IX. Reassambling Institutions (Ahmed Al-Nawas, Nora Sternfeld, Sarah Waterfeld / Staub zu Glitzer & Florian Malzacher)

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.

ANNA CLARA BASILICÒ ° Assemblying for climate justice

e category of environmental justice, understood as the milieu able to organize and comprehend intersectional struggles (social and racial justice, gender justice, antispeciesism). With regard to the concept of “assembly as strategy”, it is discussed the opportunity for climate justice movement to assemble in order to avoid neoliberalism’s reactionary push towards the so called green economy or sustainable development. Paradigm’s shift towards common care, anthropocentrism criticism and freedom with solidarity is the reference point of climate justice movements and such are premises that might reply to the need for abiding revolutionary institutions.

AHMED AL-NAWAS ° Parallel economies of thinking together

the necessity to rethink the elitism and whiteness nurtured by the Finnish art field and the need to be independent but still engaged and the need to have spaces where failure is embraced as a counter normative actions. Often this led to the creation of what Okwui Enwezor calls ”parallel economies of artistic productions”, as opposed to “alternative spaces”. In such productions, collective knowledge-based practices are used as a strategy to both challenge and unify the field of art. 

SARAH WATERFELD / STAUB ZU GLITZER ° Art After All

B6112 is an anti-capitalist, queer-feminist, anti-racist, transmedial theatre production by the artist collective Staub zu Glitzer (dust to glitter). It was established on September 22nd 2017 with the occupation of the Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Berlin and is not over yet. With and within this artwork, specific demands are made on theatres as institutions: overcoming bourgeois exclusivity, the radical opening of space for a self-organization process and the collective, participatory development of a new city- or state theatre model. It is not enough to designate a small group of people as collective directorships and to appoint them to managerial positions. In addition to egalitarian wage policies, there has to be a fundamental discussion about who is entitled to a theatre stage and who the final decision maker should be in this respect. Berlin’s free space and project-room culture is dying out and one approach is to demand tax-financed institutions for self-organization, although and precisely because this does not correspond to the self-image of these elitist cultural areas. As a place founded by organized workers, the Volksbühne should play a pioneering role in the discourse of participation, anarchist organization, and anti-fascist engagement.

NORA STERNFELD ° What is a radical-democratic museum?

inking about strategies that are challenging the archive, appropriating museum space, producing alternative knowledge and rethinking education, art educator and curator Nora Sternfeld asks: Can the museum become a space of assembly that allows us to deal with what has happened in the past, to negotiate what this means for the present, and to imagine a future that is more than the mere extension of the present?

VIII: 10 Years Occupy Wall Street (Judith Butler, Max Haiven & Florian Malzacher)

About ten years ago the series of square occupations all over the world begun – after Tunis, Cairo, Athens, Madrid the wave swept over to New York. Mid-September 2011 the fist protest begun in the midst of Lower Manhattan’s bank towers: Occupy Wall Street became a symbol of resistance against financial capitalism and big corporations. And it’s assemblies set examples for a different way of discussing and decision making that influences activists all over the word but also resonated in theatre and art. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the occupation of Zucchotti Square the 8th edition of The Art of Assembly takes a close look at its legacy: Philosopher Judith Butler, author of the probably most influential book on assemblies in recent years, asks how – in the light of recent pandemic experiences – an ethics of care can enter into our politics of assembly. Writer and activist Max Haiven summons the ghosts of Occupy and looks – in the the spirit of the late anthropologist and OWS key figure David Graeber – back at a haunted decade.

VII: Agonistic Gatherings (Didier Eribon, Chantal Mouffe & Florian Malzacher)

The assemblies of the numerous square occupations during the last decade have often been laboratories of radical forms of democracy, experimenting with non-hierarchical structures and consensus models instead of majority voting. While watching these movements with sympathy, political theorist Chantal Mouffe emphasises also the necessity of dissensus, of an agonistic pluralism in which adversaries openly fight for their hegemonic projects. Philosopher and sociologist Didier Eribon reflects on the conditions and the limits of such mobilisations and insists on the unsurpassable plurality of movements like the gilets jaunes in France, or more recently, the massive strikes and protests against the demolition of the public sector, as well as the demonstrations against racism etc. In the 7th edition of “The Art of Assembly” Eribon and Mouffe discuss how much agonism social movements can bare and how the diversity of democratic demands should be addressed.

DIDIER ERIBON ° How and When Can We Say “We”? A Few Remarks on Social Protest and Political Dissent

Didier Eribon is a French sociologist and philosopher. He was professor of sociology in Amiens and visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, at the universities of Harvard and Yale, at New York University (NYU) and at Columbia University. His socio-autobiography Return to Reims (2009) in which he reveals the break-up of French society attracted international attention. His work Insult and theMaking of the Gay Self (1999) has become a classic and a founding document of Queer Studies. Among his most recent publications are La société comme verdict(2013) and Principes d’une pensée critique (2016).

MAX HAIVEN ° The Ghosts of Occupy. Notes on a Haunted Decade, in the Spirit of David Graeber?

Taking up David Graeber’s theorization of Occupy as a movement not simply for political change but for a different kind of politics, Max Haiven presents these afterlives of Occupy as indicative of our political-economic moment where both power and resistance are reconfiguring themselves.

JUDITH BUTLER ° Where are We Now? Assembly, Care, and Connection

presumed access to shared space.  And yet, there have been ways to occupy public space that accept the safety protocols for Covid-19.  How then do we think about “safety” in relation to assembly? We speak about the right of peaceable assembly, but do we speak as often about safe conditions for assembly?  The idea of safety brings up ambivalent viewpoints, and it became a key topic of debate for the Occupy movement and for the uprisings of the Arab Spring. “To play it safe” means not taking risks, not asking for too much, so what role, if any, does danger now play? If we think that heroic forms of risking our lives is part of a political struggle, what happens when the risk that I take is immediately a risk to you as well?  Where does an ethics of care enter into our politics of assembly?