Mission statements by “Truth is concrete” contributors

A small collection of artistic strategies in politics by Antanas Mockus, Alexandra Galkina, WochenKlausur, Reverend Billy, The HairCut Before the Party, Katherine Ball, CANVAS, Zentrum für Politische Schönheit & raumlaborberlin
1. Restrict yourself!
By Antanas Mockus 

Our aim was a double change: a radical change of the desire of what the City of Bogotá wanted to be and a radical change of the means employed to make real that desire. Self-regulation and mutual regulation were considered as important as legal regulation. And the main cue was to enhance the cultural and moral support to legality and to reduce the cultural and moral approval of illegalities. We called our proposal, a pedagogical one, “cultura ciudadana”, culture of citizenship. Learning to trust unknown people in open settings like public spaces, public transport and public spectacles, was one of the objectives. One of the corresponding actions was “women’s night”. On Friday 9th March 2001, the streets and the cultural and commercial centres were occupied by 700,000 women and only 200,000 men, as a result of a voluntary masculine curfew from 8.30 pm to 1 am.
New goals were linked to new means and new meanings. A flirtatious city, which I had been invited to build, was supposed to be helpful to obtain a carrot city (“carrot” in Colombia means well- behaved). The concrete truth in this case, is that you should be extremely careful about the means you employ, to avoid disavowing your own goals. In other words: cultura ciudadana was not only our main aim, but also our main method. The four aims were: to have more people obeying coexistence norms; more people succeeding in peacefully making other people obey these norms; more people peacefully solving conflicts inspired by a shared vision of the city; to improve interpersonal communication, expression and interpretation through arts, culture, sports and recreation.
Colombia is a country where many times the noblest of intentions inspires the worst of actions. I have the feeling of having invented a new kind of law enforcement, based on self-restrictions related to the way language, guns, information, legal and communicational power pretend to be employed. Instead of infantilising the people with the discourses of fear and security, we worked on cooperation for building citizenship. What is a police officer? He/she is a citizen that qualifies other citizens. I repeat: Self- regulation and mutual-regulation were the main goals.
More than in the physical city, I was interested in the contiguity and density effects of big numbers of people living together and arranging themselves to maintain coexistence and trust between each other. The proposal included transforming language games and searching consensus through argumentation; also expressive actions, adopting new codes and exploring the links between norms, agreements and emotions. In this we were inspired by very different sources: Wittgenstein, Habermas, Basil Bernstein, Douglass North, Norbert Elias and Jon Elster.
One of the main efforts was to promote voluntary obedience to law (not based on fear of legal sanctions). People learned to make other people feel guilt and shame, but also to express social approval and feel satisfaction and gratification when receiving social recognition. We showed the divorce between legal and moral norms (like you shall not kill) and social norms (you will take revenge). We used statistics to draw attention to cultural incoherencies, such as December being by far the most violent month in the year (with a lot of religious family meetings, holidays, gifts and extra pay) and homicides concentrating on Friday and Saturday nights or on Mother’s Day. Epidemiology helped to identify risk factors like alcohol, carrying guns, intra-familiar violence and to take measures such as disarmament and restrictions on alcohol expenditure.
My approach and some of its successes have also been explained from other points of view, e.g. by Rosemary Thorp from Oxfam (GB), who summarised our approach in seven points:

1. Adopt explicit priorities of change but seek snow ball effects – put in play the next ball as soon as you can.
2. Attack defeatism with examples and indicators. Give information about behaviour change. Use positive indicators.
3. Use lateral analysis with practical applications, e.g. epidemiology.
4. Attack multiple aspects of the same problem.
5. Use visual shock (mooning, stars on ground).
6. Give people simple tasks, like whistling.
7. Build a reputation of trust (which possibly underlies all of the above).

