Issue #9 of wissenderkuenste.de acts as a collection of materials and reflections on and about the artistic-academic symposium sharing/learning: methods of the collective in art, research and activism.
This symposium took place on June 28th and 29th, 2019 (at and in cooperation with) District * School without Center. It was organized by Juana Awad, Julian Bauer, Maja Figge, Elsa Guily, Verena Melgarejo Weinandt and Irina Raskin as part of the DFG-Graduiertenkolleg “Das Wissen der Künste” at the Berlin University of the Arts. Our invited speakers and participants consisted mainly of collectives (or members of collectives) with whom we gathered to practice different ways of (en)acting together. Foregrounding the understanding of the symposium as an assembly on the one hand, and the performativity of the methods on the other, the gathering was structured through three different formats: round tables, workshops and participatory performances – each initiating particular arrangements and means for doing, thinking and feeling together. The symposium did not aim at presenting research about methods of the collective, but rather at probing various forms of engaging with and in collectivity.
Certainly within the framework of this online publication, the practices of ‘sharing’ and ‘learning’ are enacted differently than during the symposium, but we hold onto its notion of assembly. In this way this online journal is driven by the effort to initiate a gathering of reflections and impulses; to become a medium for different modes of collective acts-thoughts-expressions-articulations; to recall and collect enduring physical traces, memories and artefacts, which occurred or were made collectively in the course of the two days. Therefore, the single contributions to this journal, while partaking in the documentation of the symposium, sometimes exceed it. The authors’ reports account for a persistent engagement and struggle with their particular methods, concerns and living conditions – partially by giving us insights into their practical knowledge(s), partially by addressing the limits of traceability, mediation and understanding.
About the contributions
In this edition we present twelve contributions, each one corresponding to one session in the program, as well as a reflection from an individual perspective about the space and the proceedings. We have chosen to arrange the contributions within the publication according to the chronological order in which each program point took place. Consequently, the publication begins with the introductory words by the organizing team, which presented the central concerns and considerations with regards to the conception of the symposium, but also took some time to go through the more pragmatic instructions about the arrangement of the space, as well as to credit the persons and organizations that enabled the event. By publishing the script of the welcome note in its entirety, this contribution sets the tone for an edition, which attends to the performative and infrastructural as much as the discursive.
Conceptually, the symposium was organized through three central questions, which we chose to address as round tables. In them, we approached the tensions, collisions and cross-pollination arising when pairing concepts, which we considered fundamental in the practice of collectivity: assembling and disseminating, instituting and fleeing, as well as commoning and communing. The transcriptions of the roundtables document the discussions:
The sociologist Serhat Karakayali and two members of the Clusterduck collective, Noel David Nicolaus and Björn Heerssen, came to word in the round table assembling/disseminating, which focused on protest as collective practice against the background of the interplay between media and infrastructures.11In this framework, we would like to acknowledge the research practices of sociologist, museologist and curator Elif Çiğdem Artan, and media theorist Ulrike Bergermann, who were invited to the round table assembling/disseminating, participating in its preparatory meetings, but who were unfortunately prevented to partake in the event due to unforeseen situations.
District * School without Center, a queer-feminist art and cultural center in Berlin and our partner in the endeavor, was at the time in a process of evaluating and reorganizing its working structures. The round table instituting/fleeing gave space to its members Andrea Caroline Keppler and Ferdiansyah Thajib along with urban sociologist Friederike Landau to reflect on their process and delve into the relationships between institutions and collectives, as well as into experiences with institutional critique and oppositional practices.
In the round table commoning/communing Ulrike Hamann of the neighbourhood initiative Kotti & Co, Zuzana Tabačková of Spolka collective and the art critic Erden Kosova, who collaborates with the SiS collective, embarked on a conversation about collective engagements in the city, asking which forms of acting together could do justice to a relational understanding of the commons.
