Building Conversation is a dialogical art platform, based in Amsterdam, initiated by Lotte van den Berg and Daan ’t Sas, led together with Peter Aers. In the performative conversations they guide and perform together with participating audiences all over Europe, the theater itself becomes a public space. In over a 1000 performative conversations they explored the boundaries of what theater is and can be. Relating to the theatrical space as a temporary public space; a place in the midst of people, built with our bodies and words, that makes actions and interactions visible and revalues presence. Everybody present joins and together they evoke the fiction, which in this context does not stand for fantasy, the ‘as if’, but rather stands for a heightened reality, an extra focus on what is, ‘the very present present’. Not in the first place concerned with what takes place on stage, but focussed on the way in which we can create stage together.
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.
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.
Hospitality is first and foremost a social practice and can be situated in any place and become manifest in many ways. Hospitality is a design factor for buildings with rapidly decreasing relevance. Security, commercial value and hygienic measures are becoming the ruling flavours of our time. Many buildings that are designated to perform hospitality such as hospitals, airports, welcome centers, border posts, fair grounds, stadiums, governmental institutions or climate summit halls fail completely in this respect. We are surrounded by the multiplication of growing fortresses that strive to protect us from the rest of the world and the rest of the world from us. We can only steer against this trend if we make hospitality a spacial practice.
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.
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.
DIE VIELEN (THE MANY) organise national actions, demonstrations and various events that oppose hatred and promote coexistence with open borders – both internally and externally. Debates within the theatre and art scene are proving contentious. The association acts as an active network and provides platforms for networking.
Choirs are a very specific form of assembling – from representing “the people” in Greek tragedy via all kinds of religious choirs, political choirs, revolutionary choirs up to the legendary human mic at Occupy Wall Street and the iconic chants at Tahrir Square in 2011. Theatre director Claudia Bosse, art theorist Alia Mossallam, and the activists of The Church of Stop Shopping discuss the potential (and perhaps dangers), the tenderness, the precarity and the power of synchronised singing, chanting, shouting along concrete artistic and activistic practices in Cairo, New York and Vienna.
Savitri D explores some of the intersections between Assembly and Song through her work as Director of the Stop Shopping Choir, using mostly casual video and audio recordings she relates the experience of song and singing to the formation of Assemblies and Movement Building.
“Assemblism” is a term used by Dutch artist Jonas Staal to describe the role of art, performance and theater in the performative assembly of mass protests and social movements, which is central to his own artistic work. US-American political theorist Jodi Dean on the other hand emphasizes in her writing that social movements need to be translated into a new communist party if they want to become sustainable. So, what is the potential of art in not only investigating or inventing new forms of assembly but also in contributing to the process of transforming them into sustainable organizational structures? And how do recent political mobilizations – from anti-mask-demonstration up to the storming of Capitol Hill – change an often romanticized view on the assembling of bodies in space?