussion. Already in 2000, I believe, there was already a demonstration – the first one of this kind – against video surveillance and control at the train station, organized by the “Coalition against the right” (Bündnis gegen rechts) and other groups. It was an unbelievably boring “walking about – demonstration”. Too bad, because their website and information were pretty good; they had good material but the related action was extremely bad. The demonstration simply passed by the train station; its video surveillance sign wasn’t attacked in any way. The demonstration went about the traditional Leipzig “ring” in a very well-behaved way, and nothing much happened. Somebody from “Reclaim the Street” was there and said: “Now I know why I don’t participate in demonstrations like this one, why we’ve developed other practices.” I think that’s also a good example of how one must deal with this issue in a different way, rather than applying traditional practices. I also wanted to discuss a contradiction. You use the “Mannequins” song by Kraftwerk. It sounds funny; you interpret the words “We’re breaking the windowpane” as in “The people should break the windowpanes”, but the interesting thing is the mannequins – or are we the mannequins – shatter the windowpanes actually from the inside. Then you also introduce this great “alien voice”, but one stands in front of the store window feeling like an alien in a dying city, which reminds of zombies. I’d like to hear your opinion on that.
– O.: That’s difficult, because we’re talking about two different actions here. The song by Kraftwerk is so great, because it’s like the mannequins standing inside the store windows try to break out of them. As a motif, this wasn’t unimportant for the idea that commodities are sleeping and they don’t want their sleep disturbed by the store windows any more, but to be let in peace without having to wake up to their daily exchange. In other words, they prefer either to stay within the stores or be looted. The whole question revolves around how we practice a behavior that is consistent with a certain control. Mannequins will always keep certain postures in store windows, they won’t change and will be gazed at by everyone. So it’s about a way of becoming visible and being controlled.
– Just a comment. The interesting thing is that city inhabitants can also be seen as mannequins that shatter the windowpanes from the inside. And that’s what you have interpreted when you called for “shattering the windowpanes”.
– T.: It was meant as a very indirect call. Surely it’s no coincidence that this song was chosen for the jingle.
– I’d like to make an observation on the subject of diffusion. Concerning this action with radios in public space, it seems to me that a lot of people were disappointed by the fact that the city center was so unbelievably noisy and therefore not everyone could listen to the radio program, yet in my opinion, that was the very quality of it – that one couldn’t hear it, because then the people with the radios acquired a sense of mystery and fascination. Why are you walking around with radios? That was a really good trigger, because it made people approach us; even young people would think one was a soccer fan that didn’t want to miss a soccer game while shopping. That’s how a spontaneous atmosphere was produced; one could explain to people why we were at the city center, that there was this ban on demonstrations, and that we were listening to this radio program at the moment. In a way, radio created another kind of direct communication. Is that what you were thinking of before you organized the intervention, is that what you found interesting after all happened?
T.: We did have the vision of a sound “tapestry” beforehand, which didn’t take place, as you’ve just mentioned. The other aspect we had learned from radio ballet. We haven’t presented our works chronologically – the radio ballet at Hamburg’s main station was the first thing we did. Already during that action, the people who participated had been asked what they were doing there. So it was predictable that such discussions would also develop during the radio demonstration.

UNLIKELY ENCOUNTERS
Cassette 3, Side 1

Ligna Diskussion (Fortsetzung von Kassette 2)

Torsten: (…) Das andere war eine Sache, die wir auch schon wussten vom Radioballett her. Zeitlich haben wir das Ganze von der Chronologie her ein bisschen umgedreht; das Radioballett am Hamburger Hauptbahnhof war von all den Sachen, die wir vorgestellt hatten, das erste. Schon da war es so, dass die Leute, die daran teilgenommen hatten, angesprochen wurden, und gefragt wurden, was sie eigentlich da machen. Insofern war es voraussehbar, dass solche Diskussionen sich auch bei der Radiodemonstration entwickeln würden. Dass sie den Hauptteil ausgemacht hatten, das hatte sich so entwickelt, aber war dann eine sehr positive Feststellung, die wir getroffen hatten, dass so was einfach funktioniert.
– Wie läuft es logistisch bei so einer Aktion wie am Bahnhof? Wird vorher angekündigt am FSK, dass diese Aktion stattfinden wird, oder ist das wieder so eine Art von halbinterner Öffentlichkeit, dass nur gewisse Leute da hingehen als „Performern“? Wenn es offiziell angekündigt werden würde, dann gibt man ja den ganzen Ordnungskräften die Möglichkeit, sich da zu wappnen.
– Ole: Zum einen gehen wir nicht von „Performern“ aus, sondern von TeilnehmerInnen, d.h. dass es grundsätzlich Leute gibt, die auch mal so mit dem Radio durch die Stadt gehen, und wenn sie das sehen würden, einfach den Sender auf FSK schalten und mitmachen könnten. Da gibt es jetzt zwei Fälle: In Hamburg war es so, dass wir über e-mails eingeladen haben, und ein e-mail an die Bahn gelangt ist aus unbekannten Gründen. Die Bahn hat darauf versucht, es zu verbieten. Die Idee war, sie damit zu überraschen, und was ich vorhin erzählte mit diesen panoptischen Blick, dass die Leute paranoid und damit vielleicht auch arbeitsunfähig werden, das hat nicht geklappt. Stattdessen hat die Bahn versucht, es zu verbieten. Es gab ein Prozess. Wir haben vor dem Landesgericht und dem Oberlandesgericht gewonnen, weil nach der Einschätzung des Gerichts das Recht auf Meinungsäußerung in diesem Falle höher steht als das Recht auf Gewerbefreiheit. Das war ein großer Erfolg, was auch daran lag, dass wir glaubwürdig versichert haben, dass wir es nicht jede Woche machen. Sonst wäre es ein Problem geworden, was klar macht, dass es eine Grenze von solche Aktionen ist. Es war schön festzustellen, dass es Formen gibt, wo auch das Gericht feststellt: „Die machen keine Versammlung. Die machen eine Zerstreuung, wo ist das Problem?“
– Torsten: In Leipzig war es umgekehrt. Da haben wir offen mobilisiert, wir haben denen gleich mitgeteilt, dass es stattfinden wird, weil wir aus Hamburger Erfahrung wussten, dass sie es früher oder später rauskriegen und wir jedenfalls selber den Zeitpunkt beeinflussen wollten, wo sie es rauskriegen. Die Bahn hat sich erst mal nicht rumgeschert, hat ein und halb Wochen vorher richtig Wind gemacht, wollte es dann verbieten und dann waren tatsächlich genügend Leute da, um dieses Verbot zu missachten. Es gab jetzt nicht eine Gerichtsentscheidung vorher da, die uns sagte: „Könnt’ ihr machen“, sondern es waren genügend Leute da, die trotz des Verbotes dahingegangen sind und tatsächlich – das ist noch mal eine interessante Erfahrung für uns gewesen – diese Aktion einfach nicht unterbunden werden konnte. Sie wussten, sie hatten es verboten. Es ist aber einfach nicht möglich, jedem am Eingang eines Bahnhofs nach einem Radiogerät zu filzen, und wenn 400 oder vielleicht sogar 500 Leute eine Choreographie ausführen und irgendwann auf dem Boden sitzen, kann man nicht alle ansprechen und ihnen sagen, dass sie das nicht dürfen. Deswegen ging es, so was auch tatsächlich durchzusetzen.
– Ole: Zumal das Interessante war, dass auch viele Passanten mitgemacht haben. Sie wussten gar nicht, worum es geht, aber als sie sich auf den Boden setzten haben sie sich auch hingesetzt, und damit lässt sich nicht unterscheiden, wer da teilnimmt und wer nicht teilnimmt.
– Hat es ein Unterschied gemacht – in Leipzig habt ihr es im Rahmen eines Theaterfestivals gemacht, und das andere war ja eher selbstorganisiert in Hamburg?
– Ole: Das war im Rahmen der Hamburger Kunsthalle. Es hat insofern ein Unterschied gemacht, dass in Hamburg fast keine Rolle spielte, dass wir von der Kunsthalle eingeladen wurden; das hat keiner so richtig mitbekommen. Ich kann mich an keine Diskussion hier mit anderen Linksradikalen erinnern, die gesagt haben: „ Na ja, ihr macht das für die Kunsthalle.“ Während in Leipzig es tatsächlich ein großes Thema war. Gerade die Leute untereinander von BGR sagten: „Na ja, da lasst ihr euch einladen und macht so eine scheinbar linksradikale Aktion, aber ist es so linksradikal?“ Es war erst mal ganz produktiv, weil wir dachten, dem muss man sich natürlich stellen, was da passiert, was dann passiert, wenn man als Kulturevent in die Stadt geholt wird. Andererseits fanden wir auch interessant, dass es von der Durchführung der Aktion keine Fragen gab. Es waren eher politische Differenzen, von der Einschätzung wie solche Aktionen durchzuführen sind. Das haben wir schon erzählt, dass wir im Rahmen des legalistischen bleiben müssten, und das würden wir auch bleiben müssen, hätten wir nicht mit der Schaubühne Lindenfels zusammengearbeitet, sondern als Freies Radio, weil sobald man zum Hausfriedensbruch aktiv aufruft, kann man für Anstiftung zum Hausfriedensbruch rangekriegt werden, und das ist schon eine relativ unangenehme Sache.
– Ich wollte noch was fragen zu eurem Begriff der Zerstreuung, der für euch relativ zentral ist, theoretisch. Nun ist es ja so, dass die Bahn aus ihren Bahnhöfen auch gerne die Leute zerstreuen möchte. Da ist der Ansatz auch, dass Leute sich nicht versammeln sollen, sondern sich gerade auch zerstreuen sollen, beispielsweise mit Hilfe von Musik. Habt ihr einen anderen Begriff von Zerstreuung, könnt ihr zu dem noch was sagen? Vielleicht eine kleine Brücke zu heute morgen, wenn es nicht mehr darum geht – was Sarai heute geschildert hat – den Staat mit Protest zu adressieren, und dazu versammelt man sich ja auch häufig, was bietet dann dieser Begriff der Zerstreuung oder dieses Konzept, vielleicht politisch, für neue, andere Möglichkeiten?
– Torsten: Auf alle Fälle ist die Zerstreuung, wie wir sie verwenden schon eine, wo die Assoziation wichtig ist. Es geht nicht um eine völlige Zusammenhangslosigkeit; diese Aktionen stiften einen Zusammenhang, aber einen zerstreuten. Das tolle einer Zerstreuung ist, dass man damit Verbote unterläuft. Der Slogan in Hamburg war „Gegen die Einschränkung der Zerstreuungsfreiheit“, weil es klar war, als Versammlung wird das sowieso verboten, also machen wir es zur Zerstreuung. Wir haben versucht, das als mögliche Organisationsform eines handlungsfähigen Kollektivs zu begreifen. Das ist natürlich der Unterschied zu der Zerstreuung, die an diesem Ort die gewünschte Verhaltensweise ist, die kein politisch handlungsfähiges Kollektiv herstellt. Bei uns geht es um die Erprobung einer solchen möglichen Handlungsfähigkeit in der Zerstreuung, die eine neue, dem Radio adäquate Organisationsform wäre.
– Ole: Das, was Zerstreuung der Stimme bedeutet, heißt, dass wir das uns nicht aneignen können. Wenn der Bahnhof Leute zerstreut, sind sie nicht organisiert. Unser Versuch ist, über diese Zerstreuung Leute zu organisieren, Radio als Distributionsapparat anzueignen und zugleich zu wissen, dass man damit nicht diese Form von Kontrolle hat, wie das Gemeinhin zum Apparat denkbar wäre. Wir versuchen es genau in einer bestimmten Unheimlichkeit für uns selbst zu bringen. Es ist eine sehr entscheidende Bewegung, denn es gibt Möglichkeiten, so was wie ein Radioballett zu machen, was eher eine faschistische Form von Organisierung wäre. Was die Leipziger auch vorgeworfen haben, war, dass eine konfrontative Strategie besser ist. Dazu kann man sagen: “Den Kampf um das Versammlungsrecht am Bahnhof, den haben wir schon aufgegeben.“ Andererseits fanden wir es nicht wirklich interessant, sich am Bahnhof mit den Sicherheitskräften zu prügeln, sondern viel interessanter, sie machtlos zu machen. Das war in Leipzig besonders schön. Wir hatten [welche], die dabei standen und nicht wussten, ob sie anfangen, einzelne herauszugreifen, aber bevor sie die 400 raushaben, ist das Ballett schon wieder um. Die Gefahr ist, dass sie dann einfach abwarten, bis es vorbei ist. Wir hatten aber die Hoffnung, das es eine Wirkung auf die Körper im Raum hat. Das funktioniert als völlige Zerstreuung wiederum nicht, dass die Leute irgendwo sind. Es muss schon eine bestimmte Verteilung in einem Raum geben.
– Torsten: Es geht tatsächlich um Praktiken, um die Einführung einer anderen Praxis in diesem Raum. Das ist etwas niedrig gehängt, aber das ist erst mal, was uns interessierte. Unserer Meinung nach ist Radio dazu fähig. Bei dieser Radiodemo ging es auch um das Hineintragen von Protest, sehr viel mehr um Inhalte, aber auch um die Praxis, also darum, sie mit in der Praxis zu verbinden, die dann die Aneignung des Raumes bedeutet.
– Vielleicht noch mal eine Frage drangehängt. Ihr habt den Begriff der Selbstorganisation auch im Zusammenhang mit Radio benutzt. Gibt es Unterschiede bei der Selbstorganisation von Zerstreuung und der Selbstorganisation von Versammlung, oder müssen wir jetzt Zerstreuung auch lernen? Es gibt bestimmte Dinge, die Leute aus dem klassischen linksradikalen Demonstrationsverhalten über die Zeit gelernt haben, beispielsweise wie mit bestimmten Sachen umgegangen wird. Gibt es jetzt dafür Lernbedarf?
– Torsten: Dafür war ja dieser eine Track „Wie verhalte ich mich in einer Zerstreuung“. Aber das sind eben auch Demo-Tugenden, man achtet aufeinander und man weiß die Nummer des Ermittlungsausschusses auswendig, damit man da anrufen kann. Das braucht man natürlich auch, zumindest wenn man Formen der Repression ausgesetzt ist, wie z.B. bei dieser Radiodemonstration in Hamburg, wo zwar wenig Leute festgenommen wurden, aber es gab Platzverweise. Das ist auf alle Fälle zu lernen. Wahrscheinlich ist zu lernen, dass es um die performative Umsetzung im Raum geht. Im Ballett war nicht die Verbreitung von Inhalt wichtig, sondern die Unterlaufung bestimmter Regeln des Raumes auf performativer Art und Weise.
– Ole: Um das noch mal für diese „Go create resistance“ Geschichte zu erzählen: Es ist klar, wenn wir mit 100 Leuten nachts eine Demo gemacht hätten, hätte es eine ganz andere Reaktion der Polizei gegeben. Interessanterweise haben sie tatsächlich angehalten und sind auf uns zugekommen. Sie haben gefragt, was da passiert, da hätten ja so viele Leute Radios. Das war ganz schön, wegen dieses paranoide „Was machen die ganzen Leute mit den Radios?“ Sie wussten gar nicht, wie sie damit umgehen sollen. Deshalb nennen wir es immer Übung, weil es ja darum geht, Sachen einzuüben. Wir denken nicht, dass es unsere Sache ist, wie sich das dann vervielfältigt und fortsetzt, das ist gar nicht in unserer Hand. Für uns ist nur entscheidend, dass gerade wenn man mit Radio arbeitet, sehr sorgfältig mit dieser Form umgehen muss, um nicht so einer Kontrollgeschichte zu obliegen.
– Ich habe eine Frage zu der performativen Form, die ihr gewählt habt, vor allem bei der Radiodemo, ich meine in Hamburg beim Radioballett. Es war euch ja wichtig, diesen Inhalt und die verbotenen Gesten in dem Raum zu transportieren, durch dieses Hinsetzten und dieses Handaufhalten, eigentlich im Einklang zu bringen an Dinge, die jetzt gar nicht mehr erlaubt sind. Ich hatte damals den Eindruck, dass vieles davon, von den Passanten und vielleicht auch von den Sicherheitskräften nicht unbedingt als solches verstanden wurde, als eine Bettelgeste, was nicht unbedingt was ausmachte, denn die Irritation war trotzdem da. Ich wollte wissen, ob ihr nach dieser Erfahrung diese Choreographie für Leipzig etwas verändert habt, so dass dieses Verbotene noch irgendwie deutlicher für die Nichteingeweihten zu Tage tritt.
– Torsten: Es gab mehr Verbotenes, und das Verbotene länger, weil tatsächlich unsere Analyse die war, dass manche Sachen zu kurz waren und das Ganze sich zu wenig in dem Raum stellte, deswegen war diese Handaufhalten Geschichte länger. Es gab z.B. den Part des Liegens, den es in Hamburg noch nicht gab, Sachen, die man aus der Hausordnung rausnimmt, und das Sitzen war da auch länger. Es wurde alles ein bisschen länger ausgereizt.
– Ole: Zu dem Handaufhalten – in Hamburg wurde die Hand nicht lange gehalten. In Leipzig haben wir sogar 50 Cent auf diese Weise bekommen. Für das Handaufhalten mag das gelten, was eigentlich deprimierend ist, weil es noch mal deutlich wird, wie vergessen diese Geste im Bahnhof ist. Während beim Sitzen und Liegen am Bahnhof klar wird, dass es normalerweise nicht zugelassen ist.
– Ihr habt geschildert, dass das Freie Radio nicht frei ist, sondern ein legalistisches Radio, und ein Baukastenradio möglicherweise eine Kindheitserinnerung an das ist, wie es mal früher war, sowie der öffentliche Raum ja früher auch mal besser gewesen sein soll. Die Frage wäre, wie sähe das wirklich Freie Radio aus – oder jetzt übertragen auf die Aktion, wie sähe eine wirklich freie Aktion aus, die nicht legalistisch ist? Es sind ja nun viele Themen, die am Bahnhof kumulieren, die nicht thematisiert sind: rassistisches Kontrollregime, das BGS, die Arbeitssituation dort, etc.. Die sind natürlich mit solchen Aktionen nur schwerlich zu thematisieren, das habt ihr auch eben gesagt, es ist möglicherweise nur ein Anfang. Wie sähe, vielleicht in der Doppelrolle, das wirklich Freie Radio und eine Praxis mit dem wirklich Freien Radio in Bahnhof, spekulativ?
– Torsten: Was wir jetzt gar nicht vorgestellt hatten, war eine Vorphase zwei Stunden lang vor dem Radioballett, in der zwei Teams à fünf Leuten mit Radios und Handys im Bahnhof unterwegs waren, die wir „Interventionsteams“ genannt hatten. Die Idee war zu erproben, ob es funktioniert, wenn man eine Situation vor Ort schildert, z.B. rassistische Kontrollen, und gleichzeitig das vor Ort per Radio ausstrahlt, also den Akteuren auch immer klar macht, wir nehmen das hier nicht nur auf, sondern wir strahlen es auch jetzt aus. Das kriegt auch eine heterogene Öffentlichkeit mit. Es sollte erkundet werden, ob so was Situationen verändert. Die erstaunliche Feststellung war, dass es tatsächlich funktioniert hat – dass jedenfalls für diesen Zeitraum diese Reportageteams unangetastet blieben, dass die Wachleute sich aus dem Bannkreis des Radios flüchteten, und dass auch Leute, die normalerweise aus dem Bahnhof vertrieben wurden, sich diesen Teams anhängen und mit denen in diesen Raum zurück konnten. Nur genau so lange wie diese Aktion lief, das ist klar, nach dem Radioballett war alles wie zuvor. Das war für uns ein Modell, wie Radio interventionistisch vorgeht, welches an einem Gedanken von „live“ Radio gekoppelt ist, das nicht nur berichtet, sondern auch versucht, das Radio vor Ort mit aufzubauen, um die Situation zu verändern, wie es aussehen könnte. Das ist super einfach, das Erstaunliche, dass Leute einfach mit Handys als Mikrophon und Radiogeräten schon eine kleine Radiostation sind, mit der sie in dem Raum eingreifen können. Das wäre sicherlich ein Modell, das man perpetuieren könnte. Die Idee ist, dass Radio auf die Übergriffe, die es in dieser Stadt überall ständig gibt, reagieren könnte.
– Ole: Um etwas richtig zu stellen: wir würden nicht sagen, dass der Legalismus der Hinkefuss ist. Man könnte jeder Zeit Piratenradio machen und so tun, als ob es frei ist. Wir gehen schon davon aus, dass unsere Aktionen unserem Begriff von Freiem Radio zumindest ein Vorschein davon geben, wie Radio HörerInnen in Beziehung setzt, um noch mal ein Wort von Brecht aufzunehmen. Sein Kommunikationsbegriff (das haben wir so unterschlagen) unterstellt sich gegen Enzensberger, es geht eher um das in Beziehung setzen, und dass die HörerInnen eine bestimmte Assoziation bilden. Das wäre eher eine Richtung vom Freiem Radio, wie wir sie uns vorstellen würden. Das ist aber auch das Problem, dass in der Freien Radio Landschaft in Deutschland so sehr in den tradierten Medienvorstellungen gearbeitet wird, dass überhaupt nicht überlegt wird, wie sich das Medium einsetzen lässt und wenn, dann sind die Modelle, die wir hier vorgestellt haben, sicher nicht die einzigen.
– Wie lang ging denn dieses Ballett?
– Torsten: 49 Minuten in Hamburg, und anderthalb Stunden in Leipzig.
– Shuddha: I have two questions. One is: some years ago, I was involved in a very big initiative to try and have free radio in India. We tried to lobby a lot of people, because the situation with radio was that the possession of a transmitter was a non-bailable offence, which would put you up for five years in prison, and that was the law. So we tried to create a situation where we could say that – because we had a Supreme Court judgement that said that the airwaves are public property. This was a judgement on a cricket match broadcast, and it was an important moment in judicial history in India, and we thought that we would take this opportunity to then argue for free broadcasting, because if it is public property, then possession of a transmitter means I’m only exercising my rights as the public. We tried to lobby a lot of the Left in India, saying: “This is your natural constituency; it means an enlargement of the democratic space, you can then have communication with society.” Every time we would go and talk to civil rights groups, we would be immediately told: “ It’s not possible and if you try to do it, we will not support you, because this means giving the air waves to the Fascists.” Constantly this argument of: “If you have communication, they will do it better than us, so let’s make sure that we are all quiet”, was something that completely sabotaged the whole situation. I was wondering if at the beginnings of free radio movement, was there any discussion of this kind over here? Because I’m still trying to think of ways and means to say to them, that they have the airwaves anyway, it’s a question of: What do you have? The other question was, taking the sender-receiver model, turning it around – which I found very interesting – supposing instead of radios in the station, people carried microphones and recording equipment and were trying to send back transmissions on to the radio station: Do you think that would create a real problem? Because then it would be like you are interrogating something that exists, and then going back to the source. Again, I’m asking this because in one of the programs we have at Sarai we ask a sound recordist to tape sounds, like the night that you go to the railway station. I’ve had the sound recordist tell me thrice that he’s been stopped by the police, because if he’s carrying a microphone and a recording equipment and he’s in a public space doing recordings, what is he listening for? The question is always asked, because in Delhi it’s very easy for any policeman to search you and say: “Oh, this is a machine. What is this for? Are you a terrorist?” Immediately. We’ve had to explain a lot of the times: “No, no. What we do is record sounds at night.” Then the next question is: “Why?” Because if you’re recording sounds at night, what is this for? The idea is that there can be only one kind of person who makes this documentation of everyday life. Only the police should be listening. If you’re listening, what are you listening for?
– Torsten: Auf das zweite bezogen, sind die Regelungen hier nicht so streng. Normalerweise kann man herumlaufen und Aufnahmen machen, da gibt es keine Einschränkungen, aber z.B. an dem Ort, den wir uns ausgesucht haben, den Hauptbahnhof, ist es eigentlich schon was anderes. Da braucht man jedenfalls für Videoaufnahmen Genehmigungen und für Tonaufnahmen eigentlich auch, aber das ist sehr schwer feststellbar und darauf wäre unsere These, die Assoziation in der Zerstreuung ermöglicht erst so was. Wenn man eine Aktion durchführt, und die heterogen genug ist, dann ist so was nicht mehr kontrollierbar. Aber ansonsten im normalen öffentlichen Raum gibt’s das nicht.
– Ole: Es ist auch hier eine sehr ungewohnte Praktik, es ist selten, dass Leute mit Mikrophonen rumrennen. Es gibt eine Künstlerin in Leipzig, die wir getroffen haben, die mit einem Großmikrophon am Bahnhof rumgerannt ist und tatsächlich sofort von den Sicherheitsdiensten angesprochen wurde, und auch gleich mit denen ein bisschen Ärger hatte, weil sie ihr auch genau gefragt haben was das soll und wofür sie die Klänge braucht. Offenbar funktioniert Klang ganz anders als Fotografie. Eine Bildaufnahme hat immer eine Berechtigung, aber eine Klangaufnahme, das scheint etwas Unheimliches zu sein. Zur ersten Frage, ist die Diskussion hier in Deutschland tatsächlich eine ganz andere gewesen. Warum sie so anders gewesen ist, wüsste ich gar nicht so genau zu sagen.
– Torsten: Sie wurde aus einer linken Bewegung geführt, die zu der Zeit nicht so marginalisiert war wie heutzutage. Diese Idee, dass wenn ein Medium frei ist, dann man auf alle Fälle auf beide Seiten gucken muss, dass sich die Rechten ihn sich nicht aneignen, die ist hier eher einer bürgerlichen Mitte beheimatet, die Angst hat, dass die Extremisten sich das aneignen, und deswegen ist es besser wenn es niemand bekommt; unter der Linken würde ich die nicht so stark sehen. Radiogeschichtlich ist Deutschland sehr stark in der Weimarer Republik gewesen, als man sehr große Angst hatte, überhaupt, das Radio aus dem sehr umgrenzend, damals schon halb öffentlich rechtlichen Monopol heraus zu geben, weil man Angst hatte, dann wird das Extremistenfunk. Was interessanterweise dann der Übernahme des Rundfunks durch die Nationalsozialisten Tür und Tor geöffnet hat. Das war ein zentralisierter Apparat, da musste man nicht sehr viel machen, der war schon für die Übernahme durch die Nationalsozialisten eingerichtet.
– Christoph: In meiner sicherlich sehr lückenhaften Erinnerung ist eine der ersten Geschichten gewesen, dass es Radio Hafenstrasse gab während der Barrikadentage. Die Erfahrung, zumindest in Hamburg, war ganz stark davon geprägt; das möchte man wieder haben. The facts and then the theory and then the legal demand.
– Ole: Es war nur möglich, weil es meterhohe Barrikaden vor der Hafenstrasse standen und den Sender geschützt haben. Tatsächlich ist Piratenradio hier sehr streng verfolgt; es ist selten möglich, länger als zehn Minuten von einem Ort illegal Radio zu machen. Es ist sehr schwierig. Ich habe insgesamt eigentlich zehn Jahre gebraucht – wenn man die Hafenstrasse mitzählt, was schon der Anfang wirklicher Radiobewegung hier in Hamburg ist – fast fünfzehn Jahre, um hier in Hamburg ein Sender zu bekommen, und auch der ist vom rechtspopulistischen Senat sehr gefährdet, weil gerade das Mediengesetz geändert wurde. Freies Radio ist nicht so eine Sache, die einem geschenkt wird, es war hier ein sehr langer Kampf. Die Sorge, dass die Gegenseite die übernehmen könnte, dafür ist das öffentlich rechtliche Radio konservativ genug, dass es ausreicht.
– Torsten: Offenbar im Unterschied zu Indien sind die Fantasien der Linken sehr stark von Vorstellungen von Freien Radio gefiltert. Es gibt sehr starke Vorstellungen davon, dass man viele tolle Sachen machen könnte, was auch zum Teil in die Weimarer Republik zurückgreift: Wenn es ein Arbeiterradio gäbe, dann könnten wir alle Arbeiter erreichen, dann wäre das die Voraussetzung für einen politischen Umsturz. Diese Fantasien gibt es sehr stark, und sie haben bis in die 70ern gereicht, um eine freie Radiobewegung anzustoßen. Leider reichen Fantasien häufig nicht in die Praktiken rein, es gibt eine diffuse Vorstellung davon, wenn man Radio hat, dann kann man Gegenöffentlichkeit machen, und dann erreicht man ganz viele Leute mit den eigenen Wahrheiten. Was wir gerade versucht haben darzustellen ist, dass es nicht reicht, sondern dass es anderer Praktiken bedarf, um dann erst Freies Radio zu machen.
– Man braucht ja nicht ein Mikro, Handytelefonieren ist erlaubt im Bahnhof, und das wäre eine Möglichkeit, direkt auf die Sendung Einfluss zu nehmen. Gibt es solche Überlegungen, dass man mit so was sehr Alltäglichem (e-mails und Internet einbezogen) [arbeitet]?
– Ole: Wir hatten bei Leipzig ja Interventionsteams, die das Handy umgedreht haben und als Mikrophon vor die Nase gehalten haben, und da auch Befragungen am Bahnhof verboten sind, waren wir schon besorgt, aber tatsächlich ist es komplett durchgegangen. Das Spannende ist, das Handy zu verwenden, um Sound aufzunehmen, direkt zu senden. Das hat der Vorteil, dass es nicht erst aufzeichnet, sondern direkt auf dem Sender gehen kann und direkt auch wieder ausgestrahlt wird. Das ist ganz nett, besonders wenn man Leute trifft, die eben aus dem Bahnhof ausgeschlossen wurden – wie es auch in Leipzig der Fall war – und direkt gleich sagen, was sie ankotzt. Nach dem Ballett in Leipzig gab es eine Situation, da sollte jemand verhaftet werden, weil er ein Dachschutz T-Shirt anhatte, und er hat das T-Shirt dann ausgezogen zu dem Zeitpunkt, als unsere Reporterin dahinkam. Es war ganz interessant, weil Leute, die die Sendung noch hörten und feststellten, dass da gerade was passiert, sofort da hingekommen sind, wodurch sofort sehr schnell 150-200 Leute beisammen standen. Unsere Reporterin war ein bisschen besorgt, wenn jemand dabei gesagt hätte: „Lass sie uns nieder rennen“, dass das sofort passiert wäre. Die Polizei war verunsichert durch diese Situation und hatte sich schon zurückgezogen.
– Torsten: Ein anderer Einsatzort, das wir schon beschrieben haben, sind die Demonstrationen, bei denen es sehr sinnvoll sein kann, mit Handy und Radio zu arbeiten, gerade wenn die Demo schwierig ist, um bestimmte Leute Vorschläge zu geben, wo man hingehen kann. Anderseits auch eine Praxis, die sofort dadurch erschwert wird, dass nicht nur die Demoteilnehmer Radio hören, die andere Seite findet es auch relativ schnell heraus, insofern ist es kein Patentrezept, um Demorouten durchzusetzen, aber eine Möglichkeit auf Ereignisse auf der Strasse zu reagieren und Leute dort abzuhören. Eine Demonstration, von der viel gesendet wird, ist eine, an der Leute sich auch gut anschließen können.
– Christoph: Have you ever thought about changing the medium? Are you theory or radio fetishists?
– Torsten: Welches Medium schlägst du vor? (Lacht)
– Ole: Ich glaube schon, dass wir auf Radio fokussiert sind, was daran liegt, dass wir sehr daran hängen, die Spezifizität von dem Medium zu denken. Wir sind jetzt alle drei über 5 -10 Jahre im Freien Radio. Das Diskussionsprozess ist lang gewesen, wir sind in überkommene Praktiken aufgewachsen; diese ganze Frage des Distributionsapparats musste gestellt werden, bevor wir weiter kommen konnten. Es hat lange gedauert, bis uns diese Spezifizität, das Besondere an Radio, klar wurde. Wenn ich mir jetzt vorstellen würde, wir würden uns in Bereiche wie Film oder Fernsehen bewegen – an sich total interessante Medien, weil sie einen ganz ähnlichen Effekt [wie Radio] haben, aber natürlich technisch viel aufwendiger sind – es wäre sehr interessant, aber dann sehr vorsichtig. Ich glaube, dass eine bestimmte Auseinandersetzung auch eines bestimmten Kontextes bedarf. Nur durch intensive Diskussion mit Leuten einerseits der FSK, von der Roten Flora, aber auch Leute von Urban Panic, Tetra Pak usw. – Gruppen, die hier zu Urbanität gearbeitet haben – kann eine spezifische Arbeit entstehen. Da gehe ich mit Medienwechsel vorsichtig um. Wir haben neulich eine Arbeit gemacht, die in die Musikrichtung ging, und es war sehr anstrengend festzustellen, wie es funktioniert.
Torsten: Zumal das Tolle an Radio ja die Einfachheit ist, und die Geschwindigkeit, die auch daraus hervorgehen kann, also die Möglichkeit, in der live Situation was zu machen und dass es bei anderen Medien durch den erhöhten Produktionsaufwand wesentlich schwieriger wird. Ich glaube, das ist wirklich eine der Gründe.
– Shuddha: I’m going the other way. I started out with film and now I’m increasingly interested in radio, because I think that it’s not only a question of the apparatus, but for a long time I’ve been thinking precisely about these ideas of diffusion, of what makes people pay attention to themselves and their environment in a way that doesn’t make them lose their selfhood. Because I think that all of us have grown up with the kind of politics of demonstrations where you are all together in a mass. Everyone has to do a ritual set of things and that is very easily controllable, because it’s the mass that is controllable, whereas a disaggravated group of people who are autonomously doing something that no one’s telling them to do except in the earphones is a very interesting and seductive idea. In 1998, when India exploded once again its nuclear weapons, there was the beginning of a completely undirected anti-nuclear movement for the first time in Delhi. It didn’t come from any political party or organization; it’s just that people got disgusted. One of the things that they would do was that every Friday, people would meet holding a piece of paper in their hand, saying why they didn’t want a nuclear weapon in the country, and just stand in a particular space. This was very confusing to people, because although there were many people standing together, no one was giving a speech, no one was addressing the crowd, no one was giving slogans together. So when the police would come, we could say: “I’m here on my own, I’ve got a piece of paper. Can you stop me from standing with a piece of paper?” In Delhi, for instance, there is a law called section 1-44, which prevents the assembly of more than 14 people in a public space. If it’s declared that a place is under section 1-44, if you’re more than 14 people doing something together, that could be a problem. So we would say: “No, no, I’m here by myself; I’m standing here.” It was a very interesting situation, because the authorities had no language with which to deal with this. That’s what I found very interesting with the radio experiment that you’re doing, because it’s working precisely on those grounds. The other thing is the idea of listening, because we’ve become a kind of culture that undervalues listening. It doesn’t value conversation or listening, it only values visuality. Recently, at the Raqs media collective we started a poster project, the first of which is called “Utopia as a hearing aid”. If you listen carefully to a lot of things going around you, then maybe you’ve got halfway there anyway, because you’re connecting with what people are saying. I’m really appreciative and admire the work that you’re doing with radio, because it inspires me to do something.
– I found it a bit depressing to see your radio ballet. I wasn’t seduced by all these separated bodies listening to the radio, having their actions coordinated by the transmitter somewhere else. Of course people there might have known each other, but there was something about it that was a bit sad. Especially when you’re dealing with a discourse that is quite important, and that is the expression of normative spaces and what can be done about them. As far as I saw it, it was an extension of that discourse in the gestures, and that becomes an exercise in powerlessness. Perhaps in Leipzig you created more of a disruption, but here you could see that the normative functioning of the space, although it did create momentary confusion, it didn’t develop practices or life forms which can exist in that normative space. You’re not necessarily oppositional, going in and protesting, and I agree there needs to be a research for other forms besides the mass demonstration and the shouting of slogans, but this kind of separated, coordinated [action]… maybe you have one person listening and then at least four people with them and they have to figure out what they do next – a little bit like an improvisational thing, it’s a very controlled experiment trying to create an uncontrolled situation, I doubt that the situation that was created was that uncontrollable.
– Ole: I have a question for you. What do you mean by powerlessness in the radio ballet? The power of the people in the radio ballet means that they can do gestures they couldn’t do alone; the radio ballet is enabling them to do exactly that.
– Yes, but those gestures… You’re not institutionalising or reactivating the ability to beg in that space. You said it was an experiment, a form of research, and when I say powerlessness I mean it in the sense that we have to move from a stage where we are reflecting on a normative space and maybe begin to try to inhabit them. With your thing about the city centre at night, which is a very good point: How can that place be inhabited differently at night, and how can it be inhabited by a tribe of silent people, who go in to do contemplative, meditative practices? Those are potential, interesting areas of discussion. Going back to the radio ballet, I think the powerlessness was that the gestures took on a character that was divorced from their normal use – to be actually begging, to lay actually drunk on the floor in the station.
– Torsten: As Ole said, this enables people to make things they usually wouldn’t do there. The important idea about it is the experience in the space – an experience one cannot have, usually, without being thrown out. We wanted to enable people to have the experience of making things there in this dispersion, but at the same time in a collective form. We certainly hope that this does enable them to do something; at least that this reminds them that something outside of the customary is possible within that space. We hope that being in that space as collective changes the space for a certain moment. Certainly other practices can do different things, but a demonstration would never be able to generate anything there, as it is quite easy to throw out a non-dispersed demonstration group.
– Ole: Sicher ist das Radioballett nicht in dem Sinne eine konstituierende Praxis wie Park Fiction oder Sarai, die über Jahre hinweg geht und an bestimmten Dingen die Praktiken herstellt, sie dann auch mit bestimmten Sozialisierungen erfahren. Das würde ich als Manko von interventionistischeren Formen begreifen. Die Intervention hat also eine bestimmte Dauer, und die den Begriff der Übung sehr ernst nimmt. Die Übung bewahrt aber eine Erinnerung in dem Raum, dass man weiß, hier war noch was anderes möglich. Das ist fast eine defensive Taktik, aber ich habe auch im Moment nicht das Gefühl, dass sich die bundesdeutsche Linke sich in einer Offensive befindet, wo man jetzt überlegt, in welcher Richtung man weiter rockt. Zum anderen geht es darum, was wach zu halten, und auch um die Anonymisierung der Leute – dass die Leute nicht miteinander reden, sondern jeder für sich ist. Das ist die Situation von Massenmedien, dass die Leute dadurch voneinander getrennt werden. Wir haben in einem Stück der schöne Satz von Sigfrid Krakauer: „Das Radio ist schuld daran, dass die Öffentlichkeit verwaist.“ Tatsächlich würden wir diese Analyse teilen. Die Öffentlichkeit, die Krakauer kennen gelernt hat er, beschreibt er den Wahlabend 1931, wo er sagt, früher hätten sich die Leute am Potsdamer Platz getroffen, weil da die Wahlergebnisse bekannt geworden wären, und natürlich viele Leute zusammen gekommen sind und diskutiert haben. An dem Abend gibt er aus, das Wahlfieber auszumessen und stellt fest, es ist keiner auf der Strasse und die Wahlergebnisse werden nirgendwo angezeigt. Das ist ein Stück von Radio, das sich auch nicht hintergehen lässt. Uns geht es darum, eine Konstellation von Personen herzustellen, die sich dann weiter unterhalten, auch wenn sie nicht mehr Radio hören.

Cassette 3, Side 2

Beim Radioballett sowohl in Leipzig als auch in Hamburg, wo wir noch Stationen hatten, wo die Radios auszuleihen waren, gab es natürlich unglaublich viel Austausch. Diese Form von Austausch, das kann das Medium Radio nicht gut. Das kann man versuchen, aber es gibt immer eine bestimmte Begrenzung. Das, was Radio gut kann, ist Zerstreuung herzustellen um damit auch Räume zu verändern. Natürlich kann es eine Kommunikation geben, aber nur als eine zerstreute; das sind Modelle, an denen man noch viel mehr arbeiten könnte, wenn man mehr Telefonkonsolen im Sender hätten und mehr Leute gleichzeitig und von verschiedenen Orten anrufen könnten. Da ist sicher noch eine Menge denkbar, aber gerade [bei ]mehr als 200-300 Leute, da ist es wichtiger, die Zerstreuung genau zu machen. Alles andere, was an Kommunikation möglich ist, an zusammen sein, dafür brauchen wir zum Glück kein Radio.
– Ich fand die Aktion sehr unterschiedlich – zwischen skurril, lustig, Leute machen mit. Auch das Tanzen war wie ein Gruppenprozess, vielleicht weil der moderne Tanz isoliert vor sich geht, und dann gabt es Momente, wo ich eher an einem Kirchentag oder Yoga dachte, „wir fühlen uns ganz schwer“, „und jetzt nach links, und jetzt nach rechts“ , aber auch was ihr beschrieben habt, es hat leicht faschistoide Kommandostrukturen drin. Es hat wenig utopische oder richtig befreiende Momente, eher Gesten, dass man versucht, wieder an das zu kommen, was verboten ist. Aber was ist verboten? Betteln. Es ist ja nicht utopisch, zu sagen, das Betteln oder die Geste des Bettelns muss wieder erlaubt werden. Da ist es in Teilen gefangen, und in Teilen ist es aber auch so, dass es darüber hinweg will. Eine Euphorie hat sich bei mir auch nicht breit gemacht, sondern zwischendurch so ein Kick.
– Torsten: Uns geht es nicht darum, dafür zu sorgen, dass an diesem Ort Betteln wieder möglich wird, sondern darum, was in diesen Orten gerade unsichtbar gemacht wird. Auf keinen Fall wollen wir jetzt eine Demonstration für einen bunteren Hauptbahnhof da aufführen.
– I’ve got a question about the media that you’re using, which came up earlier. Somebody asked if you were media fetishists. It seems to me you’re very much not, in the sense that there’s a split economy across words and the image, in the sense that the people are receiving words, but they’re turning them into the image. If there’s any sort of criticism that this is “controlling” – I don’t like that word – but if there’s that sort of element in your work, then there’s also something completely different going on at the level of the visual, because at the level of the visual people are absolutely disrupting visual expectations of that space. In that sense, the notion of spectacle is very useful. “Gesture” has been used as a word, but I think “spectacle” is more useful. I just wondered if you thought that although you’re working with radio, actually you’re also working with the visual, and ironically, it’s the visual in which you’re perhaps more critical and more disruptive.
– Ole: Sure. We’re not working as visual, or to take the body in the space, as a visual. Sure, we’re always thinking about what kind of images we are preparing for the main station. [????] I’m not sure what kind of utopia you appreciate nowadays. In my opinion, a utopian gesture is waving good-bye to the revolution’s train with a red handkerchief. What does it mean to stop something that is going on? As Torsten mentioned, hindering exclusion at the main station does not mean obtaining a “nice” main station, but getting rid of capitalist society in the broader sense.
– Ich wollte noch was zu dieser Utopiediskussion sagen, die jetzt hier aufkam. Ich verstehe das ja gar nicht so rein utopisch, was ihr da macht. Das ist vor allem eine sehr ironische Haltung, es hat eine Ironisierung des Utopiebegriffes gegenüber, dem man in Frage stellen kann. Utopie ist ja ein sehr ausschließender Begriff. Seht ihr das auch so?
– Torsten: Ironisieren der Utopie…
– Also eine ironische Haltung gegenüber dem Utopiebegriff, oder meint ihr es nicht so? Oder seid ihr da ganz ungebrochen?
– Ole: Diese Diskussion müssten wir in einer größeren Perspektive darüber führen, welche Hoffnungen wir uns machen, kapitalistische Vergesellschaftung hinter uns zu lassen. Ich finde es komplett lächerlich, so emphatisch „Und morgen ist die Revolution“ [zu sagen]; [es ist] eine Utopie, die wir in den Medientheorien angedeutet haben, über die als eine Form von Abschluss gedacht wird. Das ist überhaupt nicht die Ebene für uns. Ob es ein ironisches Verhältnis ist, weiß ich nicht, aber [es ist wichtig] darüber nachzudenken, was an Resten von linker Geschichte sich retten lässt und was nicht. Mit solcher Arbeit versuchen wir nicht eine bestimmte Form von Organisierung, wie sie seit den Zehner Jahren in der Linken bis 89 vorherrschte, fortzusetzen, sondern andere Formen von Organisierung zu denken.
– Christoph: Just a short statement: we don’t have to stop, but at some point we will have to stop speaking in German, because the simultaneous translation will end soon.
– Humberto: What I really find interesting is how you give people control, becoming not only an audience, but also a programmer, taking the example of the music box. I find it quite interesting how you give that freedom to the audience, to become the producer as well. I find that kind of difficult in Tijuana, where I’m from: to make a mind switch from being the audience to making their [own] media. That’s one of the points I find interesting about your work with traditional radio. In Tijuana it’s difficult to do that, because radio waves are controlled by the state, so in order to do free radio you have to do pirate radio, and the equipment is expensive. I’ve only seen few attempts to do that, one of them is in Maclovio Rojas, actually. The closest thing to free radio are the stations owned by the two main universities in Tijuana, but it’s also controlled by the universities, so there is certain content that you cannot do freely. People who like free radio do net radio, but you’re limited to cyber cafés, and how many people have computers in Mexico? So seeing that kind of participation in traditional radio is really interesting to me. Another comment: I saw what happened with a free radio station called “Pacífica Radio” in San Francisco and L.A.. They had a sort of citizen council, like a board of directors run by citizens. Somehow persons with certain interests guiding that board of directors started changing the programs, so suddenly all the programming there was only music, all the political programs were shut down or they were switching the schedules of the show. All the political programming started to disappear. People went on mass demonstrations, specially in San Francisco, and they took back the station, but the kind of control that the people had over the radio station was never the same. They got back a few programs like “Democracy Now”, which was one of the most popular ones. I don’t know how your station is run, if something like that could happen in the sense that some people see a menace in this kind of radio, and they’ll try and find a way to get rid of it, or change it into something completely different.
– Torsten: We did mention that it can be a political menace to people of the current right-wing senate in Hamburg, which has been in power for over a year and a half here, and suddenly there are always tactics to get rid of such a station. On the other hand, there are fights within the left. As I said before, many fantasies of the left wing are projected on to radio and then everybody wants to have radio his or her way, so there are fights among the groups within the radio. That is a situation that endangers it, perhaps even more than enemies from the outside, because I think that we are licensed for a year now, and it is quite difficult to take away the license that is already authorized, as is our case. Regarding your first point, we see the programs we’ve made as practices, and people have had to practice unusual behaviour, calling in the radio show and holding the telephone to the loudspeaker and transmitting music with this. This is a kind of obscure media practice that did work, so now it’s been taken on by many others. That’s the way it should go with things that are even more political than this music box; they have to be practiced upon, and this is what we endeavour to do with our radio shows.
– Ole: Christoph, some final words?
– Christoph: No final words, thanks everybody, thanks Ligna. Thanks to the translators. The next program points are short guided tours of the exhibition starting in 5 minutes with Margit. Please note also that in 5 minutes we’ll start clearing up the space, because tonight there will be a disco night in here, and we must have all the equipment, including the translator’s booth, chairs and so on out by that time. I advise you strongly to take the guided tour, because then we will walk to the park, and on that way there will be an intervention by the Schwabinggrad Ballet. Don’t miss it, you haven’t been to the conference if you haven’t seen that. We meet at seven o’clock sharp to start from the exhibition here. After that, there will be some time to get a bite and at eleven p.m. it’s Stefan Dillemuth in the “Störtebecker Zentrum”. Stefan Dillemuth with “Lichtmenschen im Sumpf der Sonne/Video mit Fleischeinlage”, a brilliant piece of art and don’t miss that either, otherwise you’ll have nothing to talk about tomorrow! After that we’ll show you to a place where drinks are cheap.