Reflecting on investiture, political capital and arts, I feel that for the sake of our societies there is a right and a duty of exploiting both the legally and culturally recognised investiture and the accumulated political capital. Can this exploitation possibly be guided by art? Is that what we could call “sub-art” or art freed from the pretensions of being art? The exact moment when you become Mayor is when you swear to obey and to make obeyed by the citizens the Constitution and the Law. This is true from a legal and from an anthropological point of view. That is, the moment when you acquire the investiture. In my opinion the investiture is for being used, risked and worn. I used many times non-conventional behaviour to put a sort of question mark on my investiture, generating a tension between the formal behaviour expected from a legal authority and the informal behaviour accepted from a teacher full of enthusiasm with pedagogical innovations. Playing with investiture in the field of law enforcement is my favourite practice at this moment. Reducing the homicide rate, twice, by one third, reducing the number of deaths caused by car accidents by two thirds, multiplying by three the city’s income – all these results would not have been reached if there was not a strong commitment in my teams, in the media and the citizens: there was a clear will to risk the certitudes of the routine.
In 1994 we invited mime artists to replace traffic police in a small part of the city. When we announced this, the first question from a journalist was: “Can the mime artists impose fines?” My answer was: “Of course not”. Then it will not work, the journalist said. But it did work. We got 400 mime artists trained; nine months later more than two thousand former local traffic police officers were fired and the local traffic police – the worst reputed office of the city – was dissolved. This was good proof that even the most entrenched corruption can be overcome. The traffic officers had completely denaturalised their investiture, while the mime artists and the Mayor had gained or fortified a new one: that of pedagogical authorities. Education based on fear had begun to be replaced by education based on reason and mainly positive emotions.

The mathematician and philosopher Antanas Mockus was the Mayor of Bogotá (Colombia) from 1995 to 1997 and from 2001 to 2003. He was known for tackling the city’s problems such as violence, lawless traffic and lack of drinking water with unusual campaigns – e.g. dismissing corrupt police officers and employing mime artists instead. He is a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the University of Oxford and director of the Federici Group at the National University of Colombia. At steirischer herbst 2012 he will participate in the marathon camp “Truth is concrete”.

2. Resist the conformism of the cultural space!
By Alexandra Galkina

Our artistic strategy is formed on the intersection of academic knowledge and innovative experience. It emerged in a non-academic circle of artists and mid-1990s activists, when artists from the Moscow actionism circle launched an attack against the “academism” of the tightly sealed circle of the Moscow conceptualists. Our current plan is to continue designing various experiments that resist the negative processes within contemporary art and expose their worst and crudest manifestations. The savagery of the Russian art market, which emerged in the 2000s with its ups and downs and the absence of public institutions supporting non-commercial activities, has put the artist in a much more complicated position than ever before. Art has moved to commercial galleries and art centres, which acquired their popularity through chaotic engagements with mass media.
In 2006, we organised an action called “You Are Arrested” as a response to an upsurge of new art institutions appearing in Moscow. We distributed invitations to a “new media centre” for an opening of an exhibition of Alexandra Galkina and David Ter-Oganian. The invitations contained the date and time of the opening and the address, which in reality, was the address of a police precinct in the centre of Moscow. The unsuspecting invitees found themselves in an unpredictable situation reaching far beyond their expectations. Some were approached to act as witnesses for some arrested people when they tried to enter the building in search of the exhibition, while others were confronted by the police for trying to enter and threatened with arrest. This action aimed at reminding people about the reality of experience through what may be an unfamiliar way of consuming art.
Another project we implemented together in 2009-2010 was “Josef Bakstein’s Blog”. It was a collective portrait of a top art bureaucrat and its aim was to criticise power mechanisms acting in the field of art. For this project, we registered a Facebook account in the name of the above-mentioned user and made entries using real-life content found on the internet; such as Josef Bakstein’s remarks taken from interviews on other public sites. We also made declarations on behalf of our protagonist, provoking lively reactions from his “friends”, the number of which grew to 4000. These “friends” mainly included international art-community members, whose answers demonstrated the specific internal contradictions within this professional group. We documented every action in this Blog and collected an “alternative” history of the relationship between its owner and the public. Bakstein’s Blog was an alternative media project, an innocent performance that was played out for the sake of exposing a much cruder and more shameless spectacle.
Speaking of strategy and tactics, we should not forget about the context in which various actions take place. Our task as artists is to develop new forms of cultural protest and critique of the reality that surrounds us. We plan to act and resist the conformism of the cultural space, including the market.

