XXII: Provoke me if you can. The crisis of artistic disturances (with Núria Güell, Renzo Marten & Florian Malzacher)

Provocations as a means of disturbance have long been part of artists’ as well as activists’ basic toolkits. But in a time when many already feel permanently snubbed, artistic provocations often seem stale and redundant. The demand for repair, care, and healing dominates artistic discourse. On the other hand, when climate activists glue themselves to highways or oil paintings, emotions run high throughout society. Meanwhile, the political far-right blatantly focuses on lowering inhibition thresholds: Continued taboo-breaking pushes the boundaries of what is say- and doable. Núria Güell’s artistic practice continuously challenges moral and legal conventions when, for example, she offers herself as a bride to random Cuban man who wants to get a Spanish passport, or when, in reverse, she tries to become stateless herself. Renzo Martens disturbed viewers with videos such as Enjoy Poverty in which he centered himself as a white man and propagated the self-gentrification of Congolese plantations. Meanwhile, however, his role as a performer as well as the relationship to the protagonists of his work has fundamentally changed. In time where confrontational practices are generally questioned, The Art of Assembly investigates how the concept of provocation has shifted in recent years.

XXI: The subversive Power of Music (with Phil Collins, Anne Hahn, Reyhan Şahin aka Lady Bitch Ray & Florian Malzacher)

Music is biggest business and at the same time a space for revolt against the status quo, the regulations and constraints of society. This edition of The Art of Assembly looks at the dissident side of music, how it can suggest alternative ways of living, create identities and foster feelings of belonging and support. Author Anne Hahn organized in punk concerts in the GDR, lost her study-permission and later was imprisoned: East German sub-cultures were one of the few ways to carve out a bit of freedom within the system. For visual artist Phil Collins, who grew up in the North of Eng­land in the ’70s and ’80s, clubbing has always been political. He organised a disco-dance marathon in Palestine, worked with fans of The Smiths across three conti­nents, and recently released a benefit album of house music recorded with formerly incarcerated individuals. Linguist and author Reyhan Şahin aka Lady Bitch Ray – the most prominent and controversial female rapper in German language – lost her journalistic job fifteen years ago over lyrics that were considered as too sexually explicit. With her songs and writings, she fights against racism, sexism and discrimination – and has proved that hard rap and feminism may well go together.

XX: Nous Accusons! People’s Tribunals between Politics, Activism & Art (with Lisa Ito-Tapang / Concerned Artists of the Philippines, Wolfgang Kaleck / ECCHR, Madlyn Sauer & Florian Malzacher)

Inspired by People’s Tribunals like the one organized by philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1966 to investigate American war crimes in… Read more XX: Nous Accusons! People’s Tribunals between Politics, Activism & Art (with Lisa Ito-Tapang / Concerned Artists of the Philippines, Wolfgang Kaleck / ECCHR, Madlyn Sauer & Florian Malzacher)

XIX: Safe vs. Brave? Art Between Sanctuary and Confrontation (with Miriam Ibrahim, Edit Kaldor und Ingo Niermann / Army of Love, Florian Malzacher)

Contemporary stages have often become places to exhibit one’s own injuries, traumas, or shame. Theater as a safer space – in the spirit of a concept that emerged in the USA in the 1960s in feminist and civil rights movements: A protected sphere in which one could communicate about one’s own experiences, goals, and strategies without already being confronted with permanent opposition from those who already dominate all discourses. But as important as protection against insult, injury, and re-traumatization is – doesn’t theater also have to be a space where there are no limits to freedom of expression, where everything can be discussed openly and radically? Perhaps, however, this oft-repeated juxtaposition is already following the wrong path.

XVIII: Body Next to Body: Gathering Masses in Sport Events (with Z. Blace, Caitlin Davis Fisher & Michael Gabriel & Florian Malzacher)

The energy of body next to body. The excitement of the game. Winning, loosing, bursts of emotions. Shouting, singing, yelling, joy, and anger – sometimes on the verge of violence. Elite sport events bring together masses of people across nations, they are gathering with an immense personal importance for many and at the same time highly politicized billion-dollar businesses, streamlined for maximum profits on the borders of legality. This edition of The Art of Assembly takes place 50 years after the Olympic games in Munich, right in the middle of the legendary Olympiapark, envisioned as an open, democratic, and egalitarian space but immediately drawn into the abyss of world politics.
Artist and queer activist Z. Blace looks at how sport events could become owned by the community, counter-nationalist, counter-normative, gender-just and a sex-positive emancipatory experience. Caitlin Davis Fisher, a former professional athlete, works as movement researcher, artist and activist on gender, labor, the body, and community organizing in/with/through football. Expert in fan culture and social worker Michael Gabriel gives an insight into the cultural practices of the ULTRAS, claiming streets and stadiums with elaborated choreographies and the self-confidence of the masses. 
The event took place in the frame of “Soft Democracies”, a project by raumlaborberlin as part of the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Munich Olympics, organized by the Cultural Department of the City of Munich.  

XVII: Assembling Knowledge (Satu Herrala, Ahmet Öğüt, Lotte van den Berg Florian Malzacher)

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?

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.

© 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.

XIV: Audience as Allies, Witnesses, and Enemies (Claire Bishop, Tania Bruguera, Ann Liv Young & Florian Malzacher

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.

XIII: Designing Politics. Architectures of Deliberation and Decision-Making (Markus Miessen, David Mulder van der Vegt & Florian Malzacher

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.