Bildschirmfoto vom 2015-01-05 22:44:08Stephan Dillemuth, Video mit Fleischeinlage

Heure Fixe (fixed date on which regular meetings are held), Friday morning, July 27, 2003

– Christoph: We see this congress develops the first ventures. I think there are a few people here who weren’t with us the day before; we had fantastic presentations by Sarai, Ligna and Dillemuth. I’m sure you’ve got an idea [for today’s heure fixe] already.
– Eva: I don’t really have an idea, because I heard this fantastic presentation in the morning, which was so inspiring, but I missed the whole afternoon and I didn’t see Stephan Dillemuth’s film. I thought we might use this situation in order to collect a few questions that came up yesterday. We could take them up today and keep them in mind. One of the questions that arised had to do with differences between nationalities, and I think this might continue today, because today we will hear Ala Plástica from Argentina, which is a completely different situation than Delhi. It’s not even India we’re talking about, but Delhi, Hamburg. I’m interested in not losing this.
– What I think has the same importance are the different forms we listened to. Maybe it’s nationality, but if we remember the Ligna presentation, which was a bit “academic” or more formal, presenting texts, and then think of Stefan Dillemuth’s film, which is an art work presenting another way of thinking about avant-garde, and if we think of Sarai, whose message called upon us to look more closely and to think about perception, the perception of the self: that’s what was really inspiring to me, to see all those completely different forms. That might be connected to nationality, but I think that it also has to do with different approaches. The questioning of what is local and what is global – it was all in there, in all the presentations, but in completely different forms. At some point at night yesterday, after one o’clock in the morning, I felt I’d need three weeks or more to digest just what I had heard that very day. I’m very curious how we’ll deal with all these different approaches.
– Christiane: I think it was interesting that the four presentations had a strong notion of fluidity in common, or the term that you brought up: diffusion. If we connect that to the term of constituent practices, this constituting moment is not as much in a given structure as in a mindset.
– Rafael: Our general impression of what happened yesterday has a lot to do with our work. Both presentations (Ligna and Sarai) were much involved with communication between communities and projects that catalyze communication within communities. That’s quite important and we’ll try to arrange our presentation today to emphasize this issue. We think it’s very important to do this, and to continue this way.
– In addition to the four presentations, the dinner we had in the church yesterday was another location. That’s another point: we saw so many locations. Starting from here, we had the exhibition, then we were on the street with the Schwabinggrad Ballett, then the walk to the park and the church and our talk with the woman [priest] there, who invited us, and finally Stefan Dillemuth’s presentation. There were so many places, and we’re going to see even more, both local and international locations.
– Ole: To me, the most interesting point was seeing how different forms were practices: to rethink my own practice with radio along with other practices that share how they relate to the world, see things and deal with other media. These other forms of constituent practices make me rethink several issues related to my work. I cannot say in which direction right now, but I do hope that as the congress develops, we’ll discuss the question of which practices are interesting and where to go in a political sense.
– Hello, I’ve got a number of questions as an outsider, because I feel I’m coming quite late to this debate, and there are a lot of things I don’t understand; I hope you’ll bare with me. So I’ve got a number of questions, and I don’t expect them to be answered immediately and indeed by the end of the congress. I suppose some are to Park Fiction, others are for other people here. First of all, I’m really interested in this term “constituent practices”. I have a sense of what it might mean, but I’m building it up through listening to you, and I’d be glad if someone could say something about it at some point. The next question is about the Park Fiction project and the construction of the park, and I’m wondering because I realized that I live around the corner in London from something which is actually quite similar, in the sense that I live in an area which was once a huge squat, and then the squatters took charge of the houses and they got lots of funds from the government to turn them into what’s called “social housing” in the U.K.. There are now lots of housing cooperatives in that area. It’s actually only two squares, but it’s quite unique for London. Within that area, there are two parks, and one of the parks was built very much by the community and it’s still maintained by the community. One question I’ve got to Park Fiction is, would the park have happened without the involvement of people who have – and I’ll say this really guardedly – some sort of connection to arts? I don’t know if I understand that, but I guess that is distinctive for you. Where I live the park was brought about by people with a connection to gardening, rather than arts. The next question relating to the park is I see something different happening in the sense that it’s much more formal, bigger, and it requires a different involvement in terms of gardening experts, landscape architects. In the parks that I know – and I know them because I actually go out in them and I’ve helped made them – it’s very much the people who live in the community who’ve constructed them. So all of the work has been done by the people who live there, and that has been quite heavy duty at times. So I’m wondering if that’s not just an issue about practicalities, but an issue about investment, because when I walk past the parks and the trees in my area, I think: “I planted that tree, I watch it grow”, and for me that was a very different connection to the enterprise. It is like an investment in an emotional sense. The other question is how do Park Fiction describe their relationship to arts. I ask that because in the U.K. the things that you’re doing would be very much divided into two groups – the arts tend to go in two directions. At the moment in London you’ve got a gallery scene which is incredibly conservative and then you’ve got things happening on the edge, but they’ve got less and less over the last ten years. Our group is a bit like Park Fiction, but they tend to sever that connection to art, so they very much go off in a sort of community direction. At the moment, I’m just tempted to be trying to map the differences in what you’re doing. I think that’s about it; it’s a terrible list, so I’ll just leave it there.
– Christoph: Yes, there were many questions, and there’s one particular question I’m very happy to be able to talk about, because I think your question about what is a constituent practice could be answered, and we want to find out as well: Would it have been possible without art? The way that you described certain potential in London comes from a concrete gardening background. Some things are like that in here, too, but the gardening aspect was very beat. The area simply didn’t exist as a garden. There was only a very small slope of land, and a precondition for the park was the construction of a sports hall. I think it’s important to note that without any of the groups that were part of this game it wouldn’t have been possible. There were all the institutions in the community – the community centre, the St. Pauli church, the school, which actually started this with all the people living in the area. Also important was a silent threat – the squatters and the Hafenstrasse story was still fresh then and the City was aware that messing around with people from this area could have effects they couldn’t control. The “Golden Pudel Club”, the music scene, which is a very political one – as you saw with the Schwabinggrad Ballett – was always involved in Park Fiction events, and that’s a very strong point in the city. Without that, it all couldn’t have happened. With art, I think it also opened a field. I think art means that you have to define what you’re doing, it’s not art if you don’t define something new. That’s a very traditional art definition, I’d say. The interesting thing for all the groups present here is the fact that they are working at a point where it’s not so interesting to talk about art anymore, but about a perspective embedded into everyday life, trying to connect things with your personal life and finding terms like “production of desires”, which would meet all things in all cultural backgrounds. That’s more important than asking: is it an art project or not? For me, it would be very interesting to have “production of desires” combined with science, for instance. I think Ala Plástica have a lot to do with this.
– We would all say that’s a kind of protection that art serves to you. I don’t know whether I’ve got you right there.
– Christoph: In a very classical sense, art is the field where the bourgeois society affords to have all the liberties promised in the French Revolution and betrayed in the time afterwards. (…) There is a tactical point, but I think it shouldn’t be in the foreground, there should be a serious point in the foreground.
– Eva: We could also take up the chance today to think more about redefining art, or looking at what we’re doing as artists, or what’s the potential [of it], and I’m curious to think about that in terms of your project. What I really liked in the Sarai presentation yesterday was the term of “qualified visibility”, because you can find it everywhere. We were shown this critical and precise watching of what is going on, and how the world is built up. You can be part of this, taking tiny little steps; it’s like the beginning of a network, a rhizoma. You’ve moved away with your Park Fiction project in trusting personal wishes and desires.
– Christoph: Thank you!
– I think that’s a very good point. I like the fact that we started with Sarai and its very precise, local view. As they said, you can see the whole world in your own street. During the day we’ve already opened so much and it’s good to keep the macro structures in mind – the art world, politics, different kinds of practices, by remembering this precise visibility/invisibility, all the topics that Sarai has opened.
– I think you made a good point before. We should really watch what we see, how it is represented and which spaces are constructed precisely through representation. We should watch ourselves: what are we doing here? What setting is this whole area and who’s talking and how? We should continue with this awareness.
– Christiane: Another thing that crossed my mind yesterday when you look at art that comes out of social processes is the importance of developing categories to look at processes. That’s a very interesting aspect of this conference, that the focus with most of the projects is very strong on how something develops, how it’s conducted, how the process evolves. It’s a very important field to work on, because it doesn’t really exist. If you write about things, you realize you lack the tools – the necessary vocabulary or categories – to describe processes.
– Wanda: Just to add to that, I thought Shveta’s presentation from Sarai was very helpful in describing processes. I would be very interested in looking at that perspective a lot more when examining the work done by collectives in art or other processes. That could refer to the question of where art is located, where the art system is, all the usual questions posed to a project like Park Fiction.
– Christoph: Kathrin, Shveta, Joy, Shuddha and I had a nice discussion at the Pudel Club last night after our third beer there. I think it was who Shuddha or Katrin who started thinking about the presentation of Andreas Blechschmidt the day before, on the walk through the Flora. Another point about Ligna was the strong negativity and self-criticism emphasized in their own presentation. We talked about the fact that it is necessary, on the one hand, and how it could stop things – I thought it was a German thing, but Shuddha said it happens in India, too: a strong negativity in the leftist scene, a helplessness. There is a tradition in leftist thinking – in German it would sound like “das immer ausgerechnet wird zwischen Allmacht und Ohnmacht”. The desire is to be completely omnipotent, and as this is bound to fail, you feel very powerless and the trick to get out is irony or strong self-criticism. It was so important for me to work with Shveta and Joy for a couple of days, this deep concentration and seriousness. We had a talk with five people sitting on a bench facing the door of the Butt Club, and we started decoding that door via descriptions with Joy and Shveta, who were in Europe for the first time for four days. It was as if they were going to find a northwest passage of utopia in that door. It was a fantastic moment and I heard the best description of that space with a sentence Joy said. How this seriousness in looking at things concentrated can be a way out of this big idea of: “We want it all. The world is nothing until revolution happens. There is no white in the black.” That’s something I wanted to throw into the discussion, because it has something to do with the idea of constituent practices.
– I’d like to add something to the Ligna discussion of yesterday. I don’t quite agree to “that’s just a negative or full-scale irony”, because I witnessed their performance for several times, although I didn’t participate, but I was in the position of seeing the pedestrians passing by, and there were even people who lingered on in the area of the railway and regarded that territory as their own and felt that there came a group of intruders, and tried to make fun of them and started shouting. What I really saw was that it was not a temporary confusion as one of the participants here stated yesterday. I think it’s more. People were aware that this was not a public ground any longer, but a private ground, and I think that’s quite a lot if you can reach that. It’s not just irony and helplessness.
– Christoph: I want to take that back directly, but you reflected a lot on “now we’re giving orders”, and the authority of the machine, and then how it is not bad and so on, but I think the people taking part knowing that this is a game, it’s a mix, I think.
– Ole: I feel a bit uneasy about this “it’s so German to have self-criticism, it’s totally negative.” I suppose one idea of free radio in Hamburg is getting rid of this old left-wing thinking; thinking that we have to make the revolution with everyone, which I find impossible, on the other hand “Oh no, we can’t do anything.” We’re interested in seeing what is possible with the particular medium of radio. I suppose, most left-wing people don’t see what is possible because of this dichotomy. I understood a lot of Sarai said as getting rid of all the dichotomies in order to find new fields, such as experiences of the city beyond being Muslim or Hindi. That’s very interesting about the Sarai project: finding a new plane to discuss things that could be more important than these dichotomies. This would be a necessary discussion in left-wing discussions in Germany.

UNLIKELY ENCOUNTERS
Cassette 4, Side 1

Heure Fixe on Friday (Continued)

– Eva: I would agree, because I think it’s very much about strategies, I’d say micro strategies. We have to look very closely at what is happening and be very self-critical. There’s always a seduction in these processes, as we learned from the Park Fiction project. The situation you just mentioned about sitting in front of the door of the Butt Club and looking carefully has a drive, and you came together with this fascinating process, but I still think you have to reflect on it and really look at what’s going on here, constantly. I know a lot of projects that lean back – I’m an art educator so that is where I speak from – they lean back and then they’re happy with it and that’s enough. I think that’s not enough. Christiane suggested thinking about categories, which is a very interesting point, but you still have to look carefully at each situation, because they are all different; they create their own context in a very different way and people are in different positions.
– Christiane: I totally agree. Asking for categories was more in terms of trying to establish a looking at processes, rather than looking at results. I think that’s an important shift in mindset. It will be interesting, as the congress unfolds, to look further into the concept of strategies, because I’m not sure whether that fits so well. “Strategy” suggests a kind of mastermind, and the practices that these projects have developed are more in terms of testing grounds, thinking in dynamics rather than planning production towards a kind of future.
– Eva: I think this term of “qualified visibility” could be considered a strategy to get there by working in a precise way; I don’t know if you could call that a master plan.
– Christoph: Maybe a very small, ordinary point. It has to do something with what you said. In 1998, the art system was completely through with projects that were categorized as participatory and interventionist; it was done with. It was actually a time where it was possible to take a closer look at the differences. In 1998, all of us would have been labelled under one definition, and that’s it. Now we have a big chance to look at all these different practices, because I think it’s the field of arts where new definitions are still made. I don’t think there are many fields in the art world where definitions are made, and I think all the other fields are walking behind and trying to ignore what’s happening. It’s very worthwise to have discussions like these more closely, because there’s a whole field opening up, where lots can be done in the next years, and the discussion is not finished at all, but just starting.
– Why 1998? What happened then over here?
– Christoph: There was a very strong self-organized scene in the German language area and it reached a peak in 1995-96. Then it entered the art discourse; there were art magazines writing about it, the market was down and it came up again, and suddenly there was a complete silence. I remember 1998 was – for Park Fiction, which might be a bit of a narcissistic view – a year when we started to get spoken about like “these people who work in a community, and we don’t give a shit.” The whole movement came down a little, especially in the German language area, the whole discussion remained within it. That was a very big problem, which was visible already by 1995-96, but there weren’t many attempts to get out of it. There wasn’t so much communication about projects, only few groups had contact, and that added to the problem.
– I’d like to get back to the art and society question. I think I grasped that you’re much concerned in triggering processes in social relations, but if you put this whole affair right into the art context, which is more or less quite bourgeois as you already stated, isn’t there a slight danger that you separate the contents that you convey, or that the strategies, formal things, that are conveyed, are more or less sooner or later imitated? And you don’t get on with the discussion or the discourse that you’re socially concerned with.
– Christoph: ?
– We talked about strategies, and we presupposed what we’re interested in and what we’d like to bring about socially; the insight that we’re all connected, for instance. That’s the message, isn’t it? It’s an experience, to feel that you’re connected with people. But when you get on with strategies, you take the formal things and when you go into the art context what is really discussed? Is it the content thing or is it the formal aspect?
– Christoph: (speaking without micro)
– You think it can’t be separated. It’s all at once and you get it conveyed.
– Christoph: I would love to see the content in the formal and the formal in the content. I really can’t separate it at all. But I didn’t quite understand your question.
– Eva: I’m not really sure if I got your point, but I had this idea of thinking in terms of strategies, how to use the term “art” or how to make a process out of it, and that’s a completely different question from how does it come back into the art discourse. Christoph just mentioned that these practices arised in Germany very differently from England, and in America it’s really different, too. That’s what I wanted to say at the beginning we’re talking out of different contexts, different countries, different things are going on, and these form our practices and our discourse; you can’t separate that. I think redefining the notion of art is always a negotiation, so it’s never fixed. We work on this in here, right now, and we make it public, and I thank Park Fiction for taking a big step in this discussion. It can’t be fixed and it’s also used by certain interests. There was a certain point in America, in 1998, when the National Endowment for the Arts would only give money to artists’ projects that were either community or educational projects. It’s interesting that they take over this new movement that tries to redefine the notion of art and use it for their interests, putting artists into the position of having to be model social workers, making people hide a gap, deep problems [caused by] neoliberalism. We have to be careful with projects like Park Fiction. Once they are created, where do they go? How are they used? Who uses them and for what purpose? You could discuss it from the perspective of Hamburg.
– Just a quick “blib”. Participatory projects: in the U.K. they just don’t exist. You’re right in suggesting that there might be a similarity between the States and the U.K., in the sense that if artists get funding for projects which involve non-artists, it very much seems an educational project. In fact, artists can only do experimental things with galleries in the U.K. if they tack on lots of educational activities. So there’s this folding back of involvement into a really patronizing notion of education and community and a few artists are starting to resist that. Their response is to go back into conservative notions of modernist projects, and do the political-social work in the arts, in the gallery. That to my mind is not a response, but that’s what’s happening there. So participatory practices, there’s very little sense of that in the U.K., and I have to look to Europe for my sense of what that might be so that’s partly my presence here. Slightly change in tact: we talked about definitions and categories and the word “intervention” has come up loads and loads of times. People seem to use it quite freely and that’s the case also in the U.K., but I was trying to write on it recently for a paper and went to the British Library and looked up “intervention”, and all the references were medical, there wasn’t a single cultural one and I think it’s really difficult to define, or at least I know no theoretical literature on intervention. I had to end up going back to Walter Benjamin to start to understand that, so I’m wondering if anyone else here has had the same problem.
– I didn’t want to answer your second question, but just to say I come from the U.K. and there a small number of really quite radical participatory projects, for example “Platform”, does anybody know their work? Really quite extraordinary, I can give you some material about them. “Litoral” in Manchester, again they are a very small handful of very exciting projects in the U.K., and a very large amount of state-funded participatory projects in things like health & the arts, but they do tend to be state-funded, fairly safe, fairly traditional in their approach and then there is the gallery art with – if you like – events tacked on.
– I haven’t heard the term used to describe those projects, I haven’t heard the term “participatory” used in the formal way it has been used at the moment, have you?
– Christoph: I would like to take a chance to make a brake. Beata is our sound engineer. Please play the jingle, and play it loud.

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Ala Plástica

– Wanda: Good morning, welcome to the second day of Unlikely Encounters. Please proceed to your seats. Heute wird die Strukturierung von unserem Spezialgast gemacht, Eva Sturm. Sie ist Professorin für Kunstvermittlung an der Uni in Hamburg und momentan in Berlin. Heute fangen wir am Vormittag an mit Ala Plástica aus Argentinien, dann machen wir um 13 Uhr unsere Mittagspause, die wir pünktlich um 14 Uhr wieder beenden werden mit der Presentation der Galerie für Landschaftskunst aus Hamburg, und dann wird es um 17 Uhr weitergehen in der Hafen City am Informationszentrum, und zwar auch sehr pünktlich, denn das macht eine Stunde später zu. Für die Veranstaltung „Oh no, this is not part of the master plan“ werden uns dort Mitglieder der Gruppe Tetra Pak: Sonja, Jelka Plate, durch die Hafen City begleiten und dort werden wir ein Konzert sehen des fabulösen Schwabinggrad Balletts. Außerdem ist dort die mobile bar und es gibt zu essen und den ganzen Abend Programm in der Hafen City. 17 Uhr geht’s los und einen kleinen Text zur Hafen City und zur Gruppe Tetra Pak, sowie eine Wegbeschreibung gibt’s alles am Eingang in zwei Sprachen erhältlich und wer nicht schon was bekommen hat, da muss man ein bisschen gucken wie man in die Speicherstadt kommt.05 WandaMargit

– Christoph: Ala Plástica are quite responsible for one of the concepts of this conference, called “local knowledge – global exchange”. I met Ala Plástica in 1999 at a conference organized by the Wochenklausur in Vienna, for the first time. I was absolutely stunned by the precision of their talk and work, which is interventionist in the most radical sense, and taking place very far from what has been conceived as the art field, and I felt very much ashamed as to how unprecise artists are in Germany, on a general level, in a much laid back and controllable situation. They impressed me a great deal. I believe their work is connected to Park Fiction ,too. Welcome Ala Plástica from La Plata, Argentina.
– Alejandro: Hello, good morning to all of you. We thank you all for coming here this morning. We wish to thank also the organization team, Christoph and Margit. We thank as well Park Fiction and all of St. Pauli, this wonderful place we’re getting to know through the many activities that have been developing throughout the years of public participation, deconstructing traditional notions of aesthetics. Today we’re going to show sequentially how our work has developed; we’re going to show you where our work has started and where we’re based. We’ll try to communicate to you our perspectives on the transformations within the field of art. We perceive these transformations as being active in the field of aesthetics, transformations subverting a liberal aesthetic, the manic creation of objects for consumerism, the notion of creating objects only to be exhibited in galleries and museums, and the creation of objects with a happy end. We’re going to be looking at very complex situations that have been taking place in our country in the social, environmental, and cultural spheres. As you know, our country and the region specified on the map have been the centre of many public activities that have happened over the last two years. The communities have really taken charge of certain aspects of the country, through public assemblies, processes involving collective decision making, and I think we have been working already for twelve years to make something like this happen as well.

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– Rafael: We thought we’d start by showing you a project that illustrates the beginnings of our work. Here you see another satellite image of the area in which we work. It’s the La Plata river, an estuary where the Paraná and Plata rivers meet the sea, showing a very particular duality. This area of the city of Buenos Aires and its surroundings concentrates about half of the population of a country almost four times the size of Germany. We’re talking about 14 million inhabitants in this area. In 1991, we decided as a team to center our actions on recuperating public space. We started to look for public spaces that had been in cultural decay for many years. That’s how we came across the old public library of the zoo in La Plata (our home town) and we began to recover the place, both physically and functionally. At that point we initiated what we call our connective practice, immersing ourselves in society so as to catalyze a process of transformation. As I mentioned, the library is within the zoo, which is a very old one. It preserves the Victorian notion of confinement and isolation of the animals. At that time, it mirrored the social situation in Argentina, as a remainder of the dictatorships in the 70’s. So we thought it was necessary to work on this in collaboration with other groups in order to try the deconstruction of the zoo’s concept.
These images show the state of the animals’ confinement. The work we’re showing to you was performed as a warning to the zoo’s authorities. In this case, we tried to use photography to create an awareness of the situation. The medium of photography enabled us to link our own vision to other, more scientific visions of the situation.
– Alejandro: This is the project in which we started to play with metaphors: the confinement of the species as a metaphor for our own situation of captivity in the city after the dictatorship period. The situation of the animals couldn’t be differentiated from our inner condition, and the state of imprisonment showed the [lack of] importance given to places of encounter and communication in society. That’s why this recuperation of public space by the community was and still is interesting both as an action and a gesture. The question was: What do we do now? We spoke to our friends, other fellow artists, scientists, naturalists and researchers, and together we pondered the best way to represent this situation in order to put an end to it. Were we to create a new object that would carry on with the aesthetics of capitalism? Sculptures or a sculpture park? What could we do to change this situation? After working on deconstructing our own ideas, we realized the most suitable thing to do was to deconstruct the space itself. The project continues up to the present day, and we have managed to demolish 22 cages.
– Rafael: This project is exemplary. Sculptors participated in this action, and the interesting thing is that they used the same ability involved in the creation of an object (roughing out stone or wood) to actually deconstruct a setting like that. Something very profound took place within ourselves when we deconstructed that space. Working in that project had almost a magic influence on us.
– Silvina: We regard the zoo as a blocked zone within society’s space. The question is why we’re still carrying the residues of cultures that have so little in common with our contemporary way of thinking. We wanted to change our perception of zoos, because we now know that confining living creatures is barbaric. So why do we continue to accept this? We think that the act of questioning these structures is already a big step.
– Alejandro: I’d like to follow up on that with a text by the New York art critic Suzi Gablik.
“Being able to see that the present aesthetic ideology contributes actively to the most serious problems of our times, implies breaking up with cultural hypnosis and requires from us a change in our souls.”

Cassette 4, Side 2: EMPTY

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UNLIKELY ENCOUNTERS

Cassette 5, Side 1

Ala Plástica (Continued from cassette 4, side 1)

Alejandro: With this project in public space and the state of our own captivity in our cities, we realized the necessity of acting within a larger area. We started to work with bioregional models, but concentrating on very specific cases. It would be very lengthy to enumerate all of our actions throughout those years, but we can show you some places in which theory and practice met successfully. One of the initial spaces where we started working was the La Plata river’s coast. The urban expansion there was causing an immense pressure on the coastal ecosystems. Our work there derived from the properties of certain emerging plants. We met with people from the La Plata university, coastal dwellers, reed harvesters, craftsmen and other artists, for example Ian Hunter and Celia Lerner from “Project Environment” in England. We invited them to collaborate on a long-term project, with the support of the British Council. We started to focus on sustaining the natural ecosystems that were shrinking back. The incredible reproduction capacity of reed, an endemic plant of the area, allowed us to develop a model to restore the La Plata river’s coast. Basing ourselves on this model of rhizomatic expansion, we were able to trigger processes of environmental recovery. We hereby coincide with Deleuze & Guattari’s vision:

“The rhizome is a space beween a model and a metaphor. Each point of the rhizome can be connected to any other one within it. But it is said that within the rhizome there are no points or positions, but only lines. This characteristic is doubtful, because at the intersection of each line there lies a possibility of individualizing a point. So a rhizome can be cut and reconnected at each point. The rhizome is anti-genealogical, it’s not a hierarchical tree. If the rhizome had an outside space, it could produce another rhizome. That’s why it doesn’t have an inside or an outside. You may take a rhizome apart, or reverse it, being succeptible to alterations.”

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This rhizomatic capacity leads us to reconsider what we see in this slide: an interventionist project in the area of the La Plata river’s estuary.
– Silvina: We’re also inspired by the rhizomatic expansion of reed, which creates territory through sedimentation, so that other species may appropiate this space.
– Alejandro: Yes, Silvina’s right. The reed permit the creation of other worlds. So what is the point to those creations?
– Rafael: The model we adopted has to do with identifying critical issues; the social, economic and environmental issues that bring about a new social and natural territory. This is how the metaphor is embedded in reality.
– Alejandro: This is the La Sarita settlement, in which the community occupied the grounds of a former petro-chemical company. Somehow the prevailing models during the dictatorship, the 80’s and the 90’s, had a devastating effect on communication networks, communal work, and a culture of work. Luckily there was also an end to the perception that there was “a power over us”, choosing instead the [new] vision of “a power to act”. This is a very interesting thing that John Holloway mentions in “Changing the world without taking power.” We started to work in critical areas according to this model of expansion, and we teamed up with other social groups in order to find creative alternatives and to reconsider what collectivity could mean. From then on, we were able to act inventively in order to bring about an economic, political, social and communicative improvement. We started working with large communities of willow harvesters in 1994, this “living museum” (to quote Ian Hunter) of traditional willow production. The first issue was how to insert the local production in local culture. In times of neoliberalism, only products imported from Taiwan mattered – or German cars, or Coke – but local production had no relevance. Along with other artists, we started to encourage traditional crafts, as well as to generate critical ways of evaluating neoliberal models for development.
This slide shows an old train station. Our railway system was created by the British during the 19th century. It’s a large network covering the whole Argentinian territory, and it was designed to extract all the natural resources of Argentina to provide for the needs of the Victorian age, especially meat and leather. These spaces were abandoned after the political disasters of the 70’s and 80’s; they were shut down. In this case, we were working with the community of Punta Lara. We had to face many difficulties. One of them was the construction of a 42 Km long bridge across the La Plata river, which would perpetuate the old export model of natural resources, not by railway anymore, but with new bridges and roads to transport these products from Argentina to Brazil, and from there to the rest of the world. The community opposed this model. We decided to get organized and we reappropriated the space, discussing which kind of “development” we actually wanted. When we started to discuss the construction of the bridge, which was to be financed by the Inter-American Development Bank, we as a community refused to accept such a development model. We wanted to invest those 2,000 million Dollars – if they existed at all – in other things. We wanted to know where that money went and who would profit from that. We wanted to be active participants in the development of our region.This is but a small example: the bridge was not constructed.

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Close to La Plata is the La Plata port. It’s a petro-chemical port, one of the largest of its kind in Latin-America. Only one kilometer away is the port’s mouth, where people don’t have any electricity. So energy gets exported, while the people don’t have any electricity! We started getting in touch with friends there. We are not artists that come from the outside and insert themselves in a community to work there, we are part of the community. We started discussions and tried to find solutions. Old abandoned windmills proved to be one of them, and we started a press campaign in order to expose the contradictions and the community’s decision to find their own solutions. We installed 32 solar energy panels, trying to transform the area into a tourist attraction (this is still in process). Another interesting issue was creating an awareness of work and local production in the children. We think an awareness of their own localities and traditions has a positive impression on the minds of children.

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– Silvina: It also helps children discover and develop their own abilities.
– Alejandro: It was indeed a very complex situation to work with. The ruling system had tried to eradicate any capacity of autonomous decision making, as well as the capacity to value the local. I’d like to point that multinational corporations had demonstrated their “power over us”. It’s a power that enslaves us, a power that wants us to believe that there’s no purpose to the things we do, having to function according to a system that doesn’t make sense to us. That “power over us” is quite different from a “power to act”. One of the interesting things is to recover the “power to act”. What means the “power to act”? “Action” can imply doing nothing at all, it can mean rest, thought or creation, taking some time off to be able to answer to our times, to be aware that we can do things, but do them because we want to.
This slide shows an interesting activity in which women, men and children of the communities reappropriate their own time; they’re not the unemployed of the liberal system, but persons who are able to act. The power over them has dwindled.
Here you see youth of the Briso community. Their parents are also unemployed, and they’re learning a traditional craft.
This was an interesting project after the deconstruction of the zoo’s cages. We’re still based there. Currently, we have a very interesting project going on there, which looks at ways in which the community can participate actively in the recovery of this public space. Remember the old cages we showed you earlier? Here the children are taking an active part in reappropriating public space.
– Silvina: This project proposes a new concept of public works. Instead of comissioning a contractor, we tried to articulate the abilities available in the communities, so that they create and redesign their own public space.
– Rafael: Based on the experience undergone in the zoo, that is transforming a space of imprisonment into a space of public action, many new ideas emerged: Ideas that extended the activities within the zoo and changed its former character of captivity to external activities that could have a benefitial effect on local natural environments. Alejandro has already mentioned that we’re not artists coming from outside the communities, but from within them. The following example is completely the opposite. In 1998, we were invited by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and “Projects Environment” to conduct a project in the Ards peninsula, south of Belfast. This was a good chance to test out our work, focusing on catalization of communication in communities. It also gave us the chance to combine the local and the global. As most of us know, the people of Northern Ireland have to deal with significant religious and political problems. These conflicts have both an economic and a social impact on the society there. We stayed for 40 days in the Ards peninsula, establishing contact with the local fishing communities. The slide you see shows the port of Portavogie. It’s a small port with close to 1000 inhabitants, and the fishing has been declining over the past 15 years due to overfishing and the large fishing fleets operating in the Celtic Sea and the Atlantic Arc in general. We noticed the proximity of this largely protestant village to the border of Ireland. Our work during those three weeks consisted in bringing together the neigbouring communities that were considering other alternatives to fishing, such as aquaculture. While the community of Portavogie was losing its fishing tradition, it was unaware of the research on aquaculture going on about 10 km away, in the Republic of Ireland. The reason for this unawareness on the part of Portavogie was precisely the lack of exchange between the two Irelands. So we succeeded in bringing these two communities together. We set off a process with two weeks of dialogue and discussions that led to agreements between both communities to exchange knowledge and information.

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– Alejandro: Where is the art in all this? At this point we want to stress the post-visual, dialogical aspect of the artistic work we are doing. The artist’s ability doesn’t have to end in the creation of specialized objects for the world of consumption. Communication, connectivity and dialogical work are other ways of working. (…)
Shell is one of the big multinational corporations that have been based in Argentina for many years. They have a double standard: one in the port of Rotterdam, another one in the port of Buenos Aires. I guess Shell workers in the port of Hamburg can afford to have a good car; there must be a strict monitoring of pollution levels and I suppose the corporation must have some benefitial effect on the local community. But that’s not our case. Here you see an oil spill in 1999, in the coastal area of Magdalena, Buenos Aires. The oil spill had an impact on the area here, declared a biosphere reserve by the UNESCO. Here we take up some aspects of the reed project. As you can see, the oil spill had a devastating impact on the reeds, but not on its metaphor. The affected communities didn’t involve only Magdalena, but also La Plata, Erizo and Ensenada, communities that we’d been working with already. They all reacted immediately to this catastrophe. We started to use new ways of communicating through the press, radio, TV, analysis of satellite images, aerial survey and in situ evaluation, in order to gain a thorough insight of the situation. This project is still going on. Last month we publicly denounced the oil spill with the support of Friends of the Earth International at the Shell shareholders’ meeting in London. The Shell oil spill had a great impact on the coastal communities, but it also enabled us to develop develop inventive models in collaboration with the affected communities. It was also a way to empower those communities to trust their own visions, in order to find solutions and stop the advance of pollution.

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Cassette 5, side 2

Many ideas emerged from the public works. We’re just going to show you one example here. The worst outcome of the spill was the contamination of brooks and wetlands, which was the space with the most biodiversity. These are bundles of straw that acted as “filters”, blocking the flow of the oil spill but letting the water pass through them. These are creative strategies. However, the denunciations and struggles go on, and they are the reason why we’re here today in the port city of Hamburg, where we’d like to continue our research on double standards (to present it in Berlin, maybe next year). So we’re working there rehabilitating polluted areas, using natural resources, and at the same time fighting on an international level to denounce double standards.
Here you find another other kind of order. This is the port of Rotterdam.
This is the port of Buenos Aires.
And that’s the very heart of Shell, where we want to discuss the use of natural resources and the double standards.

Ala Plástica Discussion

– Eva: I think we can go on to the discussion right away, but first of all, thank you very much. This was an overwhelming presentation. It might take some time for people here to articulate their questions to you. I am really fascinated by how many levels you work in. It’s very theoretical, very reflected; it’s political, very real and it’s very precise in what you’re doing. I was just thinking of Gerald Raunig; he was here yesterday. He’s a Viennese activist, a philosopher and theoretician. He said that most of the time, one of the dangers that community projects run into is too much harmony versus too little conflict, too much help versus the creation of structures for the people. There is too much talk on identity, instead of focussing on difference. I don’t think you get into any of these traps. I still have a question though, and it involves the idea of the aid-worker. When we talked this morning, I asked you about your notion of help. Could you elaborate on that again?
– Rafael: Yes. Actually, what we were talking about today was healing and helping. That’s the space where we position ourselves, and we’re part of it. This is crucial to our work, we’re at the centre of these problems. That might be one of the reasons why we’ve been able to distance ourselves from the production of art objects. We’re inside of the problem, and that’s why our activity unfolds from an inner perspective as well. It’s the only perspective we can have.
– Silvina: Let’s say we can’t talk about scars without taking responsibility for our own health.
– Alejandro: Nevertheless, you made a very interesting and profound question. It’s true that our work isn’t only confined to the La Plata river, and the observation you made might be accurate, but I think the most interesting thing is to be able find subsistence models, be it in Buenos Aires or here. I think that’s the function of art and the role of the artist.
– I would like to ask what do you think is the most effective way of dealing with multinational companies, such as Shell? For example, do you think it’s more effective to protest at shareholders meetings, or engage with senior executives in discussion? How are you beginning to develop this?
– Alejandro: These cases are symbolic of the variety of means we can use to reach an end. Here I’d like to quote Holloway (we follow up on his really interesting work in Latin-America, specially Mexico and Argentina) as a way of an answer to your question:

“We have to look for our strength in what exists in its negated form.”

Our hopes are built precisely on the things denied to us. We have to invest all of our strength and our hopes in those which must be refuted. That’s not a pessimistic view of the world, but an optimistic one. We must work by refusing what shouldn’t be happening in the world in the first place. To Lucy’s question, whether it is effective to attend the annual shareholders’ meeting of Shell, I’d like to answer that it is only one more aspect of our work. It’s not an aim of the work. We have to give strength to that which must be refuted. We’re aware of Platform’s interesting project “90% crude” in London. In December this year, we might be there discussing with them in order to unite both of our efforts. It’s very important to link up with organizations based in the home countries of multinational corporations, so as to convey our position as South-Americans and discuss creative strategies critically.
Our presentation in London was a result of such discussions with Friends of the Earth in England and the Netherlands, where Shell is based.
– It’s not something we’ve talked much about, but I’m interested to know what your means of support are, in terms of the economic base of your project. Can you say something about your funding structures, subsistence if you like?
– Alejandro: We produce our own funding. We have a very meagre source of income. We develop many projects along with other members of the community, and we produce many goods for bartering. Basically, we live of the pleasure of producing things.
– Silvina: Our artistic experience, as you can see from the images we’ve shown before, is part of that reality and the efforts we invest in transformation apply to our own lives as well. We participate in those creative activities (such as basketry and harvesting). Connectivity allows us to subsist without money. Other economic relationships and forms of funding are created.
– Rafael: On the other hand, it is important to emphasize that the continuity of our work does not depend on a lot of funding. Our work takes place within our own communities; our main “medium” is dialogue, which cannot be bought.
– Alejandro: There is a connection to Sarai’s process of writing on the wall. At this point I’d like to thank them for their wonderful presentation yesterday. In other cases, we’ve been able to travel because of kind invitations such as this congress. This is why we’re here with you today. Maybe we’re invited so often because we come from so far away. But we’re very thankful for your interest in our point of view.
– Margit: I’d like to ask a question about your zoo project. You have indicated the point of greatest helplessness: the prison. You’ve almost erected a monument with all those demolished cages, a really strong image, but I’d like to hear more detailed information about your work at the zoo. You have touched on a very specific issue. If you focus on the image of the prison here, the surrender to helplessness is greater and it is rare to find a proposal that finds an active way out of that helplessness. I’d like to find more about the project’s quarters you have erected there.
– It’s also a kind of “caging” or housing made of natural materials, I really liked it, it was kind of “primitive”. I’d like to know though why you’ve constructed something enclosed again.
– Alejandro: We had concentrated on the perception of zoos. I think any zoo throughout the world could have been deconstructed for that purpose. A useless vestige of the nineteenth century, zoos are symptomatic of our aberrated perception. We can fight for life and give our lives for that ideal, but we continue to take our kids for a walk in the zoo, holding a balloon. So one of the issues is focusing on our failed acts and problems. As artists or cultural workers, we have the possibility or the obligation to think of alternatives to that which must be refuted. I reiterate that we must put our hopes in that which must be denied, and to apply creativity in order to find solutions to these problems by using a critical perspective. The slide showing children working with willow is connected to the one that Rafael elaborated on. We work on the transformation of that zoo in an interdisciplanary way with a very large group of people. As a result of that project, or as an “emerging” model (as in emerging plants), the zoo was transformed into a centre for the recovery and conservation of regional microenvironments of flora and fauna, specially at the margins of urban expansion. We live in a region that is very much threatened by urban expansion. One of the ways of deconstructing the Victorian notion of the zoo involves reconsidering it as a centre for the articulation of microenvironments, fostering the recreation of new living spaces and participation.
– Shuddha: I have a question and a comment, which has to do with the fact that in Argentina, for a variety of circumstances that have to do with social and economic processes, there is also a tremendous burst of creativity, which comes out of the necessities of subsistence and survival. In a recent text that my colleagues and I wrote in the Raqs media collective, we were trying to think about realities that artists can learn from and we had five figures, like the marginalia you have in medieval manuscripts. Like earlier, people used to write books and the real stories would often be painted into the margins: you had the story of the king and the queen, and below would be the farmer, and that’s the real story in a sense. We created these five figures. One was the people who cross borders in boats and the other was a person who works in telecommunication centres, remote call centres. I won’t list out all of them, but the last figure were workers in Argentina who continue to produce when their factories are closed down. For us it was interesting that normally one thinks of a protest or a resistance movement in terms of ceasing to work, ceasing to produce. But here was an instance where continuing to make things for survival was very important, whether it’s clothes or bread. As a lesson for artists, it’s important to produce when the conditions which make production are difficult. My question is: often when things return to normal, when life moves back from crisis into some kind of notion of normality, the solidarities that are produced by crisis, the way in which people find creativities, are often forgotten. In a sense, the relations that we enter into because of necessity are never translated into relations that we enter into because of desire. What can artistic practice like yours (or ours, or anyone that we have) create the conditions that even when so-called normality returns to live, you [keep those solidarities] – because the first thing normality demands is that you forget these solidarities, because now everyone has maybe a little more than they did earlier, so you don’t need to share or you don’t need to create thing in common.
– Alejandro: Yes, but the experience stays with us. I think we all learn from necessity. It’s true that many things are lost when stability comes back, but nothing can take the shared experiences away from us, because transformation is the purpose of experience.
– Shuddha: Yes, but I’ve noticed that the memory of experience then becomes reduced only to nostalgia. It doesn’t become a living generative thing. I’ve experienced this myself. I say that when we had difficulties, we made so much more difficult work.
– Alejandro: Borges said something that is so true: that we’re not united by love, but by fear.
– Rafael: I think you’re suggesting that a practice, whether grown within or outside a time of crisis, is related to finding common goals. If you’re left without goals, there’s nothing left to do. Our vision is related to another aspect of our practice, which is more connected with transformation than with goals. We must be part of that transformation, adopting a perceptive approach.
– As I listen to your presentation, I feel it’s all about a new kind of intervention art; I don’t really believe in your presentation, I think it has more to do with “truth”. For example the zoo project: you say you destroy the cages, but after that you allow more cages to be constructed. That sounds naïve or even cynical to me, and I don’t think it’s about that. I do think that your work is about dialogue, about deconstruction, but it might be about the helplessness of artists trying to change something in the world.
– Rafael: The purpose of the zoo’s deconstruction wasn’t the creation of new environments, but to identify that which shouldn’t happen in the first place. It’s true our action didn’t stop the people in the zoo from continuing to construct new cages. That zoo still runs according to Victorian notions, but at the same time our project has set off other activities, other visions as exposed by Alejandro, for example the conservation of local microenvironments at the urban peripheries. I think it would be naïve of us to think that the real objective entails demolishing the whole space. What interests us is the transformation in itself and being part of that.
– Alejandro: The zoo’s case wasn’t just about the innocence of animals, but a metaphor of our own situation as captives, which doesn’t allow us to think, to create and to transform. Why shouldn’t we think about other ways of creating another relationship to other species? But the zoo project was about our own captivity.
(…)
There’s something that could be of interest here: Not all the three of us are artists. Our trio has different backgrounds. Ala Plástica is an organization that collaborates with many different people who enrich our work day by day with their input. For example in the case of the reed project, we cooperated with reed harvesters, scientists or people with local knowledge. We develop our work both with a bioregional vision and a bioregional practice, only then our vision can be an inclusive one. This is not exclusive to Ala Plástica; many artists around the world are working like us. For example the early work of Robert Smithson, or Helen & Newton Harrisson, with whom we’ve collaborated on some projects. We see the artist as an integral part of the ecosystem.

Cassette 6, side 1

Ala Plástica Discussion (Continued from cassette 5)

– Luis Humberto: I think one of the reasons why you’re so successfull is your coming from within the communities, except in the Irish case. If you come from within the community your desire to achieve results is greater, because you are going to reep the rewards yourselves. Transforming your community is your drive. I also found your notion of production interesting: to produce not because one is forced to, but because one chooses to do so. To this day and age, it’s something one can observe in the “maquiladoras”: every day you have to work on assembling the same kind of artifact; you specialize only on that and you never get to understand the whole machinery that works behind. One of the aspects where we fail sometimes is the education of children; it’s important to leave a legacy, to sow the seeds so that the continuity of the project is cared for. We often see artists come to communities, they create a project and leave, and then there’s no one to care for the continuity of the project, and people forget why the project was done in the first place.
– Rafael: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that you have identified the issue of work as defined either by desire or coercion, because you’re also from Latin-America. It’s important to point out that beyond the theoretical or artistic realm of our discussions, these things keep happening at all levels and places. The important aspect is transformation.
– I have a question concerning your notion of nature. Your work is shaped by ecological concerns, so I’m curious about your concept of nature. Nature is not innocent, and as Donna Harroway says: to have a romantic view of nature is a trap.
– Alejandro: I do think we are romantic to a certain extent, in that our demands are based on values, but also on necessities that are real. We’re doing our interventions in critical situations, in which nature is endangered because it is already scarce. So our demands are at the same time a means of subsistence. When we’re working with neighbouring communities, we’re dealing with conflicts in which nature is at the centre of them. When we discuss with a multinational corporation such as Shell because of the oil spill in the La Plata river, we’re talking about one of the last remaining natural spaces that are hounded by urban expansion and industrialization. In that sense I could compare myself to Novalis, if you like.
– I want to ask a question similar to Shuddha’s. When you talked about Shell, I was thinking about Spain in the spring of this year, when there was an ecological disaster. There was this peace movement that brought many different people together. There was this phrase “Nunca más” (Never again); people started to have a collective voice concerning diverse issues, such as imprisonment conditions, ecological concerns, and so on. So I’m really curious about the Argentinian situation, where there is so much going on, for example the piqueteros, the movement of the unemployed. I wonder if you’re part of a specific social movement, working with social forces or groups that have some kind of common denominator.
– Rafael: Again I must stress that which unites the political struggles of groups like the unemployed and us, who have our own approach in dealing with reality: the desire to transform. The general movement is political, but it is not institutionalized.
– Alejandro: Yes, we work with other communities. All communities can be considered “piqueteras” and “caceroleras” for that matter, not the political structures. The communities embody emerging processes. The political structures do not come from the outside, it’s not the political parties calling on the people to make picket lines or to take over a factory in order to get the production running again. In fact, institutionalized political structures have caused the downfall of many encouraging movements that were emerging. When we say in Argentina “Que se vayan todos” (All of them must go), we literally mean it!
– Eva: Unfortunately we have to end this first session, thank you very much to everybody. Don’t forget the questions that you wanted to ask; have a good break and we’ll meet again at 2 p.m. with the Gallery for Landscape Art.