Alexandra Galkina is Artist, member of several autonomous collectives in Moscow. Since 1997 took part in such artistic initiatives like “Barricade on Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street”, “Against All Parties” Campaign, participant of collective actions of Radek Community. Works in collaboration with the artist David Ter-Oganyan.

3. Verändere konkret!
By Wochenklausur

„Innerhalb der Institutionen kann jeder einzelne an einer Veränderung der Gesellschaft arbeiten oder eben nicht.“ Victor Burgin
Kunst kann bekanntlich viele Aufgaben übernehmen. Sie kann Zeitphänomene reflektieren, Identitäten pflegen, snobistische Allüren befriedigen. Kunst kann unsere Freizeit bereichern, als Spekulationsobjekt dienen und das Herz vibrieren lassen. Eine der Funktionen von Kunst ist die Veränderung der Lebensverhältnisse. Diese Funktion hat vor allem mit den russischen Konstruktivisten praktische Vertreter gefunden. Damit wurde ein neues Kapitel in der Kunstgeschichte aufgeschlagen, das einen vorläufigen Höhepunkt in den Siebzigerjahren des letzten Jahrhunderts mit Joseph Beuys und vielen anderen erfuhr.
Die Gruppe WochenKlausur geht von dieser Funktion der Kunst und ihren historischen
Wegbereitern aus. Im Unterschied zur radikalen Vorstellung einer Umwandlung der Gesellschaft in eine „soziale Plastik“ überschätzt sich die aktivistische Kunst heute aber nicht mehr. Sie möchte lediglich ihren bescheidenen Teil beitragen und sieht Handlungsmöglichkeiten auf quasi allen Feldern gesellschaftlicher Veränderungen von der Ökologie über die Bildung bis zur Wirtschaft oder Städteplanung. Sie stellt sich daher präzise Aufgaben und erarbeitet Lösungen für erkannte Probleme. Damit bewirkt sie – aus der Kunst heraus – kleine gesellschaftspolitische Veränderungen.
Wo sich Kunst realer Probleme annimmt, wird sie sich schnell bewusst, was da alles zu bedenken ist. Richtig dosiert kann sie dennoch mehr verändern als bislang angenommen
wurde. Wie der Name Wochen-Klausur andeutet, werden in wenigen Wochen alle Energien gebündelt, um für eine klar umschriebene Aufgabe eine Lösung anzubieten. Wichtig ist es der WochenKlausur, Akzeptanz für eine Kunst zu sichern, die konkrete Handlungsmöglichkeiten eröffnet.
Begonnen hat die Arbeit der Gruppe 1993 in der Wiener Secession. Sie war eingeladen, für die Dauer einer Ausstellung in Klausur zu gehen, um eine kleine, aber konkrete Maßnahme zur Verbesserung der Situation von Obdachlosen zu entwickeln. Und tatsächlich gelang es ihr, bei diesem ersten Projekt, die medizinische Versorgung der Obdachlosen in Wien zu gewährleisten. Seither betreut eine fahrende Ambulanz monatlich über 600 Obdachlose – ohne Kosten für die Betroffenen.
35 Interventionen konnten während der letzten Jahre in alternierender Besetzung erfolgreich durchgeführt werden und insgesamt waren über siebzig Künstler beteiligt.
Beim bislang letzten Projekt in Kassel konnte die Finanzierung von zwei Sozialarbeitern mit Schlichtungsfunktion gesichert werden. Diese sollen auf dem Lutherplatz, einem öffentlichen Platz, der unter anderem auch der Drogenszene als Treffpunkt dient, zwischen den unterschiedlichen Platznutzer vermitteln und für ein friedliches Miteinander sorgen.
Natürlich kann jeder sozialpolitische Prozess auch kunstlos bleiben und tatsächlich gibt es keinen Grund, warum Künstler bessere Ideen und Lösungsstrategien haben sollten als andere Menschen. Es geht vielmehr darum, dass sich Kunst wie Wissenschaft, Wirtschaft, Politik oder Bildung an gemeinsamen Aufgaben beteiligt.
Die WochenKlausur arbeitet bewusst innerhalb des Kunstsystems. Die Veränderung der künstlerischen Handlungsmöglichkeiten ist sogar das eigentliche politische Ziel der WochenKlausur. Gelingt es, mehr Akzeptanz für eine Kunst zu sichern, die kleine konkrete Handlungsfelder eröffnet, dann wird damit im Großen der gängige Kunstbegriff erweitert. Und verändert sich der Kunstbegriff, dann verändert sich auch der Kunstbetrieb.
Die Intention der WochenKlausur ist somit eine doppelte. Zum einen wird mit jedem
Projekt ein kleiner, aber sehr konkreter Beitrag zur Verbesserung des Zusammenlebens geleistet. Zum anderen geben all diese Projekte Zeugnis für die Möglichkeiten der Kunst, in reale Verhältnisse einzugreifen. Damit verschiebt sich die Vorstellung von Kunst. Die Projekte der WochenKlausur helfen, ein altes Paradigma zu überwinden, dass nämlich Kunst noch nie etwas wirklich verändern habe können und dazu gar nicht in der Lage sei.

