XVI: Shifting Power. When Grassroots Movements Win Elections (Athena Athanasiou, Teodor Celakoski, Marcelo Expósito & Florian Malzacher)

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.

MARCELO EXPÓSITO ° The (forever postponed) dream of a real democracy

The official political discourses persist in glimpsing the way out of the crisis after each new crisis experienced during the… Read more MARCELO EXPÓSITO ° The (forever postponed) dream of a real democracy

TEODOR CELAKOSKI ° Možemo! – Step by step

The presentation will demonstrate the trajectory of a progressive political project taking place in Zagreb and Croatia. This trajectory could be condensed into answers to several questions. What preceded the emergence of the political platform?  What are the tactics and strategies that have brought Možemo! to power? What differs activist struggles from politics in power? What are the innovative organizational structures and ecosystem of the political platform? And what are the next steps? 

ATHENA ATHANASIOU ° Shifting the conditions of possibility

What do we lose when we win? What do we win when we lose? Such questioning involves the collective work of reimagining and recuperating places and times from where to engage, again and again, in practices of countering institutionalized injustice and of instituting otherwise. Taking place within -and constrained by- “the measure of the possible” (to recall Walter Benjamin), activist movements and left coalitions struggle to make life more bearable in the present for those whose lives have been subjected to class, racial, and gendered powers, while, at the same time, shifting the conditions of possibility posed by the existing present. Enacting possibilities for the future in the present involves reconfiguring the agonistic temporality of living, acting, and thinking with others in the precarious interstices of “no longer” and “not yet.” Such movements and coalitions are never at one nor at ease with the present time. Rather, they take the present as a historically situated field of performative and transformative possibility. Athena Athanasiou discusses ways of situated knowledge production through which worldmaking is envisioned and performed beyond the normalized order of the present as it has been imposed by the current neoliberal and neoconservative forces.

© Barbara Braun / MuTphoto

XV: Parliaments of Things and Beings (Eva von Redecker, Alexander Karschnia/andcompany&Co. & Florian Malzacher)

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.

EVA VON REDECKER ° The Assembly is dead

The Assembly is dead. It rests on an ableist appeal to mobilization. It celebrates human representation when even the most basic ecological processes of regeneration are jeopardized by humanity’s mode of reproduction. Assemblies expose protesters to state violence, surveillance and fascist counter-attack. That is, if the assembly is not itself already populated by fascists, as many of the recent Corona-demonstrations were. Good assemblies might be elating, but their spirit often evaporates devoid of effects.

TANIA BRUGUERA ° Truth or Dare

Tania Bruguera is a Cuban artist and activist whose work often considers totalitarianism, immigration, and human rights. Bruguera, who intended to raise awareness and expand cultural inclusion, defined her work as arte útil (useful art). Her work has been represented in leading collections of MoMA and Tate Modern among other places. In 2015 she founded the Institute of Artivism/Instituto de Artivismo Hannah Arendt (INSTAR) in order to “foster civic literacy and policy change.” In 2021 she agreed to leave Cuba to assume the position of senior lecturer in media and performance at Harvard University in exchange for the release of 25 political prisoners.

MILO RAU ° From symbolic Institutions to Microecologies

Milo Rau believes in staging and realistic representation in his theatre plays, while for his tribunals and trials or the General Assembly he invented what he calls „symbolic institutions“ – an open, often antagonistic gathering of opinions and conflicting thruths. Recent projects like The Revolt of Dignity or the School of Resistance tries to hack the economic and political systems by means of art, constructing what Milo calls „alternative micro-ecologies. In his talk, Milo will trace his path from theatre plays and trial projects like Orestes in Mosul or The Moscow Trials to symbolic institutions like The Congo Tribunal and General Assembly – the basis for his actual holistic approach in projects like The Revolt of Dignity or A filmschool for Mosul that he develops with various partners from the arts, civil society and politics.

ISABELLE FREMEAUX & JAY JORDAN / LABOFII ° Compos(t)ing Together to actually do shit!

co-design and deploy forms of creative disobedience since 2004. Consensus decision making and assembling is at the heart of this process, which is always entangled with radical movements and yet also has a foot in cultural institutions. Whether it was co-organising the horizontal processes of Climate Camps, transforming theatre stages into meetings to organise disobedience, facilitating the mass talk shops at Occupy London or at the zad of Notre-Dame-des-Landes, coordinating shared life and struggle against an airport and its world – the Labofii has tasted many flavours of assembling. This talk/film explores Labofii’s experience of these different contexts and ask how can artists use assemblies in the art world without becoming extractivist and loosing the powerful potential of reciprocal relationships to activist movements

X: The Politics of Multitude (Antonio Negri, Anna Clara Basilicò & Marco Baravallle)

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.