Gallery for Landscape Art

– Christoph: Thanks for coming on this lovely day into this oasis of theory, practice and reflection. I’m very happy to introduce the Gallery for Landscape Art. Their name might sound a bit misleading, and there have been grudges held against galleries within our circle. However, there are examples of how a gallery’s work can be completely different. I think I wrote to all the invited groups that Hamburg is a very musical city, and a lot of artists produce close to the musical subculture. There’s a very special example that is not produced close to pop culture, but in a way of its own, and that’s the Gallery for Landscape Art. The gallery is actually an artist’s group that has a strategy of unwieldiness, employing words that are not used commonly, or that can’t be readily absorbed by the art markets. I think one of the problems of pop strategies in art is that their catchy slogans can be easily absorbed by the system or the art market, but that is not the case of this gallery’s strategy. We’ve been talking about the strategy of silence before, about what to talk about, what to keep to oneself or to put out into public space. I’ve known Till’s work for a long time. Landscape Art is one of the concepts they work with, but the early works dealt with urbanism, a concept that wasn’t used much back then, compared to its current superficial frequency in the art market. I’m very happy to hand the microphone now to Till Krause, from the Gallery for Lanscape Art, and to Sonja Giering and Ricke Salomon.
– Till: Thank you very much to all the people involved in organizing this really good congress. I’ve enjoyed everything so far and it’s been very important for me. I hope we can contribute to the discussion as well.
Die Galerie für Landschaftskunst: wir sind von Christoph eingeladen worden, und zwar mit dem speziellen Hinblick auf ein Projekt von uns, das wir im letzten Jahr gemacht haben, die biologische Forschungsstation „Alster“, und darüber werde ich heute im Wesentlichen reden. Daneben sind Ricke Salomon und Sonja Giering, die ein ganz tolles Projekt gemacht haben (Sonja hat es über ein Jahr gemacht, und eine Woche hat sich das mit unserem Projekt getroffen). Ich habe die beiden gefragt, ob sie heute darüber erzählen möchten, vor allem weil es für unsere Arbeitsweise vielleicht etwas sprechend ist, dass wir keine feste Künstlergruppe sind, oder uns in irgendeiner Richtung ganz fest zu definieren wüssten. Es gibt je nach Handlungsfeldern, in denen wir arbeiten, ganz unterschiedliche Formen in denen sich das kristallisiert und die können wir jetzt nicht alle ganz scharf benennen. Zu Anfang will ich aber nicht von diesem Projekt berichten, sondern ein ganz kurzen Überblick über Teile der Galerie für Landschaftskunst berichten. Was heutzutage als erstes wahrnehmbar ist, ist hier in Hamburg unser Ausstellungsraum, den wir in der Admiralitätsstraße haben, in dem Zentrum wo auch die meisten anderen Galerien sind. Da sind wir seit zwei Jahren. Wir arbeiten dort richtig als Ausstellungsort, man kann dort Ausstellungen angucken, dort werden aber auch Veranstaltungen aller Art, Vorträge usw. durchgeführt. Wir arbeiten auch gerne in anderen Galerien, in diesem Fall haben wir eine Ausstellung hier in Hamburg zu mehreren gemacht, also das ist auch ein Arbeitsfeld für uns. Ein anderes Arbeitsfeld ist es auch in Museen zu arbeiten, wie im Musée d’Art Moderne, wo wir hinten ein Pavillon stehen haben mit Beiträgen verschiedener Freunde. Wir haben auch unser eigenes Museum in Altona, an dem Ort wo bis vor zwei Jahren auch unser Ausstellungsraum war. Der Ausstellungsraum bestand nämlich aus diesem Garten, den wir als eine Art Untersuchungsfeld mit der Möglichkeit zu einem kleinen Hinterhofgarten, (wie in Innenstädten in Deutschland oft zu finden ist) damit zu arbeiten, das zu erkunden. Dort haben wir dann eine ganze Reihe von Ausstellungen gemacht. Ich deute das jetzt nur kurz an. Hier eine andere Sache: wir machen auch gerne Publikationen. In diesem Fall haben wir ein Buch über die Erkundung der Stadt Düsseldorf, die auch für unsere Arbeitsweise typisch ist, in dem wir versucht haben, ganz unterschiedliche Blickwinkel zusammen zu bringen. Hier sehr analytische Karten; das ganze dreht sich darum, die Stadt hinsichtlich ihrer Wahrnehmung der Dunkelheit und Helligkeit zu beschreiben. Verschieden Arten von Karten sind entstanden und dann ist das Ganze aber auch angegangen von einer malerischen Seite, und von Florian Hüttner, ein Freund, der dann Fotos gemacht hat. Ich gehe darauf jetzt nicht weiter ein. Ich möchte damit nur umschreiben, dass für uns lehrwichtig ist, in sehr komplexen Arbeitsfeldern zu arbeiten. Wenn ich manchmal mit Leuten rede, die mehr in aktivistischen Gruppen aus dem künstlerischen Umfeld kommen, habe ich oft den Eindruck, dass in dem Vordergrund für künstlerische Arbeit fast dogmatisch aktuelle politische Geschehnisse gestellt werden, und sie über künstlerische Arbeitsweisen distanzierter zurückgezogen davon arbeiten, bzw. sie nicht mal beachtet werden, und auch für heutige Arbeit nicht relevant gesehen werden. Genauso sieht man das in anderen Feldern der Kunst, die vielleicht eher der „Salonkunst“ zuzuordnen sind, dass dort oft überhaupt keine Wahrnehmung von anderen Arbeitsfeldern zu sehen ist. Ich denke, es müsste ein viel breiteres „zwischen diesen Feldern arbeiten“ sein, denn die Kunst ist so ein verfeinertes, ausdifferenziertes philosophisches System, was ein unglaubliches Bewusstsein für Form, für Material, für Sprache, für die Bedeutung von Form, Farbe, und Zeichen hat, mit denen wir die Welt eine ganz besonders präzise Wahrnehmung werfen können, so dass auch in die sogenannten Elfenbeintürmen Untersuchungen stattfinden, die erst mal aus äußerster Distanz sich diesen Zeichen, diesen Bedeutungen zuwenden, dass auch diesem Arbeitsraum eine noch viel wichtigere Bedeutung als dem aktuellen Geschehen – den Arbeiten, die sich dem aktuellen Geschehen direkt zuwenden – beizumessen ist. Diejenigen, die behaupten, man müsse in der Kunst an dem konkreten aktuellen politischen Geschehen arbeiten, die übertragen diesen Terror, den es heute gibt, des Alltäglichen, der politischen Wirklichkeit, auf alle unsere Handlungsweisen, auf unsere Wahrnehmung, unser Denken, auch auf jeden Individuum und auf das künstlerische Arbeiten, während ich die künstlerische Arbeit als ein Feld sehe, in dem es wirklich darum geht, in neue Möglichkeiten des Denkens vorzustoßen, um das mal so „pathetisch“ auszudrücken.
Die biologische Forschungsstation „Alster“, die wir letztes Jahr ins Leben gerufen haben. Am Anfang stand unser Standort, der dort in einem dieser Gebäude ist, von dem heraus wir auf dem Fleet oder Kanal hinabblickten, mitten in der Stadt. Die Idee war, anlässlich dieses Verhältnisses zu dem Standort, ein Arbeitsfeld zu schaffen, auf dem wir über die Stadt aber auch über komplexe Naturverhältnisse in der Stadt arbeiten können. Da kam die Idee auf, eine sogenannte Schute, das ist eine Barke, ein großer Lastenkahn wie man das ganz typisch hat in der norddeutschen Hafenstadt Hamburg, das uns irgendwie zu besorgen und als ein Container in dem man vieles verschiedenes reinfüllen kann uns als Terrain zu nehmen, auf dem wir über die Stadt und die Natur in der Stadt arbeiten. Nun ist es so, dass wir als Galerie für Landschaftskunst im gewissen Sinne so arbeiten wie die „phantastischen Vier“, die Comic Figuren, dass man sich immer für die verschiedenen Arbeitsfelder, die jetzt anstehen, jeweils Leute holt, die dafür begabt sind oder das Spezialwissen haben, z.B. ich selber könnte niemals ein Ort gestalten, weil ich einfach keinen eigenen Begriff davon habe, wie ich ein Ort formen würde, da habe ich große Schwierigkeiten mit. Während hingegen Mark Dion, ein Freund und Künstler, der in den U.S.A. lebt, dafür ganz prädestiniert ist. Also haben wir ihn als erstes eingeladen, mit der vagen Umschreibung unseres Arbeitsvorhabens und der Beschreibung des Bootes und er hat dann eine biologische Forschungsstation, bzw. ein Haus für die biologische Forschungsstation „Alster“ entworfen und den Namen auch mitgeliefert. Sie liegt jetzt hier in der Innenstadt, und ich werde ganz kurz versuchen, um es bildhaft zu machen, diese Arbeit, die ein Haus ist, das als Arbeitsort funktioniert aber gleichzeitig ein Kunstwerk war, zu beschreiben.
Wir haben den Vorplatz gesehen; hier ist ein kurzer Blick hinein. Es ist so, dass die Ausbildung dieses Raumes bereits zu einer Zusammenarbeit wurde. Dion hat ein Forschungszentrum entworfen, aus der etwas naiven Vorstellung eines Künstlers, wie so ein Forschungslabor aussehen könnte. Es ist vielleicht eine Mischung davon, wie es im 19. Jahrhundert ausgesehen haben könnte, aber auch wie es heute aussehen könnte. Wir haben dann, weil wir es tatsächlich als einen Arbeitsort betrachten wollten, unsere Leute dazugeholt.
Hier im Raum ist z.B. Hilmar Schäfer, der von Anfang an das ganze mitkonzipiert hat. Wir haben auch Barbara Engelschall dazugeholt, eine Biologin aus Hamburg, die ganz intensiv an der Vermittlung naturkundlichem Wissen arbeitet. Sie hat im Laufe des Programms ein naturkundliches Konzept für die Arbeit auf der Schute entworfen, und für dieses Konzept brauchte man natürlich verschiedenste Utensilien, die mit in dieses Kunstwerk einfließen mussten, weil dieses Kunstwerk eine Mischung war aus etwas, das zu betrachten ist und etwas, das aus sehr willkürlichen Entscheidungen des Künstlers zusammengesetzt wurde und aus Vorstellungen, die teils naiv, teils historisch bedingt waren, aber eben auch aus der konkreten Funktionalität.
Da oben sieht man eine Reihe von ausgestopften Vögeln, dazwischen dieser ganz lange Vogel ist eine Rohrdommel, ein Vogel, den es bestimmt seit vielen hundert Jahren in Hamburg nicht mehr gibt, bzw. an der Alster, die durch Hamburg fließt (und der Alster war dieses Schiff gewidmet), seitdem dieser Fluss im Innenstadtbereich verstädtert wurde.
Eine Reihe von naturwissenschaftlichen Büchern, die dann auch ins populärwissenschaftliche reingehen, nützliche Bücher, die wir für die Veranstaltungen brauchten, aber auch alle möglichen Büchern, die in diesem Zusammenhang seltsam erscheinen, weil sie z.B. nicht richtig fachkundlich sind oder über Regionen beschreiben, die mit diesem Schiff gar nicht gemeint waren.
Eine sehr sorgfältige Anordnung vom Künstler Mark Dion, der wunderbar Dinge zueinander in Beziehung setzen kann.
Er hat auch dieses Wappen mit einem ziemlichen Schmunzeln entworfen; da sieht man oben die Schute, da drunter den Karpfen (ein „invader species“, also ein Fisch, den es original hier so nicht gäbe, der aber der Paradefang der hiesigen Angler ist) und dort drunter die zerbrochene Flasche.
Utensilien zum Arbeiten, Bilder über Hamburg, Bilder zur Naturkunde hängen überall, eingelegt Fische, die wir aus dem Wasser geangelt haben, Gläser zum potentiellen Gebrauch und Gläser zum Nichtgebrauch, aber einfach, weil sie sehr gut und sehr seltsam aussehen; eine richtige Rumpelkammer, die nachher für Menschen, die dort hinkamen, einfach ein eigenartiges Ambiente abgab.
Hier ein Ausschnitt des jeweiligen Standortes, an dem das Schiff war, sozusagen „ins Aquarium hochgeholt“. Dann der Erdboden hier z.B. aus der Alster, bestehend aus allem möglichen Müllschlick, stinkend, mit Damenbinden usw.; es war ziemlich ekelhaft, das da rauszuholen.
Es gab außerdem noch ganz viele kleine Bilder von allen möglichen Freunden, die an dem Projekt mitgeholfen haben. Sie waren von Mark Dion aufgefordert worden, ein Bild, der auf so eine Forschungsstation gehört, zu repräsentieren.
Vielleicht noch ein Wort zum Warum einer biologischen Forschungsstation „Alster“, oder was waren damit an Gedanken verbunden und ein Wort zum Urbanismus. Christoph hat das vorhin schon eingeleitet. Ich habe oft das Gefühl beim Hören und Lesen von Theorien über das, was vielleicht heute unsere Welt ist und unser Leben ausmacht, dass diese Theorien stadtgeboren sind, [bei] Vorstellungen von Geschwindigkeit, Zeichentheorie, Simulation, usw. bin ich oft im höchstem Maße misstrauisch, weil ich selber das Gefühl habe, andere Wahrnehmungen auch zu kennen, die komplexerer Natur sind und ich glaube auch, dass ein höchster Prozentsatz von Menschen auf der Welt eine andere Wahrnehmung hat, weil man nicht in Städten lebt. Heute gibt es die Monopolisierung der Städte, es gibt die Megastädte. Natürlich wissen wir, wie von den Städten aus das Land, die Welt geprägt wird, und dennoch ist die Frage ob die Sichtweisen, die von den Städten ausgehen, die gekoppelt sind an ein Ausschluss von ganz vielen Wahrnehmungen, ob diese Sichtweisen diejenigen sind, mit denen wir wirklich komplex und treffend beschreiben können. Genau dasselbe ist das Anliegen für die biologische Forschungsstation „Alster“ gewesen, nämlich in der Stadt eine Stadtforschungsstation zu machen, die aber auf ganz komplexer Weise versucht zu gucken.
Wir haben zwei Standorte vorerst gewählt, der eine ist in diesem Kanalsystem in der Innenstadt gewesen, wie eben zu sehen, der andere ist auf der Außenalster.
Hier sieht man eine Karte. Für diejenigen, die nicht aus Hamburg kommen, rechts das große Wort „Alster“ was auf einen großen „See“ deutet. [Ich sage es] in Anführungsstrichen, weil er ökologisch gesehen nicht wirklich ein See ist und auch historisch ist es ein aufgestauter See, der bei der „1“ links über ein Kanalsystem in die Elbe mündet. Die Elbe sehen wir links, es ist ein Fluss, der da unten ist und den Hafen durchzieht. „Harbour“ steht da. Bei „1“ war auch der 1. Liegeplatz des Schiffes und bei „2“ am oberen Ende dieses großen Sees ist der 2. Liegeplatz gewesen, der in einem ausgeweiteten Gebiet liegt.
Das war ein Standort von großer Nähe zu vielen flanierenden Menschen, in einer Gegend wo die Menschen relativ wohlhabend sind an dem Weg, der um diesen See herum führt, wo alle möglichen Menschen aus allen Teilen der Stadt herumgehen, an einem Steg, und dort gibt es nicht sehr viele Stege wo viele Menschen stehen bleiben und sich auch hinlegen, andere Schiffe anlegen, also ein sehr prominenter Ort, und dieser prominente Ort hat viel zu dem beigetragen, was sich entwickeln konnte auf dem Schiff. In erster Linie war es erst mal ein Treffpunkt für Freunde, und dann auch hinzukommend für Leute, die über das Projekt mit uns bekannt wurden, und zum teil eine große Regelmäßigkeit dazu kam. Ich möchte auch sagen, dass die ganze Entwicklung des Projektes wirklich als ein Team entstanden ist. Ich habe eben Hilmar Schäfer genannt, Barbara Engelschall, die Biologin, genannt, Susanne Schröder kam dazu, die das ganz wesentlich mitgeformt hat, und dann natürlich die vielen, die an einzelnen Aktionen und Beiträgen mitgearbeitet haben. Wichtig ist auch Christina Gröninger zu nennen, die bei uns die ganze Zeit im Galerieraum die Stellung gehalten hat, die aber ein ganz wesentlichen Einfluss auf unsere Projekte hat. Gestern wurde bei Ligna gesagt, was ich sehr gut fand, dass man etwas hinstellt und es auch nicht erklärt oder platziert, was sehr eigenartig und unerwartet dort ist. Das finde ich vollkommen richtig. Christina Gröninger ist bei uns in der Galerie diejenige, die immer darauf drängt, alles zu erklären um für jedermann zugänglich zu sein und als Künstler bin ich da manchmal schwerfällig in Folgen und finde es aber total wichtig, weil wir gerade auf dem Projekt versucht haben, einfach mal zu allem Stellung zu nehmen und ständig erklärungsbereit zu sein, auch wenn das vielleicht an Grenzen stieß und ich es auch nicht grundsätzlich wichtig finde, dass es immer so sein muss. Aber in diesem Fall war es ein 4-monatiges sich täglich erklären, aber täglich dadurch wirklich mit Menschen ins Gespräch kommen, denn das wesentliche
Ziel dieses Projekts war auch über das Kunstwerk und über das Schiff hinaus eine Plattform zu bilden, auf der wir mit anderen Leuten, mit denen wir normalerweise im Kunstfeld nicht ins Gespräch kämen, die aber an dem ähnlichen Themenfeld Interesse haben, ins Gespräch zu kommen und vielleicht gemeinsam an diesen Themen zu arbeiten. Dann ist es auch so gewesen, dass Passanten vorbeikamen oder Leute aus der Nachbarschaft dort gerne hinkamen und sich auf dem Schiff niedergelassen haben, um das schöne Wetter, das wir hatten, zu genießen.
Es wurde täglich mit Netzen im Wasser herumgefischt, es wurden Sachen hervorgeholt, gemeinsam begutachtet, wie hier z.B. auch ein „invader species“, ein amerikanischer Flusskrebs, der den hiesigen verdrängt, aber im meisten Fällen auch nur noch der einzige ist, den es gibt.
Hier bei unserer Galerie habe ich darüber ein großen teil der Nachbarschaft erst kennen gelernt, wie hier z.B. ein paar Kinder aus dem Haus zum Angeln gekommen sind. Es wurde zu einen sozialen Ort, was zu einem großen Teil daran lag, dass der Mark Dion eine Hütte gebaut hat, die erst mal eine unglaubliche Wärme hatte, ein guter Ort, warum man sich treffen konnte, wo die Leute gerne hingekommen sind und der auch gefesselt hat, der Fragen erzeugt hat. Wir haben dann alle möglichen Veranstaltungen mit der Zeit entwickelt, und die wurden am Schiff und über andere Medien angekündigt. Wir hatten bei der Treppe, die auf der Außenalster zum Schiff hoch führte, wöchentlich immer neue Aushänge die Aktionen beschrieben und einluden. Eine andere Sache war [das Projekt] „12 Fuß über der Mündung“ mit einer Gruppe von der Kunsthochschule, einer Klasse, die sich das Projekt zum Anlass genommen hat, selber über den Alsterfluss oder über das Gewässer in der Stadt zu reflektieren. Hier ein Beitrag von Peter [Hoppe], der eine Boje am Abschnitt des Kanals ins Wasser gesetzt hat, und von der Boje aus wurden dann eins zu eins Bilder von einer Kamera, die in der Boje war, an das Schiff übertragen. Das war eine sehr schöne Arbeit, die wir auch irgendwann wiederholen müssen, weil sie aus technischen Gründen nicht so lang gehalten hat. Eine andere Arbeit von Rupert Kraft, die dem ganzen Alsterlauf ablief, und da oben hängen so kleine Röhren und lauter Proben die er gesammelt hat, Visualisierungen. Wir haben außerdem gleichzeitig unser Ausstellungsraum für Aktionen genutzt, als Raum für Dinge, die auf dem Schiff kein Platz mehr hatten aber irgendwie präsentiert werden sollten.
Z.B. hier auch eine Arbeit, die die Alster an drei verschiedenen Stellen darstellt, oder hier von Wolfgang Futterer, der ein sehr interessantes Experiment gemacht hat, in dem er drei gleich kleine Biotope mit Wasser und Geräuschen von jeweils einer anderen Stelle, richtig fundamental unterschiedlichen Stelle der Stadt her, beschallt und bewässert hat und die unterschiedlichen Wuchsverhalten beobachtet hat. Es gab eine andere Sache, die von der Kunst her gedacht war, und zwar mit Rupprecht Matthies zusammen, der einen Zeichenkurs angeboten hat, den wir aber oft mit vielen Beteiligten durchgeführt haben, der sich thematisch um das drehte, wirklich im allgemeinsten Sinne was wir dort alles wahrnehmen können, und der aber auch zu einen wichtigen Treffanlass im Schiff wurde.
Es gab manche Menschen aus der Umgebung, die dann Wochen und Monate immer wieder kamen und eigentlich zu treuen Besuchern und treuen Gesprächspartnern wurden. Viele Resultate haben wir dann in einem Schrank auf dem Schiff gezeigt, so dass man sie auch jederzeit auch angucken konnte. Viel Platz zum Anhängen war ja nicht. Das war das erste (Dia) Karussell, jetzt kommt das zweite.
Hier sehen wir nämlich Barbara Engelschall, die wie ich schon erwähnte Freundin und Biologin ist. Sie hat Kontakt zu einer Gruppe von Naturwissenschaftlern hier in Hamburg hergestellt hatte, die sich zu einer Gruppe zusammengeschlossen haben, die „Naturkundliche Streifzügler“ heißt, die sich das zum Anliegen gemacht haben, aber auch ein bisschen zum Lebensnebenverdienst, für Schulklassen, für Kinder naturkundliche Erforschungen und Führungen anbieten. Sie haben sich die Schute dann für den ganzen Sommer als ein Ort ausgewählt, an dem sie ihre Veranstaltungen und von dem aus sie ihre Veranstaltungen durchgeführt haben. Das richtete sich dann an Schulklassen, die da zuhauf tatsächlich hinkamen, und an Gruppen, die sich anmelden konnten usw.. Wir haben das einfach mal als Spiel, was für uns vollkommen ungewohnt war, durchgeführt. Wir haben nie vorher so was gemacht und wir haben vieles auch ganz naiv angegangen, haben selber ja mit Schulklassen und Kindern früher gearbeitet. Organisatorisch war es Neuland. Aber es ist gelungen, es in diesem Vierteljahr entwickeln zu lassen. Es ist eigentlich zu einer extremen Bereicherung und vielleicht so was wie ein Prüfstein für unserer künstlerischen Auffassung geworden.

Cassette 6, Side 2

Wir sind von der Schute aus an Land geströmt und haben immer auf unterschiedlicher Weise versucht, Erkundungen durchzuführen. Die Biologen sind natürlich von dem biologischen Stoff ausgegangen, wir als Künstler haben oft versucht, die Wahrnehmung auf ganz andere Dinge zu lenken und das aber komplex wieder miteinander zu führen. Das hat zu ganz simplen Dingen geführt wie z.B. alles was man finden konnte, gesammelt haben mit einer Schulklasse und das dann anschließend zu einem großen Bild, was die Kinder sich dann ausgedacht haben, zusammengefügt. Das kann man ahnen, das ganze Zeug, das [im Bild] herumliegt, ist eigentlich ein großer Vogel, eine Möwe. Es entstanden teilweise wunderbare Bilder, die dann auch in dem Moment wo man mal ein kleinen Kick gab, sich ganz große Absurditäten in die verschiedensten Richtungen, wunderbare Dinge ausweiteten. Hier ein Bild, der zu meinen Lieblingsbildern wurde in der Zeit: die Alster mit Spaziergängern und ihren Hunden, die da entlanggehen. (Die Dias halten diese Entfernung in der Projektion nicht ganz aus).
Das zeige ich jetzt hier auch, weil es ein ganz komisches Moment war in dieser ganzen Geschichte: die „Streifzügler“ haben auch Verpflichtungen der Esso gegenüber, die ein kleiner Sponsor von denen ist und Sachen finanziert. 5000 Euro wurden überreicht und diese Streifzügler haben gefragt, ob sie nicht auf der Schute eine Jahrespräsentation ihrer Arbeit machen können, und dann mussten sie ihren Sponsor hinweisen und den auch mit einführen, und der hat dann außerdem auf dem Schiff diese Sache übergeben. Eine komische Situation; ich fand es irgendwie gut, alles mitzumachen, weil es einfach so wahnsinnig viel zugelassen hat, es hat einfach so viel möglich gemacht, und es war dadurch möglich, auch mit unglaublich viel Menschen, mit denen man sonst über die Themen, die ja einen angehen, nie ins Gespräch käme, also mit denen auf die Beste Weise zu sprechen. Dahinten sieht man die Zelte, die die Streifzügler aufgebaut haben, um ihre ganze Jahresarbeit darzustellen. Ich deute das jetzt alles an, weil ich eigentlich hinführen will auf Sonja und Reke, die dann etwas ausführlicher über ein Projekt erzählen werden, deswegen wird hier alles so schnell angeschnitten.
Hier gibt es ein sehr schönes Projekt von Jochen Lempert, ein Hamburger Künstler, der am Ufer neben der Schute über viele Wochen ein Insektenbeobachtungstisch aufgestellt hat. Er ist selber Biologe, und hat insbesondere Ahnung von Insekten und Libellen, und dieses Becken sollte dazu dienen, mit wenigen Zentimeter Wasser gefüllt, Insekten teils aus hoher Luft anzulocken und man konnte sie eben in einer bequemen Bar-Position sich angucken. Das war ganz toll, weil es ein wunderbares Erlebnis war, diese Insekten im Flug über die Wasseroberfläche touchen zu sehen, und außerdem gab es da eine imposante Veränderung, fast täglich gab es andere Insekten. Jochen Lempert hat das Projekt die ganze Zeit begleitet, stand des öfteren Rede und Antwort. Hier sieht man ihn beim Markieren eines Insekts. Das Markieren dient dazu, z. B. um zu sehen, ob es nach einigen Tagen da ist oder am nächsten tag (weil man diesen Markierstift so schön leuchten sieht im Wasser). Man kann dort theoretisch wenn man zu mehreren Wissenschaftlern arbeitet, sich aber auch gegenseitig mitteilen, wenn man diese Markierungen mit Nummern versieht, ob diese Insekt vielleicht an einem anderen Gewässer in kleinerer oder größerer Entfernung auftaucht, und so kann man sehr viel über diese Insekten lernen. Man kann damit auch (Jochen hat es gemacht) Botschaften übermitteln.
Ein anderes Projekt, welches ich sehr schön fand, war mit Stefan Mörsch, der zur Zeit noch an der Kunstschule hier in Hamburg Kunst studiert. Er hat über viele Wochen an Apparaturen gearbeitet, die rings um die Schute herum verteilt wurden, selbst gebastelte Apparaturen aus Flaschen und allen möglichen Federn und Materialien, und ganz unterschiedlicher Gestalt, die die Bewegungen des Schiffes, des Wassers, die ganze Zeit notierten und daraus grafisch festhielten und Zeichnungen produzierten. Hier sieht man zum Beispiel diese Flaschen in einer x-y-z Achse angeordnet, die für verschiede Richtungen stehen, und da drinnen befinden sich Federn mit Papieren und dort Stifte, die an die Papiere drücken und diese Bewegungen aufzeichnen.
Hier ein weiterer Ausschnitt dessen, was passierte. Jörn Zehe, Künstler aus Hamburg, führte am Abend so was wie ein Mückenballett auf, also eine Projektion von Mückenlarven auf eine Leinwand, ein ziemlich tolles Schauspiel.
Dann ein Vortrag, den wir auf dem Schiff hatten, über das „Center for Land Use Interpretation“ (aus dem U.S.A.), weil wir natürlich die ganze Zeit in Freundesgesprächen und in Arbeitsgruppen über Möglichkeiten von Kunst und Arbeiten im städtischen Raum und im Naturraum nachgedacht haben.
Hier zwei Freunde, Florian Hüttner und Martin Krützfeld aus Hamburg, beide Künstler die überall in Hamburg Angler aufgesucht haben am Gewässer, und mit ihnen ihre Wahrnehmung der Stadt und über ihre Belange als Angler gesprochen haben, und dann darüber einen Vortrag gehalten haben auf der Schute.
Ein sehr dunkles Dia eines Abends, da hat eine Frau, die in der Nähe lebt und das immer gesehen hat und eigentlich erst mal eine Abneigung gegen das Projekt hatte , aber sich dann irgendwann das Herz gefasst und gefragt, ob sie auf dem Schiff eine Lesung machen könnte, nämlich über die Odyssee von Homer, nicht darüber, sondern daraus hat sie Ausschnitte genommen, die mit dem Reisen und Wasser zu tun hatten. Es wurde eine Lesung verbunden mit etwas Essen und Grillen.
Eine weitere Sache, die wie viele andere Projekte auf dem Schiff nicht unbedingt zu einem Ende geführt haben, war der Austausch mit einer Arbeitsgruppe aus der Universität, aus dem Pädagogik Bereich, die Arbeitsgruppe „Walgenbach“. Sie interessierten sich für Methoden der Wissensgewinnung, Methoden, nicht wie der Einzelne lernt, sondern Wissen selbst produziert, aus verschiedenen Disziplinen, die sich bewusst gemacht werden und sich damit zum Werkzeug gemacht werden, die jeden Einzelnen ermöglichen sollen, eigenständig Wissen zu produzieren. Das ist fast eine Art wissenstheoretisches Seminar gewesen, mit dem wir oft Treffen hatten, uns ausgetauscht haben, die Interesse an Mark Dion und den Projekt hatten und die dort gearbeitet haben, ein Workshop mit Jugendlichen dann auf dem Schiff durchgeführt haben.
Vielleicht jetzt hier ein paar Dias eingestreut, die gar nicht viel zeigen. Damit wollte ich auch noch mal bewusst machen, dass es auf diesem Schiff auch viel Leerlaufzeit gab, viel Unbill und viele Schwierigkeiten, die es zu überwältigen gibt, aber ich wollte noch andeuten, dass ich das sehr problematisch finde, Dias von Aktivitäten zu zeigen, wo irgendwelche Menschen drauf zu sehen sind, wie sie irgendwas tun. Das suggeriert immer Bilder von großer Aktivität und von großem Gelingen, und von großer Anteilnahme. Ich denke, wir müssen solchen Bilder mit Misstrauen begegnen. Ein Teil von ihnen trifft etwas, was gewesen ist, ein Teil von ihnen trifft etwas, worum es einem ging, aber es ist auch eine Art von Mythos, den man damit erzeugt, und dessen muss man sich immer bewusst sein, gerade bei Projekten, wo es darum geht, mit anderen Leuten zusammen zu arbeiten.
Vielleicht noch eine kurze Anmerkung zum kaputt machen. Das ist ja hier in Deutschland ein großes Problem überhaupt von Dingen im öffentlichen Raum, aber auch von Kunst im öffentlichen Raum. Ich habe mich total gewundert , weil wir mit größerer Zerstörung gerechnet haben (bis hin zum Abbrennen) und die einzige Attacke, die wir hatten war ein Ei, der auf dem Tisch draußen oder gegen die Wand zerschlagen wurde. Das war das einzige, und es wurde uns einmal die Fahne, die wir vergessen hatten reinzunehmen, geklaut, aber auch ganz freundlicherweise, weil sie den Fahnenstock, der viel teurer war, dran gelassen hatten, und umständlich die Fahne gewickelt hatten.
Ich möchte noch eine Sache betonen: der Austausch mit Leuten, die von den Behörden her kamen. Hier sieht man Klaus Thorsten Theke bei einer Führung an den Kanälen. Das hat sich so ergeben, dass jemand wie Klaus Theke und auch andere bei den Behörden, die zuständig sind für die Gewässer in Hamburg, über Ecken mitgekriegt haben, dass wir so ein Projekt machen. Sie haben auch diesen prominenten Ort an der Außenalster, wo so viele Menschen vorbeigekommen sind, mitgekriegt, und haben gesagt: Das ist ein wichtiger Standort, da machen irgendwelche Künstler und Biologen was, aber solche Aspekte wie das Begreifen des ganzen Flusssystems innerhalb der Stadt (nicht mehr so punktuell am Zentrum) und auch andere Aspekte fallen weg. Sie haben sich teilweise am Anfang ein bisschen böse gemeldet, sind dann aber ganz schnell mit ans Bord gesprungen, im wörtlichen Sinne, haben beigetragen zu den Veranstaltungen und zu den Diskussionen, die es gab, auch zu einem Symposium, den wir am Anfang zu dieser ganzen Geschichte gemacht haben.
Dafür gab es eine Baumführung, wie man hier sieht, über die Bäume entlang des Ufers; eine äußerst interessante Führung, zu der auch noch zu sagen ist, dass durch dieses dichte Verhältnis zu einzelnen Personen, die mit großem persönlichen Engagement an diesen Behörden arbeiten, eigentlich keine Behördenabsichten repräsentieren, sondern wirklich interessante Ideen über Veränderung von Stadt; dass über diese Nähe mit diesem Schiff und durch dieses vielfältige Geschehen das da war, auch eine Offenheit im Vorgehen entstand, die nicht so üblich ist hier in Hamburg. Die, die mal versucht haben, Projekte im öffentlichen Raum zu machen, (das läuft hier immer über die Kulturbehörde) haben gemerkt, dass man da erst über einige bürokratische Hürden muss. Wir konnten im Laufe dieses Zeitpunktes, an dem wir an der Außenalster waren, z.B. diese Insektenbeobachtung machen und mussten keine Behördewege gehen. Wir hatten die Möglichkeit, dort ein freies und von Tag zu Tag improvisiertes Spielfeld anzulegen, in dem man mündlich abgecheckt hat, die Leute aber einem unglaublich unterstützt haben. Obwohl es da bei vielen Sachen, die dort waren, auch immer Ärger gab mit Leuten, die dort vorbeigingen und was ganz anderes wollten, und sich ganz gestört fühlten.
Wichtig war jetzt noch eine Führung entlang des Flusses, von Verena Raabe, von dem Bezirksamt Wandsbek, die dort im Naturschutz arbeitet. Sie hat über Gewässer in der Stadt und ihre ökologische Bedeutung reflektiert, und den Bemühungen, Gewässer, die in die Stadt kanalisiert wurden und als reiner Abwasser- und Transportwege umfunktioniert wurden, wieder in ein ökologisches Gleichgewicht zu geben aus ganz vielen komplexen Gründen, die ein Leben in der Stadt betreffen. Hier sieht man während der Führung wie der Fluss, die Wandse, durch ein Einkaufszentrum als ein kleines Natur Diorama fließt, aber im übrigen ist sie ein streng kanalisierter Fluss. Das ist der Gedanke, den ich beitragen möchte, dass das ein Forschungsthema war über das Gewässer in der Stadt. Man sieht hier unten noch mal eine Aufteilung der Kanäle in dem großen See und dann oben führt der Alsterfluss von oben herab quasi in die Alster, und diesen kleinen Abschnitt wollte ich mich zuwenden, weil der im Laufe der Arbeit auf der Schute ein spezial Arbeitsthema war.
Vor über 100 Jahren, also noch am Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts, war dort noch ein landwirtschaftlicher Raum mit kleinen Dörfern. Das ganze wurde dann kanalisiert, aus mehreren Gründen: einmal galt es darum, man sieht unten auf die Spitze des „lakes“, der Alster, in Blau mit dem eingezeichneten Pfeil nach oben der Alsterfluss, der führt hin zu einem großen Friedhof und zu einem großen Gefängnis. Das waren zwei Einrichtungen, die in der Zeit damals aufgebaut wurden und es galt, dafür Transportwege herzurichten. Die Alster wurde damals als Transportweg benutzt, aber als freifließender Fluss musste er kanalisiert werden. Es ging auch darum (und es stellt eine Beziehung auch her zu der heutigen Diskussion um die Hafencity), Hamburg attraktiv zu halten, und die vielen reichen Menschen nicht in die umliegenden Länder abwandern zu lassen und dafür musste man neues Bauland schaffen, das attraktiv war für Reiche. Deswegen hat man diese Kanalisation, die man um den Friedhof machen musste und das Gefängnis von der Stadt her zu versorgen, gleichzeitig als ein Gewässer angelegt, das mehrarmig war aber nicht aus Notwendigkeit, sondern nur um möglichst viele Grundstücke erzeugen zu können, die Zugang zum Wasser hatten. Solche Häuser, die auch noch heute dort stehen. Da oben, Rondellteich, das ist ein Fleck, den die Hamburger vielleicht kennen, das ist einer von diesen künstlich angelegten Stichkanälen, die aus Funktionalität und vom Gelände her nicht nötig wären, auch keine Entwässerungsgründen hätten, sondern man sieht da einfach ein Ring von lauter Villen mit Gärten, das ist mithin das teuerste Wohngrundstück in Hamburg, was die Kosten pro m_ angeht. Damals gab es eine ganz fundamentale Diskussion, die sich über 50 Jahre hingezogen hat, über die Entwicklung des Kanals, nämlich die, das es zwei Auffassungen gab, wie so was zu bauen sei. Es gab einmal eine Auffassung des sogenannten landschaftlichen Stils, hergeleitet noch vom englischen Landschaftsgarten. Hierfür sieht man ein Entwurf aus der Zeit, der das Ganze noch geschwungen auffasst mit geschwungenen „O-Verführungen“, die noch mehr ein Landschaftseindruck erzeugen. Dagegen standen Auffassungen von dem Oberbaudirektor Schumacher, ein hier sehr einflussreicher Architekt, die sich nachher durchgesetzt wurden, das Ganze architektonisch aufzufassen, d.h. nicht geschwungen, nicht naturähnlich, sondern mit geraden Uferkanten mit Ufermauern. Hier sieht man eine hervorragende Architekturzeichnung in ihrer Klarheit, worum es geht, das auch die Naturelemente rein architektonisch aufgefasst sind. Das ganze Ufer ist auch architektonisch aufgefasst. Nun, so sieht es auch noch heute aus. Das Ganze war damals sehr fortschrittlich. Ich selber stelle es mir so vor, dass dieser Landschaftsgartengedanke, der erfüllt war mit der eigentlichen Idee, dass das Individuum sich frei entfaltet in der Gesellschaft, inzwischen zu einem Klischee von bürgerlichen Garten geworden war, was mit Gründerzeit noch zu tun hatte. Dagegen trat die Idee einer geordneten Gesellschaft, in denen soziale Ungleichheiten in einer sozialdemokratischen Weise aufgefangen werden, in dem große, klargegliederte Bauwerke, die gesund sind, mit viel grün dazwischen, alles aber in einer unglaublichen monumentalen Ordnung einer besseren Gesellschaft dienen. Das andere entsprach einer alten Zeit voller Mief.
Dieses Überbleibsel haben wir eigentlich in Riesenteilen von Hamburg heute noch, insbesondere am Kanal aber auch in weiten Teilen des Siedlungsbaus. Ich erzähle das jetzt etwas umständlich, weil ich das als ein entsprechendes und fragendes Bild sehe. Heutzutage – ich habe eben über die Führung an der Wandse gesprochen – hier kommen noch Dias wie die Zuflüsse zu dem Alstersee, den wir kennen, aussehen, und die Bemühungen von der Stadt, sie zu renaturalisieren. Hier sieht man die Tarpenbek, das Dia soll andeuten, dass dort ein Fluss wieder in Windung geführt wird. Links dieser Böschung sieht man eine ehemalige Kanalisation, rechts sieht man den Bach mit lauter Schilfandeutung und gewunden; das ist also einer dieser Renaturierungsmaßnahmen. An der Alster selber sieht man sie in Form solcher Ausbuchtungen, wo gegen Hunde und Eindringlinge, die das stören könnten, Biotope angelegt werden mit einer ökologischen Idee dahinter, aber ohne einen gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhangs, die aber ästhetisch wieder andocken an diese Idee des Landschaftsgartens, die damals von den Planern wie Schumacher verworfen wurde. Hier sieht man eine Darstellung der Stadt aus Sicht der Behörde mit Grüngürtel, wie sie Hamburg durchdringen sollen. Das Ganze ist eine sehr interessante Darstellung, weil sie im extremstem Maße ideologisch ist, zu vergleichen mit diesen Pfeilen, wie sie einer Darstellung von Schumacher, den besagten Baumeister der das „die natürliche Entwicklung des Organismus Hamburg“ nennt. Er hat aus der Topographie her begründet, und aus der Geschichte Hamburgs und ihrer Hafenlage, ihrer Verbindung zu den umliegenden Städten, diese Pfeile in allen Richtungen gezeigt, um das Wachstum und seine Ideen, wie die Stadt nach außen wachsen sollte und architektonisch gefasst werden sollte, zu begründen. Heute gibt es diese ähnliche Darstellung, die nicht mehr die Stadt, sondern die Grüngürtel, die von außen her reindringen sollen, wenn man es genauer betrachtet, sind alle Pfeile entlang der Flüsse. Aber so wie die Pfeile aussehen, so sehen die Flüsse nicht aus und so werden sie auch nie mehr aussehen. Sie existieren teilweise so oder gar nicht mehr; sie werden nie wieder diese organische Form haben, weil damit müsste die ganze Stadt vernichtet werden und dann wieder mal aufgebaut werden. Das ist aber ein Idealbild, was zugrunde liegt. Dieses Idealbild ist aber eins, was uns allen zugrunde liegt. Vorgestern sind wir in eine Führung im Rahmen dieser Veranstaltung durch das Schanzenviertel gegangen und da auch durch einen Hof, durch den man durchgehen kann, der im Krieg zerstört war, also eine neuzeitliche Bebauung ist, ein neuzeitlicher Durchweg. Wenn man ihn anguckt, dann sieht man zur linken eine ehemalige Fabrikarchitektur, die aber mit Hügeln, die diese architektonische Klarheit und Wucht auflösen, bedeckt, auch noch mit Graffiti. Dann sieht man nach hinten eine Achse zu der man hingehen möchte, weil man da durch möchte (es ist ein sehr begangener Durchweg), aber das Ganze ist geschlängelt, damit man es idyllischer empfindet. Rechts sieht man auch einen Weidenzaun, sehr bewuchert; das Ganze ist ein kleiner Landschaftsgarten. Das Ganze noch mal als Blick zurück.
Es gibt aber auch Auffassungen von einem sich bewegenden städtischen Raum, das mit einem anderen, vielleicht bewussterem Raumempfinden arbeitet, wo es darum geht: Wie gehen wir? Wo wollen wir hingehen und wie empfinden wir uns in Verbindung mit der umliegenden Architektur? Wie muss es ein einfaches Verhältnis werden, nicht ein kompliziertes? Hier ist ein kompliziertes hergestellt, und vielleicht aus verschiedenen Gründen. Kompliziert deswegen, weil man ästhetisch nicht einfach so durchgehen kann. Warum? Es kann einerseits gelesen werden als eine Auflehnung gegen die geordnete, vorgegebene, klare, vielleicht auch schöne Struktur, die da war, und dagegen eine andere setzt, die amorph ist, die kleinteilig ist, wo jeder etwas noch „hinzufritzelt“. Gleichzeitig kann ich es auch als eine Bestätigung, eine gegenwärtige Konsensfassung von Gesellschaft lesen, in der wir alle z.B. in der Stadtplanung solche Begriffe wie „Sukzession“ [übernehmen], ein beliebter Begriff, in dem sich etwas selbst überlassen wird, aus kleinen Brennpunkten heraus sich Sachen vernetzen und entwickeln lassen. Wir sehen aber anhand solcher ästhetischen Äußerungen, dass das Ganze in gesellschaftliche Konsense eingebettet ist. Wenn wir daran denken, wie auch heute jeder als Arbeiter auf sich selbst gestellt ist, diese Problematik sich auch in dem Ideal des Landschaftsgartens wieder trifft, finde ich es interessant, wie an einem Fluss und den verschiedenen ästhetischen Formungen, die die Stadt jetzt vornimmt, dort solche Modelle ablesbar sind.
Jetzt gebe ich an Sonja und Ricke weiter.
– Eva: Herzlichen Dank für diese Präsentation, Till Krause, Ricke Salomon und Sonja Giering. Ich fände es jetzt verführerisch und sehr spannend zu versuchen, einen Bogen zu schlagen zu dem, was wir am Vormittag gehört haben. Vielleicht halte ich mich noch zurück und gucke, ob es sofort Anmerkungen oder Fragen gibt an die drei.
– Christoph: Ein Satz auf Deutsch, weil ich wirklich mein Unwillen unterdrücken muss, weil ich denke, es sind Fragen an sehr verschiedene Projekte und sehr verschiedene Positionen und Personen, aber ich bin etwas erschüttert über das Ausmaß an Pädagogisierwut, an klinischem Vokabular, was gegenüber diesen Kindern verwendet wird, wo die Arbeit selbst vielleicht ganz schön ist, aber wo ich wieder – um es mal zynisch zu sagen – verstehe, wieso ein Buch geschrieben wurde, dass „against interpretation“ hieß. Das muss ich an dieser Stelle sagen, weil ich etwas verblüfft bin. Ich finde das Schute Projekt eigentlich ein großartiges Projekt.
– Till: Es ist natürlich schwierig, auf so was direkt zu antworten; ich kann das jetzt schlecht.
– Eva: Ich werde schon was dazu sagen, weil die beiden sind ja meine Studentinnen. Ihr müsst euch vorstellen, das ist die erste Präsentation, die sie machen. Ich weiß nicht ob man gesehen hat, an den Bildern oder an der Art der Schilderung, abgesehen von einem bestimmten Diskurs, in dem sie noch „drinnen stecken“, ob man die Qualität dieser Arbeit tatsächlich gesehen hat. Sie haben unglaublich viel erreicht, in sehr präziser Weise, und ich sehe kein Problem, einen Bogen zu der Arbeit von Shveta zu schlagen. Was Shveta mit den Kindern gemacht hat, war ein Prozess der ganz präzisen Wahrnehmungsschulung von Visualität, der Kritik oder dieses Erkennen lernen, was man eigentlich tut, wenn man durch die Stadt geht, reflektieren lernen usw. Ich glaube, das ist sehr ähnlich zu dem, was die beiden jungen Frauen mit der Förderschule unternommen haben.
Shveta, what do you think?
– Shveta: First I thougt that the documentation of the project was terribly interesting, that we have something to learn from that. The thing that I found interesting was that one is working with art, and because one is bringing aspects of natural sciences in it, there is a compelling need to be able to articulate artistic practices, which probably otherwise work with the notion of an inability to communicate certain senses, because it’s about perception, and it’s about things that may not be clearly stated, which is why the’re being portrayed in a certain manner. The question’s been posed as to what the difference would be. I think the training of perception would be something that I’d have a difference with. [Other than] the fact that they’re young people and children that one is working with, I wouldn’t really draw a comparison. Maybe because my understanding would be slightly limited, but one of the things that the manner in which we do work is trying to understand what the perception is. I think the ends that both projects are working towards would be slightly different, and I wouldn’t really draw a comparison, which is not to make a statement on either of the projects. That’s where I would probably limit myself. We had a long conversation yesterday and one of the most important things for me is that through conversation, perceptions change, which is inevitable, because all of your thinking gets implicated in other people’s thoughts, because experientially you link with other people’s thoughts. Perhaps that would be the most important distinction that I would make in terms of what the training is. There’s a certain pedagogic aspect, of course, to any kind of interaction, and it would be there in the project that I’m working in as well. It’s just a comment about what you said on perceptional training. I don’t know if I’m making myself clear, but I find myself in quite a spot to be talking about the differences right now.
– What about the similarities? These two young ladies selected disenfranchised, underprivileged children, to be able to test their experimental subjects in some regard, and to edify them on natural history, on cartography, on all things that have quite a bit to do with Park fiction, I would say, with the idea of the park that you’re building, and the corporate identity that you’re positioning yourself against. I think that there is a pretty great similarity in the way that they’ve gone about their project and who they’ve selected to partake in their project, in the sense that they’re looking for a grassroots approach to it, and looking for people who are disenfranchised, and these are the people that you’re working with in this venue as well. I’m interested in a link that hasn’t been drawn to clearly, but I think does really exist. The two types of activities, this edification and making urban areas transparent in terms of its natural history and you’re making the urban area transparent in terms of its political structure and so on. So it’s more of a statement rather than a question, but if anybody has any responses to it, fire away.
– I think that in terms of context, this project with the students in Hamburg has to deal with unpacking the notion of a very Western conception of what it means to make art. With the discussion of the availability of first art education (whatever that means) and within the way that through this process the’ve exposed something that’s much more complicated, by both giving the students an opportunity to explore what this kind of creative practice might be for themselves, by introducing them to what’s available, by going first to a “Kunsthalle” in a traditional sense, by giving them access to a library, a history of Western art, and then to a contemporary museum, and then to bring them onto a barge, to involve them in a project that really changes the way we think about what it means to make art, if you do an art practice. I found the questions they asked Till very interesting and this reflects somewhat on these preconceptions, and these things that they’ve had a chance to explore. So the comment is about the different cultural contexts of these projects and that this one has to deal with Western art history.
– I was thinking about Christoph’s comment. I was also a bit shocked at some point. To be more precise, there was this picture of a child who had to learn something about colour, and you commented something like: “This pupil wasn’t able to understand what I meant with my colour education”. I find this hierarchical; I think it might have been more interesting to look at the way the child made the picture. It some way it’s true that it is your interpretation that the child didn’t understand what you were telling him or her, but I think the children did great work with what you offered to them, and at the same time, they might not have done that work if had you not offered them the possibilities to create it.
– Till: Vielleicht kann ich doch was dazu sagen, weil ich finde, wir sollten es nicht zu sehr zu einer Konfrontation ausweiten, was jetzt an diesen Konzepten der beiden schwierig und vielleicht gut war. Insgesamt war dort vieles, was einfach auch schwierig war, an unseren eigenen Konzepten und Konzepten von diversen Leuten, die dort stattfanden. Es war wirklich ein Arbeitfeld, an dem wir dort gemeinsam gearbeitet haben, z.B. die Erscheinungsweise von dem, was die beiden bei uns gemacht haben, war großartig in dieser Woche. Das war unglaublich lebendig. Die Kinder kamen von jeder Seite unterschiedlich auf die Sache zu, das mag jetzt vielleicht an der Präsentation auch gelegen haben, aber es war einfach große Klasse. Das hat man vielleicht von den Zeichnungen erahnen können, wie bei den teilnehmenden Kindern sich was entfaltet hat in diesen Tagen, und ich glaube in dem ganzen Jahr vorher auch. Es gab sicher Dinge, über die man diskutieren kann, über die die beiden sowieso die ganze Zeit diskutieren und nachdenken und vielleicht zu Formen greifen, wo sie auch weiter arbeiten. Es geht jetzt nicht darum, pädagogische Konzepte wegzudrücken, sondern in diesem Fall um das Anliegen von Sonja über Zugang zur Kunst, etwas zu ermöglichen, einen Zugang zum Sehen und vielleicht selber was realisieren können. Darum ging es ganz stark für sie, mit den Kindern, und es war in dieser Woche äußerst spürbar.
– Um direkt deine Frage, Eva Sturm, vom Anfang aufzugreifen, dass es sich sicher ein Bogen schlagen lässt zu der Präsentation von heute morgen. Diese Problematiken, die angesprochen wurden, kann ich zum Teil teilen, verstehe aber nicht ganz, warum eine ganz kategorische Differenz gemacht wird zu dem, was wir heute morgen gesehen haben, und was am ehesten von Till Krause noch eben problematisiert worden ist. Das Zeigen der Kreativität anderer, oder der Mythos, der sich daran bindet, das ist eine Bildpolitik, die durchaus in sich eine Problematik hat, aber dann würde ich gerne diskutieren, was macht hier den kategorischen Unterschied zwischen heute morgen und heute Nachmittag aus.
– Eva: Meine These wäre, dass sich die beiden getraut haben, etwas zu zeigen, das in der Präsentation solcher Projekte selten gezeigt wird, nämlich diesen äußerst riskanten Prozess, sichtbar zu machen wie settings hergestellt werden, in denen versucht wird, mit Menschen zu kommunizieren, und zwar in einer Art, mit denen zu kommunizieren, wo sie selber anfangen, Wissen zu produzieren. Langsam zu begreifen, dass die Welt nicht eine naturalisierte ist, sonder eine gebaute ist, und dass man sich selber sozusagen einschreiben kann, mit beschränkten Mitteln, aber doch. Für mich ist das eine diskutable, mögliche Form. Der Alejandro hat noch mal das Begriff „empower“ verwendet, dieses sichtbar werden. Ich finde, sehr viele der Projekte kreisen um dieses Frage. Das ist ja bei Park Fiction auch eine Frage, wie kriegt man Leute dazu, dass sie einsteigen, dass sie sich verlinken, dass sie sich einschreiben. Ich glaube, man muss auf diesen Prozess sehr genau gucken, und die sie sind oft sehr peinlich, die kommen oft mit so einem Diskurs, das sich sehr leicht abwerten lässt, z.B. „Das ist zu pädagogisch.“ Da muss man hingucken, was man damit meint. Was wird da genau beschrieben?
– Christoph: Yes, I have to. I think there’s one essential quality that I demand from art, regardless of media or artist type. The essence of art is the desire to see the world with someone else’s eyes, and I couldn’t feel less desire to see the world with someone’s elses eyes in the speech, in the interpretation of the children’s works. That’s were I have to draw a line btween art and a different way of looking at things. I can very well imagine how the situation was on board, how the young people changed the whole situation, but it wasn’t represented… (contd.)
I found it was a onesided view, and not a situation of exchange. I don’t really understand how you could see it any differently. For instance, the work of Ala Plástica is very strong in involving local knowledge and finding ways to interact against a strong enemy. I think you can’t compare it at all; of course there’s a pedagogical element to it, they walk around showing the area and I have no problem with that. There are forms of knowledge that are gone and of course, I have no problem with that. I liked the Alster barge project so much because it allowed for so many points of view without judging any of them. That might be a nice thing to do, but sometimes it gets dangerous, because of old pedagogical ways of thinking that are very patronizing.
– Christiane: I was shocked myself about so many people being shocked. I think one of the problems is framing. I find the fact that you’ve tried to tell us about what has happened difficult, however, it is also a very valuable process. I really loved the details of how one thing followed the other and how the communication went. I did not read it in terms of failure that the kids didn’t understand the colour lesson, nor did I feel that it was you who had “failed”; it was just an outcome of your process. I was so impressed by the results, which were very beautiful and strong, that I didn’t see much of a framing problem there. I think though that it is still a bit of a taboo to work with kids and art, quite a tricky field. There’s a difference to Park Fiction, where there is the possibility to develop other structures, which wouldn’t have had a presentation like yours as an result. For example, we had a guided tour done by the kids, so they presented themselves, rather than being presented by someone else. Still, I think it’s too easy to have that distinction as the dividing line. Just to try and diffuse the strong dialectics here.
– Sonja oder Ricke?: Ich würde gerne vor allem zu deinem Vorwurf und zu dem Vorwurf da unten was sagen, weil ich glaube, das da einiges schief gelaufen ist im Verständnis. Erstens setzen wir dieses Projekt nicht im Kunstkontext an, sondern es ist ganz klar ein Projekt, das im Kunstunterricht entstanden ist, und das macht schon ein Riesenunterschied aus, glaube ich. Und dann glaube ich, dass der Unterschied von dem Projekt zu euren Projekt (oder zu dem Projekt heute morgen, den ich leider nicht gesehen habe) der ist, dass wir den ganzen Verlauf der Dinge gezeigt haben, und zwar mit den ganzen Problemen, die es gab. Es ist nicht so, dass ich mich von den Sachen, die die Kinder am Anfang gemacht haben, abgrenzen würde, und es ist auch nicht so, dass ich sagen würde, das Kind hat was nicht verstanden, sondern das Kind hatte am Anfang Probleme mit dem, was ich mir vorgestellt hatte und ich hatte Probleme, mit dem was er sich vorgestellt hatte und es war ein Aufeinanderzugehen, oder vielleicht ein Finden von anderen Formen. Ich glaube, dass es ziemlich gut gelungen ist, weil dieses Bild, das man gesehen hat mit dem Künstlerportrait, mit dem Ablauf der Nase ist vom gleichen Kind, und dieses Kind hat mir davor reihenweise die Blätter zerknüllt und im Müll geworfen. Die Tatsache, dass er zu so einer Form gekommen ist, war eine riesige Leistung. Das Problem ist, dass man beide Sachen gesehen hat und dass es nicht als Prozess erkenntlich geworden ist.
– Till: Ich möchte noch ganz kurz dazu was sagen, weil ich denke, dass es eine Frage ist, die wir grundsätzlich bei diesen Präsentationen hier haben. Ich habe auch keine klare Antwort drauf, aber z.B. nur um es ein bisschen in die Richtung zu bringen, ich habe mich manchmal auch gefragt (und ich will hier nicht Bälle verschießen) warum die Darstellung von der Wünsche von Park Fiction alle so gleich aussehen, mit einer Handschrift. Da mag es viele Gründe dafür geben, es ist nur so, dass das Ganze nicht so einfach ist und dass ich auch finde, dass es sicherlich zu diskutieren gibt.
– Christoph: Ich würde es sogar falsch finden, wenn man sagen würde, ich nehme meine persönliche Geste heraus, oder ich nehme mich als Künstler zurück. Das ist bestimmt nicht, wo es bei Park Fiction darum geht, sondern eher darum, wie man sich in einen Prozess auch als Künstler integrieren kann. Ich finde es schwierig zu sagen, bei diesen Projekten ging es darum, Leute zu etwas zu kriegen. Natürlich spielte das einerseits eine Rolle, viele offene Punkte anzubieten und Möglichkeiten zu entwickeln, aber die Leute sind erst mal mit ihren Wünschen drin gewesen. Das ist ein fundamentaler Unterschied.
– Shuddha: I just want to shift the discussion a little bit, because I take it from the point where Christoph left it, but my problem with the discussion is that we assume already that there exist wishes. I think that is a great assumption on our part. I’m not making a statement here in favour of or against particular strategies, but I’m thinking of this project in terms of what I see a merit, in the sense that at a time when for most young people, and especially children, the greatest experience in their life is destruction, it’s something that is very fragmentary, something that is emerging and loosing and going away. Just the example – and I’m not talking in terms of teaching something, because it’s something that we’ve been based on also in the initial process of working in cybermohalla. The question of: Are we being pedagogic? did arise and I remember that it was part of an internal debate. We were often full of anxiety about pedagogic impulses, but in retrospect, I think that there is a point where you set examples of attending to detail, and that is what I find very fascinating in the project that we saw. Part of the process was the collection of a lot of detail, of daily observations, writing of small notes, and I really like the kind of naturalist’s diary form that it used, because it’s perhaps only through an accumulation of details that one can sometimes get to a point where those details may congeal into desires, into wishes, because the wishes don’t come from themselves. It’s something that I remember when Shveta was talking to me about your experience with the young people over here, that you did the workshop and the first question you asked was: “What would you like to be asked?” It’s a difficult question, because we don’t often consider ourselves, especially when we’re young, as being worth of any kind of curiosity on anybody’s part. So the putting down or the recording or the inscription of a lot of observations may lead to a point where then we can say: these are our curiosities. I think that the school system is quite deffectively – I’m sure over here, but I’m certain in India – it just deadens curiosity and makes the task of observation a very boring one. So when you have examples where observation and entering detail can become a reward of its own kind, then other things can follow. I don’t know if I make any sense.
– I have a question about wishes, and just injecting something that came up over the lunchtime discussion. It seems to me that what this debate’s lacking, is some notion of theories of power, because as soon as you start identifying wishes, you start thinking about where they originate, whose wishes they are, who articulates them, how they’re enabled and how they’re repressed. It’s not really a question, it’s just a desire to inject that somewhere at some level into the debate, because I also think that strategies are responses to various situations. If you got a theory of power you’ve also got a theory of how you can contest it, and I’m not suggesting it as anyone’s answer, but I think it’s a word that we haven’t heard much of and perhaps should hear a bit more.
– I just wanted to respond to that, because I think what we’ve seen in this practices is that they all deal with the power structures that they find themselves in, and ways of working with and through those to ask questions about how do we give more people an opportunity to be invited to discuss their wishes, or to start thinking about it in another way. What was just said about the collection of details or the way that we start communicating about the power structures in which we find ourselves, I think that’s inherent in the decision to begin these practices in this way.
– Alejandro: I thought the project was very interesting. What often happens is that due to the way society is structured, we as artists are often obliged to present our projects within fixed structures, and it is really difficult to evade them because the codes we work on are very dense ones. If we’re young and starting to make projects, it’s very difficult to get out of those structures. It’s very difficult for the artist to live within them, and it’s difficult for the artist to get out of them in order to create. In our case, we’re not seized by those structures, but we would find it equally difficult to work according to them, and it does actually get hard when we’re commissioned to do a project, and we have to respond to a system to which we can’t grow accustomed to, and we don’t like working like that. I think the dilemma for artists is finding a position to be able to face those structures.
– Christiane: If you start new processes or become part of them, there’s never a space that’s outside of any power relationship or mutual influence. The idea that there could be a space where one could enter without having an influence on somebody else is very hard to think of. One always has a resposibility as to what degree one can control one’s influence on the situation. Maybe that is another view on didactics.
– Till: I agree that artists shouldn’t have to work with the structures or have to think about them. It could be a very interesting situation to take over the title of this event “Unlikely Encounters” and allow things to happen simultaneously, and contradictions to take place. Not for these different positions to fight, but to meet and influence each other. Many aspects, including the artistic ones in all presentations, could have been criticized, too, but we’ve come to a point where there’s a potential to take our discussions (the children, the river and the city, possible collaborations with conservationists, and unique art projects that don’t have this connection) here much further. We see that language is capable of blocking things with a specialized rhetoric, which is something we should reflect on, because we’re putting borders across things that could have the potential to grow.
– Eva: I’m grateful for this comment, and I’m happy we came back to your work with the Gallery for Landscape Art, because what is very extraordinary there is the variety of projects and discourses that are taking place side by side, and you never prejudge. I never heard you saying: “I don’t want this.”
– Till: But it does happen sometimes…
– Eva: You didn’t judge what you showed to us. You offered us a huge space of potential, of things that could happen there without having to envision them all. This is very interesting and it’s also important to step back and not to anticipate the outcome.
– Till: Yes, I think that’s important, but it doesn’t mean that each point of view has to be weak, or undo its position. I’m saying it as a way of support to your comment.
– This morning you were asking Ala Plástica about their perception of nature. I’d like to find out about your own idea of nature.
– Till: Actually it wasn’t me who posed that question (laughter). Nevertheless I’d like to answer to your question, maybe you could elaborate on it again.
– I thought it was you who had quoted an author arguing that nature is not innocent. I’d like to find out about your own concept of nature.
– Till: I couldn’t have answered to that question, because I don’t have a concept of nature of my own. I’m bound to concepts that already exist. I can only read through several concepts that come together. The question that was asked earlier was much more precise though. It asked about romanticism, and that is a topic we could talk about in many other ways. Romanticism had once meant – and it still should mean, even though we never think of it on such terms – embracing all forms of cultural, scientific and religious knowledge, so that by combining them we may understand the world. That’s an interesting idea to follow, however difficult that may be. The romanticism alluded by the earlier question was a kind of longing for nature, as in the discourse of longing for something that doesn’t exist anymore. However, why shouldn’t we acknowledge that we’re “romantics”? That’s still a part of us and our projects, it’s a kind of romantic longing for something that we consider wrong, or beautiful, untouched.
– The background for the question this morning was Donna Harroway, a natural scientist. The question what nature is changes our perception. Traditionally, you have a subject and an object that might be called “nature”, and you think that this “nature” is natural, a given, it’s not fabricated. Harroway argues that nature is not passive and it can’t be described as an object because it’s a part of the experiment, it’s also part of the result. It’s hard to explain, it’s just a different kind of view.
– Eva: Thank you for this comment. I think this is exactly what you’re doing at the Gallery for Landscape Art, deconstructing the idea of nature, isn’t it?
– Till: I must confess I can’t make such a cleancut statement. What you said might be only partly true.
– Eva: Well, I think we have to leave. We have to go to the Kesselhaus and see what the future myths of Hamburg are. I’d like to thank again these two young ladies and Till Krause.
Would you explain how we get there?
– Christoph: I would take the metro to the Baumwall station and walk from there. So see you at “Oh, no, this is not part of the master plan” with Joachim Häfele, Sonja Nielbock, Jelka Plate, the Schwabinggrad Ballett and the mobile bar with DJ Feucht.