Die Künstlergruppe WochenKlausur entwickelt konkrete Vorschläge, wie gesellschaftspolitische Defizite durch kleine, aber wirkungsvolle Maßnahmen verringert werden können. Dazu zählen z.B. ein Kino für Migranten oder die Renovierung von leer stehenden Gebäuden durch Studierende, die auf der Suche nach einer leistbaren
Unterkunft sind. Im steirischen herbst 2012 nimmt sie an „Truth is concrete“ teil.

4. Sing and sing!
Reverend Billy

We are a radical performance community, a post religious church. We put on shows and hold services wherever we can, in concert halls, theaters, churches, community centers, forests, fields, parking lots and the occasional boat. Our most important stages are in super malls, chain stores and bank lobbies – where we can directly eviscerate the Devil Mono-Culture. We find our lives changed by a strange Holy Spirit when we can stop a shopper at the cash till and send them frothing at the mouth toward the Exit. We perform invisible and visible dramas, acts of ritual resistance. We amplify the most everyday stories. We exorcise cash registers. We feel the electricity around the point of purchase. We get hassled, harassed and arrested. We sing all the time. We sing and sing.
Liberation is radiant and freedom from capitalism is contagious. Tell your neighbor you have stopped shopping and it gives them permission to do the same. One day we will all live in wild, hilarious neighborhoods; alongside people who seem to have invented themselves and so are endlessly fascinating, shocking, uncontrolled and beyond entertainment. Yes there IS a Life After Shopping.
Naturally people wonder how this all works. Does the Church of Stop Shopping really believe this? Do we live in the bushes? Do we use computers? Do we forage for food? Spin our own wool? Have we stopped shopping? Where did I get my underwear? We walk through this shower of absurd questions as if passing through the doorway to paradise. It is good that these sweet questioners are disoriented, even insulted. Let’s keep going. Our brains are stun-gunned by marketing into the reasoned normalcy that keeps us shopping, warring, killing the flora and the fauna – and calling it all modern life, the way it is. If your questions begin, make sure they continue. It is our job at the Church of Stop Shopping to make your confusion flourish. Among our singer-activists there are scientists, filmmakers, teachers, musicians, dog walkers, hairdressers, executives, carpenters and bakers. We are all ages and many races and sexes. Together we resist the great force of American fundamentalism. It comes to us in the form of Consumerism and its twin Devil Militarism. The globalalized economy – perpetual development and resource extraction – reduces the Earth and its many beings to markets. But we are not markets. We are animals and we love the Earth and want to keep living here.
My healthy neighborhood depends on your healthy neighborhood and your healthy neighborhood depends on the health of a neighborhood in Calcutta. That is how we prepare for the revolution, by standing up and living together, turning our backs on the Devil Monoculture and nurturing unmediated relationships of all kinds. This will make us smarter, braver, more willing … That is the beginning of the independence that corporations know we have, but hope we never discover. The corporations can just keep holding their breath. We have work to do.

Reverend Billy Talen is a New York City based radical performer and founder of the Church of Earthalujah which features the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. At this year’s steirischer herbst he will participate in the marathon camp “Truth is concrete”.

