Theatres regulate space and time for their audiences and demand collective engagement. Other kinds of venues – like museums or libraries – are designed to separate and isolate even large crowds and promote liberal ideas of emancipation. Everyone decides for themselves how long they want to stay and engage. The 25th edition of “The Art of Assembly” looks at artistic approaches to assemblies in cultural places not originally intended for performance. Choreographer Mette Edvardsen looks for soft spaces where her discrete performances become a porous part of the environment, where performers and audiences are in more than one space at the same time. Artist Tino Sehgal has been working with the DNA of museums and the liberal assemblies created by exhibitions, which he uses for his constructed situations – thin lines that direct attention and gazes, choreographing the paths of the audience.
Jazz in South Africa played a huge role in mobilising communities and unconventional venues during apartheid, creating spaces of political resistance and joy. Due to severe pass laws by the apartheid government, different races were not allowed to gather, curfews were put in place, venues were closed down, communities torn apart; and yet somehow this music thrived. Shebeens in townships were important spaces for gathering. Jazz was also used to politice people at rallies held in unconventional spaces like at funerals or at movie theaters. The impact of these musicians has left a lasting legacy on how the culture of jazz in South Africa flourishes.
Earshot is the world’s first not-for-profit organisation to develop a specialised field of audio forensics for open-source investigations. With cutting-edge audio analysis techniques, they add a crucial and unexplored dimension to the fields of human rights and environmental advocacy.
Moshing is a furious form of crowd dancing usually associated with punk and rock culture. It happens during live music concerts, in the center of the crowd, in the space called the “mosh pit”. It is energetic and full of body contact and some of its variations include pogoing, stage diving, headbanging and floorpunching. Xenia Koghilaki uses the practice of moshing as her starting point to explore the corporeal impact of sound on highly energized collective motion. She aims to move the discussion beyond moshing as a reflection of musical appreciation to moshing as a site of collective struggle and a ritualized form of social cooperation. She reflects on how music spaces can generate sites for collective rituals of trust and mechanisms of space negotiation, while considering the social and political significance of crowd dancing as a physical resistant practice.
The presentation will pose acoustics as a critical and creative practice, one that assists in contending with dominant regimes of audibility. As such, acoustics is highlighted as a social and political issue around which particular listening positionalities are formed. In this sense, acoustics is understood as a performative arena that impacts onto articulations and gestures of self-determination. From expressions of shared rhythm and echo, to noise and the making of vibrational constructs, tensions around belonging and unbelonging may be negotiated. Following performative approaches to acoustics further allows for reworking understandings of agency as based on appearance and legibility – a making visible. Rather, the presentation considers how the capacity to shift volumes, to rework rhythms, to retune or detune dominant tonalities of particular contexts assists in nurturing one’s right to listen.
Tino Sehgal has been working with the DNA of museums and the liberal assemblies created by exhibitions, which he uses for his constructed situations – thin lines that direct attention and gazes, choreographing the paths of the audience.
For the project Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine a group of people dedicate themselves to memorizing a book of their choice. Together they form a library collection consisting of living books. The books pass their time in libraries reading, memorizing, talking to each other, going for walks outside, prepared to be read by a visitor. The readings take place as intimate one-to-one encounters where the book recites its content for the visitor. Libraries are chosen for this work not just a background or a scenery, but for functional and formal reasons. We go to libraries to read or borrow books, we pass time, we can come and go as we like. Libraries are one of few remaining public spaces that are open and free for the public to use. When performing in the library as ‘books’, we permeate and become a porous part of the environment, at the same time as we share intimate spaces with our readers. Book and reader oscillate between different spaces – the space of the library, the space of performance, and the space of reading.
How do we deliberate before and beyond language, how do we create relations without words, how are our bodies determined by the spaces we are in? The 25th edition of The Art of Assembly takes place in the context of Michael Kliën’s “Parliament”, a social choreography in which citizen-performers work in silence to hold council amidst the elemental phenomena and fundamental concerns of collectively lived experience. Political philosopher and literature theorist Michael Hardt together with Antonio Negri coined the term Multitude, describing a „multiplicity of singularities acting together“: a network that is neither homogeneous nor self-identical. Visual artist Pedro Lasch, director of the Social Practice Lab at Duke University, works with choreographies of festive gatherings, multiplatform social communication, and other artworks created through interaction. Literature scholar Corina Stan shows that relations are not only constructed by proximity but also by interpersonal distances that have shaped ethical thinking throughout modernity.
The Refugee Tales walk is a political and aesthetic project inspired by the Canterbury Tales that calls for an end to indefinite immigration detention in the UK. The walk takes place regularly, including a 5-day hike every summer, and involves persons who have experienced detention, writers, activists, and supporters of the project. In this talk, I describe the experience of participating in this community of bodies in movement as a thoughtful calibration of distance—an allowance of time, space, and silence that enables a rethinking of tact as a political category. I sketch this practice by revisiting the work of Helmuth Plessner, Theodor Adorno, Roland Barthes, Edouard Glissant, and more recent figures like Anne Dufourmantelle and Pierre Zaoui.
For the last twenty years Pedro Lasch has been staging experiments in everyday life with a set of mirror masks that are used in specific situations (Naturalizations series, 2002-present). At the core of this simultaneously intimate and massive process lies the question of the political and aesthetic potential of defacement: what is liberated in our individual and collective bodies when we detach from them that overpowering marker of emotion and identity. After reviewing a selective range of past contexts and their respective implications, Lasch concludes with observations, propositions, and questions that have emerged from this cumulative collective experience.