hafentreppe3wandaChristoph Twickel (left, with glasses), Luis Humberto Rosales (striped hat), Wanda Wieczorek (front), unknown, Kathrin Wildner (black shirt, green socks), Hafentreppe

konzert01Schwabinggrad Ballett

Heure Fixe (fixed date on which regular meetings are held), Saturday morning, June 28, 2003

– Christoph: Welcome to all those who are here for the first time in this round. Everybody gets a chance to talk about issues brought up by the congress’ presentations and discussions. However, I’d like to take this chance to apologize publicly for my rude attack yesterday during the lecture of the “Biologische Forschungsstation Alster”. I’m very sorry for that, because I think I shouldn’t have done it, especially being in my position. I don’t think my attack made the discussion any more intelligent, on the contrary, it was unconstructive. I think it would take a lot of time to discuss “what’s what” in this situation. Also I’d like to apologize to Eva, because yesterday I said to her that she used the word “disenfranchised child”. Now I know that she wasn’t the person to employ that word, that it was actually somebody else who did it. This is quite a point, I think.
– Eva: Thank you, Christoph. I really appreciate that, because we were all quite shocked. Specially the two young women were left quite depressed and we had to work quite a bit on building up their spirits, because they’re actually very motivated and do very good work, but (we had a discussion about that yesterday) their discourse wasn’t yet at the point that the other presentations’ discourses are already. They used words that can be turned into traps. There are things one shouldn’t say, because they’re not p.c. in this context, which is a problem as well, because if we are to deal with different people who live in different discourses, we should be sensitive and listen to them. We should respect their competence, wherever they are. We could get into a discussion about representation and the language that we use, the space of communication that we build up here, and how open it really is. Then there is the question of how we can work with people and their own notion of teaching or education. This is a sensitive question, because it brings up issues of power and aggression. I think that some of the presentations do not address the practical aspects of their work. What happens when you sit with other people at the table and talk to each other? Do you invite these people, or do you assign them tasks, how do you deal with a position of leadership? It would be very interesting to talk about it here.
– Lucy: I would just like to say that I think it was very brave of you now to make that apology. I think it is very important that we have a sensitivity to power relationships, both within projects and within events such as this conference. In the conference yesterday, the power was, in a sense, with the audience, even though it was the young girls making the presentation. Therefore, I think one has to be very aware that any criticism has to be perhaps afterwards, on a one-to-one basis, but also perhaps one has to think of the wider context, of the learning that they are having. Have they had an opportunity to discuss with their lecturers and their tutors? The broader political agenda of working in a social context, and the power relationships and responsibility that that implies with the people they’re working with, because those are very important subjects for teachers and lecturers to discuss with their students. I think that part of our practice needs to be as individuals, that we need to show kindness and consideration, and support for each other, because also we’re very few people in a very big world, and we need to work together and find those ways of doing that constructively.
– Margit: Shveta explained her work, her techniques in a very precise way to us. We tried to come closer to the work of the Argentinians yesterday. Someone who was in Argentina last month told me that being openly critical there is still connected with death, because of the legacy of the Junta, in which people were dissappeared as a result of their critical positions. So we can’t expect things to be communicated in a direct way, because that might not be possible for them. We saw that they could not describe things straightforwardly. On the other hand, I’ve seen Sarai in other congresses, and they spoke just in the manner the Argentinians did yesterday, as if they wouldn’t trust the audience. In this congress, Sarai did speak in a direct way. I think we can’t expect a certain discourse from other people; we can ask questions, but if they cannot be answered in a precise way, then that’s the way it goes, for the situation in their countries is so different.
– Ole: I’d like to disagree with Eva’s first point. It is indeed important to observe these processes very carefully. However, I wonder when people talk about others as being “not far enough”. I found that one of the problems yesterday was that it became impossible to discuss the political implications of the work. I get very angry when I hear that the people involved get disqualified from a political discussion on their work, simply because they are not considered to be “far enough”. You talked as their teacher, however I felt they were being infantilized. They were here to make a presentation and were standing on their own; they had a very good reply to Christoph’s argument. So I missed hearing the political implications of their work. Till had a very interesting point towards the end of his talk, discussing the political character of nature.
– Christoph: I both agree and disagree with you. We had had no chance to meet the two girls before the congress. We had already discussed or met with all the other groups invited to the congress, so we had built a relationship of trust with them, and we had an idea of what they were talking about. So with the girls it was a bit of an impromptu. I thought it was a good idea to have someone who’s part of the project speak from their own point of view, so it’s not only the artist who does all the talking, specially in the case of complex art projects. That’s why the whole situation yesterday was so out of proportion. So we would need many more (and complex) discussions, because we come from different fields.
– Till: Just to make it clear: Eva never said we couldn’t discuss with the two girls on their work. (…) That’s a question that applies to all kinds of communication, it doesn’t just apply to a student, it’s relevant for any discussion, even between us. Nobody was putting anybody down. The problem was that we reached a point where it wasn’t possible to discuss any more.
– It dawned on me yesterday that our discussions develop very quickly into a who’s right and who’s not. That doesn’t take us anywhere. I’d like to discuss the day yesterday more in terms of criteria we need to articulate. When I ask you about the categorical difference between your project and that of Ala Plástica, it’s clear where the differences are, but in a way it’s also about the level of representation of image politics. We must distinguish between the levels of ambition, discourse, image politics and representation. If we articulate the criteria, then the discussion won’t be about pointing the finger any more. I think we shouldn’t drift into a politics of reproach.
– Christiane: You mentioned that critical comments would need to be debated on a one-to-one basis. I don’t think that’s the only way. A discussion could take place, even within a situation of conflict as yesterday, and it partly did, but not in such a confrontational way.

Cassette 7, side 2

– My question brings back an issue raised at the beginning of the congress. It was something that Shuddha said, about not wanting to concentrate on opposing power any more, not to resist to the big giant of repression, but to create parallel practices instead. I think this seems to be the basis of this congress, the common denominator of all groups and a political concept. Still, I ‘d like to find out more about the meaning of parallel practices.
– Jelka: Jochen made a distinction between two practices, stating that it is still possible to demand, for example, health care. The other layer to it was that if you have a practice you have to ask: If we were all to have health care, then how do we want to live? So there are two references. In my case, I could describe how I tried to do the evening yesterday. It was a combination of both: doing the information politics where you tackle the official politics of the situation, and using that same situation to create another one to suit your own purposes (entering the building). It would be interesting to discuss whether you can have practices that combine both aspects. The parallel practices you described, which do not address the state or the official power any more, seem like they lose its strength.
– Margit: I have a question for Till. I understood your opening statement as being against political activism. Then I saw your work with many groups embedded in official state politics. I don’t understand how you managed to do that.
– Till: Concerning the first part of your question, I don’t think I formulated it that way. I wanted to dismantle a kind of ideology present in artistic work. When I think about complex artistic work, it can be straightforwardly political, but I also appreciate projects working on [more subtle] levels, which don’ shun exposing own contradictions. These projects don’t discard tackling political issues, but their thoughts and observations about our world are much more refined. I like the idea that on the one hand, these kinds of works can also develop and be talked about, while on the other hand they still confront us with things that are taking place on a political sphere. So some of the discourses or ideas might not be straightforwardly political, but they are strong in the way that they see things differently, widening our perception and possibilities of working. Maybe I’m not making myself clear.
– Christoph: I think one example I liked was your collaboration with one of the authorities of the environmental government agencies. There was a shift from his function as authority to an individual who got personally involved with the project and ended up getting integrated into it. So there is this split going through personalities, because everybody is part of a power structure or system one would reject, but this is not forever, but a part of that person can opt for something different. Going back to the point you made before, what wouldn’t be considered a parallel practice? One of the classical models is guerilla warfare as in the times of Che Guevara, which stands for strict opposition and fixed identities (pointing at the enemy). Or there’s the “allowed way” of operating: the state allows you to join a political party, within the party you can engage in discussions and start a reform. I think parallel practices ignore this way of traditional reformist politics.
– Till: We see in our group here that most people I guess are somehow part of a certain discussion already. What do “Unlikely Encounters” really mean? Why haven’t people from the neighbourhood come to this congress? Is it because they never encounter the kind of discussions going on here in their everyday lives? Is it a language issue? Or is it due to very ordinary circumstances, like the days and times at which the congress is taking place, or the graphics of the congress’ poster? Could it be that those small details radiate exclusion? I think our conflict yesterday was more than just a momentary burst of rude behaviour directed at two or three people. The conflict questioned the languages used in this context to engage in discussion and elaborate ideas, because they exclude other kinds of discussions on the same subjects. I think that’s the issue that arised from that situation.
– Christiane: But I think that’s a common thing to happen. Any entity excludes another one, or you have a level of discourse that doesn’t include everyone. I think it would be very naïve of us to expect all the St. Pauli and Reeperbahn neighbourhood to attend the congress. Of course you create a situation where only special connections are possible. Maybe all-inclusive concepts wouldn’t be that interesting either.
– Till: I also want to say that these languages are good ones to use. In the sense that they are a language for artistic discourse, with potential.There are some qualities to it being “hard” and direct, even excluding things. But I thought that in the context of our discussion here, it has to be questioned. Because we’re not only talking about art work here.
– Christoph: (…) I like long pauses.
– Christiane: It might be good for the day we have before us to come back to some of the congresses’ key concepts, like the question that came up before about parallel practices and how they possibly relate to constituent practices. What is a constituting moment? This is related to our debate yesterday. In the last days, there were so many levels to what people regarded as a constituting moment. From Sarai’s writing on people’s minds to Ala Plástica’s political lobbying. As the idea of the heure fixe was to bring up ideas after one [a.m.] (as you said yesterday), I wanted to relate our debate the other night. How could we really define this constituting moment? When something happens, where is the switch that is of interest for us? On the other hand, can you reduce a debate to an educational moment, or is there a broader issue at stake? I would also like to bring up again the issue of diffussion, which was examined both by Ligna and Sarai during the first day.
– Margit: Worum es mir immer gehen würde, und was aber nicht möglich war, zum Teil, rauszuarbeiten, war wie das zusammen geht mit diesen parallelen Praktiken, und dann bist du ja oft gezwungen und wirst dann mit der Macht konfrontiert, aufgrund dieser Praktiken, weil du ja was anderes willst. Bei Park Fiction kann man das ganz gut sehen, diese parallel Planung und wenn es nötig war, wenn man konfrontiert war (mit „man“ meine ich wirklich alle, und nicht nur die, die bei Kongressen auftauchen) dann hat es stattgefunden. Dann hatte man zusammen eine Basis über diesen parallelen Planungsprozess, wo man sich nicht überlegt hat, was will man denen sagen (dem Senat, der Stadt) sondern man hat überlegt: Was wollen wir überhaupt für uns? Wirklich nur für uns. Und das schafft dann eine Basis, dass wenn eine Konfrontation kommt – und sie kommt, wenn es um öffentlichen Raum geht – dann hat du so eine Basis, dass du dich auch entgegen stellen kannst, was anders ist, als wenn du es von vornherein so anlegst. Das eine schließt das andere nicht aus, und ich würde sagen, diese parallele Geschichten sind eine Voraussetzung für eine erfolgreiche Konfrontation auf lange Zeit. Alles andere wird sich tot laufen und kaputt gehen. Das ist Park Fiction; ich will es jetzt nicht heroisieren, es ist ein Beispiel das hier auf den Tisch liegt. Dass es so langen Atem hat, hat ja genau damit zu tun, dass immer wieder von Neuem versucht wurde, für einen selber was rauszufinden. Das gibt dann den Boden und die Kraft, gegen das wo man dann weggeputzt werden soll, wenn man der direkten Macht gegenüber steht, wie z.B. ein Investor, der sich breit machen will, da stehen aber alle auch da. Das ist keine heroische Sache, das ist eine alltägliche, kleine Sache. Auf das Projekt bezogen können wir noch sagen, ich finde es ein Statement, auf was man Wert legt, wenn die Ausstellung, wo alle die Sachen drin sind von allen Leuten, direkt neben dem Kongress steht. Es ist schon ein Unterschied von dem abgehoben sein, als wäre es in irgendeinem Raum irgendwo; das ist ja auch ein Statement und die Leute kommen mindestens vorbei, die nicht gerne auf Kongresse gehen. Natürlich haben viele nicht die Zeit, aber daran liegt es nicht nur, sondern sie mögen es echt nicht, und Sprache ist nicht ihr Mittel. Was dann über die Sprache rausgeht, oder ein anderes Mittel hier noch geht, das kriegen sie gar nicht mit. Sie kommen dann auch nicht zu der Party, weil sie das dann nicht mehr mitkriegen. Das ist echt eine abgetrennte Welt, und da gibt es schon Versuche, das zu durchbrechen, die ganze Zeit, aber das Statement könnte man wenigstens sehen, dass es zugänglich gehalten ist dadurch, dass es in keinem Raum ist, wo sich manche Leute nicht reintrauen oder nicht reingehen. Ich bin früher nie in eine Galerie gegangen. Das hat gedauert, bis ich mir das getraut habe, vor allem in kleine Galerien nicht, wo man gleich angesprochen wird. Das muss man alles mitdenken, und nicht in einer pädagogischen Form. Man kann es wirklich da nur hinstellen, und ein Stück weit, und was damit passiert ist nicht mehr unsere Sache, finde ich auch. Sonst geht es wieder los mit: „Wie bringe ich jemand dazu, dass… ?“ Ich will niemand zu irgendwas bringen. Ala Plástica hat schon ein sehr gutes Beispiel gemacht (wenn sie da sind, könnte man sie noch mal fragen), die Geschichte mit Shell, da haben sie genau beschrieben, wie sie parallel was gemacht haben und dann aber Shell drauf angesprungen ist. Wo es nicht eine direkte Konfrontation ist in Form von gewalttätigen Geschichten, sondern ein sich gegenüber stehen mit verschiedenen Praktiken gab. Da wurde schon was darüber gesagt, auch von Sarai.
– Christoph: (Translation into English of Margit’s statement) I’ve seen Ala Plástica talk about their parallel practices more clearly than yesterday, but there has been a moment when their alternative ways of working in the swamps were very visibly confronted with Shell’s way of working. At another lecture I attended, they described very precisely how they worked: they came with big lorries, with a team of 250 people in white suits, and a lot of chemicals. Shell’ efforts to clean this area had an even more devastating effect than the oil spill, and if they had gone on like that, it would have led to an extinction of the local rhizome plants, so the area would have never been able to recover at all. So Ala Plástica’s parallel practice provoked the appearance of Shell in the first place. The result was a reflection on the confrontation of a global multinational corporation’s power (and its limits as well) with the strength of local knowledge.

Cassette 7b

Cantieri Isola

– Christoph: Welcome to “Unlikely Encounters”. The program points: we will start with OUT (Office for Urban Transformation) from Milano. We will have our lunch break at around 1 p.m., and at 2 p.m. we will have the presentation of Maclovio Rojas/Borderhack from Tijuana, by Luis Humberto Rosales and Christoph Twickel. At ten p.m. there will be a boat tour through the harbour with the “Stowaways” group on migraction, city and the harbour. All of you who have booked a space, please take a map.
Welcome Mariette Schiltz and Bert Theis, from OUT. We met last year, when Bert wrote us an e-mail from Milano and told us that we were doing very similar things. In March this year, we showed the Park Fiction film in Milano and we were very fascinated by the situation you have created. We were quite bowled over by the complexity of the situation and your cleverness. Although there are many parallels to our project in Hamburg, it’s also interesting to see how time has elapsed in the last seven years and how approaches have developed differently. I’m very excited to hear your presentation now. Welcome, Bert and Mariette.
– Mariette: Mein Name ist Mariette Schiltz. Ich bin Video Künstlerin und ich spreche zusammen hier mit Bert Theis über das Mailänder Projekt Cantieri Isola und OUT. Cantieri Isola heißt „Isola Baustelle“, und OUT heißt Büro für urbane Transformation. Wir sind beide seit 3 Jahre, ungefähr seit Beginn an dieses Projekt beteiligt, weil wir auch in diesem Stadtteil Isola in Mailand leben. Ich habe in diesen drei Jahren alles, was passiert ist, dokumentiert, und werde nachher ein Film zeigen, der aus diesen Bildern entstanden ist. Davor wird Bert eine Einführung machen, und mit Dias das Projekt erklären. Bevor wir den Film sehen, werde ich ein paar Wörter dazu sagen, und danach wollen wir auf eure Fragen antworten und mit euch diskutieren.
– Bert: Hallo. Ich möchte erst mal einige Gemeinsamkeiten betonen mit dem was an den vorigen Tagen hier gesagt wurde. Mir hat sehr gut gefallen, als Sarai davon gesprochen haben, dass man in Indien Politik gleich setzt mit sehr ernst sein, leiden, sich quälen, und das was Sarai und die Künstler machen, etwas ganz anderes ist und als etwas ganz anderes gesehen wird. In Italien gibt es einen ironischen Slogan, seit den 70er Jahren, der abgeleitet ist von dem Slogan „Arbeit für alle, und alle sollen weniger arbeiten“. Dieser Slogan heißt „Tribolare meno, tribolare tutti“, was so viel heißt wie „Alle sollen sich quälen, aber alle sollen sich weniger quälen“. Damit werde vielleicht diese Haltung beschrieben. Für uns ist es aber so, dass der Kampf auch immer Spaß machen soll, und dass auch mal gelacht werden soll. Meiner Meinung nach, könnten wir hier auch mehr lachen und etwas weniger verbissen diskutieren. Mit Ala Plástica verbindet uns, dass wir auch Teil sind einer Gemeinschaft, einer communitá, und von innen aus agieren, und nicht von außen, und im Interesse dieser Gemeinschaft. Christoph hat bereits erwähnt, was uns mit Park Fiction verbindet. Der Ausgangspunkt, das Grundproblem ist sehr ähnlich gelagert in Mailand. Bei uns sind es zwei Grünflächen und eine alte Siemens Fabrik, ziemlich nah am Zentrum, die zerstört werden sollen, und der Bauspekulation geopfert werden. Was uns aber auch verbindet mit Park Fiction, ist eine ideologisch begründete, dogmatische Vorliebe für Palmen, wie wir gesehen haben. Der Unterschied ist, dass in Hamburg die Palmen aus Metall sind und legal, und in Mailand sind sie echt und illegal gepflanzt (das werdet ihr im Film sehen). Zu unserem Vorgehen und unsere Theorie: wir sind nicht aus einem theoretischen Standpunkt oder mit theoretischen Vorgaben an dieses Problem herangegangen. Man könnte es so beschreiben: wir haben ein konkretes Problem, und suchen nach sehr konkreten Lösungen. Unsere Theorie ist hauptsächlich deduktiv, und sehr flexibel, sie entsteht während der Aktionen, und wir haben eigentlich noch keine abgeschlossenen Vorstellungen, von dem was wir tun und was läuft. D.h. wir versuchen während der Aktionen, die Theorie zu entwickeln, weil wir glauben, dass es keinen Model für uns gibt. Das könnt ihr vielleicht daraus verstehen: Ihr kennt ja sicher die italienische Situation mit der Berlusconi Regierung, die brauche ich nicht auszuführen. In Mailand haben wir genau die gleiche Stadtregierung, also auch eine Stadtregierung, die gebildet ist aus der Forza Italia Partei Berlusconis, mit den Postfaschisten von Allianza Nazionale, und den noch legalen Rechtpopulisten. Was hinzukommt, ist vielleicht eine Anekdote. In dem Stadtteil in dem wir kämpfen, ist Berlusconi geboren. Seine Tante wohnt noch da, und wir hoffen, dass seine Tante sich jetzt mit uns verbindet. Aber aus dieser schwierigen politischen Situation werdet ihr auch verstehen, dass wir das Model von Park Fiction nicht einfach imitieren konnten, abgesehen davon, dass wir es nicht könnten bis vor Documenta. Weil wir uns in einer sehr defensiven und prekären Situation befinden, wo wir dauernd nach neuen Alliierten suchen müssen und uns was einfallen lassen, auch weil die Linke total abwesend ist von diesen Stadtteilkämpfen. Das werden wir jetzt mit den Bildern ausführen. Das wäre der Ausgangspunkt.
Wie kommt das Park Fiction Kino nach Mailand?
Hier sieht ihr das Isola Viertel. Worum es geht sind diese zwei Grünflächen und diese ehemalige Siemens Fabrik.
Hier sehen wir eine dieser Parks; die Stadt nennt es „provisorisches Grün“. Provisorisch, weil das Ganze der Bauspekulation geopfert werden soll.
Diese beiden Parks sind zum Teil das Ergebnis von Kämpfen der Bevölkerung und Stadtteilkomitees, bereits seit den 70er Jahren. Diese „Compagnia del Parco Isola“ sind Leute, die bereits seit 20 Jahren für diesen Park gekämpft hatten. Bei Isola hatten wir nie ein Park, und diese Grünflächen sind durch den Abriss von Industriegebäuden entstanden.
Die Parks werden jetzt sehr viel genutzt von Familien, und auch Einwanderer aus Marokko, Südamerika und Philippinen, die Sonntags dort Sport treiben, weil es der einzige Ort ist, den sie im Zentrum haben, wo sie so was tun können. Die beiden Parks sind wirklich zu einer Piazza für das Viertel geworden, und sind sehr wichtig.
Hier sehen wir in einer Ecke der Grünfläche eine ältere Dame, die diese Installation gemacht hat. Sie hat auch den Schlüssel des Parks und hat diese Häuser gebaut für die wilden Katzen, die dort leben, und sie füttert sie jeden Morgen, genauso wie die Tauben, deswegen seht ihr die Tauben um sie herum.
Hier ist der Innenhof dieser Siemensfabrik, die „Stecca degli artigiani“. Wenn ich in Zukunft „Stecca“ sage, das ist diese alte Fabrik, die jetzt auch ein sehr aktives Innenleben hat.
In dieser Fabrik sind etwa ein Dutzend Handwerker und Altwarenhändler, die da drin ihre Ateliers und ihre Lager haben, und die seit über 20 Jahren dort arbeiten. Außerdem gibt es diesen Verein „Freizeit für Behinderte“, für den die Permanenz im Mailand Stadtzentrum sehr wichtig ist. Die Stadt hat ein Bauernhof am Rande von Mailand geschenkt, aber natürlich für die Behinderten bedeutet das mehr als eine Stunde Reise und sie wollen natürlich im Zentrum bleiben.
Das ist ein anderer Verein, der in die Stecca arbeitet, der aber von Anfang an seit 3-4 Jahren diese Räume besetzt hat. „Apolidia“ arbeitet mit Einwanderern, organisiert Sprachkurse für Araber, Chinesen und andere Einwanderer, und hat über 200 Studenten, die an jedem Abend in der Woche Sprachkurse und verschieden Aktivitäten geben.
Jetzt kommen wir zu der anderen Seite. Wir haben gestern die Hafencity gesehen, und in Mailand haben wir was ganz Ähnliches. Der Unterschied ist, das wir nicht wie Park Fiction am anderen Ende sind, sondern wir sind mittendrin, und das ist natürlich ein größeres Problem. Die Leute, die hier sind, sind Vertreter der Messe Mailand, der Architekt Pierluigi Nicol, der den Masterplan gezeichnet hat, Tancredi, der Berater für Urbanistik der Stadt Mailand. Sie stellen gerade das Projekt vor, das uns betrifft, und das scheint so was wie SARS zu sein, eine ansteckende Krankheit, die sich in sämtlichen Großstädten Europas verbreitet. Alle möchten ein großes, riesiges Projekt machen. Alle möchten die Eigenheit der Stadt in diesem Projekt darstellen, in Hamburg ist es, sagen wir mal, der Hafencharakter. Was kann das in Mailand sein? Zweimal überlegen, das kann nur Mode und Design sein, also haben wir keine Hafencity, sondern eine „Mode und Design City“, La Cità della Moda e del Design als Aufhängeschild, und genauso wie hier funktioniert, aber als Aufhängeschild erlaubt, Bauspekulation zu betreiben.
Ihr seht, alles ähnelt sich. Das hier ist das Modell des Stadtteils in Mailand. Hier sind die beiden Türme, die ihr euch merken könnt als Anhaltspunkt. Diese postmodernen Türme des Garibaldi Bahnhofs, hier ist die Veränderung mit diesen großen Campus, (etwas wie die Defense in Paris soll das werden), der ein großes Teil der Isola zerstören soll.
Ihr versteht ja ein bisschen wo das liegt: Zentrum Mailands. Hier ist der Ring und dieser Autobahnzubringer reicht heute bis hier, was angefügt werden soll ist dieses „Y“, also eine vierspurige Schnellstraße, die mitten durch das Viertel führen soll und das Ganze in zwei schneidet. Wir haben also zwei Probleme: das eine ist diese Schnellstraße, das andere ist die Bebauung der Parks.
Hier ein Bild von oben.
Das ist der Ort, wo heute die Stecca und die Gärten sind. Da ist vorgesehen, dass private Wohnungen und Büros gebaut werden.
Die Isola befindet sich hier. Das ist der Garibaldi Bahnhof, einer der großen Bahnhöfe in Mailand. Das urbanistische Projekt heißt eigentlich „Garibaldi Repubblica“, weil es sich vom Garibaldi Bahnhof bis zur Piazza de la Repubblica erstreckt, also praktisch bis zum anderen Bahnhof in Mailand, den Hauptbahnhof.
Ich habe euch jetzt gezeigt, was das urbanistische Projekt der Stadt ist. Ich zeige euch jetzt ein Gegenprojekt, den ich versuchsweise vor drei Jahren gemacht habe.
Das wäre so. Wir haben es der Opposition im Stadtrat vorgeführt, aber sogar die Opposition hat gesagt: „Damit können wir nicht einverstanden sein.“
Aber wir sind ein bisschen auf dem Weg dazu, wie ihr sehn könnt.
Wie Christoph bereits sagte, die Situation ist sehr komplex und es gibt sehr viele Gruppen, die da arbeiten. Als Künstler haben wir begonnen, mit Cantieri Isola zu arbeiten. Hier ist die Jugendgruppe von Cantieri Isola. Cantieri Isola bezeichnet sich selbst als Stadtteillaboratorium, also nicht als Bürgerinitiative. Es ist ein Zusammenschluss von jungen Architekten, die hauptsächlich in der Forschung arbeiten und Sozialarbeiter wie Christiano und Niccola, die mit Jugendlichen arbeiten. Es gibt die Umweltschutzorganisation „Legambiente“. Es ist eigentlich eine Gruppe, die versucht, hauptsächlich Information für das Viertel über dieses Projekt der Stadt zu machen.
Das ist z.B. ein Plakat von Cantieri Isola, wo das ganze Projekt erklärt wird und über das ganze Viertel verteilt wird, um die Leute darüber zu informieren, was die Stadt vorhat. Die Informationspolitik der Stadt ist in diesem Fall gegenüber dem Viertel total abwesend, man sagt überhaupt nicht, was passiert.
Mit Cantieri Isola haben wir angefangen, praktisch parallel zu den Aktivitäten con Cantieri immer ein zeitgenössisches Kunstprogramm zu entwickeln. Auch das erste Bild, das ihr gesehen habt, entstand immer in Zusammenhang mit Initiativen von Cantieri Isola.
Das sind andere Initiativen gewesen. Es gab die Vorstellung der Website von Cantieri Isola, es gab Stadtteilevents, wo wir dann immer parallel dazu, und am gleichen Tag, zeitgenössische Kunst präsentiert haben, die sich mit Stadtproblemen beschäftigt.
Das ist eine andere Ankündigung dieser Events.
Ich möchte jetzt was zu den Prinzipien, mit denen wir gearbeitet haben, sagen. Ich habe es in fünf Punkten zusammengefasst, wie die Kunst, die am Anfang „Isola Art Project“ hieß, sich entwickelt hat.
1. No island hopping. “Island hopping” ist dieser Akt von Ferien, den ihr vielleicht kennt, den man in Griechenland hat, wo man ein Tag in eine Insel ist, und dann den nächsten in einer anderen, und so weiter. D.h. ein Konsum von Inseln, eine schnell nach der anderen, wo man überall ein bisschen mitbekommt. Was wir versucht haben, ist uns auf eine Insel, das Stadtteil Isola, zu beschränken, und als Künstler dort dauerhaft zu arbeiten. In dieser Hinsicht ist es ganz ähnlich wie Park Fiction.
2. No art ghetto. Die Kunst ist nie abgeschnitten vom Rest des Viertels oder der Initiativen, d.h. wir haben nie ein eigenständiges Kunstevent oder eine eigenständige Kunstinitiative genommen, Ausstellungen oder irgendwas in dem Sinne, sondern es war immer im Zusammenhang mit einem Stadtviertelfest oder eine Informationskampagne.
3. No monologues. Wir haben immer versucht, wenn wir Kunst gemacht haben, auch die Möglichkeit zu geben, darüber zu diskutieren. Hier ist eine dieser Diskussionen in der Stecca. Vorne laufen die Bar Clips von Thomas Hirschhorn, und hier ein Video von Marjetica Potræ, die für die Obdachlosen in Ljubljana Häuser gebaut hat (Manifesta 3). Dahinter läuft die Diskussion über das Kunstprogramm.
4. No show. Wir haben nie eine Ausstellung gemacht, im Sinne von einer Ausstellung, die sogar eine oder zwei Wochen zu sehen gewesen wären; es gab nur Events. Bei diesen Events wurden entweder Werke geschaffen, die dauerhaft bleiben und permanent zu besichtigen sind, oder es waren ein-Tag-Events, die an die Stadtteilevents gebunden waren.
5. No budget. Wir haben überhaupt kein Geld und bekommen keine Unterstützung weder von Kunstinstitutionen, noch von sonstigen Institutionen. In Italien ist es sowieso schwieriger. Es war aber auch eine bewusste Wahl, weil sie uns totale Unabhängigkeit und Selbstbestimmung erlaubt. Das heißt aber nicht, das es immer so bleiben wird, denn wir brauchen jetzt auch Geld, um wirksam zu sein. Das ist jetzt die 3 Jahre Aufbauphase, die ich jetzt beschreibe.

