Under the Surface of Intellectuals (on PSi #23, Part 3 of 3)

Keynotes of leading intellectuals like Vandana Shiva, Tim Etchells, Carolin Emcke, Didier Eribon and Avital Ronell opened the Performance Studies international conference #23 to a general audience of Kampnagel and of Theater der Welt hosted also in Hamburg this year.

a)     Things Disappear or do not Fit Anymore

Tim Etchells read from manuscripts of his new book. Among the flow of observation in streets I enjoyed his reflections on 35 years of Forced Entertainment in which he discovered flow as well as containment. The latter word nicely contrasted to entertainment. I cherished that he mentioned the reuse of props, equipment and tools which were kept from previous performances. But unexpectedly all these items in case they are still available would not represent an overflow or material reserve. In contrary Etchell said, that every piece being reused would require a restart as well as a new piece and every performance of the repertoire in a new space.

b)     Between Shame and Hate

Emcke and Eribon described escape as trouble which was initiated by their decision to leave their familiar background to become intellectuals. Both put it in relation to shame, which they suffered also because of their sexual orientation. While Eribon referred to the social class background of his family and childhood-milieu, Emcke said that the communication of her decision to become an intellectual to her “upper-middle-class” family was more shameful, while being gay reward her with pleasures, compensating for that shame. In contrast to this Eribon felt that the repression his working-class family enforced on him because of his sexual orientation deeply hurt his feelings, while his intellectual career helped him to seek distance. Thus it became an act of emancipation, although he could never fully separate the private and public spheres. According to Eribon the refusal of society to accept and discuss the term social class anymore would not help to understand the problem. He said that the workers of his hometown Reims had lost their pride, when steel- and car-companies closed down their plants.

Unfortunately the podium did not approach what the title of the podium “Beyond the New Hate” announced. In this context it is important to understand that not only did coal and steel based industries create the fundaments of the wealth of Europe but steel workers and miners also formed a political nucleus of the European Union. It was established to coordinate the European Steel- and Carbon-industries internationally. The mining industries also were the foundations for the car- and machine-industries and have established European worker-participation. So it is no wonder that the steel and coal-crises, which escalated in the 1980s, became a crisis of Europe and separated the worker-elite from the political union of Europe.

Avital Ronell dancing when audience entered the space. Photographed by johnicon

c)      Avital Ronell on “twitterature and shitterature”

The crisis of the mining-industry was also a major issue in Donald Trump’s campaign. He took advantage of it addressing voters from the “rust-belt”, however without concepts in a heated world. This is no excuse for “mistweating” and “buffoonery”, which was addressed by Avital Ronell on Sunday-morning, when her lecture “Mistweated: On Civic Grievance” rivaled the sermon of churchgoers, as she puts it with Karl Kraus. Referring to an aggressive and sadistic behavior of the Potus, who is also known as a man being proud of “grabbing” women “by” instead of at the pussy. That provoked to ask for the nature of the object that is grabbed “by”? Is it the reel of the gangway of the big airplanes Trump fiercely holds, when descending. Trump fears descending and strangely feels also menaced by his German origin in third generation and pretends to have ancestry in Sweden instead. This should have helped him to avoid bad manners, encouraging bad behavior in political culture. (Theatre can educate about the tragic rise of protagonists such as Aturo Ui in: “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” by Bert Brecht; added by the author) Ronell said that she felt attracted by the banner in front of the Kampnagel-doors welcoming refugees. Those who lost their homes and existence have to be welcomed every day, she remembered from her ancestors who found exile in America. She told that the book and the light of enlightenment in the hands of the mighty female Statue of Liberty encouraged her during her childhood. Later however she got to know that Franz Kafka – in his novel “Amerika” – had envisioned the Statue with a sword in her hands.

Have a look at the photograph of “Überfluss II” correspondence between Ric Allsopp and the author in: Performance Research 2(1), pp 31-33, 1997, p 33

Performance Research 2 (1) 1997, p33

Culturally Transformed Industrial Location for PSi #23 (part 1 of 3)

A Conference titled OVERFLOW from June 8 to 11, 2017 at Kampnagel in Hamburg

Impressions and Observations (Part 1)

The Kampnagelfabrik, which is the venue for dance-, music- and theatrical performances, was a factory that produced cranes for the port until the 1970s. After it was closed artists squatted the building and evolved various cultural activities there. This all happened when ports were transformed worldwide by the innovation of containers, which required a complete revision of the logistic scheme. When housing the annual conference of Performance Studies international, one can also realize the effects of economic change on education in the actual phase of globalization, when knowledge becomes a part of profit oriented circulation of goods and services too. However the good thing that cultural knowledge also has faces bodies and minds, which can be met and experienced during conferences and festivals like OVERFLOW from June 8 to 11 in Hamburg. Probably there are hardly other fields than those of the arts, dance, theatre, music, ritual and play as well as public performances in which cultural experience and expertise are represented and kept over the centuries.

The Foyer of Kampnagel during the Conference,
photographed by johnicon

PSi is a unique organization in which ideally practitioners of various fields of the performing arts meet academics of the theatre-faculties from the leading universities of the world. That fuels conflicts with institutions, which undergo restrictions, imposed by the neo-liberal management of universities. These were discussed right away on a Friday panel, which took place next to another one, where information on activism and performances in the overflowing City of Hong Kong was given. There students, intellectuals and artists fight for freedom which they have to defend against the requirements of capital and the circulation of commodities.

