At least since Joseph Beuys’ legendary “International College for Creativity and Interdisciplinary Research” artistic assemblies are also a playing field for the production and transfer of knowledge. The 17th edition of “The Art of Assembly investigates along concrete artistic practices how tools and experiences from performing arts offer settings and strategies for unexpected communication and transversal education: Choreographer and curator Satu Herrala in her works focusses on embodied knowledges in artistic and curatorial work, creating conditions for art to summon collective and transformative agencies. Artist Ahmet Öğüt – initiator of the Silent University, a solidarity-based knowledge exchange platform by displaced people and forced migrants- often seeks his collaborators outside the art field. Theatre maker Lotte van den Berg, one of the initiators of the ongoing project “Building Conversation”, centers her practice around collective experiences and the relation between performance and social as well as ecological challenges. How can art offer spaces for empowerment and self-development?
When activist movements gain momentum, even win elections after many years of struggle and work on the ground, there is a lot of enthusiasm – but also larger-than-life expectations. A diverse electorate with often very different expectations demands immediate and fundamental shifts of politics. The parties once in power just wait for any opportunity to attack. The former establishment uses its long-knit networks to slow down any transition. And former allies accuse the elected representatives of their compromises. So, what does it actually mean to govern, to change structures, work with a large administration, include the political base, and accomplish concrete change?
Inspired by the impressive development of the Croatian movement “Možemo!” with its landslide victory in the Zagreb city elections in May 2021, in this edition of The Art of Assembly cultural worker and activist Teodor Celakoski describes the strategies used to achieve “Možemo!’s” success and talks about the difficulties to implement new policy. Artist, activist and former member of the Spanish parliament Marcelo Expósito gives insides in the struggles, achievements, and failures of Podemos and other citizens’ electoral organizations in Spain. Drawing on the trajectory of SYRIZA after winning the general election in Greece in 2015, philosopher Athena Athanasiou reflects on the general conditions activist movements are confronted with when coming to power.
Latour sums up, “The question is no longer to grand rights to non-humans, but to accept to be dependent on them.” But what does that actually mean? How can non-human representation look like, what would be a non-anthropocentric assembly? In the 15th edition of The Art of Assembly the theatre group andcompany&Co. praises the intelligence of insects and considers renaming itself ANTCOMPANY, while philosopher Eva von Redecker proposes a “revolution for life” in order to escape the prison of capitalism and find new forms of solidarity: Care instead of domination, regeneration instead of utilization, participation instead of exploitation.
Ever since the audience light in most Western theatres has been turned off in the 19th century artists have tried to push spectators out of their comfort zone again. The 14th episode of The Art of Assembly looks at radical approaches to audiences, turning them from spectators into participants, witnesses, collaborators, and enemies. Art theorist Claire Bishop reviews how the relationship between art and audience has changed in the decade that has passed since the first edition of her influential book Artificial Hells. Artist and activist Tania Bruguera has always challenged her audience to become active participants not only in her performances but also in society. The stage personas of theatre maker Ann Liv Young tend to come too close – physically as well as psychologically – attacking her audience and making herself attackable at the same time.
epresentation they also organize and influence very concretely how legislative bodies work. The 13th edition of The Art of Assembly looks at how architecture shapes decision-making – and at what alternatives there might be. David Mulder van der Vegt, who has researched the design of the parliament halls of all 193 member states of the United Nations, reflects on the correspondence between their layout and the type of democratic structure they represent; Markus Miessen proposes the concept of “crossbenching” as a practice of independent individuals acting without mandate, and without having to respond to a pre-supposed set of protocols or consensual arrangements.
Numerous theater makers and artists have been inspired by the concept and the performative reality of assembly in recent years, creating, directing, initiating trials, parliaments, congresses, summits and assemblies in white cubes and black boxes, on proscenium stages and public spaces. But the relationship between theatrical and political representation remains complicated. What are difference and proximity between physical presence within an art institution and on, for example, an occupied square? The 12th edition of The Art of Assembly looks at the often productive, often ambivalent relationship between art and activism, inviting three very different initiators of assemblies: Theater director Milo Rau believes in staging and realistic representation in his plays, while for his tribunals and trials he invented what he calls „symbolic institutions“; the School of Resistance uses theatrical settings but understands itself as an activist, not an artistic project; and the activists Isabelle Fremeaux and Jay Jordan believe: If you truly want to do politics, you have to desert the institution of art and entangle insurrectionary imagination into the everyday life of movements.
Hospitality – with all its seeming generosity – is a complex concept: Who is invited into our societies, our assemblies? What are the relationships between guests and hosts? Is unconditional hospitality possible? The architecture of public space, the infrastructures of coming together, the borders and thresholds around them inform how we come together, what is prevented from happening, what is possible. The 11th edition of The Art of Assembly looks at the physical relations of gatherings, how bodies and objects are organised, how radical concepts of democracy can be represented in space. Architect and researcher Merve Bedir since long researches infrastructures of hospitality and mobility as well of the residue of solidarity in urban and public space. For raumlabor architecture is a tool, in search for a city of possibilities, considering themselves activists, operating within the urban landscape. And for architect and scholar Marina Otero Verzier is concerned with how the work of architects, in coordination with other social and institutional techniques, produces differential spaces that either facilitate or prevent their encounter of bodies.
La moltitudine è una “molteplicità di singolarità che agiscono insieme” (Antonio Negri/Michael Hardt), “i molti, visti come molti” (Paolo Virno): una rete che non è omogenea né autoidentica. Il concetto di moltitudine è controproposto all’idea di popolo. Un soggetto rivoluzionario difficile da afferrare o da definire – di volta in volta lodato o criticato per questa apertura. La decima edizione di “The Art of Assembly” affronta il tema dell’assemblea come strumento e strategia della moltitudine per prendere decisioni e comunicare. Antonio Negri rivisita il concetto che – insieme a Michael Hardt – ha reso popolare nei primi anni 2000, mentre l’attivista climatica Anna Clara Basilicò discute il suo potenziale per i movmenti del presente.
Multitude is a „multiplicity of singularities acting together“ (Antonio Negri/Michael Hardt), „the many, seen as being many“ (Paolo Virno): a network that is neither homogeneous nor self-identical. The concept of the multitude is a counterproposal to the idea of the people, a revolutionary subject that is difficult to grasp or to define – and has been both praised and criticized for this openness. The 10th edition of The Art of Assembly looks at the role of the assembly as a tool and strategy for the multitude to make decisions and to communicate. Political theorist Antonio Negri revisits the concept he – together with Michael Hardt – popularized in the earl 2000s while climate activist Anna Clara Basilicò looks at its potential for current movements.
Can institutions be driving forces of change? Or are they doomed to be bastions of the status quo, capable of slow reforms at best? Arguments about institutions, instituting and institutionalizing are at the core of many progressive movements. But what would it actually mean to imagine institutions in a radical democratic way? How can we understand museums, theatres, galleries, festivals, biennales as assemblies – not only symbolically but by consequently re-negotiating their organizational structures? Curator Ahmed Al-Nawas, focusing in his work on collaborative, anti-racist and de-colonizing practices, takes a close look at the role of authorship and representation within collectives. Nora Sternfeld, art educator and curator, negotiates the possibilities for a radical-democratic museum, imagining a future that is more than the mere extension of the present. And Sarah Waterfeld, spokesperson of the collective Staub zu Glitzer (Dust to Glitter) that occupied 2017 Volksbühne in Berlin with its transmedia theatre production B6112, demands a fundamental rethinking of the way the iconic ‘people’s theatre’ is run.