Hier sehen wir den Anfang des Kunstprogramms in Isola. Das ist eine Arbeit von mir, „Untitled“. Eine hundert Meter lange Holzpalisade, weiß gestrichen, die eigentlich als symbolische Barriere gegen diese Zubringerstraße funktioniert, denn wenn diese Zubringerstraße tatsächlich gebaut wird, muss die Stadt das Kunstwerk abreißen.
Zu der Palisade von hundert Metern gehören drei Module, die wie Bänke sind, die Leute benutzen. Das erstaunliche ist, dass es nach 3 Jahren noch immer kein anderes Graffiti dort gibt. Es gibt nur dieses große monochrome Graffiti, das wir mit 30 Leuten realisiert haben.
Es hat sich herausgestellt, dass wir wirklich unter Zeitdruck sind, und wenn wir Pech haben, wird sich die Situation bereits im Herbst oder Winter zuspitzen. Wir riskieren, aus der Fabrik rauszufliegen, dass die Arbeiten beginnen. Deswegen haben wir uns überlegt, dass wir Einfluss auf die rechte Stadtregierung nehmen müssen. Wir haben gemerkt, dass wir wichtigere Alliierte brauchen. In Mailand sind es verschiedene Leute, die an die Mode gebunden sind, die man als aufgeklärte Bourgeoisie bezeichnen könnte, z.B. Prada. Prada ist – natürlich aus eigenen Interessen, aus Image Gründen – an sozialen Phänomenen interessiert. Prada hat z.B. ein Symposium über das Gefängniswesen organisiert. Prada hat auch ein Werk von Laurie Anderson im Gefängnis von Mailand mit einem Gefangenen realisiert; es wurde praktisch eine gleichzeitige Projektion von der Gefängniszelle in dem Kunstraum von Prada übertragen. Man kann natürlich sagen: „Mit diesen Leuten will ich nichts zu tun haben.“ Aber wir sind nicht in einer Situation, in der wir „ideologischen Tourismus“ betreiben, sondern wir brauchen konkrete politische Resultate. In dieser Hinsicht brauchen wir Alliierte, die unser Projekt unterstützen und uns helfen, die Projekte der Stadt zu stoppen. Ich glaube, das ist ganz anders als das, was alle bis jetzt hier vorgeschlagen haben, denn wir sind wirklich in einer Notlage, in der wir nicht viel zur Wahl haben.
Wir haben ein zusätzlicher Verein mit 30 Künstlern und Kunstkritikern gegründet, die „Isola dell’Arte“ heißt, also Insel der Kunst. Da sind sämtliche wichtige junge Künstlern aus Mailand (und Italiens in der Zwischenzeit) daran beteiligt. Dieser Verein fordert jetzt, dass der obere Teil der Fabrik (das sind 1500 Meter) als Zentrum für zeitgenössische Kunst benutzt werden soll. Dafür haben wir z.B. die Unterstützung von Prada und anderen, die diesen Aufruf unterschrieben haben. Bei diesen Punkt geht es nicht darum, jetzt politische Kunst zu machen, sondern es geht darum, die etablierte Kunstwelt im Interesse des Stadtteils als politisches Instrument zu benutzen, d.h. die Fabrik und die beiden Parks zu retten.
Hier ist das erste internationale Symposium, das wir vor ein paar Monaten im 2. Stockwerk der Fabrik organisiert haben.
Das ist das letzte Event, vor zwei Wochen (immer oben in der Fabrik).
Das ist ein kollektives Multiple der Künstler zur Finanzierung der Aktivitäten der Isola dell’Arte. Da wir Anzeigen in Zeitschriften aufgeben müssen und Geld brauchen, haben die Künstler ein gemeinsames Werk in einer Ausgabe von 9 produziert.
Die Taktik ist die, dass wir nicht zu der Stadt sagen: „Wir möchten, dass ihr uns hier ein Kunstzentrum baut“, sondern wir sagen: „Das ist bereits unser Kunstzentrum, und wir als Künstlern benutzen es schon als Museum oder Kunstraum“. Hier ist ein solches Werk; wir besetzen die Fabrik und die Parks mit Kunstwerken. Diese Tür hier ist aus Gummi; es ist ein Werk des Künstlers Loris Checchini. Es ist eine Klotür in der Fabrik, und Loris hat die alte, kaputte Tür einfach durch eine eigene Skulptur ersetzt.
Einerseits besetzen wir die Fabrik mit Kunstwerken, die permanent bleiben, andererseits mit Events. Hier ist ein Event im oberstem Stockwerk, vor zwei Wochen, mit einer Musikperformance.
Fresken: das sind die Illustrationen des ersten Science-Fiction Films vom Méliès, die Gabriele die Mateo an die Wände der Fabrik zeichnet.
Diese Häuser sind ein Werk con Liliana Moro, die in den Park sind. Sie sind aus Beton, für die Kinder im Park. Das sind alles Initiativen, die mit den Kunstwerken den Park und die Fabrik besetzen um zu sagen, dass sie nicht zerstört werden können.
Eine andere Arbeit von Stefano Boccalini, es ist ein kollektiver Garten des Viertels. Jeder bringt seine Pflanze. Das Ganze heißt „Wild Island“. All diese Dinge werden noch mal im Film gezeigt werden.
Jetzt komme ich zu OUT. Ich habe die Office for Urban Transformation im November mit anderen Künstlern zusammen gegründet, aber nicht nur mit Künstlern, weil die bestehenden Strukturen (Cantieri Isola, Isola dell’Arte) nicht ausreichen, um verschiedene Dinge umzusetzen, die aber notwendig für diesen Kampf waren. OUT ist also ein weiteres Instrument in diesem Kampf des Viertels.
OUT wird im Film sehr wenig beschrieben. OUT ist nicht nur an Isola gebunden. OUT hat auch bereits in anderen Orten Italiens gearbeitet. Hier sind wir in der Nähe von Pistoia. Das war ein Workshop von einer Woche mit jungen Künstlern, eine Theater Gruppe und Architekten.
Hier sehen wir ein Architekt, der am Workshop teilgenommen hat, und der eine ganz präzise Studie über die Bewegungen auf dem Stadtplatz angefertigt hat, weil der Bürgermeister uns gesagt hat, das Problem ist dieser Platz, der nicht mehr funktioniert, wo die Leute sich nicht mehr treffen. Also haben wir mit dem Workshop versucht, herauszufinden, warum, und Vorschläge zu machen, wie man das verändern kann. An einem Samstag haben wir den Platz verändert. Dieser Architekt ist auch Musiker. Nachdem er die Bewegungen auf dem Platz studiert hat, hat er dann auch seine eigene Bewegungen auf diesen Platz gemacht. Hier ist z.B. dauernd Verkehr, und er hat diese Linie musikalisch durchbrochen.
Hier sehen wir einen anderen Architekten bei der Arbeit. Bei OUT arbeiten die Architekten, Künstler und Photographen anders als gewohnt. Er ist ein mexikanischer Architekt, Lorenzo Rocha-Cito, der hier mit Mariette zusammen in der Stecca versucht zu testen, wie die Farben von Barragán im Inneren funktionieren.
OUT macht auch Vorträge über Urbanismus und Stadtprobleme. Wir haben über Mexiko City, Sao Paulo, und andere Städte gesprochen.
OUT ist auch ein Büro, in den Versammlungen stattfinden können. Marco hier ist con Cantieri Isola; er ist von der Architektengruppe „A12“, die mitarbeitet.
Hier sehen wir einen albanischen Künstler, Adrian Paci, der alle Leute ins OUT Büro eingeladen hat, die auch Paci heißen und in Mailand leben. „Paci“ ist sowohl ein italienischer als auch ein albanischer Familienname, und er hat alle gebeten, sich zu treffen und ihm eine Zeichnung zu schenken.
Das ist eine andere Initiative von OUT. In OUT arbeitet ein Modephotograph, der Alessandro di Giampietro heißt. Er wurde von der Modewelt in Mailand zensiert; man hatte ihn eine Ausstellung versprochen. Diese Ausstellung konnte nicht stattfinden, weil er zwei Tabus der Mode verletzt hat, wie ihr sehen könnt. Erstes Tabu: er hat nicht mit Models gearbeitet. Zweites Tabu: die Leute hatten keine Kleider. Die Modewelt fand das vulgär. Wir haben dann seine Arbeit gezeigt.
Das hier ist eine andere Arbeit, die ich mit Sandro gemacht habe. Das Problem war, die Leute in der Stecca zusammenzubringen, weil alle für sich arbeiteten. Also haben wir begonnen, Porträts von allen zu machen, die in und um die Stecca herum arbeiten. Wir haben jetzt etwa 100 Portraits und sind immer noch nicht fertig damit.
Wir haben dann auch einige davon in der Stecca gezeigt. Die Leute konnten dann auch die anderen über ihr Bild kennen lernen.
Es gibt einige Probleme, die nicht gelöst werden. All diese Gruppen, die gegen das Projekt der Stadt sind, haben Probleme, miteinander zu sprechen und eine gemeinsame Aktion zu machen. Es war möglich, über OUT die erste Koordinierung all dieser Gruppen zu organisieren, weil es eine neutrale Struktur war, wo sich noch nicht alle mit allen gestritten hatten. Deshalb ist es uns jetzt gelungen, einen gemeinsamen Aufruf zu starten, erst mal ein offener Brief an die Gemeinde, wo sogar die Händlervereinigung und die Pfarrei dazu kommen werden.
Das ist jetzt die letzte Initiative von OUT. Wir haben gemerkt, dass sich viele Leute nicht vorstellen konnten, was passiert. Das Beispiel von Park Fiction „Welche Wünsche habt ihr?“ konnten wir nicht wiederholen, einfach aus dem Grund, dass wir sehr wenig Zeit haben und ein zusammenfassendes Bild der Wünsche produzieren mussten. Also haben wir eine Verkürzung gemacht, und haben alles, was bereits gesagt worden war, gezeichnet und diese Zeichnungen den Leuten gegeben, damit sie diese korrigieren. Aus diesen Korrekturen, Verbesserungsvorschlägen und Zusätzen, haben wir eine neue Synthese gemacht, und das Ganze geht noch weiter, d.h. dieser Prozess ist nicht abgeschlossen, aber es hat bereits genützt, um andere Leute mit einzubeziehen, die sich jetzt endlich vorstellen können, was man als Gegenvorschlag bringen kann. Ich glaube, das wäre auch was für die Hamburger Hafencity. Es reicht nicht zu sagen: „Wir wollen das nicht, wo wie es ist“, sondern irgendwie braucht man ein Ansatz zu einem Alternativvorschlag. Zumindest haben wir das Gefühl in Mailand, das es so ist. Wir haben 3 Jahre gebraucht, um uns reif zu fühlen, das zu formulieren.
Das ist die aktuelle Idealvorstellung der Integration aller Wünsche.
Mariette wird jetzt noch einiges zum Film sagen.
Mariette: Der Film wurde produziert, um die Informationen von dem Kampf des Isola Stadtteils zu verbreiten. Er dauert 59 Minuten. Er besteht aus ca. 20 Clips, die zwischen 1-3 Minuten dauern, und damit ist eine Struktur offen. Das war mir sehr wichtig, denn wenn in der Zukunft was Wichtiges passiert, oder wenn neue Aspekte behandelt werden müssen, dann wird er überarbeitet und es wird eine neue Version entstehen. Es ist auch offen, was die Produktion angeht. An dieser Version waren sieben Mitarbeiter dran beteiligt, zwei Filmemacher, ein Modephotograph, Alessandro, ein Künstler, ein Architekt und zwei Musiker. Sie haben entweder material für Clips geliefert, oder Clips selber realisiert, die ich dann noch mit einem Titel versehen und eingefügt habe. Bei der nächsten Version werden sicher – so hoffe ich – noch andere Mitarbeiter hinzukommen, es werden Clips weggelassen, neue werden hinzukommen. Der Film behandelt drei Hauptaspekte. Erstens, die Beschreibung des Stadtteils Isola, die Atmosphäre des Stadtteils. Zweitens, die Bedrohung des Urbanismus Projekts „Garibaldi Repubblica“ für den Stadtteil, und drittens die Reaktion der Gruppen und Künstler auf diese Bedrohung. Der Film ist auf italienisch mit französischen Untertiteln, weil er zur Zeit in Genf im MAMCO gezeigt wird, und danach in Belgien in Gent gezeigt werden soll. Die Sprache ist aber ein nebensächliches Problem, da der Film versucht, das was er zu sagen hat, mit Bildern zu zeigen. Ich werde bei verschiedenen Clips am Anfang schnell ein paar Wörter sagen, aber ich glaube durch die Dias versteht man, worum es geht. Zum Titel: der Titel des Filmes ist „Onda Nomala“. Das ist ein Begriff im Italienischen für eine außergewöhnlich hohe Welle.

(Mariettes Kommentar während des Filmes)
Alle Vereine der Stecca haben sich darauf geeinigt, dass aus den Räumen ein Zentrum für zeitgenössische Kunst werden soll. Am 13. April fand hier ein internationaler Symposium statt, welche Räume die Kunst von heute braucht.

Diskussion

– Ich möchte mich zuerst mal im Namen aller bedanken für die Vorstellung eures Projektes, die wirklich in jeder Weise großen Spaß gemacht hat, und mir zumindest das alte situationistische Versprechen in Erinnerung gerufen hat, dass man nicht traurig sein muss, um die Revolte zu starten. Gleichzeitig fällt natürlich auf, dass er jeden starken oder auch emphatischen Bezug zu alten linken Projekten bewusst nicht hier gemacht hat, obwohl er sich gleichzeitig wenn man an Italien denkt, natürlich auch aufdrängt; bei der Vorstellung von Besetzung denkt man an die „Autonomia Operaia“ der 70er Jahre, an wilde Streiks und so weiter. Damit scheint es überhaupt nichts zu tun zu haben. Das ist eine Linie, die ich gerne aufgreifen möchte, zumal ja das, was ihr hier vorgestellt habt, viel mit dem zu tun zu haben scheint, was im Kontext der Autonomia Operaia oder heute auch im Zuge von Empire Diskussionen (ich denke an Toni Negri), dass eine veränderte Politik nicht mehr an einem starken Begriff von Klasse oder Ethnizität oder den großen Blöcken anfängt, sondern an einer veränderten Subjektivität, und ich dachte in dem Zusammenhang an Projekte wie „Radio Alice“ uns so weiter. Was ich an dieser Stelle machen möchte, ist die Linien aufzuzeigen, die mir aufgefallen sind. Das wäre das eine: warum verzichtet ihr auf einen Bezug auf die Linke oder auf die linke Geschichte, beziehungsweise wie sieht es auch in der Gegenwart aus. Ich denke an Genua, die Antiglobalisierungsbewegung, gibt es da ein Austauschverhältnis zwischen solchen Stadtteilprojekten und Konzepten, die sich ja durchaus damit in Beziehung setzen lassen. Die zweite Linie ist natürlich die große Kunst Frage. Was ich heute festgestellt habe, das vielleicht anders in der Gewichtung als gestern war, ist dass die Besetzung eines Kunstbegriffs nicht so stark stattfindet im Sinne von parallelen konstituierenden Praktiken, sondern sehr stark und auf eine charmante Weise gezeigt wurde, wie mit Kunst besetzt wird, mit Kunst in der Weise besetzt wird, um überhaupt so etwas wie einen öffentlichen Raum zu erzeugen. Das erste war die Politiklinie, das zweite die Kunstlinie, das dritte – Bert, du hattest (und da wird es natürlich immer interessant, wenn die Widersprüche auftauchen) auf die strategische Allianz mit Prada hingewiesen, was mir sehr gut gefallen hat, denn die Bilder, die zum Teil in den Clips zu sehen waren, die ja sehr stark von den Glück der Gemeinschaft erzählen, wie es sich Toni Negri und Michael Hardt auch ganz stark vorstellen, für so einem Konzept des „Kommunismus Now“, das man den Eindruck haben konnte, von solchen Bildern können Prada, Benetton oder Nike nur träumen.
– Bert: Es ist sehr viel, ich versuche kurz zu antworten. Zur Frage, was die Politik betrifft, ist es so, dass wir jetzt einige Punkte ausklammern mussten, weil es sonst zu kompliziert zu erzählen wird. Aber in der Stecca ist ein Sitz von der „Rifondazione Comunista, zum Beispiel. Bei der ersten Aktion mit der Isola auf dem Dach ist die Sabina dabei. Die Sabine ist die Verantwortliche der Rifondazione Comunista. Rifondazione Comunista hat auch an einigen Koordinierungsversammlungen teilgenommen, und unterstützt uns auch wie die Isola Gruppe. Um ein Beispiel zu geben: de Strom für das Kunstsymposium haben wir von Rifondazione Comunista. Es gibt also keine strenge Trennung da, nur die Wahl der verschiedenen Gruppen dort war eben auch, weil wir uns in einer defensiven, nicht in einer offensiven Phase von Bewegungen befinden, um keine banalen Angriffspunkte dem Gegner zu geben. Die Rifondazione Comunista macht zum Beispiel auch wenn es ein Event gibt ihre Kampagnen, sie sind nicht versteckt, sie sind da, aber sie drängen sich nicht auf. Sie unterstützen das, aber wollen es nicht instrumentalisieren. Es gibt einen großen Politikverdruss, was die Parteien betrifft von Seiten der Leute der Bewegungen und der Gruppen, so dass es jetzt ein Einverständnis gab, dass die Rifondazione Comunista jetzt als etablierte Partei da ist, aber nicht groß auftaucht. Umgekehrt ist es auch so, dass Rifondazione Comunista als Partei nicht richtig dran interessiert ist. Es ist so, dass wir immer vorschlagen: “ Wir kommen zu euren Versammlungen, wir erklären euren Vertretern was hier abläuft.“ Vielleicht erkläre ich jetzt zu viel, aber unser bester Kontakt im Stadtrat ist ein Unabhängiger, der auf die Liste von Rifondazione Comunista gewählt wurde, aber eigentlich einer der Leader von Leoncavallo ist. Natürlich treffen wir sie, natürlich bekommen wir Information von ihnen. Die Politik ist nicht ausgeschlossen, sondern sie tritt ein Moment zurück, um jetzt dem Gegner keine Angriffspunkte zu liefern. Was die alternativen Gruppen oder die „No Global“ Bewegung betrifft, bestehen auch Kontakte, oder Apolidia und auch Cantieri Isola nehmen Teil am Milano Social Forum. Dieser hat in der Stecca bereits getagt. Diese Kontakte bestehen alle, aber es wird nicht versucht, das in diesem Kampf im Vordergrund zu stellen. Ich wiederhole: wir glauben nicht, dass wir 9 Jahre Zeit haben, um diesen Kampf zu gewinnen. Es ist sehr dringend, wir müssen in sehr kurzer Zeit ein politisches Resultat haben, und das heißt nicht, die Unterstützung der Oppositionsparteien im Stadtrat zu haben. Die haben wir. Die Grünen, die demokratische Sinistra, die Nachfolgeorganisation der Kommunistischen Partei, die Rifondazione Comunista, alle unterstützen uns, das ist nicht unser Problem. Das ist Problem ist, dass es jetzt eine Timetable da ist, die in relative kurzer Zeit diesen öffentlichen Raum der zwei Parks und der Fabrik an Private abgibt. Wenn das passiert, dann wird es für uns viel schwieriger da zu kämpfen. Im Augenblick ist alles Stadteigentum. Also brauchen wir zwei Dinge: eine größtmögliche Unterstützung des Stadtviertels, die wir bisher noch nicht hatten, aber die wir jetzt in letzter Zeit bekommen, weil alle auf allen Ebenen arbeiten, und das andere sind Alliierte, die aus der Kunst- und Kulturszene, in Mailand heißt das auch die Mode- und Designszene, sie zählen als Namen, weil wir das Medienproblem auch haben. Um in den Medien zu sein, die italienische Situation ist in der Hinsicht gar nicht einfach, es gibt eine sehr starke Selbstzensur in den Zeitungen und Zeitschriften. Es gab jetzt vor ein paar Wochen diesen Streik bei der „Corriere de la Sera“, die eine der beiden großen bürgerlichen Zeitungen in Italien ist, neben der „Repubblica“, die sowieso eine rechte Linie hat, aber manchmal geht es mit dieser rechten Linie schief, weil die Journalisten ernsthafte Journalisten sind, und z.B. in Genua Prügel auch mitbekommen haben und so hat der Sprachrohr der Mailänder Bourgeoisie praktisch die Polizeiaktionen total denunziert. Das hat natürlich Berlusconi nicht gepasst, und deswegen gibt es jetzt Versuche, die „Corriere de la Sera“ unter Kontrolle zu bekommen. Das sind alle unsere Schwierigkeiten, um überhaupt in die Presse zu kommen, wo wir alle diese Allianzen brauchen. Das ist relativ komplex und nicht einfach zu erklären, aber ich hoffe, dass ich mindestens ansatzweise darauf geantwortet habe. Was die Kunst betrifft, ist unsere Haltung ein bisschen ähnlich, wie ich am Anfang gesagt habe, wir versuchen, nicht mit Klischees an die Sache heranzugehen, sondern eher pragmatisch und zu erkennen, zu welchen Zweck es dienen kann. Es gibt auch in der Kunst verschiedene Ebenen. Es gibt die Linie von OUT, die (du hast vom Situationismus gesprochen) sich natürlich in diese Tradition bewegt und weiter arbeiten wird. Hätten wir aber nur das gemacht oder als Isola Projekt [weiter gehandelt], hätten wir ein nettes politisch korrektes pures Konzept, und eine Arbeit gemacht, hätten aber das Problem gehabt, dass wir im Herbst wahrscheinlich ausgeschaltet werden. Also reicht diese Ebene nicht aus. Diese Ebene wird weiter verfolgt, und OUT produziert Aktionen wie eh und je, und wird jetzt auf der Biennale in Tirana arbeiten. Aber es ging darum, nicht nur diese Ebene einer künstlerischen Politik zu verfolgen, sondern auch das etablierte Kunstsystem, und das heißt in Mailand nicht das gleiche wie in Deutschland oder Frankreich. Italien hat ein unterentwickeltes öffentliches Kunstsystem. Es gibt in Mailand kein Museum für zeitgenössische Kunst. Es gab ein Projekt, das jetzt wieder gestoppt wurde, der Dirktor wird bereits bezahlt, das ist Jean-Hubert Martin, der auch in Düsseldorf Direktor ist, aber das Museum wird nicht eröffnet. Deshalb hat man ihm jetzt der Pavillon für zeitgenössische Kunst als Trostpreis gegeben, aber das ist ein kleiner Kunstraum. Es gibt keine Kunsthalle, es gibt keinen Kunstverein. In Mailand ist die Situation der Kunst so, dass es entweder den privaten Sektor gibt, d.h. die Galerien und dann Kunsträume wie dem von Prada, der einem internationalen Standard entspricht und macht auch ein minimal interessantes Programm, natürlich ausgewählt von Germano Cellant, das ist die Mainstream Kunst. Aber unser Problem ist es nicht, uns davon abzugrenzen, sondern das zu benutzen. Das ist eine andere Haltung und eine andere Ebene. Wir versuchen die Unzufriedenheit der gesamten Mailänder Kunstszene, dass es keine Räume gibt für zeitgenössische Kunst in Mailand, zu benutzen. Die Unzufriedenheit der Sammler, die Unzufriedenheit der Galerien zu benutzen, um unser Projekt zu unterstützen, d.h. um die Parks und die Stecca zu verteidigen. Das funktioniert relativ gut, denn ein paar Wochen bevor wir dieses erste Event machten, bekam ich ein Anruf der Vizepräsidentin des Verbands sämtlicher italienischer Galerien für zeitgenössische Kunst, Raffaela Cortese, eine Mailänder Galeristin, die fragte: „Dürfen wir euer Projekt in der Stecca unterstützen?“ Wir haben natürlich gesagt: „Ja, sicher.“ Und wir haben sie auch eingeladen. Die Stadt sagt natürlich: „Wir haben dieses Città della Moda Projekt und wir wollen das durchziehen, auch wenn es nur ein Vorwand ist“, und wir müssen dagegen argumentieren. Als wir diese Idee entwickelten, da ein Kunstraum zu machen, haben erstaunlicherweise die Vereine der Behinderten, die Vereine der Immigranten, das Stadtkomitee, alle haben zugesagt und dass sie die Idee unterstützen. Aber wir wollen nicht die ganze Fabrik für die Kunst, sondern nur den oberen Teil, und wir wollen die ganze Vielfalt, die jetzt mit den Handwerkern, den sozialen Vereinigungen besteht, aufrechterhalten. Es wird ein Kunstraum neuen Typs werden, oder ist einer, weil wir davon ausgehen, dass wir nicht warten, sondern er bereits da ist. Maurizio Catellan hat es so formuliert: „Das hier ist das Museum der Zukunft.“ Es ist nicht mehr der White Cube, sondern der „Dirty Cube“ ist unser Model. Was die Strategie ist, habe ich schon teilweise angesprochen, mit Prada und diesen anderen Leuten. Es ist nicht so, dass wir alles darauf setzen, sondern dass wir es brauchen. Wir werden auch mit Leuten wie Oliviero Toscani [arbeiten] und wir haben Kontakt jetzt mit Carla Sozzani, sie ist von Vogue Italien. Alle diese Leute sind unzufrieden mit der rechten Stadtpolitik. Wir brauchen soviel wie möglich Alliierte, die unser Projekt unterstützen. Wir geben in nichts nach. Wir werden die Kontrolle, über alle was wir machen behalten, weil wir ja die Besetzer sind. Wenn gesagt wird, „Prada kann nur davon träumen“, stimmt das. Als Miuccia Prada zu dem ersten Kunstevent, sagte sie: „Das ist toll hier.“ Warum? Sie kann das nie machen. Sie hat natürlich das Geld, und kann was ganz anderes machen, aber das was wir fertig bringen durch das Einbeziehen des ganzen Viertels und dieser ganzen Gruppen, kann Prada nicht. Und sie erkennt das an. Insofern, glaube ich, das wir eine Chance haben. Jedenfalls haben wir alles versucht, um die Kräfteverhältnisse, die für uns sehr negativ sind, ein bisschen zu verändern.
– Christoph: Ich möchte auf ein Wort rumreiten. Wenn du „benutzen“ sagst, ist es ganz genau so gemeint? Du willst die Kunstszene benutzen in einem instrumentellen Sinne, ein bisschen spielt es eine Rolle und taktisch verstehe ich das auch, aber inhaltlich finde ich es nicht ganz unschwierig.
– Bert: Ich habe gesagt, wir wollen die etablierte Kunstszene benutzen. Ich habe ja gesagt, es gibt mehrere Niveaus. Ich glaube, es gibt auch mehrere Verhaltensweisen in diesem Prozess, es ist relativ komplex. Mit den Künstlern ist es relativ einfach gewesen, und es ist eine sehr angenehme Überraschung gewesen, dass wir nach diesen 2-3 Jahren Vorbereitungsarbeit plötzlich diese Begeisterung der anderen Künstler, die nie auf diese Weise gearbeitet haben, wie Gracia Todevi oder Stefano Arienti, oder auch andere wie Loris Checchini, die typische Galerienkünstler sind, dass sie kamen, sich das angesehen haben und gesagt haben: „Wir machen mit“, und auch die Arbeiten finanziert haben. Massimo Bartolini, ein anderer Künstler, hat eine luxuriöse Stufe in der Stecca eingebaut. Es ist eine ältere Arbeit von ihm aus rosa Marmor (aus Portugal). Massimo hat das Material bezahlt, wir haben es mit ihm eingebaut, und das sind für mich Solidaritätsbekundungen, die bedeuten, dass sich in Italien was ändert. Das erste Zeichen in dieser Richtung war als Nani Moretti beschlossen hat: „Jetzt reicht es“ mit dem Warten auf die linke Politiker, jetzt organisieren wir selbst was. Wenn es stimmt, was André Breton sagte, dass die Kunst der Seismograph der Gesellschaft ist, dann gibt es Hoffnung.
– Ich bin neu hier, habe den Vorteil, dass ich den gestrigen Konflikt nicht mitbekommen habe. Ich denke, nicht nur Seismograph, sondern auch der Vorreiter von Entwicklungen und wer wen benutzt, weißt man am Ende erst vielleicht nach ein paar Jahren. Für mich ist die Frage, wie weit ihr nicht auch Vorreiter für Gentrification Prozesse sein werdet, die ihr im Moment noch nicht ganz absehen könnt, sondern wo die Begeisterung dafür, mit wem ihr alles zusammenarbeitet erst mal so groß ist, dass man die Entwicklung in der Stadt noch nicht so ganz absieht, wo es dann wirklich enden wird. Das würde mich interessieren, wie weit ihr aus Erfahrung, aus anderen Städten; aus anderen Ländern zuguckt, und guckt, wie ähnliche Projekte gelaufen sind. Ich komme aus Berlin, und Berlin Mitte hat ja reichlich solche Projekterfahrungen und wir wissen, was die Vorreiter Künstler dann nachher, wo sie auch noch lange in die Vertragsbildung mit irgendwelchen Investoren zusammen geblieben sind, und dann auch die letzten waren, die dann zum Teil rausgegangen sind, aber irgendwann, die Bevölkerung ging erst, und am Schluss gingen dann auch die Künstler weg, weil es zu teuer wurde.
– Bert: Das ist eine sehr gute Frage, weil wir uns diese Frage gestellt haben, als wir vor 3 Jahren anfingen, dort zu arbeiten, weil wir diese Berliner Erfahrung kannten, und auch an anderen Orten auch. Aber man muss immer, wie Gramsci sagte, eine konkrete Analyse der konkreten Situation machen, und nicht Situationen von einer Stadt oder eine Situation auf die andere einfach übertragen. Deshalb glaube ich, dass es in Mailand nicht so ist und sein wird wie in Berlin, aus verschiedenen Gründen.

Cassette 8, side 2

Die urbane Transformationsprozesse in Mailand sind viel langsamer als sonst wo auf der Welt, und das ist eine Chance für uns. Es gibt sehr vieles, was nicht funktioniert bei der Stadtplanung. Wenn ihr Italien ein bisschen kennt, wisst ihr bestimmt, dass das ein kultureller Faktor ist, diesen Hang zum Individualismus und zur Anarchie. Ich gebe nur ein Beispiel, in wie fern man das ausnutzen kann, damit arbeiten kann (das ist vielleicht ein korrekterer Ausdruck). Um meine Arbeit mit Cantieri Isola und Legambiente zu realisieren, hat Legambiente, die größte Umweltschutzgesellschaft in Italien (Lombardei) den Antrag an die Parkverwaltung der Stadt hat gestellt. D.h. dieses Kunstwerk hatte für drei Monate eine Aufenthaltsgenehmigung in dem Park. Aber der Verantwortliche des Parks meinte, das Projekt sähe sehr gut aus und vielleicht könnte es dort bleiben, wenn es den Leuten gefällt. Von der Stadtplanung her, gibt es ganz klare Vorstellungen, was da zu passieren ist, d.h. dieser Park soll in Kürze verschwinden. Die Parkverwaltung weiß nichts davon, oder hat bis jetzt keine Mitteilung bekommen, dass sie jetzt aufhören soll, diesen Park zu betreuen. Also wenden wir uns für alles was wir machen, für eine Genehmigung, noch immer an die Parkverwaltung. Die Parkverwaltung hat dort noch vor ein paar Wochen neue Hecken gepflanzt, was total im Widerspruch steht zu dem Projekt. Das ist eine mailändische oder italienische Besonderheit. Wir haben auch mit Christoph über verschiedene Dinge geredet – verschiedene Dinge sind in Mailand möglich, die in einer deutschen Stadt nicht möglich wären, und umgekehrt. Man würde z.B. öffentliche Finanzierung für ein Kongress wie diesen dort nie bekommen. Aber andere Wege gibt es. Ich glaube, dass das Problem der Gentrification…
Mariette: Ich wollte auch sagen, wir sind uns dieser Gefahr auch bewusst und deswegen sagen wir nicht nur einfach: „Wir wollen ein Kunstzentrum“, sondern wir wollen in dieser Stecca das obere Stockwerk, wir wollen dass die Handwerker drin bleiben, dass die Behinderten drin bleiben. In dem Projekt, das der Stadtviertel mit Kindern und Erwachsenen ausarbeitet, kann jeder da seine Wünsche vorbringen; wir wollen, dass es ein multifunktioneller Raum für den Stadtteil wird. Wir sagen nicht, „Wir wollen ein Kunstzentrum“, und dann sagt die Stadt „O.K., ihr habt gewonnen“, und dann ziehen wir 3 Jahre aus, dann wird es eine Baustelle und nachher ist alles nur noch Glas und Stahl, und dann streiten wir uns, wer Direktor wird. In Cantieri Isola sind auch Architekten, Legambiente, wir wollen es selbst umbauen. Wir haben alles.
Bert: Eine andere wichtige Information ist (das ändert auch wieder die Hafencity Geschichte hier), dass die Stadt große Probleme hat, Finanzierung für ihr Projekt zu finden. Es ist sehr unwahrscheinlich, dass diese Mode-Design City je so gebaut wird, wie sie geplant ist, da muss man vorsichtig sein, was auf einem zukommt. Ich glaube nicht, dass Mailand in dieser Hinsicht nicht Berlin ähnelt (im Moment).
– Die Arbeiten, die ich von dir vor Jahren gesehen hatte, da hatte ich den Eindruck, dass du dich für Leute wie Marcel Broodthaers interessierst, also für einen Ansatz, wo es dort geht, Museumsräume zu fiktionalisieren, so was wie Möglichkeitsräume zu schaffen und solche Szenarien, die so eine Art „was wäre wenn“ Situation entwickeln. Deshalb überrascht mich jetzt dein Engagement für die Wirklichkeit. Meine Frage wäre einfach: Was interessiert dich an der Wirklichkeit, also was willst du von der Realität? Du hast oft gesagt, ihr wollt gewinnen, aber ist es das, was du von der Wirklichkeit willst? Gewinnen, oder worum geht es?
– Bert: Also, erst mal sehe ich keinen Unterschied zwischen Kunst und Wirklichkeit und Leben. Ich glaube, dass das alte Konzept (das bestimmt 100 Jahre alt ist), wo man davon redet, Kunst und Leben zu verbinden, ein Problem ist, das durch die Sprache, im Kopf entsteht. Für mich existiert dieses Problem nicht. Wenn man den Kunstbegriff genügend elastisch erweitert, dann gibt es diesen Problem nicht. Ich weiß auch nicht genau, auf welche Arbeit du anspielst, wenn du konkret was zitierst, dann kann ich konkreter darauf antworten.
– Du hattest z.B. die Arbeit in Venedig, wo du Liegestühle aufgestellt hast, oder in Luxemburg, wo zwei Vögel sich gegenseitig Monologe von Beuys und Broodthaers zugesprochen haben. Das sind Situationen, wo man daran teilnehmen kann, wo es gewisse Möglichkeiten gibt, aber man kann da nicht gewinnen. Es gibt kein mögliches Ergebnis. Es ist ein Spiel, es hat kein Ausgang, es gibt kein Gewinn, es ist einfach eine offene Situation, also ein Gedankenspiel, das sehr spekulativ ist, ein ganz anderes Register von Denken.
– Bert: Ja, das kann man so sehen. Du hast das Wort „offene Situation“ benutzt, damit bin ich ganz einverstanden, denn ich denke nicht, dass ich meine Kunstwerke voll verstehe. Ich glaube, dass kein Künstler sämtliche Dimensionen von dem versteht, was er macht, weil jeder das Recht hat, Dinge darin auch zu sehen, die bestimmt drin sind und die der Künstler nicht geplant hat, weil die Kommunikation über die Kunst nicht linear und einfach ist, sondern komplex. Wenn wir konkret über Venedig sprechen – für Leute, die die Arbeit nicht kennen: ich war 1995 als Künstler eingeladen, das Land aus dem ich stamme, Luxemburg, auf der Biennale zu vertreten. Luxemburg hatte damals kein Pavillon, und ich habe ein „fake“ Pavillon gebaut, „Potemkin Lock“ hieß das. Das war ein Pavillon, der zwischen den belgischen und niederländischen Pavillons sich befand, und der nur aus einer Fassade bestand und einem Durchgang, in dem ein Rap lief, den ich mit der Stimme von Marcel Duchamp zusammengemixt hatte. Dahinter gab es eine offene Gartensituation mit den Liegestühlen. Aber das Einzige, was mich an der Realität interessiert ist, dass hinter dieser „fake“ Fassade der einzige Ort war, an dem man sehen konnte, dass dahinter ein Stadtviertel Venedigs liegt, man sah die Wäsche sah, sah die Antennen, ein „Campanile“. Das ist der einzige Ort, wo eigentlich die Verbindung Kunst und Stadt sichtbar war. Zum Titel „Potemkin Lock“: „Lock“ heißt ja Schleuse, und die Idee war, von dem Niveau der Kunst auf das Niveau der Wirklichkeit umzuschalten, wie in einer Schleuse, in diesem Durchgang. Das hat so gut funktioniert, dass die Leute sich da drinnen wirklich anders benommen haben als in allen anderen Pavillons der Biennale. Sie haben sich durch die Rap Musik und die Liegestühle frei gefühlt; sie haben angefangen, auf die Liegestühle zu schreiben und nachher auf die Wände und die Palisade Graffitis zu machen, und am Ende der Biennale gab es keinen Platz mehr, in diesem Innenhof, der nicht vollgekritzelt war mit Kommentaren. Ich habe also aus einem Kunstraum einen öffentlichen Raum geschaffen, und ich sehe das nicht als Widerspruch; ich sehe in der Hinsicht keine Hierarchie zwischen den Räumen. Ich kann in eine Galerie arbeiten, wie ich in einer Hühnerfarm arbeiten kann. Man muss nur immer die adäquaten Mitteln zu finden, um zu transformieren.
– Ich möchte eine Frage stellen an uns alle, also eigentlich ans Plenum jetzt und sie knüpft an deinen zwei Fragen an die Gruppe auch: tatsächlich wie sich die Gruppen und die Projekte, die hier versammelt sind, über die 4 Tagen in der Sphäre Politik und Kunst verorten. Ich habe das Gefühl, dass es nicht klar ist eigentlich, dass es auch Klüften gibt bezüglich der Definition des Aktionsfeldes: Was ist mein Aktionsfeld? Was ist meine Funktion, was sind die Funktionen dieser Zusammenhänge? Dazu gab es eine sehr klare Aussage am Anfang des Kongresses, wo Sarai gesagt hat, dass sich die letzte Internationale beim No Border Camp getroffen hat, und die Letzte Internationale trifft sich auch heute wieder hier. Auf deine Frage, wie ihr zur Politik steht, habt ihr ja auch geantwortet, es ist nicht eine neue, linke Praxis, die alternativ steht zu anderen oder alten Praxen, was ihr macht, wie ich das verstanden habe, sondern es geht konkret um diesen Park und es geht konkret darum, für diesen Park zu kämpfen. Das heißt nicht, dass man seine Praxis ersetzt oder dass die eigene Kunstpraxis eigene politische Praxen ersetzen kann. Nicht ein neues kulturpolitisches Konzept, die die ganze globalisierungskritische Bewegung ersetzen kann. Ich hatte das Gefühl, bei diesem Projekt behalten die Künstler ihre Rollen weitesgehend. Es gibt tatsächlich objekthafte Kunst, fand ich sehr interessant auf einmal, wir haben den ganzen Kongress lang weniger objekthaftes gesehen. Ich fand es auch sehr schön, weil man soll die Kunst auch behalten. Ich würde deswegen fragen, wo verortet sich dieser Kongress? Sind es Künstler, die versuchen, zu gucken, wie sie tatsächlich an der Realität andocken, in die Realität intervenieren können aus ihrem Ort heraus, als spezifische Intellektuelle? Oder gibt es ein Anspruch, die letzte Internationale zu sein, auch mit den ganzen theoretischen Hintergründen, die es da gibt?
– Wenn ihr jetzt nicht direkt darauf antwortet, würde ich vielleicht da noch mal anknüpfen an das, was vorher angesprochen wurde, sowohl die Broodtaers Frage als auch das was Katja Jedermann angesprochen hat, und das wäre für mich auch noch was grundsätzlicheres, was ich nicht nur an euch richte, weil ich den Eindruck habe, wir sprechen hier über Kunst, Alltag, Politik, Realität, in einen sehr ungefilterten Sinne. Wir wissen alle mittlerweile, es gibt keine Realität ohne fiktionale Annahmen. Da würde ich noch mal gerne an die Frage von Gentrifizierungsproblematik anknüpfen. Ich habe vor kurzem ein Film von der Wiener Künstlerin Dorit Margreiter mit dem Titel Remake Las Vegas, und es war sehr interessant zu sehen, wie diese Stadt, die ja wie keine andere für ein postmodernen Modus der Urbanisierung steht (man denkt in diesem Zusammenhang an „Learning from Las Vegas“, dieses Buch von Venturi/Izenour/Scott Brown, die ultimative Kritik an der Architektur oder Stadtplanung der Moderne eingeleuchtet hat). Da war ziemlich interessant zu sehen, wie Stadtplaner in Las Vegas heute für Remodernisierungsprozesse eintreten, sie wollen eine Revitalisierung von Downtown Las Vegas, und sagen Wir wollen nicht mehr die bezahlten Künstler, die tollen, schicken weißen White Cubes, und verweist an die Künstler, die selbstorganisiert ihre eigene Räume machen, die „Dirty Cubes“ haben, und spricht davon, wie nur mit diesen Ressourcen Vitalität nach Las Vegas zurückzubringen sei. Also, das noch mal als Ergänzung dazu, wie auf so einer Konstruktion einer fiktionalen Realität, einer Image Politics, die bislang nur in den Köpfen der Unternehmer und Medienberater existierte, genau solche Projektionen schon eine Rolle spielen. Ich glaube, da wird das Verhältnis von sogenannter Realität und sogenannter Kunst noch mal komplizierter.
– Ich wollte noch was fragen, und zwar fällt mir auf der eine Seite ein sehr intakter Kunstbegriff auf, und auf der anderen Seite, wird er über so ein Mobilisierungscharakter legitimiert. Das Interessante ist nur, wenn ich jetzt nicht da wäre, und ich gucke mir das an, berichtet es nicht mehr davon, d.h. es gibt auch noch ein Präsentation – und damit auch ein Repräsentationsproblem, weil das nicht sichtbar ist, und die Dinge (ob es eine Bank, ein Haus, eine Palme ist), das ist natürlich ein Sprachmodus, der an sich aus den frühen 80ern eher irgendwo herkommt, wirkt auch ein bisschen New Wave mäßig. Ich habe kein Problem damit, der Punkt ist nur, wenn ich jetzt vor diesen Dingen stehe, die berichten nicht das, was wir jetzt hier sehen können, und das ist ein Problem, wo ich denke, dass man es nicht bei dem Objekt belassen kann, indem ich sage: „Objekt ist Objekt, und Mobilisierung ist Mobilisierung“, sondern ich denke, das muss viel mehr zusammen sein, es müsste auch viel mehr eine Möglichkeit geben, dass das in den Dingen auch weiterhin ablesbar bleibt für eine Überprüfbarkeit auch für ein Publikum, das nicht direkt beteiligt ist, denn diese Videos haben ja sehr oft etwas sehr Exklusives hier; es erzählt von etwas, was daran funktioniert, was für uns aber als Berichtsform, und ich denke es gibt in den 60er und 70er Jahren Modelle, die man durchaus wieder anknüpfen kann, diese Berichtsform zu leisten.
– Christiane: Was ich ganz interessant fand, dass es hier ein extrem breites Spektrum an Leuten anspricht, extrem breit versucht zu integrieren, und dass es mit dieser Krisensituation begründet. Für mich wäre die Frage interessant, in wie weit ihr meint, dass diese Verbindung auch in der Breite zukunftstragfähig sind, ob ihr daran glaubt, dass es in dem Spektrum bestehen kann, oder wie ihr da die Zukunft sieht.
– Bert: Ich glaube, wenn ich das im Sinne von einer politischen Bewegung analysieren würde, würde ich sagen, dass das Ganze jetzt ein neuer Prozess ist, in dem sich eine Bewegung wieder aufbaut. Dieser Prozess ist im Augenblick im Stadtviertel Isola noch sehr fragmentiert. Es gibt dieses gemeinsame Problem, und es gibt andere Probleme in diesem Stadtviertel, die weniger schlimm sind, aber trotzdem ungelöste Probleme sind. In der Hinsicht sind wir in einer ähnlich gelagerten Situation, wie in Favelas in Lateinamerika oder in verschiedenen neuen Städten Asiens. Ihr habt gesehen, dass es eine Überschwemmung auf dem Hauptplatz Isola gab. So was passiert regelmäßig, und es gibt andere konkrete Probleme, die die Stadt für die Einwohner nicht mehr löst. Es ist ganz klar, dass wir im Moment eine Erschaffung neuer Gremien der Selbstbestimmung auf Stadtteilebene aufbauen. Es sind sehr viele Kontakte entstanden, erst mal durch die Arbeit von Cantieri Isola, aber auch nachher, durch diese neue Gruppen, die sich gebildet haben, wie „Comitato i mile“. Was daran interessant ist, dass diese neue Konstellation etwas in Italien ersetzt, das z.B. in den 70 Jahren total präsent war, als die kommunistische Partei noch sehr stark war. Es war praktisch so, dass die kommunistische Partei ihre Finger überall in den Bewegungen drin hatte, auch in der anti-cruisemissiles Bewegung und andere Bewegungen. Es war nie möglich, eine Bewegung zu machen, ohne dass sie zum Teil von der kommunistischen Partei mitbezahlt und kontrolliert wurde. In dieser Situation sind Parteien wie die Rifondazione Comunista und besonders die Demokratische Sinistra im Moment total abwesend. Die Leute, die jetzt was machen, kommen zwar zum Teil aus dieser linken Tradition, und sind auch mit den neuen linken Bewegungen verbunden, aber es ist wirklich ein neuer Zusammensetzungsprozess. Es geht in Richtung einer Fusion und einer neuen Identität, wo früher die Klubs wie die „Archi“, die an die Linke gebunden waren, total abgestorben sind. In der Isola gibt es noch Beispiele davon, ein Haus, die „Proprietà Indivisa“, das waren Kooperativen aus der frühen Arbeiterbewegung, wo man eine Wohnung hatte, ohne Miete zu zahlen und ohne Eigentümer zu sein, d.h. man hatte das Recht, dort zu wohnen, zahlte eine sehr niedrige Miete, eigentlich der Beitrag zur Kooperative. Da drin war der Versammlungsraum, der Gewerkschaften und der kommunistischen Partei, alles, was links war, alle Komitees versammelten sich dort. Das Haus steht noch, aber es funktioniert nicht mehr. Was wir jetzt dabei sind zu machen, ist eigentlich die Leute wieder zusammenzubringen mit ganz konkreten Problemen, die das Stadtviertel hat.
– Ich wollte noch mal anknüpfen, an das was Andreas vorhin gesagt hat und mich auf die eine Frage des Kongresses beziehen, nämlich die Fragen nach dem lokalen Wissen und den globalen Austausch. Ich bin mir jetzt nicht ganz sicher, ob ich dich richtig verstanden habe, aber ich habe daraus gehört, welche Formen gibt es, um Prozesse, die lokal passieren, darzustellen, so dass Leute woanders damit was anfangen oder davon was lernen können. Beispielweise bei Park Fiction gab es die Idee des Archivs bei der documenta, das in so einer Form darzustellen, wo auch ganz viel Aktivität von Leuten dazugehört, die da was machen müssen, sich da reinarbeiten müssen. Nun habe ich bei dem Film gedacht: Das fand ich sehr schön auf der einen Seite, aber auch sehr intim, wo einzelne Leute ihre Sichtweisen schildern. Bei dem Diavortrag, der wirklich in fast launiger, touristischer Manier war, ging es mir ganz anders. Da dachte ich: Da kriege ich jetzt ein Überblick und kann gedanklich andocken, eher als bei dem Film. Deswegen meine Frage an euch: Ist der Film euer Archiv, jetzt übertragen gesagt, oder gibt es andere Formen, in denen ihr das, was ihr macht, dokumentiert, mit dem Ansatz, dass andere sich da anklinken können?
– Mariette: Der Film ist eigentlich nur ein Teil des Archivs. Wir haben den Film nur für eine Ausstellung realisiert jetzt im MAMCO in Genf. Da läuft der Film in einer Timeline: das ist ein (Gas) Rohr, das sich durch 5 Räume zieht, und an diesem Rohr ist die Geschichte des Kampfes des Stadtteils Isola seit den 70er Jahren, Flugblätter, Zeitungsausschnitte hängen da dran. Der Film soll eigentlich eher die Atmosphäre wiedergeben.
– Christoph: Ich habe den Film lustigerweise genau umgekehrt gesehen, und bin sehr dankbar, dass er noch mal angesprochen wird, weil ich es interessant fand, dass du mit dem Prinzip von „Fenster aufmachen“ arbeitest, die auch aus der Hand gegeben werden. Es hat was zu tun mit der Frage, wie du sie formuliert hast: Wer definiert sich wann an welcher Stelle und wie? Ich glaube, dass das wirklich nach dem „Windows“ Prinzip anfangen zu funktionieren muss, sozusagen wo man an einer bestimmten Stelle jeweils genau definiert, wo man da so steht, mit wem man da zusammen arbeitet, damit Fenster von Komplexität, die wieder möglich werden, die aber mit anderen Fenstern zusammen arbeiten können. Es kann politisch Kulturelles usw. sein; also ich finde es grauenhaft, wenn es in einer völligen Unverbindlichkeit und Unvermitteltheit endet, aber ich fand es sehr schön, dass deine filmische Struktur, die eigentlich dieser Stecca und wie sie funktioniert, entspricht, und der für mein Geschmack noch 3 Stunden hätte dauern können, von dem was ich da gesehen habe.
– Mariette: Er heißt ja auch „Onda Nomala“, „Video Collage in Progress“. Ich selbst denke schon an die nächste Version, und da würde ich auch einige Clips weglassen und neue einfügen. Ich würde es dann wieder anders machen, aber es soll wirklich keine Dokumentation sein, es kann keine Dokumentation sein. Ich sehe den Film eigentlich immer mit dieser Timeline zusammen, wo man noch andere Informationen hat.
– Bert: Ich wollte kurz noch was zu dieser Frage sagen, wie wir das vermitteln können. Wir haben bis jetzt, da wir wirklich diesen Zeitdruck haben, haben wir uns eigentlich nicht die Frage gestellt, ob wir ein Model sein können für andere. Das hier ist das erste Mal, dass wir überhaupt die Gelegenheit haben – nicht ganz, wir haben schon Vorträge in Venedig, in Italien haben wir schon Vorträge gemacht und das Prinzip erklärt, aber es ist das erste mal, das wir es außerhalb von Italien machen. Wir sind viel jünger als Park Fiction, und das Problem ist, dass wir jetzt auf die Aktualität reagieren müssen, weil wir unter Zeitdruck stehen. (…)
– [Lücke in der Kassette!] (…) You know, people around the journal, multitudes, attac, etc. , which for me is a “socialdemocratic” notion of an alternative to capitalism (I’ll finish my rant in one second). I don’t believe in this notion of capitalism with a human face, because I think both the notion of the human face and humanity is a kind of corrupted concept, as well as capitalism itself.
– Bert: Ich werde ein Bild von dem geben, was wir da tun. Ich sehe es eher so wie der Dorf von Asterix. Asterix und Obelix gegen die Römer. Das Problem ist nicht, dass wir ein Kunstzentrum wollen, und wenn das hier abgerissen wird, wir irgendwo anders hingehen, sondern die Idee des Kunstzentrums kam als Argument im Kampf gegen das Projekt der Stadt auf. Ich kenne kein vergleichbares Beispiel, wo Behinderte, Einwanderer, Geschäftsleute und Stadtteilkomitees ein Zentrum der zeitgenössischen Kunst vorschlagen. Meistens ist es das Gegenteil, dass man das Volk gegen die zeitgenössische Kunst mobilisiert. Deshalb glaube ich, dass in diesem Fall dieser Aspekt unserer Arbeit (weil das nur ein Aspekt ist) auch von Cantieri Isola verstanden wurde als machiavellistischer Vorschlag, in dem Sinne, dass wir etwas brauchen, dass wir von Anfang an dachten, es reicht nicht zu sagen „Nein zu“ oder „Schluss mit“, sondern dass wir ausdrücken müssen, was wir wollen, d.h. dieser Stadtteil muss irgendwie seine Wünsche formulieren, die Wünsche müssen auf die Straße (um Park Fiction zu zitieren). Diese Wünsche haben sich in kollektiven Diskussionen konkretisiert, und sind jetzt ein Mittel geworden in diesem Kampf. Das ist etwas ganz anderes als ein Gentrifizierungsprozess, meiner Meinung nach, weil hier sich die Stadtteilbewohner mobilisieren, sie diskutieren über das, was sie wollen, nicht sagen (und das ist der Unterschied zu Asterix): „Wir genügen uns selbst“ und das ist auch nicht die Position von Yona Friedman’s Konzept der Stadtteile, die autark sind und sich abgrenzen, sondern es geht um einen Stadtteil, der sagt: „Wir haben eine Identität, und wir wollen diese Identität behalten.“ Gentrifizierung ist einfach ein Slogan, der nicht immer das gleich bedeutet. Ist jeder Umwandlungsprozess eines Stadtteils gleich ein Gentrifizierungsprozess? Isola hat sich gewandelt von einem Arbeiterviertel in einem Viertel, in dem Leute hinzugezogen sind. Ich bin auch vor 5-6 Jahren hingezogen, und könnte selbst als „Gentrifizierungsbeispiel“ gelten. Die Probleme liegen aber nicht in Standardkonzepte wie Kapitalismus und Gentrifizierung, sondern sie sind konkrete Probleme, die gelöst werden müssen. Es stellt sich einfach die Frage: Wie können diese Grünflächen, die das Viertel braucht, und diese Fabrik für das Viertel erhalten werden und nicht zerstört werden? Der ganze Kampf und die ganze Diskussion dreht sich darum. Die Angst, dass wenn man Kunst vorschlägt, gleich der Kapitalismus dahinter einmarschiert, finde ich ein bisschen… na ja, ich glaube nicht, das es so ist.
– Ich würde jetzt ganz kurz gefasste Fragen vorschlagen, dass wir dann langsam in die Pause gehen.
– Es gibt ein Vorläufer für solche Geschichten, wie die Reformbewegung vor knapp hundert Jahren, aber natürlich geht es jetzt nicht mehr um die Anbindung zu einem industriellen Prozess, sondern es geht eher darum zu erkennen, dass diese Nichtvernutzbarkeit solche Sachen notwendig erscheinen lassen. Ich wollte noch was kurz zu dem Begriff der Kunst. Ich finde es ganz interessant, durch diesen intakten Kunstbegriff wirkt das so, als ob wäre diese Kunst, die dort jetzt entsteht wie eine Art Erpressung ist, dass wenn sie da ist, man sich nicht richtig traut, sie da abzureißen. Das finde ich natürlich total nett, das zu glauben, wenn z.B. bei Park Fiction die Rolle der Kunst auch eine Schutzgeschichte im Vorfeld war, um eigentlich genau über dieses hegemoniale Feld überhaupt Dinge durchzusetzen. Es ist natürlich die Frage, ob diese Form der Erpressung ihren Wert da so reinlegen [kann], und dass praktisch an einer bürgerlichen Kultur zu appellieren noch funktioniert.
– Das ist noch mal eine Nachfrage nach der Präsentation von dem Projekt, weil ich eigentlich finde, dass eine ganz große Stärke daran liegt, dass es eben nicht nur Kunst darin gibt, sondern dass es dort auch eine Einrichtung für behinderte gibt, wo ich aber jetzt bei eurer Präsentation nicht darüber erfahren habe. Ich finde, dass in der Präsentation extrem stark jetzt der Fokus darauf lag, auf die Einrichtung eines zeitgenössischen Kunst Zentrums, und ich mich jetzt eigentlich die ganze Zeit frage, warum ihr eigentlich nicht stärker diese Stärke benutzt, z.B. auch einer Präsentation hier, dass jemand von dieser Behindertenarbeit mitkommt, oder ihr darüber redet, welche Form von Behindertenarbeit außerhalb dieses Projektes nicht möglich ist, oder diejenigen, die dort so eine stärkere eindeutig politische Arbeit machen, von euch wiederum profitieren, weil sie vielleicht euren Herangehensweise an Ästhetik auch befruchtend finden, und das hat mich ein bisschen irritiert, dass ihr doch jetzt zu sehr den Fokus darauf legt.
– Mariette: Wir haben keine Dias, und die Behinderten sind auch nicht im Film, auf deren Wunsch, weil die Behinderten oft auch benutzt werden, um Druck zu machen, und wir wollten das nicht.
– Bert: Das Problem ist, dass außer den Behinderten und den Immigranten noch viele andere Seiten gibt, die wir nicht beschreiben konnten, wie Christoph schon erwähnte, sonst wäre der Film 3 Stunden lang gewesen, und man muss jedes Mal entscheiden, welchen Aspekt man weglässt, und man könnte natürlich eine Präsentation machen, die total anders wäre, und die Kunst total marginal erscheinen ließ. Z.B. macht Cantieri Isola oft solche Vorträge, im Bereich der Uni, der Architektur, wo die Kunstseite nur marginal beleuchtet wird, das ist aber kein Problem, man kann nie den Anspruch haben, alles total darzustellen, die Situation ist so reichhaltig, dass man was erzählt, das immer eine eigene Auswahl ist und eine Manipulation. Sowieso, wenn Künstler reden, muss man aufpassen und sehr vorsichtig sein, denn Künstler, wie bereits Plato sagte, sind eigentlich Lügner.