An opportunity to participate in a rich field of experiences in practice and research

The title of this conference is a metaphor describing the situation of the rich countries that profit from the exploitation of labor, agricultural and natural resources of the world, but you can also read it in a different way as the gifts, which are provided by the possibilities one has, when growing up on the sunny side of the word. Overflow can also be given to somebody for example through his or her intellectual and physical qualities, which enable a person to lead a full and happy life or resist stress and unrest.

Overflow in terms of affluence as well as spill can also be poisonous and destructive. Power and wrong decisions can destroy people’s lives, nature and social stability. Streams of money are used to exploit the resources thus helping to establish a corrupt ruling-class like in Kongo and Nigeria. On the other hand overflow is created by culture in Europe these days, when the documenta 14 at Kassel and Athens. Also the Skulpturen-Projekte Münster are opened simultaneously and in addition to the Venice Biennale and the Theater der Welt in Hamburg. Those who have the resources and permits to travel can visit the presentation of works of a chosen number of creative people from all over the world. This is also true for the program of PSi #23. Every day the participants of the conference can browse through 70 titles of presentations of papers, lectures, performances, panel-discussions or workshops, and have to decide, which one to attend. Disciplined enough you sit in one out of 10 contributions of ideas, knowledge and research, ranging from artistic to cultural, political and economic topics, from personal to conceptual as well as to life acts and performances representing in itself the flow if not an overflow of human struggle with reality and the results of cultural procession of it. For those who feel that the earth is too small Maaike Bleeker and Felipe Cervera offered a 4 hour lasting session hosting a series of lecturers, who explored the possibilities of space such as Planetary Performance Theory, theatrical events on the popularization of research in astronomy (Kurt Vanhoutte), Soviet Sci-Fi-Movies (Natalija Maysova), Performances of the Leap Second (Sara Morawetz), Kinetic Theatre during a Parabolic Flight (Janez Janša), a hypnotic flight to the moon (Nahum) and more.

But what means theatre today and what conditions do we find down on the earth especially in countries endangered by restrictions of the free speech and movement like in Turkey, Hongkong, Poland, not to speak about the dangers by losing once job or terror and crime. As it has been possible for me to visit only a small segment of the affluence of thoughts, ideas, results of research and elaborated papers I have to beg the pardon of all those, who came to Kampnagel to speak and present their papers and PowerPoints and are not mentioned here.

Kampnagel Campus, photographed by johnicon

However I will try to convey my observations as an essay on what I have listening to and experienced personally in encountering participants of the conference. So please take the excerpts that have been chosen as a possible whole. It is a subjective collection of a choice I made according to personal preferences as well as by coincidence. What I personally have experienced as a gift is a growing trust in each other to share knowledge, experience and expertise in the field, that has grown over decades and has its points of contact in many countries on 4 continents – and we still missing Africa, although the continent is present in many contributions reflecting the implications of the refugee-crises and post-colonial politics!

Hamburg is lucky to have hosted this conference at such an impressive place. The link to art history however is missing. It was represented by Aby Warburg, who included contemporary pagan rituals and festivals into the focus of his research of images to understand Renaissance. The Kunstwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg was founded in 1925, a few 100 meters away from the venue of the conference. It was saved from loss in London exile in 1933 and was re-institutionalized as a copy and research-institution after 1993 in the renovated Warburg-building in Hamburg. Unfortunately this promising link to Performance Studies was cut by those who are responsible for the division of the faculties at the University.

More records are prepared to follow soon!

Art-Mama of Life-Art died

One of the longest experiments Life-Art came to an end Thursday, May 25th 2017. Odai Orimoto, better known as “Art-Mama”, died at the age of 98 in Kawasaki-City. She has become part of the art-world, since Japanese Fluxus-Artist Tatsumi Orimoto included her in his Life-Art in 1996 and launched photoprints of “Tire-Tube-Communication” showing Odai with neighbors in her garden and in her living room.[1] It seemed slightly disturbing to the audience, to see three old ladies with tires as necklaces, and later also “Art-Mama”

Small Mama + Big Shoes, Kawasaki 1997, Courtesy of the artist

with gigantic custom-made shoes. But Orimoto’s work is about the burden of getting old and feeling one’s body as a weight, which becomes heavier and heavier every year. These aspects of the mature body, which have never been reflected by Body Art were introduced by Tatsumi Orimoto for the first time in art history. He started this unique artistic collaboration with his mother who was suffering from depression and Alzheimer’s disease and it lasted for 21 years. The whole artistic production of that period was labelled “Art-Mama” and focuses on the aesthetic implications of the growing number of elderly people in many contemporary societies. Beside the physical self-awareness it deals with the shrinking field of vision, deteriorated hearing and haptic sensations.

The last time, that Odai appeared in a public performance, was at a lunch for 50 grandmas in the Kawasaki-City-Museum in 2006. After that Orimoto spent more and more time taking care for his mother. Nevertheless he travelled in Japan and abroad, to show his new work (see several articles in this blog – just tick on Orimoto, Art-Mama and other key-words of this article like artist’s mothers) which he produced at home including his mother as usual and experimenting with new objects and tools related to his care-taking like diapers and wheelchairs.

The Stress with the Wheelchair, Kawasaki-City 2012, courtesy of the artist

Last year Orimoto appeared as a woman’s drag as “Art-Mama” by himself. Here he investigates the field of similarity and imitation not only of facial expression but also on body-language and habits as a topic in the arts.

[1] The first European shows of this series was realized by Aktionsgalerie in Berlin in 1999 and Fotogalerie Wien in April 2000 (Catalogue # 160, Vienna 2000)