By providing transcriptions for all three round tables, the very different conceptual undertakings as well as the different participatory methods of each one can be recognized.
The second guiding principle of the symposium was its character as a space for collective practice. Recognizing the many possibilities of acting together, practitioners of several disciplines (i.e. theatre, dance, digital media, urbanism, among others) were invited to enable participatory workshops. Their contributions to this journal take different routes and formats: some look back to describe moments in the way in which memory, with its gaps, can allow; others take up the central questions in new directions; and others reflect upon the collective endeavour anew. In this way, fragmentary traces come together into a scaffold referencing the what, the how and the why of the encounters.
During the symposium Anika Lachnitt and the Theaterlinge from AWO Fanclub Neukölln directed the workshop Kollektive Zeit(en)reise – eine Probe mit den Theaterlingen [Collective Journey through Time(s) – a Rehearsal with the Theaterlinge], where they invited the attendees to partake in the exercises of the group and demonstrated how collectivity is enacted within their practices of developing, rehearsing and staging different material. For this journal, Theaterlinge decided to develop a text collectively, however due to the ongoing pandemic crisis, this process has been delayed and the group shares with us their video Superheroes*Heroines.
For the symposium, Clusterduck conceived the workshop Reinventing the Political Compass: How to Increase Digital Self Awareness in the Age of Social Media, which explored how digital infrastructures and modalities of online behavior interrelate. For this publication, Clusterduck reconsiders their practices as a collective that situates itself between Digital Art and activism by revisiting the contradictions they find themselves embedded in.
Within the context of coming together, food also took a central role. After guiding a group during one complete afternoon in the preparation of, and interaction with the food we were all going to consume later together, Pêdra Costa reflects on anthropophagy, anthropoemy, sensual experience and learning as a bodily process.
The photo-essay by Fritz Schlütter focuses on the details: on those apparently unimportant objects that when together not only demarcate the space, but more so reflect a character, an intention, and will ultimately embody the memories of the ephemeral.
After guiding the workshop The Practice of Resistance in which trust was built and activated through movement and awareness, Grupo Oito contributes to this publication, reminding us about how short we still come, when trying to expand our notion of a ‘we’, and who does and does not belong to it; a central question, which traversed many of the sessions.
Irina Kaldrack und Timo Herbst review their lecture performance and exhibition G20 – part of the multiyear project “The Entanglement between Gesture, Media and Politics” – in which the question of interdisciplinary collaboration takes center stage: how is it possible to create together, when each one is anchored and framed by the knowledge-frameworks of their own practice? What processes support a common and communal undertaking? What methods lead to what engagement? And how to reach beyond the limits and expectations of the individual to create and theorize as a group?
In the workshop Spaces of Collectivity the Spolka collective introduced their method of mapping as a means to negotiate individual experiences and the social constitution of space, while acknowledging the role of language in any collective act of space-making. The contribution traces the development of the workshop, including resulting maps sketched by the participants, and reflects on how the methods followed relate to Spolka’s wider work.
Closing the issue is the photo documentation of Club of Im_Possibilities, a participatory performance led by Nuray Demir, in which we came together one last time. Rather than seeking for a summary or conclusion of the two days, the happening’s final setting re-addressed the ‘collective’ by inviting the participants to create a mural commemorating the names of those, who have enabled each one to inhabit their own space.
In editing this issue, we aim to create a micro-archive of snapshots, voices, thoughts and communal undertakings, to promote the circulation of references, and engage in the potential of their enduring unfolding.
We would like to thank all authors for their contributions, as well as Marieke Grenzebach for her support in making this issue available online.
Juana Awad and Irina Raskin
Berlin, January 2021
- 1In this framework, we would like to acknowledge the research practices of sociologist, museologist and curator Elif Çiğdem Artan, and media theorist Ulrike Bergermann, who were invited to the round table assembling/disseminating, participating in its preparatory meetings, but who were unfortunately prevented to partake in the event due to unforeseen situations.