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Cassette 9, Side 1

Maclovio Rojas

– Christoph: We as organizing team of Unlikely Encounters were very interested in inviting the village of Maclovio Rojas (which is very close to Tijuana) to this congress. The reason why will be self-explanatory very soon. It has a lot to do with all of the congress concepts. It’s a self-built settlement, in some ways completely autonomous, but there are more complex aspects to it. We had seen Maclovio Rojas in the short film that Florian Schneider and Susanne shot for the “What’s to do” theme night on Arte TV. That was one of the starting points. Then they made contact with Luis Humberto Rosales, from Tijuana, from the Borderhack network; he is here with us today. He was our contact man; we e-mailed back and forth, asking which members of Maclovio Rojas could come here. At some point, he said it wasn’t that easy. Actually, it was quite hard, because at the present moment all of the community leaders are either in jail or have gone in hiding, because the police are after them. We then had a big discussion about what we could do, because of course we wanted them to be here in person to speak about what they do (that has been our principle during our last three days here). As it turned out it would be extremely dangerous, we said we couldn’t demand from anybody to take a risk and leave children in a dangerous situation. So we suggested it would be helpful if one of the member of our organization team could go there. Luckily enough, Christoph Twickel suddenly had time off (most people here now why) to do this adventurous thing, to decide within 3 days, get a ticket and fly there. I’m very happy that both of them are here now, Luis Humberto Rosales, from Tijuana, and Christoph Twickel, from Hamburg.
– Luis Humberto: I will do this presentation in two parts. The first one is going to be about the history of Tijuana, which will help you understand how a community like Maclovio Rojas exists right now, and also about what we do (because you might wonder what the hell I’m doing here) and how we got involved with Maclovio Rojas. I live in Tijuana, but I don’t live in the community of Maclovio Rojas. I live in the middle of the city, and Maclovio Rojas is actually outside the city. Then you’re going see what Christoph witnessed and registered on a video. You will actually hear the people of Maclovio Rojas. It would’ve been better if somebody from the community could’ve come, but that would’ve been quite impossible. They cannot even leave the city, less their country. It’s weird for me to be outside [Mexico], too.
So I’ll start talking about the history of Tijuana. Tijuana is a city of migrants; there’s actually no sense of history, because everybody’s history is somewhere else. There’s also an identity crisis because of all of this. You got people who come from Central America, and all parts of Mexico, trying to cross to the U.S. Now in Tijuana it’s almost impossible to cross, because of the militarization of the border. They get stuck in Tijuana, or either they get deported and get stuck in Tijuana, and they work in the maquiladoras. That’s how the community is built up. The identity crisis of Tijuana has also to do with the fact that we don’t even know where its name came from. There are two versions: the happy tourist version, and the indigenous right version. The happy tourist one: there was a ranch there from an American, which was the “Aunt Juana”. So everybody used to say: “I want to go to the tía (aunt) Juana ranch” (Tía Juana = Tijuana). The indigenous version: the Kumiai, which is the indigenous group from Baja, called that area Ticuán. That means “land of the river”, because at one point there was a river there (now it’s like a sewer). So we don’t even know where the name came from. There’s no sense of history, so there’s a lot of difficulty with roots. That would explain why people are so indifferent to such things like Maclovio Rojas, and why it’s important that we make people aware of the situation. One of the reasons why Maclovio Rojas is still there is because people know about it, because the international public eye is on the community. That will secure the survival of the community. Some important historical points of Tijuana that I would like to mention: originally, San Diego was the capital of the state. April 20th, 1822, was the first time that the Mexican flag was hoisted on San Diego, which is the sister city of Tijuana. Tijuana and San Diego are basically like one city, divided by the wall. San Diego is like the nice part of the city; Tijuana is like the poor barrio. So that was April 20th, 1822. Afterwards, in 1834, the first customs office was built in order to avoid Tijuana or Baja’s gold from going to the U.S., and then in July 1889 was the first time (this is important for Maclovio Rojas) that a map was incipiently begun. They did this map, but of course nobody cared about it. So there’s only one block of the city that was actually planned; the rest of the city was completely accidental. So people just came from everywhere and landed there, and that’s how the city grew, which is very chaotic and there’s no urban planning. So it’s all by accident. Another important part of Tijuana’s history is in 1911, during the revolution. There’s these guys whose name you’ll probably see on the name of Maclovio Rojas’ elementary school: Flores Magón. Ricardo Flores Magón is Mexico’s main anarchist. In 1911, he came to Tijuana with another group of anarchists and had this utopian vision of a free country, where everybody, all the free thinkers could live. So he came to Tijuana back then and declared it a free country. This is the only free anarchist country that I know of. It lasted about two weeks, then the Americans (in collaboration with the Mexican army) came and slaughtered all the anarchists. That’s known in Tijuana’s history as the “defense of the land”. The official version of it says that some people, basically Americans, came and tried to invade Tijuana, Baja California, and the heroes, who are the army guys, defended the land. It’ like a contribution to national history: defending the land of Baja California against this invasion. The anarchists are called the filibusters (freebooters, derived from the Spanish word “filibusteros”). I’m mentioning all this to see how weird stuff tends to happen in Tijuana, for some reason or the other. Another important thing was the war between the U.S. (remember the Alamo) and Mexico. Of course we didn’t have a chance, so they basically took 60% of our land. Originally, as I mentioned before, San Diego was the state capital and California went all over, it was Tijuana and Rosarito, which used to be part of Tijuana, but it got its independence in 1995. There was a river of Rosarito. Rosarito is the town where the “Titanic” movie was made, just as a point of reference. So all that used to be part of California. So when the Tratado Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, that’s where we were supposed to agree to sell 60% of our territory. California went to the U.S., but the limits weren’t respected, for some weird reason. Instead of taking the land all the way to Rosarito, they only took land till the limits between San Diego and Tijuana. Some people say it’s great, others don’t find it so great. Anyway. That’s an important moment in history, because it’s not like people are crossing the border, it’s more like the border crosses us. It was Mexico, and then the next day it’s the U.S., and you’re not allowed to be there. In 1940 was the first time you were asked to have a passport to go to the U.S. and then came World War II, that’s when the “Brazero” [Mexican contract laborers] program started. There wasn’t any labor force to work in the fields, so they made a pact with the Mexican government to send people from the South to work in the U.S.; people decided to stay and not go back to Mexico, or people who were not in the program tried to pass as “brazeros” and stayed in the U.S. illegally. That pissed off a lot of people, which is why they don’t want to do any more deals with migration. In 1965, there was another point in border history, and you can still see the repercussions of that date till today, because that’s when NAFTA, FTAA and Plan Puebla Panamá were generated. It’s in 1965 that the maquiladora program started. First it took place in border cities like Tijuana. Tijuana is a social laboratory for all this kind of stuff. That allows corporations to evade taxes and have cheap labor, basically ten time cheaper than in their homelands, so that brings a lot of American and Japanese companies to border cities like Tijuana. 1976 is known as the “year of the dog” in Mexico, because there was this president called López Portillo, who said in a speech that he was going to defend the value of the Peso like a dog. That same year, the Mexican currency, the Peso, dropped completely. It had no value and people became even poorer. That’s when the economy started to go down, because before that, even when I was a kid, we didn’t use Pesos, but Dollars. Of course at that time it was easier to cross the border than it is now, after 9/11. So I’m going all the way to 1988. That’s when NAFTA became a reality, in the sense of the elections of 1988, the leftist candidate Cuautémoc Cárdenas won the elections, but the same day the results of the elections were coming out, suddenly the computers and the system broke down, and when they computers back the computers: Whoops! It was the PRI candidate who won. That was Salinas, now living in Ireland. He’s the one who signed the NAFTA treaty, which was supposed to bring Mexico into the First World on January first, 1994. That’s the next important date in historical terms. We didn’t wake up in the First World; we woke up to another reality. 1994 was the year that “Operation Gatekeeper” started, which is the militarization of the border and the deterrent’s policy, which means that people are forced to cross the border not through urban areas, but through the deserts and mountains, going into certain death, so they must think twice before they cross. But of course, the situation after NAFTA was really hard, so people [crossed anyhow]. This is something I always say: it’s not like people try to cross because they want to go to Disneyland, it’s because there’s something going on that will make you not think of death, but of getting the means for a better live. In 1991 the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is what we call “La Migra”)
commissioned the Sandía National Labs to study how people could be prevented from crossing. Migrants were perceived as the enemy. The result of that study was “Operation Gatekeeper”. In 1994, we woke up to the reality of civil war, which had been going on since the 60’s; suddenly we realized the revolution had never ended. It’s still going on in Chiapas, Tabasco, Guerrero and the south. The fighting goes on as I’m speaking here. So NAFTA: what happened with NAFTA? Wasn’t it supposed to bring us to the First World, and make the living standard in Mexico as high as in the U.S. and Canada? Basically, it opened the borders to production and the passing of goods, but it closed down the borders to people. More jobs, more maquiladoras came. So what’s the problem? The problem is, they brought work, but it was very cheap and in really poor conditions, so basically no labor rights, and the border was open to production from the U.S. For example: corn. The Mexican corn is very high quality; it’s our main source of food (that’s how we make our tortillas, our tamales and all that kind of stuff). So then comes the U.S. and they have a really cheap corn that’s given to pigs over there, really low quality. If you’re a campesino and you want to be able to grow your corn and then sell it, you ask for a loan to the banks (there’s no more Mexican banks after NAFTA) and then you have money to do the harvest, but then you cannot sell your corn, because nobody will buy it, as there is cheap corn from the U.S. You lose your land because you cannot pay the bank back, and you lose everything. Then you have 5 kids and a wife dying of starvation. You obviously have a country with no opportunities to have a decent life. People will say: “Well, they can go work somewhere else.” But if you’re into agriculture and that’s your main source of income, and you’ve been living in a traditional agricultural culture, what else can you do? Again, going to the maquiladoras does not allow a decent living standard either. We’re talking about 40$ a week, and Tijuana is an expensive city, but even in the south that’s not enough. So that will force people to migrate. Which brings us to the migration issue. People come to the north, crossing to the U.S. to try to work in the fields or whatever. We actually have an architect’s testimony; he was trying to cross to the U.S. to work in the fields, because there are no job opportunities. He’s an architect, but he has work once every 5 months, so that’s not enough. Nobody will give him work, so he decides to go to the U.S.; that’s what the situation’s like in Mexico right now. Even with the right-wing government that we have right now, with the PAN, there’s been a price to pay for democracy, which was to accept the extreme right in Mexico. So people have to cross, but it is really impossible to cross to the U.S. right now. If they get to cross to the U.S. it’s very easy to get deported, because they get trapped, they don’t have any money (all the money they had they gave to the people smuggler to cross them), and they can’t go back, so they will stay in the border cities. In this particular case, I’m talking about Tijuana, because that’s my city. They have a housing problem: where are all these people going to live? Tijuana has officially 1,5 million inhabitants, but I live in the middle of the city and the enumerators didn’t go there, so unofficially we’re talking about almost 4 million people living in Tijuana, with no urban planning or anything, so there’s a housing problem. So you have no money, you need a place to live, you work in the maquiladoras, and that’s not enough, so you have to settle somewhere, and that’s the squats. Maclovio Rojas is like a squat. After the Sarai presentation, I was talking to them because they had mentioned the differences between the squats here and the squats in Delhi, and [in Tijuana] it’s basically the same situation, it’s a question of necessity. It’s not like you go and squat in a building. In Tijuana, they recycle material from the maquiladoras or leftover garage doors, and that’s how they build their houses, and now they take land. Maclovio Rojas is an “ejido” that hasn’t been recognized. The one victory of the revolution was the ejido concept, which means you have the right to own land if you’re going to work it. You don’t actually own the land, it’s yours until you’re not able to work it, and then you can leave it to somebody else who will work it. You can do a list of who’s going to take the land after you die, so the land keeps getting worked. In that way, everybody could have a piece of land and a means of production. Maclovio Rojas was founded by a group of migrants, especially Mixtecos from Oaxaca, with about thirty families and took over a piece of land. Some of them wanted to cross the border, some of them just wanted a piece of land and got settled there, trying to make an ejido. The problem is, the land they had taken is very valuable, and there are a lot of interests, creating the conflict that will be explained better when you see the video and the different strategies that the government has been using during the last 15 years of struggle in Maclovio Rojas. The current situation is even more dangerous, because it looks like the government’s succeeding. They’re getting smarter and smarter. The agrarian reform is part of the constitution that manages the ejido system. They have issued a court order, so the people of Maclovio Rojas are protected at the moment. The local government, which wants the land, cannot get inside Maclovio Rojas at this point because of this Federal Court Order, so they have new creative ways of trying to dissolve the community. First, the value of the land is very high for new upper middle class housing projects. Or either the land could be used for industrial parks for maquiladoras. By the way, for those who don’t know what a maquiladora is, it’s a sweatshop. So what’s the difference between back then in 1988, when the community was founded, and now? [At the beginning], when there were about 30 families, they were very unified and they stood up against bullets and escalated oppression. They fought back and were able to protect the land that they had. Now there’s 2,000 families in the community, we’re talking about 10,000 people more or less, so now it’s more difficult to make the community come together and that’s the opportunity the government was waiting for. Then there’s going to be new highways passing by the community, so that’s going to increase the value of the land. So that’s to the background. These opportunities are rare, actually this is point of it, that more than 60 people from Germany now know about it, and that will buy time for the community, because the government knows there’s more people that know about it, and that will make them more careful with their tactics. This means they don’t come with bulldozers and destroy everything, like they did with all other communities in Tijuana. So what’s my relationship with the community? I’m part of the Borderhack group, we do a border camp similar to the no border camps that they do here in Europe. We’re all natives of Tijuana in our group, which has made us very passionate about the situation that the border brings on the town. Most of the people in Tijuana don’t care. They don’t want to acknowledge that there’s a whole bunch of problems, that there’s a migration problem, that there’s a maquiladora problem. They say: “Oh well, people in maquiladoras, they should go to college and study!” Or related to migrants: “Why don’t they get a passport!“ Every day since 1994, when “Operation Gatekeeper” started, there have been more than 2,000 deaths at the Mexican border with the U.S., which is very dramatic. We think it’s important that the Tijuana people acknowledge this. They want to forget about those facts, so we have to find different ways and levels to bring this information to them. When we learned about the “no border camps”, we found it really interesting that they in their website they had the Tijuana border as a symbol, because now it’s a symbolic border, as no one can cross through there. Our border camp is at that corner where the border goes into the ocean (40 yards into the ocean). It helps to have a physical confrontation with the wall and the migrants who are there. We invite artists and activists and common folks – I’m a doctor, by the way, I just finished my internship – so everybody is invited, and gets a chance to talk with the migrants, and we do workshops and a whole bunch of stuff. It’s an opportunity to get to know the problems in different ways. I’m going to show you a few of the works that have been done by the Borderhack people and contributors. That area where we put the computers used to be a friendship park; it’s a circle. Half of the circle is in Tijuana; the other half is in San Diego. There was no border there, it was a free zone to show how we’re brother cities, and then the U.S. came and put the wall and told us to forget about that. So that’s where we always put the computer area and we say “Borderhack” because of the metaphor of hacking: learning everything about a system and try to make it better. So that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re conscious that our camp is not going to magically disappear the border, but if you make people acknowledge all these problems, somehow something can be generated from that. I’m going to show you a small video of the first day, it’s not too exciting because there isn’t much going on there, but it’s the first day when we were setting up the second camp. I think it’s very important, because there were a lot of foreign people (like Americans and Europeans) who came there, and they witnessed the arrest of migrants be the INS, and they thought it was a performance for Borderhack. The idea of that border is so subjective to people who haven’t been confronted with it, that they will actually think that it was a performance by artists and not an actual arrest.

[Video]

“- Fran Illich (Borderhack co-organizer): Borderhack is a camp that takes place at the borders, in order to remind us of their existence and that when we’re children one of the first things we learn is there shouldn’t be any border. We’re looking for our identity, the origins of the border, that strange border embodying both love and hate between two countries, an ailing, but also productive relationship that brings about an incredible amount of goods, history, lives, connections…
– Fran: We use computers because the mass media manipulates the events into a purported reality. Say we wanted an event to be covered on TV. At its best, we might get a few seconds coverage in a local TV channel, and that would probably take on the channel’s point of view. You know how powerful the media can be and how they can distort a message. That’s why the Internet allows us to transmit our message directly, editing just as much as we see fit to it, so we feel that’s the best way interested people around the globe will get the entire story. Even an astronaut with access to the Internet can find out about it.
– Spanish journalist: What surprises me the most about this Wall is how impassable it remains to Mexicans who don’t have the financial means or a passport. On the other hand, any “gringo” or European pariah like me can cross the border almost without having to line up, and I find this just a shame on any human being.
– Fran: It would have been a bit difficult to do a borderhack event on the other side of the border. They don’t need a passport to come into Mexico; there’s no border from that side to here.

Closed with three locks
And secured is the Black Door
For your parents are jealous
And afraid of my love for you
They must think that keeping you locked inside
Will make you stop loving me
But neither the Door, nor a hundred locks
Will deter me
It is not because of the Door
That you are crying inside
You love me and I love you
In spite of the Black Door

– Fran: That reminds me of the past, and the trail one used to take. I found it interesting that these two people could meet in spite of a piece of land in between them.
– Spanish journalist: If they profit from people crossing the border, then they allow it to happen. They would never be able to do a raid down there, and expel all the Mexicans from California, because the state couldn’t be run without them, not even a week.
– Fran: It’s not like we’re endorsing it. Probably treaties between both countries will continue to be signed, just as the ones that exist already, just as the ones that keep on coming. There must be a reason for them to be…
– Spanish journalist: It isn’t even acknowledged that the rich stay rich because the poor stay poor.”

[Video stops]

Fran Illich (the other co-organizer of Borderhack) was explaining why we’re using Internet in the camp, that it’s very important to give our version of the things. Why? Because of the official media. The local media’s coverage of the camps sounded like “some ecologist group is doing a congress”, and that’s it. So it’s important for us to use the Internet; we do net radio, we do micro radio, a whole bunch of stuff. We gave a free long distance service for migrants who wanted to call people in the U.S., Mexico or other parts of the world. That was one way to give the more “unfiltered” information about what’s actually going on. The official media gets money from the government, so they will give their own version of it.
Then there was a Spanish journalist (from a journal in England, I think). He was saying it’s so easy for the Europeans and Americans to cross the border, because there is no border from the U.S. to Tijuana; there is no border for Americans, it’s one-way only, and how hard it is for Mexicans and Central Americans to cross that border. You saw the couple in the park talking, something usual during the weekend. Families get together there at the border (this always gives me the willies). They get together “through” the fence, because the wall separates them.
It was very important to bring up the “performance”. How could people think it was a performance? In the video you could only see a car, but there was another border patrol car nearby. Christoph raised the question earlier, because he saw the gun. So there are three migrants and one border patrol officer on the video, but the other police car is not shown on the video.
Now you know the border, now you know the fence, which is important. Now I’m going to talk about some other actions that we do.
Here we were looking for ways to bring the camp to the Tijuana ports of entry. We were thinking about doing micro radio, but for some reason our equippment wasn’t working. So Sara, an artist friend from San Francisco, said: “I have a car with loud speakers, and we can use that.” So we did the “border report mobile” and we sent e-mails to every list that we had, asking people who wanted to talk about the border to participate. We took testimonies from the migrants at the border and played them out loudly from the loudspeakers at the port of entry, confronting the Americans and Mexicans crossing the border with these realities.

“Border Report: Divide and Conquer.
See, there’s a little thing called NAFTA. The Northamerican Free Trade Agreement, enacted in 1994, the same year, not coincidentally, that “Operation Gatekeeper” was still on, “Operation Saveguard” and other operations that built the wall across the entire border. Later the U.S. built a second wall. Why? To stop drug smugglers crossing on foot? That’s what the government will tell you. Yet the DEA also states that 80% of drugg trafficking occurs at ports in vehicles. The wall is to force Mexicans to stay put in Mexico and work in U.S.-owned factories for dollars a day, so that Mexico can remain exploited and in extreme poverty, while the U.S.-corporations make vast amounts of wealth of the backs of workers for the already rich elite. “Stink-jobs” are being stolen from U.S.-citizens by immigrants willing to work for cheap. Not only do they do dirty, demeaning work, and suffer abuse that U.S.-citizens would exert, more U.S. jobs are lost when U.S.- companies move their factories to Mexico, where people are forced to work cheap. NAFTA facilitates this and makes the mass enslavement legal. Now many people wonder why any person would risk death, rape, assault and abuse to cross the border to the U.S.. Well, here’s an example why: NAFTA gives benefits and untouched privileges to U.S.-agrobussiness. Not only does this give them an edge over poor, independent Mexican farmers, but U.S.-agrobussinesses have continuesly dumped crops on the Mexican side, forcing crops prices to plummet and putting Mexican farmers out of bussiness. U.S.-corporations have used hundreds of tactics like this one to force huge unemployment in Mexico. Not only has this destroyed competition for the U.S., but it’s created a mass migration of Mexicans from the south of Mexico to the north, looking for work. Some people try to cross the border, hoping to make enough to feed their children…”

Cassette 9, side 2

You get the idea of that [text] being played back at the port of entry while people crossed into the U.S. I thought it was incredible that we were able to pull that out.
We have to try and find creative ways to confront the people of Tijuana (and others) with the facts. Children love video games. So now we do video games, too. It started as a discussion on how to use them. We have done different types of video games. The first one was a program type similar to one called “Frogger”. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, it’s the one where the frog has to cross the road. We did one where a migrant has to cross the river, the desert and the freeway 5, which is where we have those horrible signs of families trying to cross. So it’s kind of difficult to cross, and it’s frustrating, and if you have the safe way of a video game and you get frustrated because you cannot pass, then you’ll hopefully start thinking: “Imagine if you were really the migrant trying to cross, and you get hit by cars.” So that’s one tactic, there are many others. The one that I’m going to show you is a week in the life of a migrant. Those are the dangers that you have to be able to evade – the people smuggler, the border patrol, and the snakes, everything you encounter in the desert. First you have to cross, then avoid all the dangers, and then go to a factory, get a job, earn Dollars, and then you have to go to your family and give them the money. Then you pass on to the next day, and then to the following day, and it gets more complicated. Those are actual photos of an arrest. The video game is another way to make you pay attention to what’s going on.
So that’s been a general overview of what we do. I hope all of this answers a how a community like Maclovio Rojas emerged in Tijuana, which were the conditions that made it happen, and what the hell I’m doing here. Now comes the second part, where you’re actually going to hear the people of Maclovio Rojas and you’re going to see the community. Actually, I want to thank the Park Fiction team and Christoph [Twickel], who had to work a lot to get this done. He did incredible work in a week. He really wanted to do this project, and he didn’t care about the dangers it implied. For example, we went to some clandestine meetings, because the organizers are in hiding. He went to the state prison to talk to the arrested organizers, and he did a lot of stuff that I find amazing, and I’m really grateful for this opportunity to make you all know what’s going on, and buy a little bit more time for the community. I’ll let the people of Maclovio Rojas talk now.
– Christoph Twickel: Vielen dank erst mal an Luis. Die Situation ist ja die, dass im Moment zwei Leute von den „community organizers“ von Maclovio Rojas im Gefängnis sind, und drei sind untergetaucht.
– Luis Humberto: There are two people in jail, and 17 arrest warrants, but the ones who are in hiding right now are the main organizers, three people.
– Christoph Twickel: Und zwei von diesen „community organizers“ habe ich treffen können, und Interviews gemacht. Statt jetzt das in meinen Worten wiederzugeben, möchte ich es hinkriegen, dass sie hier auf dem Kongress präsent sind, denn die Idee war ja eigentlich, sie einzuladen, und es wäre richtig toll gewesen, wenn eine Person hätte kommen können, weil es das einzige Projekt gewesen wäre, das weder in dem Kunstzusammenhang zu verorten ist, noch von Leuten gemacht wird, die eher eine akademische Herkunft haben, was nicht heißt, dass die „community organizers“ von Maclovio nicht studiert hätten zum Teil. Ich würde vorschlagen, dass wir in diesem Film reingucken. Parallel dazu gibt es ein paar Bilder aus Maclovio Rojas auf der kleinen Leinwand. Noch mal kurz zusammengefasst: 10,500 Einwohner; Maclovio Rojas liegt 30 Km von Tijuana an der Landstraße Tijuana-Tecate. Die Siedlung wurde gegründet 1988 von 25 Familien, die in einer Gewerkschaft organisiert waren, der CIOAC. Das ist die „Central Independiente de Obreros Agrícolas y Campesinos Democrática“, es ist so was wie eine unabhängige Arbeiter und Bauerngewerkschaft, und das ist nach wie vor die Organisationsstruktur, auf die sie sich beziehen. Es ist eine landesweite Gewerkschaft, aber sie haben dort ihren eigenen Mikrokosmos als Organisation gebildet, und haben sich auch mit dem Zusatz „Democrática“ ein bisschen von der Bundesgewerkschaft abgesetzt, weil sie offen sein wollen für viele Strömungen. Sie arbeiten ja viel mit Künstler zusammen, mit Aktivisten aus den U.S.A., aus anderen Ländern; sie machen auch Arbeit für andere communities und versuchen im Kontakt zu sein mit Gewerkschaften, die versuchen, in den maquiladoras Arbeiten zu machen. Sie haben außerdem eine feministische Organisation, „Factor X“, die dort hinkommen und Schulungen machen mit den Leuten. Das ist ein bisschen Hintergrund. Ich würde sagen, wir legen mal los mit dem 1. Clip hier. Es geht los mit der Frau, die mir als die Chefin vorgestellt wurde. Das ist Hortensia Hernández. Hortensia ist 1988 als Mitgründerin nach Maclovio Rojas gekommen und ist heute eigentlich die wichtigste Figur, auch eine wichtige Integrationsfigur für Maclovio Rojas. Ich habe dann Hortensia gebeten, für den Kongress ein Grußwort zu sprechen, und das wird auch der letzte Beitrag von dem Film sein.

[Video]
tMaclovio Rojas video

Hortensia Hernández, leader (PRD)

Maclovio Rojas has 14 administrative instances: one is a head office, and the others focus on diverse issues, such as organization, finances, women, youth, urban-popular issues, labor union and indigenous people. The settlement Maclovio Rojas is very large, so it is divided in 5 parts. There’s one close to the railroads; sections A-G are the farms. Each area has a coordinator and a block leader. Every time a decision relevant to the whole settlement must be taken, we gather in Aguas Calientes and decide collectively at the assembly.

Artemio Osuna, secretary for agriculture

We have 120 shops at the highway’s border. They belong to the founders of our settlement. The shops are a reward for their struggles. The groceries, hairdressers, tire repair shops, etc., are geared towards highway drivers as well as settlement’s inhabitants. We have a mobile market (the comrade sitting here directs the shops). At the moment, we have 80 stalls owned by people from Maclovio Rojas, but the full capacity can accommodate up to 300-400 stalls. Right now, we have people from outside come and run them, but we hope to own all stalls in the future. Our people are getting trained at the moment, as not everyone is born a businessperson. We have close to 600 shops by the railroads, which makes it a municipal market. Everyone has a stall in order to make a living out of it. 900 stalls, plus 120 farms, that makes it more than a 1000 businesses, not including the ones that will emerge within the settlement.

Hortensia

Those who want to live in Maclovio Rojas must know that it is a struggle, because there’s work to do here. If they want a green area they have to get organized to work. Don’t expect any support from the government, because it’s not here to provide for the people, but for those who put him in power in the first place – the big businesses. So if the people here expect to achieve anything they must get organized, be aware of the state of the land, learn about the finances – the government calls us “centaveros” (“stingy”) because we charge a membership fee, just as any organization does, it’s just the PAN (Mexican government party) that pretends not to. If we were to create a park or a sports field, we would figure out the costs, say 1000 pesos, and divide that among the 50 people involved in the project, a cooperative venture, which is how we work. That’s what the government calls “stingy”.

Artemio

With regards to education, we aim to have our own university. Our people have built our own elementary school and high school with much effort. We will create our own college and university. We already run an art/computer school, a sculpture workshop put up with help from U.S. comrades. Our community is integrated into the educational system and we don’t want our children to leave it. We want them to go to high school, college and university right here. Our university will have a political-philosophical vein. The idea is to form students into social beings, to create cadres and social leaders.

Hortensia

Our community has evolved. Compared to other settlements and in spite of our current situation, the roads of Maclovio Rojas fare way better than the others. We have green areas, 3 schools built with our own effort, a Kindergarten, an elementary school (up to second grade) and a high school with three classrooms. The fact that the schools are now approved by the state was the result of a long struggle. It meant a lot of waiting, sit-ins, demonstrations, trips to Mexicali and extra costs. It took a big show for the government to grant us a benefit for the children. They wouldn’t grant us a school arguing that our land is illegally acquired; we’re held as invaders. Do our children have to wait for us to get the legal title to the land? The children are growing and their education can’t wait. We’re putting so much pressure that the government has to give in. They don’t want their boss, president Fox, to look bad, because on TV his party goes on and on about children’s right to education, but it’s a lie.

Arturo

A friend from France remarked that we live well, that we’re in glory here. We don’t pay water, electricity or rent, just our food. We don’t pay taxes. It’s true that there’s no hunger or misery in Maclovio Rojas; our people work and have all their main needs covered.

Hortensia

We must fight “machismo” and empower women. Our machos are the way they are because we Mexican women allow them to. Because we like it like that, and “If you don’t hit me, you don’t love me” or “ The more you hit me, the more I love you.” And that’s just fine with me, because that’s how I was brought up, but what about the children? It’s a vicious cycle we must stop. What kind of citizen will a child end up being if he grows up witnessing all that aggression? He will go to school and try to demonstrate that he feels superior, a real macho, and he will harass his female classmates; he will grow up and continue to do so as a worker, as a teacher. Sometimes teachers will say: “You’re just a woman, do you know anything at all?” As a woman leader, I’ve had to confront men who think they’re real machos and offended me. At the beginning it made me cry, now I don’t care. They would tell me: “Go cry in your kitchen, get back to your cooking pots. We’re men and you’ve got nothing to teach us; we know better.” I cried, but now my comrades respect me as a woman; those comrades have now allowed their spouses to support our movement and have raised their children to become citizens, so that they have a home, a school to go to, just like any rich child in Mexico. If, on the contrary, the woman submits and the man remains stubborn, where will that lead the family? Or vice versa: women can also be stubborn, “machista” and feminist – with the excuse of my women comrades. We’re here to complement each other, whether you’re a man, a woman or homosexual, you need a partner; it’s about empowering women, but in positive way that allows one to grow and to do good.

Marco Antonio Campoy, lawyer

The “legal” housing development regulations provide for infrastructure such as water, sewerage, electricity and paved roads, all needed for urban housing. The “illegal” variant consists of squatting land without having legal title to it, having no basic public services and living outdoors.

Artemio

An organism of the Agrarian Reform in charge of the distribution of national land approved our application. They agreed to sell us the 197 hectares. We paid 37,500 Pesos, depositing the amount in the bank to the name of the Agrarian Reform. But here in Baja California there is a real estate mafia, and a lot of migrants. When the maquiladoras emerged, the need for land became greater; maquiladora workers who came from the south needed housing. Land became more profitable than drugs; land could make you a millionaire. There was a real estate mafia of “ejidos” – real estate agents cloaked as campesinos demanding free land only to sell it to maquiladoras and migrant workers. We demanded land as an “ejido”, as true campesinos, and that went against the interests of the real estate agents, because the land we applied for was in the eastern area, which was the direction the city was expanding towards, to the side of Tecate. Rosarito was already developed as a municipal district, and the city could not grow towards the sea or the border, so everything had to grow in Tecate’s direction, and Maclovio Rojas lies right in the way of that expansion. We were at the very center of the real estate agents’ ambition; the government supported them. The real estate agents had appointed the government functionaries: all the governors and functionaries have worked in real estate companies. Developing land in Baja California became like gold dust.

Hortensia

Some started to sell their land, and that’s bad, because it’s dismembering our organization. When 5 people sold their land and left, we knew the government wouldn’t support us in having these people abide our rules. We realized we had to create our own internal regulations. We approved them in our assembly and got them signed by a notary. These regulations say you can’t sell, pass on or lease land because it’s family patrimony. If you come to us because you need land, you must sign an agreement. If you sell the land, it becomes property of the assembly. That’s where the problems start. People will go to the government and invent complaints about being deprived of land, of being evicted. So the government, aware that the land’s worth a lot (Hiundai already offered a large sum of money), advises these people to file a lawsuit against deprivation of land. I reply that we have our regulations, that it’s land we must respect. But they won’t hear any of it and they want to send me to jail, or either pay a bail of 30,000 – 50,000 Pesos; I have to go and sign in every 8 days while everything gets sorted out. Our own people get us into trouble. What can we do as leaders? We are here to respect what our assembly determines and make others respect that as well. That’s how the people of Mexico are organized. Just like the deputies, whose function is to create laws and enforce them, so that the people get organized and refrain from committing an offence – it’s the same with Maclovio Rojas.

Artemio

Since the government would not give any drinking water to more than 10,000 dwellers (2000 families), we decide to “tapp” the pipelines. It was untreated water that we used to water the land or wash cars. We did it with their approval, because they couldn’t provide us with tap water. Tapping the aqueduct has had a long precedent in this area.

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It’s part of Mexican urban culture: to seize public services when in need. It’s not stealing, but appropriating them in order to raise a person’s living standard. Energy resources belong to the people of Mexico.

Cecilia Barone, sub-secretary of state

By that time 1,800 families had settled there, and there was no way to evict them. We just wanted to regulate their situation. There were several issues at stake. We noticed that in public the leaders kept the upper hand. Then there was a lawsuit because they had tapped the aqueduct. Those are the pipelines that bring water into the city. It’s dangerous because it’s not tap water, and on top of that it could become a big problem for the city, which depends on that water.

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It’s not the sole tapping that has taken place, the aqueduct has been tapped at more than a hundreds points already. Only the connection at Maclovio Rojas has been canalized. A state police school has tapped the aqueduct, as well as another police school and a rehab-farm in Tecate. The fact that the water isn’t treated has never bothered the state. The water is as detrimental to Maclovio Rojas as it is to any school, but we have the only connection that is canalized.

Artemio

They have tried to suppress us before by sending the judicial police, but they have never managed it because the people are strong. The police always had to withdraw. Now they have a more elaborate strategy that involves the army. But to justify the army’s entry they needed us to commit a real offense, to stage a real spectacle. So they concocted a “Villista Army” that started attacking the leaders and the community of Maclovio Rojas. Some people from Maclovio Rojas were in that “Army”, but it was mostly people from outside. That “Army” was created by PAN-members in order to antagonize us and to have a reason to evict us, but we made the lie public. So they had to change their strategy. They started infiltrating Maclovio Rojas with the traitors that had entered the “Army”. There’s always a traitor among 10,000 inhabitants. A group of 30 people in Maclovio Rojas are bribed by the sub-secretary of state.

Hilda Bernal Paredes, secretary of press and propaganda

The problem is they’re going to invade the slaughterhouse area, then the cemetery in the railroad area, the elementary school and also the old settlement’s hall. They want to take over those four areas. Land unoccupied by families will be invaded by Rosa Emilia’s people, the state, the repression and the municipal government. We’re getting organized per area.
Comrade Hortensia is worried. She won’t stop fighting even if she lands in jail. Yesterday she asked me to pass on to you that even while in jail she will talk with us and continue to fight, but that it is up to us to decide how far we want to go. The menace arrives in a couple of days. On our last meeting, we informed you about the propaganda Rosa Emilia’s distributing and pasting on the walls. How can some of you even shake hands with her? Is that group of 8-10 people stronger than all of us, comrades? This woman goes door to door with her flyers, sometimes spending half a day with somebody; she’s doing her job. And what are we doing? We let Hilda or Leti do all the work. Or either you think that because you’ve been working for years, you can let go and it’s enough to simply attend the meetings. No way, comrades. This is the big fight; this year the governments want to solve the problem. The solution: proposals. We need strategies. We need to be aware, to get out there feeling rage about losing our land. Would somebody like it if families from outside used our elementary school? Will we let them take away our shops, so that they supplant them with a maquiladora that will not let us sleep all night? We’re risking losing our university grounds. What if they build a Kentucky Fried Chicken in there? A MacDonald’s? What’s the point of having strategies if we don’t practice them? We’ve reached the limit. The important thing is to be watchful at all corners. Those living close to the shops should notify neighbors and families at once if they notice something unusual, so we can be prepared, no matter at what time of the day. How much will you earn as a maquiladora worker? Either you pay your mortgage on the house or the government takes it away from you. The government doesn’t care if your house is completed. Remember how they destroyed the houses of other squatter settlements. Just give 1-2 hours of your time every day to guard the land. You think we can’t manage to? Sure we can. If women have time for gossip, we have time to guard the land.

Assembly

– There are so few of us; what can we do? We’ll be the laughing stock of the contras. And if we start something, we should finish it and not leave it till tomorrow.
– We’re not that many, but if we guard the rail road area… We’ve done it before, we used to cook for everybody, we all volunteered, and there were no pessimists like you. I’m not fighting for my own interests, but for peace. They’ve already been here to throw us out with stones, machetes and guns. We all faced them together. That woman gave us land. Everybody here knows why am angry. Why don’t people here have the balls to fight?
– Here’s the flyer, take it home and read it thoroughly because it’s the truth about the current situation. We must face it with strength and rage, because Rosa Emilia and the government want to take our land away, and we’re going to defend it. Otherwise we’re nothing worth; we must stay firm. Will we go for it or not?

Hortensia

It does surprise me that you’ve come from so far away to bear witness to our troubles. I send greetings to all of those who in some way are united with us through our troubles. It’s great that so many efforts are being connected because the world system is so powerful; just as in the Bible, we’re like David and they’re like Goliath. We have to be very intelligent and creative to reach our goals, because it’s the law, it’s our right as human beings to have access to everything that surrounds us: the sea, the sky, the earth and the water too. It’s unbelievable, but they want to take that away from us and by virtue of that they enrage the people; they are inciting us to react and defend what is ours. I thank all those comrades, brothers and sisters for their interest in us; may the energy that unites us be an empowering one.

– Christoph Twickel: Das war’s aus Maclovio Rojas erst mal. Der Mann neben Hortensia war übrigens ihr Ehemann, falls das jemand interessiert, es war nicht ihr Bewacher.
– Thank you very much, Luis Humberto and Christoph, for that very informative and well-mediated presentation of the two projects, Borderhack and Maclovio Rojas. I must admit that I was quite impressed by the way in which other contradictions, such as machismo and sexism, were dealt with along the other issues. The speakers, the women, who help us not to idealize a project that is already so fascinating, specially impressed me. I think that at this point it will not be an easy task to relate to that project, because of its complexity. I recall the beginning of Luis Humberto’s presentation, in which you gave us a historical framework of Mexico and the specific situation of the border, as well as an outline of your activities. Then we were confronted with a community project we might have difficulties relating to. Usually when I think of traditional leftist relationships between political projects and movements in Latin-America and Europe, we either associate them with national liberation movements, or we try to demonstrate our solidarity with victims of dictatorship and torture. I think this community project is a very specific model. I suggest that today we try and delineate how we as Europeans can relate from our vantage point to such an impressive and challenging project. Any other comments or questions?
– I have a question concerning the structure of the community. Who’s the leader of the community? Is there a hierarchical structure?
– Luis Humberto: I was told the word “leader” is a bit strong [for the context] here. So let’s change it to “organizers”, and that’s the function, I think. All the decisions are made by the community. [In the video] you actually saw two meetings taking place in two different areas of the community. There are five areas; there are meetings in each area and all [areas] have to reach some kind of consensus, or at least they try to, and that’s how they make decisions. Of course there has to be somebody who coordinates everything from the beginning, and that’s the secret to Maclovio Rojas’ success. You saw those women: they have the will and the energy to fight. They’re really concerned with the continuity [of the project] through the children, as well as with making better persons out of them. So those “community coordinators” are the key to keeping everything together. You saw Hilda [in the video]. Hortensia and Artemio are the main coordinators, as well as Nicolasa and Rubén (who didn’t appear in the video). Hilda was the secretary in charge of press and propaganda, but she has had to become a coordinator. There are 2,000 families in Maclovio Rojas. You saw how many people are involved in the struggle now. If you compare it, it’s a really small number. Why? Because all of a sudden, they’re trying to look away. They say: “I have my land, I can work with the irrigation system, I can have electricity here. I want to relax at home.” So if there isn’t somebody who becomes the engine, reminding you that we have to fight and stick together, [the whole project] would fall apart. So that’s the secret to Maclovio Rojas and they’ve been very smart to exist in the map. Now the government knows that there are people in Germany who are interested in Maclovio Rojas, for example. They will not go inside Maclovio Rojas by force that readily, they will have to find other “creative” ways to do it. To answer to your question more directly, there’s a need for coordinators, but all the decisions are made by consensus.
– Christoph Twickel: Yes, but from my perspective I saw that in Maclovio Rojas people like Hortensia are really like heroes, because they are not only the ones who organize everything, but they are also often seen as the ones who gave the land to the people. They have difficulties with that, and they must fight that. They’re in fact preachy to the people, but in fact they tell them: “Don’t see us as your leaders, who are doing things for you; you have to do them yourself.” For example, Hilda said that at some point someone came up to her and told her: “I will help you with the problem”, to which she replied: “Oh no, you will not help me, you will help yourself.” That’s very difficult to bring across sometimes. One might question whether their approach to organization is part of the difficulty.
– Lucy: Just two questions. Do they have any suggestions about what they would like us to do to help, and secondly, do they have any affiliations with organizations like Friends of the Earth International, or other organizations that might be able to set up an e-mail campaign to the local government?
– Christoph Twickel: Actually, I think there is an e-mail campaign right now, but I think it would be a good idea to set up another e-mail campaign, and maybe we could set up a list with people who want to give their e-mail. It was good that I was there as a congress’ spokesperson, because it helped people like Hilda to show to the people of Maclovio that there is an interest from outside. She introduced us by pointing out that Europeans are paying attention to Maclovio Rojas. That was important for the internal structure, because they have a problem motivating people at the moment. Within the next month, I will publish two articles about Maclovio Rojas in German newspapers. So we could set up an e-mail list, and I could send an e-mail to all of you when the article’s been published. We could send e-mails to the Governor of Baja California, stating that we in Germany are concerned about what we read in the newspaper, so that he realizes that someone in a German newspaper is referring to Maclovio Rojas, which might be of help.
– Luis Humberto: Actually, there are several organizations that have learned about the project and help, for example, “Global Exchange”, which create networks. The best way to help that community is to get the word around. As you can see, they are pretty much autonomous and they’re very proud of that. There are also artist organizations that go there. There’s the “Taller de Arte Fronterizo”, a workshop to help create community consciousness through artwork with children. Then there’s a sculpture workshop now. So a lot of artists go there, and if you check the internet, a lot of the information on Maclovio Rojas has to do with artists’ projects in there. Artists are fascinated by Maclovio Rojas and go do their artwork there, and the community of Maclovio Rojas loves the idea of learning, developing abilities and ways of expression, and they love the attention. If nobody knows about them, they will disappear.
– How do events like the Borderhack festival come to people in Maclovio Rojas, Tijuana or the U.S.?
– Luis Humberto: For example, the Boderhack camp is an open forum. It’s also a spotlight for a lot of these groups. We always invite Maclovio Rojas to participate. We do micro radio workshops, or basic computer [workshops], skills that they can actually use. So it’s not like people come only to hear what somebody has to say, but they’re also given tools to act in many different ways. We invite everybody; it’s an open invitation to act. We have people from “Puerta del Futuro”, which was mentioned in the video. “Puerta del Futuro” is another community that was actually legal, but then the government decided that the constructions weren’t safe for the inhabitants, and the government decided to “save” them by destroying everything. In the video, Hilda was arguing: “If you think that because you have a great house it’s not going to be demolished, because the government isn’t going to bother, you’re wrong. Remember what happened to “Puerta del Futuro.” That’s what we do. We try to bring the spotlight on the community, and we give them tools to act by themselves. It’s important not to act as “saviors”, but to bring in tools for them to work.
– Christoph: Could you elaborate on the infrastructure they built up for themselves, the schools? The focus has been on the current situation, the repression, and of course this is the dominant aspect at the moment, but one of the reasons why we wanted to know more about Maclovio Rojas was this impressive structure we just heard about: the planned university, the Aguas Calientes center, the schools. All of this is done autonomously. The other thing that is very impressive for an outsider’s perspective is this very clever networking policy with many different groups from civil society, which I think doesn’t look neither like “classic guerilla politics”, nor as if they were asking for charity. These inventive and productive aspects are very impressive; maybe you could say more about them.
– Luis Humberto: I’ll do the best I can. First of all, throughout the different presentations there has been talk about productions of desire. It has a lot to do with Maclovio Rojas also. You have an autonomous community with people who don’t settle just with squatting. They are there not just because they need a land to live, they also want a means of production. They go there to work. So they can work the land, they have a place to stay, but that’s not enough. They have their basic needs covered, they create their own electricity and irrigation system, but that’s not enough. You need [to care for] the mind, too. That’s very important for them. So if there are no schools, what do they do? There’s a town meeting and they say: “You know what? We need schools, because we have a 30 minutes to an hour way to Tijuana, and the kids come back really late; it’s dangerous, there’s a lot of crime out there.” Maclovio is outside of Tijuana. It hasn’t been mentioned in the video, but there have been rape cases because of the commuting from downtown to Maclovio Rojas. So these are people who are used to work, it’s not like they have ideas, they say: “We need a school. Let’s go do it. Let’s do it now.” And they get up and they go and they do it. Christoph saw it [happen] with a fence. They said: “We need a fence, because they’re going to invade us.” A man got up and said: “Let’s stop talking and let’s go do that fence.” And [the other people at the meeting] said: “Wait, we have to finish the meeting.” The man replied: “No, no, let’s go now!” So when the meeting was finished, they immediately left and put up the fence. That’s the way it goes. They are really conscious of their needs, and not only to theorize about them, but to actually do something about them.
– Christoph Twickel: I would ask them frequently about their structure, and how it all began, how they produce desires. It was really difficult, because they’re really consumed by the situation they’re in. As Artemio said, they plan a university, but not a normal one; they want a university with a political-philosophical approach. In the end, they all said: “There’s no time for us now to make progress in that; we would like to build many things, but we have the problem of the motivation of the people, and we have the problem of the pressure from the other side.” So that might be why we didn’t see much of the structure of their community life, because they’re so consumed by the repression. On the other hand, it’s just as Luis Humberto says, it’s a workers’ city, people are there to have a piece of land, to save on water, electricity and rent, so that they can have more from the money they earn from working in the maquiladoras or selling things. I think the majority of the population isn’t really taking part in the inventive side of this community. On the other hand, when you speak to people, there’s always a reason why they like to live there. Whether it’s the paintings on the wall the gringos did (the artsy side), the school, the quietness and calm of the place, people always find an aspect why they like to live in Maclovio. People move to Maclovio from other settlements, from other colonias, because it’s nicer to live there. All the projects in Maclovio are done to show to the people who live there that they are not an ordinary colonia, like hundreds of others, but they have a utopian way of thinking about how to live in that surrounding.
– I would like to add something to the question Christoph posed earlier, because as he said, it’s not traditional guerilla tactics we’re confronted with. Nevertheless, it reminds me of the pedagogical projects of the Tupamaros in the 60’s and 70’s. At the very beginning, Luis stated that this model has no antecedent, or no memory. However, it reminded me of the socialist model of the kibbutz, or the Tupamaros tactics. Can you comment on that, whether there is a kind of reference?
– Luis Humberto: No. Artemio, one of the community coordinators who talked in the video, went to university and he has a leftist background. There is a leftist background in general. For example, the name of Maclovio Rojas. He was a Mixteco indigenous labor rights organizer. There is some background from the Mexican leftist movement dating back to the 60’s. Again, what you mentioned about not having an identity, I think that is why the community finds it so important to create the schools, a political women center, a political-philosophical university, because that helps them create their own identity.
– Christoph Twickel: I’d just like to say one word about their networking politics. It’s because they’re so well known (everybody in Tijuana knows what Maclovio Rojas is, like the “Bambule” here in Hamburg, which was covered in every media). So people who have problems with the authorities refer to Maclovio Rojas, and they even go there to seek help (other settlement dwellers, such as “Puerta del Futuro” and “El Pípila”). They do marches together. There was also the case of this well-known maquiladora named Han-Young that is a feeder factory for Hyundai. Workers tried to found an independent union in 1997, I think. During this process of creating an independent union and the strikes, they went to Maclovio Rojas to seek help. They have the same lawyer, so they met him there. The more Maclovio Rojas gets known, the more other people go there in order to find ways to organize themselves.
– Do they talk about the Zapatista movement? They’re from Mexico and an inspiration to the whole world. This is a guerilla tactic, isn’t it?
– Luis Humberto: You mean if they have a relationship with the Zapatista movement?
– Yes.
– Luis Humberto: Outside of the community, Maclovio Rojas is known as a Zapatista community.

UNLIKELY ENCOUNTERS

Cassette 10, Side 1

Maclovio Rojas discussion (continued from cassette 9)

– Luis Humberto: Outside of the settlement, Maclovio Rojas is perceived as a Zapatista community. Even the name “Aguas Calientes” is a reference to the Aguas Calientes Center of the Zapatistas in Chiapas. But the label “Zapatista” can be a funny thing. In one of the libraries [at Maclovio] there’s a picture of Zapata, and one of the women who was showing us around, the one with the kids [in the video], was at the Aguas Calientes Center to check something about the electricity, and they told her we needed a guide. When Christoph asked her who was the guy in the picture, she told us: “I don’t know. I think it’s Luciano Carranza.” I said: “No, it’s Zapata.” She really didn’t know what Zapata looked like. So from the outside, Maclovio Rojas is seen as a Zapatista community. It also has to do with the fact that Zapata is an icon of the left in Baja California, and also an icon to activists in the U.S. That’s why Maclovio Rojas is so dangerous. One thing is the land value, and then they can become like a virus, spreading to other communities, because there are a lot of illegal settlements, but they are not as well organized as in Maclovio. So that makes Maclovio Rojas so dangerous. In fact, that is why the local government invented this fake Villista guerrilla allegation, to make it look as if they were fighting against a leftist movement.
– How has the international situation after September 11 at the border affected the expectations of crossing the border, given its militarization?
– Luis Humberto: I don’t think Maclovio Rojas was affected directly by the 9/11 events, but I’ve spoken about this with Hortensia before, and they see it as a turning point for social movements. For example, now anybody who has an opinion against the U.S. is considered a terrorist. So they see it as a threat to social movements worldwide. Before 9/11, migration laws were supposed to be negotiated in Mexico. After 9/11, Fox had to kiss a lot of ass, and submit to a lot of Bush’s pressures, as we all know. So a lot of social movements were in danger. And again, a lot of activists turned their social struggles into a peace movement. A lot of the support directed to social struggles like Maclovio Rojas was suddenly redirected into the peace movement. That’s how they see it: every social movement became a terrorist risk, and then the network of activists and social movements suddenly forgot about what they where doing, and started working on the peace movement.
– As you mentioned, now it has gotten more difficult to cross the border. But people are still left with no options with which to improve their living standard other than crossing the border or working in the maquiladoras. What is the current perspective of Maclovio Rojas on this situation?
– Luis Humberto: The militarization of the border took place in 1994; we’re talking about seven years before 9/11. So already since 1994, the border was basically completely closed. The people of Maclovio Rojas work mainly in maquiladoras. That’s why they have an economic development plan of their own, giving land to members of the community, so that they start their own businesses, break away from the maquiladoras and create their own economy. That’s a project in progress. Some of the areas they’re planning to develop in this sense are precisely those in danger of being invaded by people paid by the government. Since 9/11, investments in Mexico have decreased, and countries like Honduras, El Salvador, Indonesia and China make it more convenient for corporations to run maquiladoras. So suddenly maquiladoras are leaving Tijuana, and eventually most of them will go, because it’s not as profitable as running a maquiladora in Indonesia. So the people of Maclovio Rojas know that it’s important to run their own economy, and not to depend on whichever mood Bush or the corporations wake up with. So that’s how 9/11 could affect the economy of Maclovio Rojas: maquiladoras close down, therefore some of them would have to take other maquiladora jobs, and if you don’t work long enough in a maquiladora, you don’t have any rights.
– Shuddha: These are more in the way of general comments. I was remarking to you that when you see the footage of that settlement, it’s a lot like what we see in India, even in terms of color (I’ve seen this in Brazil and elsewhere), in terms of the way that the settlements look, even in terms of their architectural features, but that’s just an incidental thing. What I actually find interesting in both aspects of the presentation this afternoon, is a way of thinking about these conditions as being more general than they appear to be, in the sense that the idea of the border is something that I think is also spreading as a virus.
– Luis Humberto: Yes.
– Shuddha: We often tend to think of ourselves as being the viruses infiltrating systems, but increasingly I find that the border is a general condition of life now. You experience what you experience at the border in terms of the controls, in terms of the regulations, in terms of the constant search for your identity, and the general feeling that you’re at the wrong place. That’s the primary feeling at the border, that you should not be here. That’s something that is becoming increasingly a feature of urban life, to some extent related to the so-called “war against terrorism” and what it means in general terms, and to some extent also in terms of who has the right to be present in which space. I want to relate this to the question you raised earlier, as to how people in different spaces relate or refer to something that goes on elsewhere. One thing that has troubled me over time is our inability to think (whether it’s in Europe, Mexico or India) in terms of other than “This is an other reality that is so disturbing, that I must do something for it over there.” What I mean to say is that there is a lot of necessity for our campaigns for each other and to express solidarity, but I think that those solidarities will actually get strengthened if we also realize that the same principles occur within our own spaces. You can see the assaults on communities in waves or cycles. There are waves and cycles of the consolidation of communities, and then there are waves and cycles of the assaults on communities. This particular cycle of assaults on communities began, I think, with the Margaret Thatcher years in Great Britain. Look at what happened in Northern England, and look – even in the late 90’s – at the destruction of life in the Liverpool dockyards, and then it spread like a virus everywhere. I would caution people in Europe to think that this is not a reality that is present in your spaces (of course you know of the “Bambule”, and so on), but I often think whenever I come to Europe, I see not how different, but how familiar it is to me. I think this is something we could all think a little bit about, because the classical pattern of leftist solidarity in Europe was: “There are terrible things happening in the Third World, and our conscience is hurt.” I think that the time has come now to shift that around, and to try and see what’s going on in a way that is actually related to what’s going on here. That’s one comment. The other comment, which has nothing to do with the presentation, is just something that I’d like to share. I’ve known Fran [Illich] for a long time know, and we’ve met at several instances where we’ve talked of borders. We’ve often wondered in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh about our borders, so I just want to share this with you in terms of information. (…) disappearances per year. This is a reality continuing now for 11-12 years, and now the facts are coming to light as to where these people go. This is apart from officially certified killings. We know that there are deaths, but then there are the so-called disappearances (maybe they just went away somewhere, you never know). That’s one reality and the other reality on the eastern border is people from Bangladesh who try to cross to India, and it’s a mirror of the Mexico-U.S. situation, where the Indian government acts exactly like the U.S.-government vis-à-vis the Bangladesh border. What tends to happen periodically are the “cleanliness drives” (that is how they’re called) in the city, where the police goes with anthropologists, linguists even, into slum areas and shacks, and tries to identify people by their accent. Then they are put in trucks and taken away to the Bangladesh border. Of course the Bangladesh government says that those are not Bangladeshi people. So then they are left at a no-man’s land and it becomes like an adventurous contest for border guards of both countries, as to who can shoot whom. This year, there was an almost magical-realist incident, where a group of people was taken to the Bangladesh border and they disappeared in the fog. The security forces could not shoot, because there was fog, and when the fog lifted, the people were not there. So you don’t know where they are. What I’m trying to say is that countries, I mean spaces (it doesn’t make sense to talk about countries here, it’s completely across the board), spaces like the South-Asian borders, spaces like the Mexican borders need a lot of attention, although I said first that you need to pay a lot of attention to Europe, and now I’m saying you need to pay a lot of attention to places like India, because there’s also a general consensus that a place like Mexico or India are functioning, efficiently organized states at some level. They’re not the African dictatorships; they’re not the Middle-Eastern basket cases. That is true. They’re extremely well organized, efficient state machineries, and that’s what we need to think about, because these powers can be very lethal. They’re particularly lethal, because they’re able to project an impression of stability or “Things are all right, there’s a rule of law, there’s a parliament, there’s a democracy.” A lot more attention needs to go into these realities, and I just wanted to share this with you.
– Luis Humberto: Thanks a lot. I heard your presentation, and I think I approached you after that. I told you about the squads and how a lot of things you talked about sounded like Tijuana. I completely got it when you said that you could see the world in your own barrio, in your own street. The border is everywhere now; it keeps getting closer to people. Yes, I agree with you when you say that people tend to focus on problems elsewhere. You can see it in Tijuana too, where it is very common to say: “In Africa, people are suffering. We should do something about Africa.” Or: “We should all go to Chiapas and join the revolution.” All right, there are a lot of problems in Chiapas, but remember Tijuana? “O no, Tijuana’s fine!” Tijuana’s fine, and you have San Diego, you can cross over there and buy milk; you can get a passport easily. That’s why we found it was important to say: “There’s something wrong here. If you don’t want to look, we’ll find a way to make you look. We’re not telling you whether this is wrong or right; we’re going to make you look, and then you’ll make your own decision.” Because there’s a tendency to look the other way. Concerning the militarization of the border: it’s scary to learn how it is spreading. It’s not just social movements that can become a virus, but the whole militarization of the border, too. Also, systems may seem [like they work] fine. Mexico had to pay a really high price for democracy. The only way to overthrow the PRI dictatorship was to go with Fox, and that’s what a lot of people did, and now they have to pay the price. Now all social movements are gone. You’ve seen Maclovio Rojas. Just last week, Fox gave a press conference and said: “We’ve received new data. Poverty in Mexico has decreased by 3.4%, so 3 million are not poor anymore.” Everybody said that this had to be joke. Then Fox made another comment: “The economy in Mexico has reached its highest peak this year. There’s so much money in Mexico.” Wait, there’s a lot of money in Mexico, but only five people own it! It’s this “Everything is fine” illusion. Just as you said, it’s a dangerous thing for a system to look good. Tijuana is run by a PAN-government, and the PAN has ruled Baja California for the last 14 years. As I said, Baja California is a social laboratory for a lot of this stuff. It was the first state to have a PAN government. What happened? In Tecate there’s a curfew, as of ten p.m. you can’t be outside. In Tijuana, for example, you cannot use the word “Tijuana”. If somebody from the local government finds out I’m using the word “Tijuana” here and they don’t agree with it, they can sue me because it’s a trademark owned by the government. If there are posters with the name of Tijuana on them and somebody was not to agree with that, you could be sued, because it’s a trademark. So they have a kind of corporation thinking. After all, Fox was the CEO of Coca-Cola International. People will say: “Everything’s fine; we have McDonald’s, and that’s a sign of progress.” An ampm [convenience store] just opened in Rosarito, and the president went there to inaugurate it. Like the McDonald’s, it’s believed to be a sign of “progress”; the establishment of corporations is seen as beneficial. At the same time, borders are closed to people, but open to corporations.
– Christoph Twickel: I wanted to comment on what you said about European solidarity. I think this old concept of solidarity has to do with the thought of: “People over there have so little, and the little they have is taken away from them by the authorities.” Maclovio Rojas is a good example of, like Artemio said, how people are living very well there, and they like to live there. They live well because they don’t want to conform to the way they’re supposed to live. And that has to do with McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken, as Luis just said. We didn’t see a lot of images of Tijuana, but when you drive through the city, you see the way people are supposed to live: in a housing block or in one of the urbanized areas, paying off their mortgage for 25 years, if they can afford it. They have the advantage of living in a purportedly secure environment, and they can go to McDonald’s. Maclovio Rojas stands for what people gain when they refuse to conform. I think this can also be applied to our situation here. If you go outside of Hamburg, you see housing blocks and McDonald’s as well. It’s on another plane, because people here might earn 200 Dollars a week instead of 50, but workers live in the same globalized way others do elsewhere. Maclovio Rojas is a counter example.
– Shuddha: Just by way of information. The visa form for the Mexican government, which I have to fill in as an Indian citizen, asks of me that I should not visit the northern borders of Mexico. Because the only reason I’m going to Mexico is that I want to get into the U.S.
– Luis Humberto: Yes. Talking about borders, I was so amazed that nobody asked for my passport when I arrived to Hamburg. When they picked me up from the airport, I said: “Nobody has asked me for my passport, or a Visa Stamp.” I was amazed. One of the things that white, (upper) middle-class people from Tijuana will say is: “Why do people try to cross illegally? Why don’t they just get passports?” The answer is I wouldn’t even get one, because you have to prove that you’re going to consume, and not to work. You must have a bank account and a car. You can have a bank account, but if you don’t have a car, you don’t get a passport. If you fill an application for a passport, they will ask you if you’re member of a terrorist organization, or if you sympathize with the Nazi movement, all these crazy questions, and I don’t know if there will ever be someone who will answer positively to them. At the No Border Camp we say that everybody is illegal, in the sense that it’s only due to certain circumstances that we’re able to cross. If the INS officer wakes up in a bad mood, they can take your passport, take you to a secondary inspection, strip search you, do a body cavity search. I was amazed at the differences between this border and the Mexican-U.S. border. It was mind blowing for me. I know that as the European Union starts to gain a position, it’s starting to seal its borders. So who knows if one day they will strip-search me or not, that is if I ever get to come back to Europe.
– Christoph: I know there are still some questions, but I would like to thank everybody, because we have to clean up and leave. All of you who have signed up for the boat tour should be at a quarter to ten p.m. at the fish market’s bridge.

Reverse Engineering Freedom

By Geert Lovink and Florian Schneider

During a noborder camp in a small town in Romania a young guy passes
by. He works for a corporation that manufactures hardware for
brand-name electronics companies near the Hungarian-Serbian border. He
tells the story of an unsuccessful attempt to unionise the workers of
this factory. About 3500 Romanians are employed there for a wage of
eight dollars for a twelve hour working day. Their dispute was not
about salary. The workers’ discontent grew out of despair – how were
they to overcome the powerless position they were in as an outsourced
post-industrial reserve army, fully exposed to the fluctuations of
just-in-time production while forced to be graceful for the privilege
of having a job in the first place?

His story ended as it happens every day around the globe. Snared
within the boundaries of the local, the struggle of the Romanian
workers didn’t have a chance to be recognized by international or
translocal labour organizations. Irrespective of whether the free
lunch includes desert, a few extra dollars are thrown into the pay
cheque, or health insurance is part of the salary package, management
will not hesitate to fire all those who start a union within the
factory. It‘s a vicious circle. Every attempt to self-organize leads
to nothing but an affirmation of and increase in the power of a
corporation that operates globally and constantly blackmails workers
in Romania, Scotland or Singapore with threats to close down the
factory site and move production to China or Mexico.

Such powerlessness is no matter of quantity: even the biggest union of
the world, the German Metal Workers, failed in their half-hearted
attempt to finally achieve equal wages in East and West Germany,
almost 14 years after the fall of the Berlin wall. Their strike in
summer 2003 turned out to be the greatest disaster in union history
after World War II – and the reasons are not all that different from
the situation in Romania. The post-Fordist organization of labour
fragments workers in a way never seen before. The results come into
effect at the level of subjectivity: The classical values of
collectivism and solidarity turn out to be incredibly weak and
practically useless as soon as a struggle leaves its
one-dimensionality and enters the realm of distributed power within
networks around the world.

Nonetheless, the power of workers in the global factories is
potentially unlimited. Their mind-blowing virtual strength comes as no
surprise. The Net still holds the capacity to articulate differently
situated actors; in doing so, new socio-technical formations
accumulate with unforeseen political force. Call this globalization
from below, if you like. One could easily imagine how campaigns of
culture jamming and image-pollution could support a tiny, anonymous
wildcat strike in a maquiladora factory like the one in Romania.
Precisely because of the dependency of global markets on just-in-time
production, any deliberate and well-aligned refusal is very likely to
create a considerable material threat.

Activist campaign – from McLibel to Deportation Class, from Toywar to
The Yesmen – have demonstrated how immaterial protest can
short-circuit the incalculable and immeasurable layers of creative
refusal in the most effective and cost-efficient way. A wide range of
different conceptual technics are now ready to be further implemented,
translated and abstracted in a variety of other contexts. What we now
need to figure out is how to bypass the Cultural Divide without
reducing or underestimating the complex antagonisms and
incommensurabilities that define the plurality of cultures. In the age
of networks, how can concepts transform and pop up in other social
contexts? Is this a process we can even hope to determine or
ascertain? Surely such a desire for control and expertise at a
distance is impossible? At best, we can aim to identify strategic
alliances around specific problems and potential projects. In so
doing, action is put into effect, and political life is made anew.

The Strategy of Questions

What is to be done in order to realize our potential, to liberate net
activism from the art ghetto in which it was suspended during the
nineties? What is to be done in order to overcome social boundaries
and explore the power of the immaterial workers of the world, to
render more precisely the new forms of subjectivity and connectivity
that might constitute the next generation of global struggles?
Hacktivist and net.art techniques can travel a long way. Why not use
and reuse concepts that have been successfully implemented in one
context and integrate them into other contexts? Such operations are,
after all, ones of translation and transformation rather than
reproduction of the same.

We’ve transcended the impasse of postmodernist identity politics and
academe’s game of culture wars, and can freely debate our political
directions without the fear of a return to party doctrines. The
current multiplicity of struggles, models and forms of organizations
makes it possible and even necessary to repose a question, that has
been taboo for a little while: What is to be done? There is one main
difference to the old-style Leninist attitude. It will most likely
generate no answer, only more questions.

What is the problem of a global movement that became stuck in the old
patterns of protest as usual? What‘s the sense of a theory that is
confined to the self-gratifying boundaries of academic research? What
describes the tragedy of a labour movement that persists with values
and strategies peculiar to the bygone era of organized labour? What
hinders the creative concepts of digital activism from finally mixing
with other modalities of life? And what is ‘life‘ anyway in this late
media age?

What is to be done in order to envision a notion of the global that is
not a synonym for the unavoidability of continuous pauperisation? Why
not invent a conceptual technics of the global as a social potential,
as the experience of enormous creativity of the multiplicity and
diversity of all creative and productive practices? How can we leave
the realm of the hypothetical and purely speculative and mobilize
concepts into the ordinary everyday, yet resist a demise into
banality? How do concepts leave the safe environment of art and
activism and enter the realm of the popular? Is commercialisation of
the avant-garde the only route open for a broader distribution of
political concepts? Please, let’s leave the nonsense of consumer
sovereignty in academe’s dustbin of bad ideas. In short: how do
political and cultural concepts travel in a post-1989, post-911 world
that is so deeply networked and so profoundly mediated? How do
movements scale up and metamorphose into something much more powerful
and imaginative?

We do not believe this is just an issue of branding and marketing,
backed up by sufficient financial resources. That would be the answer
of tired transnational NGO bureaucrats. There is something else going
on that taps into the desire and discontents of millions. This makes
the question what is to be done? even more open. There is no urgency
to make ‘decisions.’ We do not need to make up a crisis – there is
already plenty of it around.

The end of history vanished long before September 11th, 2001. The
creeping recession of the old powers and the new markets revealed new
forms of political subjectivity that culminated in one slogan:
“Another world is possible.” Many fear this slogan remains an empty
phrase. For us that’s not a given deal. Beyond the old fashioned
dialectics of revolution and reform, radicalism and opportunism, there
is not only one alternative, but numerous (network) architectures to
be invented – and probed, as McLuhan was so keen to test, for new
openings into media-cultures. So many people are making ‘connections’
these days. Who wants to try and keep track of all these activities?
For the analyst-activist, the challenge is to locate the emergent
combination of values and needs that underscore the proliferation of
leftist cultural productions, economic systems and political forces.

Who dares to have the courage to write “we,” provoking everyone by
stating that there is something like a global strategy, a common
debate of initiatives, movements and multitudes? The general
intellect, the connected intelligence, the roaming intelligentsia that
travels from one tribe to the next can only be fragrant lie.
Deconstruction of general claims is an easy job. Yet we are so
flagrant to believe that people can have certain strategies in common
and debate them. We have to look at the next generation of networking,
which will be based on a culture of mutual exchange and syndication,
not just pointing and linking – no matter how material or immaterial,
real or virtual.

Hyperlinking — From Documents To Society

The hyperlink was once an adequate metaphor for a primitive version of
global networking based purely on its potential. With its spamming,
the dissemination of digital porn and open publishing, its
hacker-culture and corporate firewalls, free software and the new
economy, open access and wireless mobility, the Internet built and
configured a fin de siècle that was stamped by all sorts of artificial
euphoria and enthusiasm.

Nineties networking was a culture of no commitment, spontaneous
adventures and loose appointments; it was liberating from crusty
bureaucracies and we liked it a lot. Net culture offered unexpected
advantages in the fight against the ancient brood of corporate power
and we succeeded many times; it gave a first taste of a new freedom,
but we are no longer satisfied with it.

Critical Internet culture is ready for its next stage. The Net is no
longer a parallel universe; it’s the global condition – the world we
live in. After the loose ties of Usenet, lists and blogs it is now
important to investigate how we can design tighter bonds of
collaboration. As casual drug users we know: one would have to
increase the application rate in order to repeat the ‘rush’ of the
new. But that‘s too banal and cheap for us.

Stop complaining about the decline of new media. That perhaps already
happened in 1998. Let’s dream up something else. It is important to
‘materialize’ net culture without making the same mistakes as the NGOs
of the 80s and 90s. We don’t need consolidation but dissemination and
transformation. Let’s jump to another level and take all these
experimental ideas about interactive communication, interface culture
and hypertext with us. Rather than a renaissance of what we have
already experienced, we will start searching for radically new models
of connectivity that indicate a forthcoming revolution. A revolution
in the truest sense of the word.

Commonly, a revolution means the beginning of something very new,
something that has never been there before. And that’s what fuels the
desire. But in its literal and even original notion the term
revolution refers to a political activity that has nothing else in
mind than the restoration of some allegedly old-fashioned rights and
freedoms that were guaranteed once upon the time. It is precisely such
contrariness that characterizes the current situation.

The revolution of our age should come as no surprise. It has been
announced for a long time. It is anticipated in the advantage of the
open source idea over archaic terms of property. It is based on the
steady decline of the traditional client-server architecture and the
phenomenal rise of peer-to-peer-technologies. It is practised already
on a daily basis: the overwhelming success of open standards, free
software and file-sharing tools shows a glimpse of the triumph of a
code that will transform knowledge-production into a world-writable
mode.

Today revolution means the wikification of the world; it means
creating many different versions of worlds, which everyone can read,
write, edit and execute. This revolution is very different from
Foucault’s depressing indictment that, historically, revolutions
simply reinstated that which they sought to overthrow. Today’s
revolution is not one of expulsion followed by reincorporation; it is
one of invention, transformation and connection. No one has any hope
of capturing the emergent info-political formations; there’s too many
of them.

On a theoretical level this revolution has been discussed in many
books and lectured on at many universities. Abstract knowledge and the
general intellect are replacing parcelized and repetitive labour, the
industrial division of labour and notions of ownership. The key
content of production and wealth accumulation is no longer the
exploitation of human labour: it must be allocated to the development
of the social networker.

The cyberpunk phrase, “the future is now,” has come true. Planet earth
has reached a stage of science fiction. We will not get distracted by
Hollywood blockbusters where technology is a spectacle that refracts
from ‘real life.’ It is time to transcend media (theory) and face the
fact that technology (in)forms the lives of billions.

On a conceptual level the tangible assets of an oddly bashful digital
commune appear as the logical, quasi-natural consequence of
technological progress. Even though this commune consists of much more
than just propagandistic values, its full impact remains unfeasible
under the despotic rule of an info-empire that seems to act without
even the simulation of being capable of solving any of the problems of
its own creation other than on the symbolic level of occasional
interventionism.

Open Source Imagination

‘New media’ are only one amongst many struggles. Having said that,
today’s network technology may as well be described as a rich metaphor
machine, whose concepts penetrate a wide diversity of political,
economic and cultural aspects of life. For decades the democratisation
of media has been announced. But nothing seemed to happen. Instead,
the babyboom generation has been whingeing for decades about evil
media conglomerates, portraying ordinary people as victims of media
manipulation. It is about time to crack down on this passive,
politically correct view and radically focus on networked empowerment.
We are the media.

Technological innovation came along with new regimes that restricted
the use of media and rebound their liberating potential to ever more
advanced systems of command and control. Technological change has
always been accompanied with great enthusiasm and new aesthetical
paradigms that in the last instance reinvented the wheels to carry
forward the same old industries. Nonetheless, we were amongst these
enthusiasts.

We are not so naive to believe that the ‘media question’ might be a
matter of technology or aesthetics. It‘s a matter of power. Still, the
passion is there, time and again, to stretch the possibilities of
software, experiment with new forms of narrative and dream up even
better feedback loops for the users-producers.

As post-situationists we well know that reality has been transformed
into images. It was this reduction and abstraction, carried out by
artistic avant-gardes, that finally destroyed the relation of an image
with its authenticity, the relation of a cliché with its archetype,
the relation of the signifier with its referent. Nonetheless our
fascination with screen culture remains as strong as it ever was. If
we want the media universe to proliferate, we have to push the
question of intellectual property as far as it can go. To whom do all
these images belong? To the one who is mapped or to the one who
produced them? To those who draw copies from it or to everyone?

New films, radio stations and code produce new degrees of freedom.
They do so by reassessing the mediatic heritage of previous
generations; broadcasting the general intellect; empowering collective
story telling; fast sharing of content, skills and resources; and
enabling multiple connections between creative nodes and networks.

Discipline is not the answer – neither to the corruption of the
entertainment industry nor to the endless ennui of bourgeois
individualism. Discontent in pop culture is on the rise. There is only
so much you can consume; boredom in shopping malls, on the streets, in
classrooms and factories is becoming endemic.

We don‘t believe in the postmodern ‘death of the author’ or the
techno-libertarian ‘giving-it-all-away for free.’ Still, there is a
significant deprivation in the reappropriation of image production and
distribution by the digital multitudes. The phrase ‘people have to
somehow make a living’ is a truism going nowhere. The drive towards
digitisation and free replication is simply too powerful. Politically
it is of strategic importance that the movements back this idea and
openly defend and practice piracy. The idea of a ‘fair’ intellectual
property regime is an illusion.

The luring idea of protectionism has to be exposed as a perfidious
fraud. Narrow-minded authors and hysteric owners who claim to protect
their property against free flows and mutual exchange are nothing but
hypocrites. It reminds one of unionists who once pretended to protect
employment but in fact long ago lost face with their position against
‘illegal immigrants’ by defaming them as ‘wage dumpers.’

Celebrate Freedom

All too often we have encountered a ‘fear of freedom’ amongst radical
activists. There is a deep desire to call for regulation and control
that, in the past, the nation-state and its repressive apparatus had
to enforce upon the out-of-control capitalism. As true
techno-libertarians we have to state: the struggle is about nothing
else other than freedom (Everyone is a Californian). There is a
freedom of sharing, exchanging, multiplying and distributing
resources, no matter how material or immaterial.

So far, freedom has always been connected with equality, and therefore
tied up with the possession of or alienation from property. Today this
link is broken. It is exactly the complete farce of all sorts of
management scenarios (from border management to digital rights
management) which make evident that property is an absolutely
inadequate juridico-political relation to handle the potential and the
complexity of social relationships within the immaterial sphere of
production and distribution.

It is an essential and unalterable fact that ideas circulate online
and people are free to move around offline. Content should not be
restricted to the Internet or any one medium for that matter. For its
own sake the multitudes will refuse to be handcuffed and fettered by
the myths of a nation-state or some global government.

Freedom of movement means liberation par excellence: the emancipation
from the forces that hinder one to decide for oneself where to go and
where to stay. It is the power of negation and self-valorisation:
everywhere is better than just here. Freedom of movement gives the
guarantee that one can leave one’s place behind. We are no longer
slaves of territory.

Freedom of communication is the freedom par excellence: The autonomy
of the social networkers to produce and to distribute the products of
their living labour from peer to peer. Free communication is not only
one of the most precious human rights, it is also the only one
absolutely inalienable freedom. All obedience and command that
undermines the possibility of collaborative, distributed knowledge is
null and void.

Theoretically as well as practically we insist on blending the
autonomy of migration and communication. Universal citizenship and
universal access are subjects of a new circle of struggles for freedom
that may sound old-fashioned in the first instance, but certainly will
shape the future of the digital multitudes.

The Source Code of the Revolution

Reverse engineering consists of taking apart an object to see how it
works in order to duplicate or enhance the object. It is a practice
taken from older industries that is now frequently used on computer
hardware and software. In the automobile industry, for example, a
manufacturer may purchase a competitor‘s vehicle, disassemble it, and
examine the welds, seals, and other components of the vehicle for the
purpose of enhancing their vehicles with similar components.

Now is the time to begin with the reverse engineering of the
proprietary libraries of freedom. Such a project has to be approached
in a collaborative and organised fashion. We need a critical and
empirical hybrid research project in the form of manifolded militant
inquiries that are simultaneously globally distributed, exploring
everyday forms of refusal and resistance beyond the monoculture of
breaking protest news and the all-to-easy spectacle of
semi-professional media activism.

We need to get to know in detail how the daily exercise of freedom of
movement undermines the hierarchies of a global labour market and how
it perforates the system of borders that operate as filters for
over-exploitation. By enabling a worldwide circulation of social
struggles and their experiences, the networks of migration act as a
catalyst for a globalisation on the ground.

It would be an enormous waste to withhold the crucial experiences,
skills and resources of the 90‘s new media experiments from the next
generation of social struggles. And it would be a fatal mistake not to
bring the accumulated street-knowledge of political activism from
previous decades into the evolving struggles around piracy and
intellectual property. There is an abundance of know-how around, most
especially in how to deal with repression.

We need to strengthen and expand the everyday practice of freedom of
communication as it attacks intellectual property, licenses and
patents; as it undermines the global hierarchies of knowledge. This is
the key factor for contemporary production: To question the logic of
valuation and wage-slavery as a whole. Free associations of knowledge
production have the potential to break up despotic borders and
identities and to cause a true globalisation of struggles on an
immaterial level.

Since the cold war, the desire for freedom has been abused as the
machine code of capitalism. It has been reduced to what is still
labelled as freedom of trade, but appears only as an off limits
license to kill, destroy and exploit.

In turn, nothing and no-one will restrain the multitudes from
re-appropriating the idea of freedom for the sole purpose of copying,
duplicating and multiplying the beauty of free communications and a
new commons based on unfettered and equal access to open sources and
resources.

That is the only way we will retrieve the source code of a revolution
that will be immune against being televised, digitized, betrayed,
corrupted or even directed.

Avant-garde is being replaced by new ways of surging ahead. There must
be at least a certain number of unknown files or strangers in your
backpack or your shared folder. Going ahead means either tracking,
trafficking or offering any other form of illegitimate linkage
service, otherwise it will appear as totally ridiculous.

With a sense of irony we could say: Learning from the New Economy
means learning to claim victory. Free your speculative energies from
within! This means writing off our losses. It means learning how to
file bankruptcy. Demand creative accounting for all. Dotcom
entrepreneurs did not end up in jail – and neither should you and me.

While the nineties were the great times of the speculative thinking
and peaceful revolutions, identity politics and political correctness,
what was an emerging culture of global networking and electronic
resistance has now become submerged into endless virtual guerrilla
wars: From the absurd spectacle of suing individual users of Linux or
peer-to-peer services for copyright infringements to the constant
battles around software patenting; from preventing the cheap
manufacture of generic medicines to raids on flea markets, arresting
and even executing trade-mark pirates.

Rather than fooling around in white cubes or sandboxes, a constant
political recalculation involving a precise evaluation of
consequential charges as well as changing and moving and adding up and
multiplying identity elements may increasingly become a matter of bare
survival.

This time their strategy of tension will not work. We will not go
underground and insist on the absolute taboo of armed struggle. There
is a lot to be learned from the failed transformations of the
babyboomers’ movements. There are other ways to radicalise and
integrate movements – just witness the power of the global
demonstrations against the Iraq war on February 15, 2003.

Postmodernists have deconstructed the world; it is now up to us to
change it. No one will do it for us. We do not believe that utopia
will automatically arise out of the ashes of the Apocalypse. It is
vital to constantly unveil power relationships, but this is no
absolution from standing up to act. There is an irresistible drive
towards freedom. It is essential for a movement of movements to claim
and celebrate the freedom concept and to not give this strategic term
away to neo-conservatives. Freedom as a life force is irreducible to
the demand to consume and the rhetoric of economism, whatever its
brand. Freedom consists of precisely that which escapes such
strictures in the simultaneous movements of refusal, invention and
transformation.

Cassette 10, side 2

Da muss ich mit Leute zusammenarbeiten, mit denen ich unter Umständen gar nicht zusammen arbeiten will.
– Can I interrupt with a question to you? I don’t know where you were web streaming from in Geneva, but there was a media center in Geneva at L’Usine, for example, that was web streaming all of the information about the counter-summit, but was then raided by police in plainclothes. That’s a concrete example and it would be nice to talk about these questions of distribution of and access to information (maybe I had freedom toast for breakfast without actually knowing what it was); while arguing for a metaphor, perhaps we could come back to the kinds of more practical contracts. Also I wanted to say that I [favor] the conversational [dynamics in this congress] – because I was sitting down there, and I wanted to see the microphones moving around the audience in the way they have in the past few days, because I think that worked really well to keep everybody in the same space. I would be much more comfortable saying this from among the people who are also sitting here. So I don’t know if we should move the microphone down to the audience.
– Frank/Florian: Maybe we could have a look at the video of the raid at L’Usine?
Zur Beruhigung eurer Schwellenangst. Didn’t work… Wir haben ja gedacht, konstituierende Praxen beinhalten Selbstermächtigung. Gerade die Frage von Selbstermächtigung oder die Frage des Zugangs, die ja eben war, das ist eine ziemlich wesentliche Frage, die sich darum dreht, wir haben lange darüber diskutiert in diesen Antiglobalisierungsdiskursen nach globalen Bürgerrechten, und was soll das eigentlich sein, wer soll diese Rechte garantieren, wenn der Nationalstaat auf eine bestimmte Art das nicht mehr tun kann, und das alles in Transnationalen Organisationen übergeht. Unsere Frage war, es geht um Zugang zu Ressourcen, an sie teilhaben zu können. Wir haben gesagt, man muss sich selbst ermächtigen. Wir finden auch, Hierarchien verschwinden nicht dadurch, indem sie unsichtbar gemacht werden, indem wir sozusagen alle in einem Kreis sitzen und meinen, alle gleich zu sein. Natürlich geht es darum, eine Bühne zu betreten; es kann auch ein anderer Ort sein als eine Bühne. Wir möchten diese durchaus schöne Bühne nutzen und sagen, wenn es um eine konstituierende Praxis geht, geht es natürlich um sich selbst ermächtigen und auch sich ein Zugang zu verschaffen, und das beinhaltet auch ein Zugang zu einer Diskussion, und in dem Sinne auch, aus einer bestimmten Anonymität herauszutreten.
– Why not put that situation down on this floor?
– Susanne: Because it’s there, and we wanted to make it visible, to underline it in order to talk about it. All the other talks have taken place on the ground, but the hierarchical structure teacher-audience was kept intact. Of course this continues in the same vein, having the people who “know” on an upper level, and those who “ask” on the ground, but that was pretty much the structure of the talks given before ours. That’s actually what we didn’t want, so that’s why we wanted to force you to break out of that [structure].
– Christoph: I must say I also found your performance a bit dodgy. It’s a way of doing it that I haven’t seen before, and it is quite the opposite of constituent practices as they have been discussed here. Ultimately, this goes back to a New Wave strategy, where things are shown in a negative way. I don’t like to be asked to be on stage, and I think it is quite important to create situations where different ways to communicate are made possible. I find [your argument] a bit strange, since you haven’t participated as the audience throughout the conference, and are only staying here for a day. I find it quite a statement.
– Shuddha: [“On stage” besides Expert Base] I came up here because I needed a drink.
– Christiane: We should avoid getting into a deadlock due to arguments dealing with “upper” and “lower” levels. It wouldn’t be like the topic of the congress to get stuck in this kind of binary oppositions. It seems you want to stay up there… What I found really interesting and was very grateful for was your reintroducing the work methods, talking about entertainment. Your presentation focused on entertainment, and the issue of how to keep up the energy (brought up by the other presentations as well), how to have a moment of enjoyment while doing serious political work.
– Jelka: Ich finde, dass die letzten Tage eigentlich nicht so waren, dass die, die vorne gestanden haben, die „teacher“ waren und die, die unten waren, die zu belehrenden Personen. Ich finde, dass die ganzen letzten Tage immer schon so waren, dass Experten zu Experten gesprochen haben, und ich habe gerne zwei Stunden Leuten, die Experten ihres eigenen Projekts waren, zugehört, um das mit meinem eigenen Projekt, wo ich Expertin war, abzugleichen. Ich finde, wenn ihr jetzt sagt, ihr wollt uns dazu zwingen, darüber noch mal nachzudenken, dann macht ihr auf einmal eine Grenze auf, die die ganzen Tage schon gar nicht mal da war. Ich fand, das war alles so selbstverständlich.
– Das wollte ich auch noch mal unterstützen, denn das konnte man auch daran merken, dass es sehr viele Wortbeiträge gab und Situationen, wo so was in irgendwelchen lectures nicht der Fall war, die ich in meinem Leben erlebt habe, da haben dann Leute auch gar nichts mehr gesagt, da war dann einfach Schweigen und das war hier absolut nicht der Fall.
– Ja, das finde ich auch, aber ich finde auch, dass genauso wie bisher allen anderen Leuten, die Präsentationen gemacht haben, zugestanden worden ist das in der Form zu gestalten, wie sie das machen möchten, dass jetzt genauso Respekt gewährt werden sollte und wenn sie diese Form gewählt haben, dann finde ich, dass man es kritisieren kann, aber dann können sie es auch so machen. Man kann sie es machen lassen.
– Wanda: Jetzt noch mal auf Florian Bezug nehmend, wenn es um das Erkämpfen des Zugangs geht, was vielleicht ein bisschen emphatisch [?] ist, aber es ist doch genau was da passiert, dass wenn jemand diese Schwelle zu dieser Bühne hoch muss und sich dieses Orangensaft nimmt oder runter holt, oder sich da hoch setzt, wenn man was trinken will. Ich glaube nicht, dass Selbstermächtigung leicht fällt oder diese Dinge einfach sind, sondern dass auch sie erkämpft werden müssen und geholt werden diese Schwellen überschritten werden müssen, um sich dann da zu äußern oder um sich dann da aus einer Menge heraus abzusetzen und sichtbar und angreifbar zu werden.
– Annette: Was mir dazu auffällt ist, dass es mir jetzt in der konkreten Situation erheblich schwerer fällt, den Wortbeiträgen aus der Runde oder den Publikum zu folgen, als es in der ganzen Zeit vorher war. Für mich ist es essentiell wenn ich Leuten zuhöre, dass ich sie auch sehen kann und so ist es sehr schwierig für mich, wirklich eine Diskussion in der Runde zu folgen.
(…)
– Shuddha: (…) in front of everyone’s eyes and go up and say something, I might make a fool of myself or fall down the stairs. That’s a crude analogy, but I think that what happens when people cross across spaces has something to do with that. As Florian says, no one (and this was also true when we went on this harbor trip yesterday) comes from Somalia, India, or Ukraine, no ones likes traveling in a boat, or in the hole of an airplane, or crammed into a bus, for reasons of a pleasure trip. They make this very difficult journey across spaces, because there is a kind of will to make another life somewhere else in the world, if your life wherever you are is impossible to live anymore. For myself, it’s a kind of bet that I had with myself, that I will not leave India as far as possible, as long as it becomes impossible. I hope I never have to be an exile. I hope that I can always come to Germany as a guest, and go back home and not have to live here. Not because I don’t like all of you, but because I think it’s important that we all ought to stay where we are and make a life. But of course if that becomes impossible – and it does become impossible – if I were living in Afghanistan, to be the person I am would be impossible. It is provisionally possible in India. It may change, it may not change. So if I were a person from Afghanistan, I would make that trip to Germany, because you actually want to recreate your life I some meaningful form. I’m very thankful that Florian makes this connection between the barriers that are created by intellectual property and the barriers that are created by the states and the migration process, because the desire to share and take from the world of culture or knowledge has in some ways the same sources or the same foundations as the desire to make your life wherever you want to. I think we tend to forget that it is actually very easy for people to cross the world. If you have enough money, if you have enough of a base in your life, you can go anywhere, and it doesn’t matter if you’re Indian or German. People who are from the elite in India can travel anywhere the world with great ease, and even the not-elite people from Germany can travel to India with great ease. For some people the world has no borders, because they have claimed the entire world for themselves. I think the world has borders for a vast majority of people, and the idea is to make this question of what the border is. So for some people it does not matter that a piece of music costs a lot of money, or that they can’t enter into it and access it, because they can invite Mick Jagger to their home and get him to play; it happens. But for most of us who are not friends of Mick Jagger, we have to buy his music or download it, and the money becomes the border, the money economy becomes the border that creates the barrier between ideas, that creates the barrier between people. So in that sense the relationship between work, labor, money, and the borders of states is a very important idea that I think we need to hold on to, because it’s not just a question of freedom of movement or lifestyle tourism, it’s a question of making your life meaningful. The other thing that I wanted to tell you is that in a sense, capitalism has a very interesting property, in that it of course wants to erase borders for goods and money, but at the same time it needs the delusion of proximity for many things. It needs you to think that your car is made in Germany. Of course it’s not made in Germany. If you buy a German car, the parts of that car are made all over the world, but yet you will think that you’re buying something called a German car. Yesterday Christoph was wearing a shirt that pretended to be a Cuban shirt, which is made in South Korea. There is an illusion that something is made somewhere, when actually production processes are completely globalized. In the new service sector economy, this is even more the case. Look at Tele-centers or software industries, or call centers. For example, a big industry is call center work, where people are trained to behave as if they are Americans when they’re talking to you on the telephone. So when you’re in the U.S. and you call someone at the call center, you’re probably speaking to someone in India. We have to think what’s the reason for this. One of the reasons is that when you think of service sector economies, a lot of things are also transactions. One of the things that happen in the call center industry is, for instance, chasing defaulting credit card payments. Supposing you’re poor in the U.S. and you haven’t paid your credit card bills, someone from the credit card company is going to call you up and say: “We’re going to take action, we’re going to send the credit collectors after you; we’ll take legal action.” Most of these calls come from India. If you’re in Los Angeles and you think that someone sitting in Delhi is threatening you with legal action, you won’t take that seriously. So you need the illusion of proximity. Capitalism needs to disperse its productivity in constantly distant places, and then distant places become nearer. If wages drop in Germany and work shifts to Korea, there will be very soon a point when the work shifts back from Korea to Germany. That is already beginning to happen. In the garment trade, for instance, sweatshops moved, for example, from New York to Indonesia, and depressed wages to the extent in New York that sweatshops began to reappear in New York. It’s an interesting example of reverse “sweatshopping”. Of course, productivity needs to be dispersed as far as possible, but the illusion of control needs to be as close to you as possible. Therefore the constant effort to remind you: “You’re from here, you’re from there.” Then there’s the illusion of – which brings me to the final point I’m going to make, and then I’m going back to taking my drink in the audience – the illusion of citizenship. Because the idea of the foreigner is dependent on your idea of yourself as a citizen. If you don’t think of yourself as a citizen, there will be no foreigner. It’s in a sense the inversion of the “No one is illegal” concept to thinking that actually everyone, in some context or the other, is illegal. We’re all illegal in some border regime. There are borders that everyone crosses, to lesser and greater degrees you’re illegal. It’s the identification of yourself as the citizen of the state, which then allows the state to determine that such and such a person will be kicked out. If we start turning our back in our minds – I think we should continue to use as many resources of the state as possible – but to turn our back in our minds to the idea of ourselves as citizens. There are other words that are interesting. In English, “common law”, there used to be a word called “denizen”. You had denizen rights. I think in the legal history of a city like Hamburg, you will find the idea of denizenship rights, because in places where a lot of foreigners come from elsewhere, they have rights, which don’t necessarily mean that they have responsibilities. So they have a right to live, but not necessarily to vote. I don’t even vote in India, but I’m quite happy to live somewhere and carry on with my live as long as I don’t have to participate in formal political processes. So perhaps a revival of the idea of denizenship is something that we can think of.
– Christiane: After this wonderful statement, let’s take a ten-minute break and then come back to discuss and take a look back at the whole conference.
(…)
– I want to direct your attention for a moment to a small bookstand over there. We still have a couple of fantastic books left. Today is the one and only chance to get a Park Fiction brochure.
– Christoph: Let’s move the tables from this “high school class” arrangement back into a U-shape. Now I’d like to hand the microphone over to Christiane.
– Christiane: Before we start discussing the conference in general terms, is there anything you would like to say?
– Frank/Florian: Ich wollte zum Schluss noch mal, angesprochen von Shuddhas letzte Intervention, auf einen Punkt hinweisen, der uns in den letzten Wochen als ganz wichtig aufgefallen ist, und der vielleicht auch als ein ganz guter Übergang in der generellen Abschlussdiskussion fungieren könnte. Wir sind in den letzten Wochen, wo wir mit unserem Bus durch Europa unterwegs waren, auf ein gewaltiges Problem gestoßen, in den ganzen Debatten und Diskussionen drum herum. Das ist ein bestimmter Begriff des Lokalen, der was mit einer gewissen Gemütlichkeit und Hübschheit zu tun hat, und der als letztes Refugium gegen das, was Globalisierung begriffen wird, besetzt wird. Was darin gipfelt, dass Handlungsfähigkeit oft nur auf einer lokalen Ebene wahrgenommen wird. Ich glaube, das ist ein ganz fundamentales Problem ist, was diese Bewegung, die als Antiglobalisierungsbewegung begriffen wird, was aber auch ästhetische oder jede Form von politischer Produktion hat. Ich war ganz am Anfang des Kongresses sehr dankbar über eine Bemerkung von Shuddha, wo er auf diese letzte Internationale angespielt hat. Ich glaube, dass es strategisch von einer entscheidenden Bedeutung ist, dass wir uns die globale Dimension aneignen. Was wir jetzt vorhin versucht haben, mit diesen Ausführungen über „freedom of movement“ und „freedom of communication“ zu veranschaulichen, was aber auch ganz dramatische Auswirkungen im alltäglichen politischen Handeln hat. Eine kleine Anekdote dazu, die das vielleicht illustriert oder unterstreicht: Wir sind mit unserem Bus, mit dem Expertenmobil, was im Prinzip die Funktion haben soll, Konnektivität herzustellen an Orten, an denen es keine regulären Internetzugang oder auch keine Telefonleitung gibt, die man für Datenverkehr nutzen könnte. Mit dem sind wir von Barcelona bis Rumänien gefahren. In Rumänien auf dem No Border Camp haben wir durch Zufall einen jungen Kerl kennen gelernt, der in einer Handyfabrik arbeitet. Die Firma heißt „Selectron“ und produziert „motherboards“, die entscheidenden Teile, die das Handy zum Funktionieren bringen. Sie produziert sie im Auftrag für Nokia, Bosch, Siemens, für alle großen Firmen. Das ist eine Firma, die hat kein Namen, kein Ansehen, ist kein „Brand“, hat ein Hauptquartier in München, ein Manager aus Malaysia, ein Stammwerk in Schottland, und einen ganz wichtigen Produktionsort in Timisoara, direkt hinter der neuen EU-Außengrenze zwischen Ungarn und Rumänien. Dieser junge Mann hat uns erzählt, wie sie vor ein paar Monate versucht haben, in diesem Betrieb dort eine Gewerkschaft zu gründen. Der Anlass mag uns nichtig vorkommen; Leute, die 120 € im Monat verdienen, da schon 5% über dem Monatslohn liegen, haben sich dagegen gewehrt, dass ihnen von dem kostenlosen Mittagessen das Dessert gestrichen wird. Es ging ganz offensichtlich ums Prinzip. Es ging darum, dass diese Firma, bevor sie sich dort angesiedelt hat, vom rumänischen Staat die Garantie geben hat lassen, dass es dort nie zu einer gewerkschaftlichen Organisierung kommen wird. Jetzt hatten wir diesen hochinteressanten Fall, dass es dort einen faszinierenden Ansatz von einer lokalen politischen Aktivität gab, auf die wir sofort uns beziehen wollten, die wir sofort erforschen und so weit wie möglich unterstützen wollten. Das Problem ist, dass diese Form der lokalen Aktion, das was als traditionelles Mittel der Organisierung dort im spezifischen Kontext möglich oder üblich geblieben ist, vollkommen aussichtslos ist. Der Mann ist gebrochen. Ex Securitate Mitarbeiter haben in den tagelangen Verhören deutlich gemacht: „Du hast keine Chance dich in irgendeiner Art und Weise dich mit anderen Leuten kurz zu schließen oder zu organisieren. Ihr seid hier, weil eure Macht gebrochen ist. Wir honorieren das mit etwas mehr Geld als man normalerweise bekommen würde, aber daran wird sich nichts ändern.“ Es wird aus diesem Menschen wahrscheinlich nie wieder herauszubringen sein, dieses Gefühl nach diesen tagelangen Verhören, diese tatsächlich erfahrene Ohnmacht, und natürlich auch diese Frustration, in diesen spezifischen lokalen Kontext keine Chance zu haben. Trotzdem eröffnet diese Situation und genau diese Art und Weise, wie diese Produktion organisiert ist, im klassisch marxistischen Sinne, welche Rolle diese Menschen im Produktionsprozess inne haben. Deren Macht wird symbolisch gebrochen, weil sie eine unglaubliche Macht haben. Wenn sie einfach streiken, gibt es wahrscheinlich ein Monat in Europa keine Handys mehr, was katastrophale Ausfälle bedeuten würde. Der Punkt ist, wie können Menschen, die keine Bewegungsfreiheit haben, die auch keine Möglichkeit zu kommunizieren haben diese Kommunikationsfreiheit zurückerobern? Wie können und wenn wir uns jetzt das Potential, welches sich in den letzten Jahren über Internet, über Vernetzung, über neue Formen von politischem Aktivismus erheben hat, können wir am Reißbrett recht schnell eine fantastische Kampagne entwerfen, wo Imageverschmutzung gegen Nokia, wo Menschen in München am Stammwerk aktiv werden, wo Leute Kontakt aufnehmen mit der schottischen Gewerkschaft, wo wir in kürzester Zeit über dieses Potential, was uns zu Verfügung steht, Beziehungen aufbauen können, die plötzlich diese Macht zurückerobern. Ich denke, das beschreibt relativ genau, was das Problem ist. Es geh nicht um institutionalisierbare Verhältnisse, die wir miteinander eingehen. Wir müssen jetzt nicht eine Partei oder eine internationale Gewerkschaftsorganisation gründen, in der jetzt alle Leute, die in Weltmarktfabriken auf der ganzen Welt Mitglied werden, und wir die eingefahrenen Kanäle haben, sonder es geht darum, mit so was wie den Unerwarteten, den Unkalkulierbaren und den Unvorhersehbaren zu arbeiten, was das Terrain(…)

UNLIKELY ENCOUNTERS

Cassette 11, side 1

Expert Base discussion (continued from cassette 10)

– Florian: Wir müssen jetzt nicht eine Partei oder eine internationale Gewerkschaftsorganisation gründen, in der alle Leute, die in Weltmarktfabriken auf der ganzen Welt Mitglied werden, und wir die eingefahrenen Kanäle haben, sondern es geht darum, mit so was wie den Unerwarteten, den Unkalkulierbaren und den Unvorhersehbaren zu arbeiten, was das Terrain oder was das Medium von politischen oder auch ästhetischen Interaktionen – ich denke, man kann diese Beispiele sehr leicht übertragen – darstellen wird. Das ist genau eine Ebene von Vernetzung, von Kommunikation und von Globalisierung, um die es uns gehen müsste, die wir uns aneignen müssten. Wie bringen wir die vielen verschiedenen einzelnen spannenden Projekte in Mailand, in Neu Delhi, in Argentinien, wie bringen wir auch die Kämpfe auf die wir referieren miteinander in Beziehung? Was brauchen wir dazu? Welche Verhältnisse gehen wir untereinander ein? Welche Methoden nutzen wir zur Vernetzung? Welche ungeheure Macht steht uns dann zur Verfügung, die weit über das hinausweist, was wir jetzt im Lokalen verändern können? Denn oft ist es ganz wenig, oder erschütternd wenig.
– Michel: I have a few points I’d like to make in response to what Florian and Shuddha said earlier, so I’ll try to speak slowly. For me the ruling class has always stayed in power by dividing oppressed groups, and I see a sort of danger in an anti-organization rhetoric, which can consciously or not sometimes reinforce exactly divisions the ruling class wants to make. As a musician, I was happy about the developments of Napster and later a peer-to-peer file sharing, not exactly for the reasons that you mentioned, Florian, but because from my perspective as a musician, it promises to break the back of the pop-commercial music industry and to shift the focus of music away from commodities, from these expensive CD’s back to live performances. On the other hand, I think that your parallel between the music industry opposition to Napster and union misgivings about immigration is wrong, because it mixes up the oppressors and the oppressed. We have to look at the historical fact that since the 1890’s, when contractors imported immigrants to break strikes, corporations had used had used cultural displacement to increase company productivity. Against this backdrop, I think the one-dimensional address of immigration rights – and I say this as an immigrant and a son and grandson of immigrants – without notice to poor people’s demand for a job and material security can seem as a maneuver to antagonize the working class, so that the new left (or you may want to call that the “pop left”) can claim a moral high ground against what they call then the internationalist old left. This project, which was often used with Empire, Hardt and Negri rhetoric, to autonomize the young professional left from the working class left is, in my opinion, a total contrast to the Maclovio Rojas project, which we saw yesterday.
– Does anyone want to respond to that?
– I think that is another very interesting question about how we challenge power structures without mimicking power structures in a way that a network begins or grows, and how we can do that in our daily lives, in the way we get together, in the way we work collectively, and the way we create open environments.
– Rahel: Es ist vorhin auf der Bühne sehr viel darüber geredet worden, dass man Grenzen überschreiten kann. Ich denke, manchmal ist es auch ganz notwendig, sich selber bestimmte Grenzen zu setzen, z.B. die, auf bestimmten Bühnen einfach nicht sprechen zu wollen und andere Bühnen sich zu suchen.
– Christoph: I’m a bit confused; no one wants to respond to your comment. (…) Because I think strict immigration policy is exactly the way to catalyze the global market by creating a widespread fear of illegality as an excuse to reduce civil rights and living standards for everybody. I think the German labor unions are only caring for a certain type of highly paid type of worker, and they are totally absent in the fields of illegal work, gray work or lowly paid work. Maybe they can go on like this for a while, but I think this country isn’t really finished with fascism yet.
– Michel: I wasn’t talking about business unionism. We all know how conservative business unionism is and how much these organizations – like in the U.S. the AFL-CIO, especially the AFL in the 1930’s and 40’s was an instrument to oppress the working class in alliance with large corporations. I’m talking rather about the need to organize and also new kind of union structures that are coming up, and also to overcome this habitus phenomenon that we have here. A lot of us are artists in this room; I don’t know how many people in this room have a parent who did not finish high school. Three people [raise their hands]. Me too! In this context there’s a tendency to engage in a habitus; we’re using words like “autonomy” and “distance” and “irony”, which actually serve the interests of the middle class and the upper middle class in their power struggles – that they’re not aware of, but which are very real – against the working class, within the left.
– Shuddha: I’m very grateful for the points that you’ve raised, and I don’t necessarily see what you’re saying and what Florian is saying in oppositional terms, and I’m sure that at some level you would agree with me, but what I think we all need to understand – and I am very aware of this as someone who was for many years part of the unorganized working class at the media industry as an assistant, the whole identity of the people who carry the lights and cranes and do the dirty work (I think Margit knows this) – but there is a tendency on our part, just as there can be a rhetoric which alienates many parts of these large work forces, there can be a tendency to fall back also on organizational structures. Please don’t mistake me: I don’t mean that we don’t need organizations; I think we need extremely sophisticated, intelligent organizational thinking. It’s just that the older organizational forms are dependent on people doing one kind of work, which no longer is a reality. Very few people now do only one kind of work, even in the course of a week or in the course of a working day. People share jobs; the new informalization of work has become a reality in many of our lives, it’s something that the traditional organizational sectors of the working class have not been kind of used to. The status of artists has become quite interesting because of the fact that in the new economy a lot of value lies in the production of science. If you take Nike shoes, for instance, they are very often produced in the same rooms as Reebok shoes. It’s just that the branding of the Nike shoe, the logo, is what makes it different from the Reebok shoe. Intellectual property and the production of valuable science becomes an extremely important part of the value creation business of the new economy. So much so, that all workers now have to constantly reinvent themselves as so-called creative beings. If all of you used to think of art as a kind from drudgery, I think now we also have to think about (and I’m thinking about this all the time) the drudgery of creativity. It ties in to what you’re talking about liberating music from recording contexts to performance contexts. So the fact that many of us who are artists will also have other day jobs, or will have to write grants, or will have to do other things, is also mirrored by the fact that many people who are workers have now had to reinvent themselves in terms of cultural value. It’s not accidental that all these issues are being discussed in a congress that has somewhere to do with art production, at this point of time. I think these could have been discussed in trade unions, but not as much as they should be, it’s because the productional world has moved into a new arena, and those new arenas also demand not the abandonment of organization, but more flexible, more intelligent and more responsive organizational practices. I’m not saying some kind of “live your own lifestyle” rhetorical sort of stance induced practices in answer to anything, but even the so-called organizational practice that I, for instance, have grown up with, is also a rhetorical stance. If you look at international sea workers, telegraph workers or telecommunication workers, they address realities that don’t exist. In that sense, they are really performance artists, and the unions, the federations. Not because they’re malicious, or because they’re paid to do that (I used to say that they are the left arm of capital), but because they are all grappling with trying to understand what is happening to our working life. There are habits that people have fallen into, just as we have fallen into new habits.
– Michel: The things you’ve just described are very well flashed out in a sociological study by Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiappello, which is called “The new spirit of capitalism”, and they describe what they say is the network model of capitalism today, where everybody is encouraged to become what they call “connectionist beings”, and where there’s an imperative to permanent self-creation and permanent self-definition. This is not just something that comes out from nowhere, but it is actually systematically “instrumentalized” by management, and they have co-opted the artistic critique of capitalism of the 60’s, while leaving behind the working class critique of capitalism that means not enough security. They’ve been very successful in doing this; they have co-opted the artist. This demands a new critique on the own part of the artist against the capitalist system.
– Ich wollte von der Notwendigkeit der anderen Organisationsformen zur Notwendigkeit der Menschen kommen, also der Organisierer und Organisiererinnen, die dahinter stecken, und vielleicht noch mal schauen, was wir von den einzelnen Präsentationen oder Gruppen lernen können. Ich weiß noch gar nicht, was dabei für eine Frage rauskommt, aber ich denke, dass sich auch Leute in solchen Prozessen verändern müssen. Ich denke, dass wir als Künstler/Künstlerinnen oder Politiker/Politikerinnen uns auch verändern müssen. Das ist auch ein Problem der Praxis, der Persönlichkeit, der Person, und ich habe bei mehreren Gruppen so was wie eine neue Rolle der Leute gesehen. Ich erinnere mich an den einen Film aus Mailand, wo dann die Diskussion war, da machen Künstler Fenster auf, durch die man hindurchgucken kann. Wir hatten häufiger die Debatte um Zugänge, also zu welchen Diskussionen gibt es welche Zugänge, sozusagen ExpertInnen dafür zu werden, Zugänge an bestimmten Punkten zu schaffen. Ich erinnere mich auch an das Schwabinggrad Ballett, die die Straßentheaterform verändernd aufgreifen und darüber auch Räume aufmachen. Also ist da eine neue Rolle am Entstehen für KüntlerInnen/PolitkerInnen. Auf der anderen Seite, was ich jetzt nicht so richtig zusammenkriege, sind die Geschichten aus Mexiko, wo mir auch das Stichwort „Helden“ fiel; da interessiert mich auch, wie kommen Leute in so eine Position; da wurde auch von leaders/community organizers gesprochen, die aber auch in der Wahrnehmung von den Leuten dort als Helden gelten. Brauchen wir jetzt community organizers, oder Helden, oder beides?
– Personally, I don’t think we need heroes. I guess what I wanted to say before, but maybe came out too abstractly, was that very question of how we as human beings organize ourselves and our networks in a way that is very conscious of not repeating those organizational structures or power structures that we are having problems with. I think it’s a really important and open question, and perhaps the challenge that we’re faced with as we finish up this conference and reflect upon the work that we do, or the way that we are or the kind of communities we are involved with, and how we connect ourselves in a network that doesn’t exploit relationships as in the right arm of capital, for wealth, but rather in a way of sharing for the production of meaning. I don’t know what the other ideas are for places to begin with those kinds of organizational principles.
– Ich will auf die Diskussion da vorne zurückkommen und das verbinden, und zwar fand ich gestern diese Stille symptomatisch, die eingesetzt ist nach dem Mexiko Vortrag. Auf einmal hatte keiner von uns was zu sagen dazu; wir waren alle total geplättet; da hatte auch jemand Probleme, wir wussten überhaupt nicht, was es mit uns zu tun hat, hatte ich das Gefühl, und dann natürlich auch was wir mit dem Vokabular anfangen sollen von denen: „Oh, da ist ja keine Grenzmetaphorik am Start, wie soll ich damit noch mitreden.“ Da redet jemand tatsächlich von „leaders“, von Führung, das sind wir nicht gewohnt, und ich finde da ist noch mal klar geworden, dass dieses Globale noch nicht da ist, also diese globale Perspektive, auch mal das Ganze zu sehen. Wir sehen tatsächlich das Lokale, das sind lokale Gruppen, und die haben auch eine Berechtigung für sich dann, weil sie in einem bestimmten Kontext stecken, aber die globale Anbindung ist noch nicht da. Als Künstler/Künstlergruppen sind wir in einer Nische, das war ja auch sehr lange Modewort, finde ich: Nischen, da sein, wo man sich eigentlich davon befreit, von vielen anderen Fragen, die vielleicht schwierig sind, über das Ganze zu sprechen. Ich finde, wenn man über Globales redet, dann muss man über andere Bewegungen sprechen als nur über unsere, über die „Pop“ linke Bewegung, wie es da vorne beschrieben wurde. Die Rolle des Künstlers darf nicht überbewertet werden in dem Ganzen. Es gibt Tendenzen, das zu machen – auch hier. Ich glaube nicht, dass die weltliche Bedingungen sich so verändert haben, dass nur noch Künstler produktiv eingreifen können. Ich finde, die „Pop“ Linke kann nur ein Teil sein von einer Linken, die global existiert – es ist ja nicht so, dass im Moment nichts passiert – die lokal agiert und sich global vernetzt, mit Tausenden von Problemen, drin sind eben nicht nur Gewerkschaften, sondern es sind alle möglichen gesellschaftlichen Gruppen, die sich treffen ob in Porto Alegre, oder in Genua, oder in Evian, und sie reden über Alternativen und alles mögliche, und Kunst kann Teil davon sein. Ich finde, die letzte Internationale wird nicht hier beginnen, das ist nicht der Mittelpunkt der Welt. Also, einfach nur um provokant zu sein. Vielleicht habe ich auch missverstanden, was hier passiert.
– Ich möchte gerne noch mal Bezug nehmen auf etwas, das jemand von Sarai gestern Abend sagte, nämlich dass wir hier in Europa – ich sage es jetzt ein bisschen über Schritt – uns nicht einbilden sollen, dass solche Grenzbildungsprozesse oder Ausgrenzungen hier nicht genauso stattfinden, also dass die Struktur der Prozesse durchaus vergleichbar ist. Ich muss häufig an einem Text von Hal Foster denken, „Der Künstler als Ethnograph“, wo dieser Foster kritisiert, dass Künstler meinen, sie könnten für andere Gruppen, für andere Menschen etwas bewirken und bewegen. Ich denke, wichtig ist, dass man selber als Künstler in dieser Gruppe genauso betroffen ist. Z.B. in den letzten 2-3 Jahren sind fast alle Künstler davon betroffen, dass die New Media Branche zusehend zusammenbricht und genau die Jobs, die häufig Künstler – also Bildproduzenten – eingenommen haben, auch wegbrechen, also auf der ökonomischen Ebene eine Ausgrenzung stattfindet, die einen als Künstler ganz konkret betrifft. Ich sehe so ein Tabu Bereich, und zwar dass eine ganz subjektive Betroffenheit, z. B. ökonomischer Art: Wie zahle ich demnächst die Miete?, dass so was immer noch ausgegrenzt wird für eine Art von abstraktem Zugang, der für mein Begriff noch sehr verhaftet ist mit einer konventionellen linken Denke, die auch heute vormittag hier noch ganz schön herumgeistert, und sie im Grunde sehr destruktiv wirkt, gerade weil auch so gewisse Tabus noch existieren, Dinge zu benennen oder mit hineinzuholen in dem Diskurs, z.B. der Diskurs des Subjekts. Ich denke, man kann eigentlich nur tätig werden, wenn man selber auch betroffen ist, bzw. auseinander differenzieren kann: Wo werde ich ausgegrenzt, wie findet das statt und wie werden andere ausgegrenzt, wo gibt es Gemeinsamkeiten?
Das, was Margit gestern morgen noch mal sagte, dass es Leute gibt, die zu Sprache kein Zugang haben – ich sehe keine andere Möglichkeit, als alles in die Sprache zu bringen, also Tabus aufzulösen.
– Ole: Ich hatte in den letzten Tagen nicht das Gefühl, dass hier jemand glaubt, der Mittelpunkt der Welt zu sein. Die Behauptung, dass es sich hier um eine weitere Konferenz der letzten Internationale handelt, habe ich nicht als Glauben dessen, dass hier die wichtigsten Menschen der Welt zusammen sitzen, [wahrgenommen], sondern im Gegenteil, ich hatte eher den Eindruck, dass es hier darum geht, erst mal einzuschätzen, welche mit welchen Praktiken im Moment dem beizukommen ist, was in den letzten Tagen sehr unscharf mit der „Macht“ oder der „globalen Macht“ [beschrieben wurde]. Ich glaube, dass wir hier zwei Schienen hatten: Leute, die einen taktischen Künstlerbegriff haben und sagen: „Wir machen hier eine bestimmte Arbeit, und der Kunstdiskurs gibt uns eine bestimmte Möglichkeit“, und die umgekehrte [Position] ist die vom Künstler, der in eine bestimmte politische Arbeit involviert ist. Vielleicht wird das noch mal [aufgegriffen], auch was es genau jeweils für andere Ansätze sind, und wie dann jeweils unterschiedliche Analysen dem auch zugrunde liegen. Das war das eine. Das andere, das ich sehr wichtig finde, was für mich ein bisschen so klang, also ob die Künstler ein Modell für eine bestimmte politische Praxis sein können. Ich habe aber eher den Eindruck – und ich glaube, da sind wir uns relativ schnell einig – dass Künstler in erster Linie immer dafür gedient haben, bestimmte Modelle einzuüben, die dann auch eine weitere verschärfte Ausbeutung ermöglichten. Die Arbeit, die wir machen, kann ich nur als verschärfte Ausbeutung wahrnehmen; das Geld, das wir meistens bekommen, dafür das, dass wir tun, tun, ist so schlecht, dass ich überdenke: „Na ja, vielleicht sollte ich doch mal richtig arbeiten gehen und nicht so „Quatschkram“ machen, wo man unglaublich schlecht bezahlt wird.“ Das ist aber genau diese Haltung wie dieses Ich-AG Ding, was hier zu Hause immer ausgerufen ist, wo man erst mal selber schon immer Arbeits- und Lebensbedingungen akzeptiert, wo es hier auch darum geht, dass sie alle akzeptieren. Da wäre schon die Frage, welche Strategien sind nehmen nicht so eine Vorreiterrolle ein, sondern durchkreuzen sie, mit welchen Praktiken ist das möglich?
– Ich wollte jetzt direkt da noch mal dran anknüpfen, was ja im Grunde auch das bestätigt, was Sabine gerade sagte, dass ein neuer Ansatz auch für politisches Engagement da drin liegen könnte, von dieses „issueing“ wegzukommen, also ich engagiere mich für jemanden, dem es tendenziell noch schlechter geht wie mir selber, also weil darin auch ganz bestimmte, inzwischen ja auch schon bekannte und durchanalysierte Repräsentationsmechanismen wirksam bleiben, sondern dass man versucht sehr viel radikaler noch mal von der eigenen Situation auszugehen, genauso wie das die Leute z.B. in Mexiko auch tun. Und daraus ja auch eine Kraft gewonnen werden kann, also dass man über sich selber, über sein eigenes Leben und die ökonomischen Verhältnisse ansetzt, um von dort aus versucht, sich selber in einer vermeintlich privilegierten Situation noch mal zu hinterfragen.
– Margit: Am Anfang ist der sehr schöne Satz gefallen, in der eigenen Straße die ganze Welt erkennen, dass es immer darum geht, sich ins Verhältnis zur ganzen Welt zu setzen. Das ist die Praxis, die du wahrscheinlich meinst, poetisch ausgedrückt.

Cassette 11, Side 2

– Christiane: The last remark called on us to avoid concentrating on situations where people are purportedly less privileged than oneself, but rather to return to work on one’s own position/situation and make that a strong subject matter. Then there was a reference to Maclovio Rojas, arguing that their strength derives from the concentration on their context.
Margit replied by quoting your statement that one could see the world in your own street.
– I would like to stress the fact that what I was talking about is completely the opposite of containing. There was something that pervaded the lecture this morning, this idea that we create collectivity by going to another place where people suffer under terrible economic conditions, and I don’t like that posture; it’s not that really productive.
– Christiane: We could continue discussing about that, but I’d like to bring back the main theme of the congress, as well as its structure and the notion of practices. Concerning the issue you raised that everything has to be verbalized: I’m not quite sure about that. If we are talking about practices here, I think we’re also referring to many other, non-verbal strategies. We’ve reached the point where it would be good to look back at the whole congress and its structure, as well as to say thank you to all the people involved in the organization, and to acknowledge the enormous effort put into creating a structure for the congress, which I consider to be a practice as well.
I was thinking of ways to do that, like going through the whole program of the conference, but that might take too long. I think there were a lot of enactments of the global and the local; the congress worked well as a symbol for hospitality – people coming here and connecting to our local situation, while rethinking it in global terms. A lot of the contributions to the congress didn’t take place inside this space, but outside on the street, like the Schwabinggrad Ballet, the performance of Stefan Dillemuth, the dinner with the congress’ guests at another location, so a lot was going on; a lot of people working in the exhibition, the guided tours with the kids, so there are many different sides to the congress, and it would be good to use this moment to refer back to practices, and ask the different contributors to the congress as to how they relate to the other projects/practices that were presented, keeping in mind the congress’ concept of constituent practices.
Maybe we could ask Bernadette of the Schwabinggrad Ballet to talk about their strategies.
– Bernadette: Four years ago, we started the Schwabinggrad Ballet for the No Border Camps around Europe. The idea was to break the barriers between being a political activist and an artist or musician. That was always a big problem. We had asked bands from Hamburg whether they would like to play at the No Border Camps and get involved with that kind of activism, but in the end, only two or three of us left for the camps. So we thought we wouldn’t ask these famous bands any more, starting our own band instead, created to play only at demonstrations. As a collective, we were open from the beginning to everyone who wanted to work with us. So we’re not a regular band or a street theatre group that plans out a program for the whole year, but rather our concept is based on being open to everyone who wants to play with us. Our structure is very different. Sometimes we play on demonstrations that are forbidden, or we intervene in demonstrations as a theatre group. This was the case, for example, at the last No Border Camp in Strasbourg, where any public action was banned by the CRS; they actually let us in because we were wearing our old costumes, and they thought we were doing a nice artist performance. We played on this big Place Kléber and there were 200 people around us. The CRS came and wanted to take our passports, and the audience around us showed their solidarity by singing French songs with us. When we had to show our passports, we shouted: “Solidarité avec les sans-papier!” That was interactive activism, and the police let us go; it’s not just art, or a theater piece, but it moves something, I think.
Someone else from the Schwabinggrad Ballet wants to say something? Peter? You do the talking; I’ll take the camera.
– Peter: I’m sorry, but when I shoot I can rarely listen at the same time, but it seems to me like everything Bernadette said was right. [Laughter] You have to excuse me because I haven’t slept much, as I’ve been shooting. I’ve been a member of the Ballet for a short time now, and [one of the things that has struck me] is this trying to become someone else, something normal in theater. Many other projects [in this congress] have dealt with this issue, and Expert Base has also discussed it in terms of speaking for somebody else or speaking for oneself. In this context, I found it quite interesting how the groups from the other countries mixed up these two perspectives (for me it still sounds very complicated). When I was standing behind my camera I would always think: Where is the identity of these people? At some stages I thought it was too bad that nobody would really talk about their own economy, how they finance their projects. In the case of the Tijuana project, the identity of the people is rather clear, but in other cases the question of the function of the artist and for whom does he/she speak was very complex. Perhaps this is what our own group should tackle with hereafter. I don’t know if you are familiar with a sentence by Artaud, which Deleuze quotes: “Speaking for the aphasic, thinking for the acephalic, and writing for the analphabetic.” Deleuze questions the intention of this: Is it done in place of, or in favor of someone? For Deleuze, the issue was about the process of becoming: the thinker must become acephalic, aphasic or analphabetic.
– Frank: I come from the other end, from political activism. I’ve enjoyed joining the Schwabinggrad Ballet, because it allows me to slip into scenarios that are not generally discussed by the German Left, or which can’t be discussed there because [they go beyond] the question of whether you’re right or wrong. What you want is to engage with others in discussion, whether it’s about migration or any other issue: let’s talk about it without falling into the trap people often fall in when using a political discourse, where you’re not allowed to speak in ways that could be considered conservative, or which could be eventually appropriated by the market economy. [Participating] as one of the experts in this congress allows me to open up a space that I call laboratory. If I talk about the last International, I think that all the so-called constituent practices are at a laboratory stage at the moment. It’s not possible for anyone to say that there’s only one way to do it. For example, we’ve met people from the unions in the U.S., and we’ve had meetings with people from the SEIU [Service Employees International Union], which became famous in Germany with the film “Bread and Roses”. Whether I criticize what they do or not doesn’t stand in the way of our work, because I think we have to deal with similar issues, both in the U.S. and here in Germany. You can say the last International hasn’t been founded here, but the Last International can equally take place on the streets, or in any place throughout the world. Going back to the Schwabinggrad Ballet, it’s like a fusion of talents. We want people to look at how they can move in and out of society, while reflecting on one’s own position within it, bringing that on stage to the public, perhaps to irritate or provoke the audience by talking in a way that’s not usual in public space.
– Shuddha: Christiane also asked us to think about practices and how we can learn from each other, and I’d like to take a few moments to talk about that. Obviously, I’m speaking in a situation where I feel there are friends in my practices here, in terms of Park Fiction, the whole Expert base, the No Border Camp and the “Kein Mensch ist illegal” community, so there’s obviously a history of affinities and friendships that constitute the practice of this conference, but for me it was also a discovery to learn of things that I did not know or which were knew to me, like the Schwabinggrad Ballet, or the radio work of Ligna. I would like to talk about these, because they are in some ways one of the strongest impressions that I take away, because they work with the most invisible forms, but which also move our body. Of course, both radio experiments that we saw were all about conversations that you have inside your mind with the messages that you receive, and of course anything that has to do with making a lot of music and sound on the street makes you move your body. For me, that’s quite an important aspect of what we do, because ultimately we are bodies on streets. As Frank just said (to reiterate that point) the last International was never founded, and it will never be founded. It existed before the first International was founded and it continues to exist. It is something that you find; it’s not something that you create. It’s something that you discover in yourself and in relation to other practices and it’s in this context that I’d like to think of the role of whatever it is, this creature called “the artist”. I’ve always been a little shy of the word “artist”, although I’ve always loved the word “art”. The notion of art is something that transforms practices and life, it is something that I think is very important, and that’s why I’m shy of the word “artist”, because if you lead an ethical life or you try to lead an ethical life, you try to transform the life around you and in yourself. People forget that our friend from Mexico is actually a doctor, and I had a long conversation with him yesterday about practicing medicine in a hospital. I think it’s quite natural to do that. It’s part of the illusion of the cultural system that we have grown within the last 300 years over the world, that the word “artist” seems to hang over our heads as if it were some religion. When people ask me: “What religion are you in?” I’m never sure. I haven’t made up my mind in my conversations with the man who doesn’t exist, who’s called God. Similarly, I haven’t made up my mind vis-à-vis the canon, and I do not wish to make up my mind. The point that I think that you were mentioning, which gets reiterated, is the fact that whether we like it or not, we’re placed in a point where value is made out of culture. This is something that actually many of us are uncomfortable with, because it places greater responsibilities on us than it did in the past. In the past, if you were a painter, you painted for a salon or some patron, and it was for the pleasure of the patron, in a sense. Today, I think we work for things other than the pleasure of patrons. In some ways, there’s great freedom in working for patrons, but today the production of culture is central to the production of value in contemporary capitalism. It’s not that it becomes more important than the production of steel, or the production of rubber, but it gives steel and rubber its cutting edge. It makes the steel sharp. Whether people working culture like it or not, this is where they’re located. We used to consider political art as art about politics, so as long as you painted the right slogan on the wall, or made the right kind of figure – at one time people used to wear Palestinian Kuffiyeh [scarves], and they thought that was a statement. It isn’t about something outside your life, which is why – to come back to the point – it is always to face yourself, your life, your street, where your are, but simultaneously to recognize – this is an inversion of the street-is-the-world figure that I proposed at the beginning of the conference – that the world is also your street, which is to say that I (this is responding to your question: What does it mean to take a bus with internet connection where there is any?) accept the legitimacy of that practice, provided it assumes that that is a part of the same world. When I come to Europe, I always think I’m coming to an economically backward, industrially depressed continent. And that is true of all spaces of the world. It is not more true of Europe, nor more of Asia, nor more true of North America. Whenever I go to North America, the first thing that strikes me is disadvantage, lack of privilege, and inequality, just as it strikes me at home. So if I were to suddenly say to myself: “I must work in solidarity for those in North America who are oppressed and thrown out of jobs”, it doesn’t make sense if I think of it as some other space. If I think of it as my space, as much as where I spend most of my time, then I think it’s valuable. Of course the street is also my world, but the world is my street.
– Shveta: I will try to keep it brief, but I have a tendency to ramble… Leading up to this congress, we had a small workshop with the children of St. Pauli, and it was one of the things that we made a conscious effort to least represent as a presentation, but allow for it to move into the congress through some sound recordings of the city. At a completely personal level, it was one of the parts of the congress where a practice that we’re engaged in different parts of the world [gave us] the possibility and the opportunity to try and see whether this practice does resonate in other cultural contexts. It was an extremely significant moment for us, where we could not only see if and how it spoke with people in other contexts, but also see reflections on it. In the case of the conversations we had about the memory game, or walking around in the city and working with sound through that, I’m not terribly certain about how I carry it back with me, and how it transforms the work that I do, but the period of work and the possibility of different contexts being in interaction in a practical way through microanalysis and conversations was also a very significant part of this whole experience. It’s also very significant for me to listen to a number of people talk about their practices here, but [the activities] outside of the presentations (not the workshop), like the dinner at the community center, or the walks, [were very important].
(…)
– Ole: (…) the most interesting things to think of how to change perceptions through all these things, which is one of our issues. I found that one of the problems of all the discussions was that is seemed as if we were all working on the same subject, but I suppose that is not right, because all the practices are not the same. The thing is, we can say that everybody has their own standpoint or perspective of the world, but then we forget to discuss the political issues that are crucial for our work. I think that aspect was underrepresented in the congress, discussing, for example, the political implications of our work and where we are not on the same side. We could concentrate much more on the political aspects of our work. One of the most interesting [common denominators] for me was the alleged one enemy we all face, this Goliath, the big power, and I’m not sure whether it’s only one power we’re talking about. I assume that most of us know it’s not only about this one power, but still the question that remains is: What are we doing here?
– Alejandro: I feel tired. I would like to get some rest and sleep, then get even more rest to wake up and reinvent myself. We constitute the world as rhizoma. With our emergence as groups we create worlds in St. Pauli, in Buenos Aires, and Tijuana. We create utopia, possibilities to break out, a community based on actual making, not on identity. We don’t create identities, we create world. Thank you.
– Bert: In Milan we’re doing the same thing. Thank you.

UNLIKELY ENCOUNTERS

Cassette 12, side 1

Final discussion (continued from cassette 11)

– Stephan Dillemuth: I don’t know if this will follow up on the other statements made before. I ask myself how I could contribute to the discussion, since the mediation aspect is inherent to my performance. I interrupted my performance the other day to present my recent publication called “The Academy and the Corporate Public”. The main question I had asked myself was: What is changing the most in our present times? I thought the artist does not only have to react to these changes, but he’s also shaped by these changes. So I think that’s what’s going on now; there’s a shift in the notion of the public sphere, and we are entering a new phase in the organization of publics, which I would like to define as fragmented global publics. The question is how that influences the role of the artist, whatever this artist might be. There’s enough space for that definition. My research is available in bookstores, as well as on the Net as open source; you can download it. This research, which examines the way we act when confronted with current shifts in the organization of public spheres, took me back to history, to the “Lebensreform” (Life Reform) movement. My film focuses on this movement. Ulrich Linse, a researcher specialized on this period, has stated that during the 1910’s and 20’s capitalism was under attack from three sides. First, the communists, by changing the means of production. Second, anarchy, with its anti-hierarchical, anti-bureaucratic way of thinking, questioning the notion of work in general, or how work can be organized by workers themselves (anarcho-syndicalism). Third, the so-called “völkische” [of the people] movement. I don’t know if our guests are familiar with it, but the “völkische” movement laid some of the groundwork for ideas that were later appropriated by the Nazis. The “völkische” movement felt threatened by processes brought on by modernism; they were against industrialization and internationalization; they were nationalists and regionalists, envisioning a society of farmers and craftspeople, organized either in tribal structures or a medieval guild system. There are some parallels between the motives of the three anti-capitalist movements and the projects presented in this conference. Therefore, I think it’s quite interesting to look back and step into this historical analysis and examine how it all took place, why these anti-capitalist movements were in the end homogenized and how they paved the way for Nazism. Earlier on, the issue was raised that our practices are such an innovative tool, that they can be co-opted. Then there was the whole issue of the role of the artist, specially in relationship to new media, which are emblematic of neo liberal inventions, but the question would be how to avoid this, and I don’t think there are any recipes for that. Just being aware of these problems might be of help. How can Life Reform be translated to our current times, if we talk about a society constituted by lifestyles, and what is the difference between lifestyle and Life Reform? I think that the origins of Life Reform lay in a desire to break free from the capitalist system, whereas the identification with a specific lifestyle takes place within our consumerist society; it is something you can buy, which means it is important to produce difference. One option would be to produce anti-capitalist difference, instead of consuming anti-capitalist difference. Another aspect I was amazed by was how many of the projects here assumed certain pedagogical ideas. I was a bit confused, because I came to the realization that due to their nature, a lot of these projects have something to do with pedagogy, as well as education and reproduction. I’d like to go back to the Life Reform movement: back then, a lot of very interesting pedagogical concepts were developed that up till now haven’t changed society, but I think our society lies more at fault than these projects. If we think of Summerhill or other similar projects, these pedagogical concepts have proved to be the more successful ones, but they’re still not common place. Then there’s the question of desire that was brought up throughout the conference, triggered as well by the presentation on stage this morning. If the aim of this presentation was to reproduce a kind of hierarchy or an already existing TV format, or if it meant one has to overcome borders, I must say – having learned from the Life Reform movement – that my desire is not to step up to a stage on a Sunday morning and drink alcohol, because I either have a hangover from yesterday or I simply don’t want to have alcohol right now. Maybe the whole issue of desires and capitalism’s inability to produce them can be easily turned around by questioning those desires, and I think that is what the movements back then tried to do. The question of desire takes us to the issue of images and their production. I think that’s where I would be a bit critical of the conference, that I didn’t get to see many images or discussions about how images are used within these agendas. But thank you anyway, [this congress] was really “super”.
– Till Krause: Just a few words. It has been said that you can see the world
in one millimeter, but now we’ve often heard the assertion that you have to think
globally in one millimeter. Maybe it’s meant as a euphemism, because we’re forced
by capitalism to think globally. While I’ve tried to learn as much as I could from the
many different discourses presented here, I consider myself more of a pragmatic. I’ve
had many nice conversations with Ala Plástica, so we will meet tomorrow to have a
walk [by the water], taking what we’ve discussed here further by thinking of other
project possibilities. That’s something I really like about this conference, and I want
to thank all of those involved for making these meetings and exchange possible. I
think it would be nice for the things that come out the conference to become visible
for others, so it’s not only us meeting tomorrow, but all of us staying in touch. That
might be a way of continuing [what we’ve started here].
– Florian/Frank: Personally speaking, I’ve had an extraordinary experience in the last
few days, because I can’t remember participating in a conference with a total
absence of media. I was really surprised by that. I realize that I take some things
as a matter of course, such as access to the Internet or even the organization of
conferences with these stupid panels (as I have experienced in the last few years).
So at the beginning I was totally shocked about the fact that all the people [here]
were sitting in a room where framed images were projected. This is certainly a
situation that I will try to avoid. I was surprised about the fact that it was exactly this
aspect that created an intensity, one I’m not used to. Artists presenting their work,
followed by very precise discussions about how and why the work was done in a
certain way, a lot of critiques, discussions of difficult issues – this is completely the
opposite of what I’m used to in the contexts that I work, where one jumps from one
issue to the other in a more superficial way. Our whole experience here could be
criticized if it weren’t backed up by the idea of the excursion: you leave this room, you
go somewhere else, you are in very different places, looking very precisely at various
forms of activities. These four days were very intense for me, and they make me
question over and over again what we’re doing or what we’re used to doing.
Concerning the stupid fact that we had nothing to frame in our presentation, or that
we decided to “frame” ourselves on stage, I kindly ask you to see it as our final
desire. At least this is how I understand art, that you can’t take things on a 1:1 basis,
and this world that we create is much more complex and full of contradictions and
problems than what we’re able to present and screen. The main experience that I
take from this conference is my absolute confidence in the futility of prolonging
discussions on identity as artists/political activists. All these projects are intermingled,
producing new layers or forms of subjectivity that reach far beyond the traditional
artist role model. Again, I think this is not so because capitalism is so bad to co-opt
us and defeat us, making us feel weak and powerless; I think these new forms of
production which were mentioned in the earlier debates are a capitalism’s response
to attempts to free oneself from these identities, be it as a worker, an artist, a political
activist or a teacher. The power that we gain when we let go of these roles or
subjectivities gives us the opportunity to do what we all apparently agree on: to make
worlds, to create worlds, to invent worlds. But I think that further on we have to think
about how we are going to accomplish this. The new media hype in the last few years
is but one way of creating connectivity and worlds; there are many other ways to do
this, and it makes no sense to compare them with each other, or to find out the
differences or oppositions between the real and the virtual, the local and the global.
That belongs to the past, and it doesn’t help us any more.
– Susanne (?): I’d like to add just one last thought after shedding our “bad guy”
position (as Christoph put it). In the end, I think this conference was able
to give people really strong impressions to take home with them. This was very
extraordinary, because the people here were moved very deeply in one way or the
other. Many people have already thanked the organizers of this conference
and I would also like to join them by thanking them for making all of this possible.
I know how much effort goes into organizing a conference (you might not think that I do), and what it means to put up with the constant complains without any gratification; I know because I’ve been there myself. So thank you again for everything.
– Christiane: Maybe we should pass the microphone back to the audience. I would like to follow up on that train of thought. I think this conference was not only about art, but it also had a lot to do with one thing becoming something else, about the possibility of transformation. I would like to thank Christoph and Margit, because I think that Park Fiction became something else here in many ways; it went a step further, and I think that was very important.
– Christoph: I’d like to say something rather subjective. I had many touching moments during the workshop with Joy, Shveta and St. Pauli youth. When the situationists started to drift through towns in the 50’s – Shuddha said that they were drifting, but they were looking at the floor – they were looking for the Northwest passage. At several occasions during this conference, there was a way of thinking that came up again, the kind that would like to create divisions between complete powerlessness and omnipotent ideas of total revolution. When we were doing the workshop together, we had a very touching moment when Shveta – who is quite an artist in building groups – didn’t want to read one girl’s notes alone, because it was about forming a group where you had to create enough of a feeling of trust to write down your own story and then collectivize it. I was very stunned at first. One hour later, I thought that was the kind of group or collectivity that I would wish for. On a micro-political level of power, it is something very interesting that I know is very hard to accomplish. I would like to thank Shveta and all of the other artists who contributed to this conference.
– I don’t want to thank anybody. I just want to have a meal. At six o’clock we’ll meet for dinner at a restaurant at the Landungsbrücken, bridge 10.

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