5. Welcome, help yourself to coffee!
By The HairCut Before The Party 

The Public no longer exists. Had it ever? Whether an amphitheatre in ancient Greece or a coffee house in London – we are told that when men meet in these places to exchange words, this constitutes a Public. Public spaces do exist and interest in them has grown. Squares, parks, shops, hashtags, and why not, nail bars and hair salons? Do these spaces give rise to democracy? Or are these the meeting places of cliques or collectives? Are their walls permeable?
People enter the salon, perhaps they know the people there, they join the conversation, the commune. Perhaps they’ve never been here before. “Welcome, help yourself to coffee.” They look at the books on display, select one, then put it back. “So, take a seat. What would you like?” “I’d like to talk about something, but not politics. I’d like to talk about life …” In the absence of The Idea (communist, democratic etc.) do we return to pure insurrection as a nihilistic, infinite political form? How to understand a riot? A question we have asked ourselves frequently since August last year. Insurrection as the end of history: despite an attempt at its revival (Badiou, Žižek etc.) there is no sign of life left in The Idea. Even the present system drags along like the living dead. And no one dares to stop believing, stop walking, to give up. Understandably we can’t, because what else could there be? Yet in this quiet absence riot emerges, again and again.
Here we are, exactly two centuries since the Luddites and I think about a history of materialist dialectics, granting me this chance to reflect on the state of the world. Well, the future is not what it used to be. And yet, we are told by the left, nothing exists outside of it. I am trapped here forever till that one fine day when I can finally wear the red, black and green jumpsuit that I have been saving for the occasion.
I can’t help but question, if the nature of truth is concrete. Does the nature of reality today defy our understanding of the nature of progress? What am I suggesting? To start these debates again? To go back and picture Marx and Bakunin in a fight over who should be expelled from the First International?
I cannot answer these questions alone. I must find spaces, find others. Drop out of BBC’s Question Time, if only for a moment, for a festival. We join each other in the mirror of a century attached to this present. Real time. I wonder, who will we be, when we leave this space?

The Haircut Before The Party collective formed in 2009 in Great Britain while sharing the collective experience of house squatting. Salons are set up as social spaces to enable conversation and interaction – not to offer a service, but to style together the potentiality of new forms of being and exchange. At steirischer herbst 2012 they will offer free haircuts at the “Truth is concrete” marathon camp.

6. Germinate inertia, compost hegemony!
By Katherine Ball 

How can nature strike back as a form of civil disobedience? The tactic of the Garden of Biological Disobedience is to create an emergent common land of disobedient mushrooms, plants, insects and animals. In the central tower at “Truth is concrete”, the garden will incubate ink cap mushrooms (Coprinus comatus) punching through pavement, crazy raspberry ants (Paratrechina sp. near pubens) infesting electronics and pigweed (Amaranthus) sprouting as a Roundup ready weed, to name a few. The garden will double as a native hatchery, seed library and spawn dispensary, for marathon participants to gather and disseminate these inertia germinators to widespread sites of resistance. Participants are also invited to contribute fuzzy sabotage seedlings from their local contexts and histories, as well as discuss ethical and ecological ramifications of biological disobedience.
Inspiration for this garden of biological disobedience springs from two sources: The essay “Fuzzy Biological Sabotage” by the Critical Art Ensemble (2002), which encouraged readers to think about biological disobedience as an evolution of civil disobedience. Biological sabotage seeks to create inertia within a system by collaborating with non-human species. For instance, by releasing mutant fruit flies in the lobby of a biotechnology research lab on a consistent basis, the mutant flies will not only contaminate tests on fruit flies, but also create an inertia of paranoia within the workforce who can’t figure out why the tests keep going wrong: a paranoid work force is an inefficient work force. The main tenets of fuzzy biological sabotage are precision targeting consistency rather than quantity, pranks that create psychological disturbance  on the level of the CIA’s lacing Castro’s cigars with LSD and “fuzzy” responsibility in plausible deniability (fruit flies can’t be thrown into jail for trespassing). The Critical Art Ensemble envisions a future of rebel labs implementing fuzzy acts.
The Lab of Insurrectionary Imagination’s application of the principles of permaculture to direct action. The idea for the garden of biological disobedience is an extension of Labofii’s most recent post-capitalist performance “WHAT IS ENOUGH? an action in three acts”. The August performance was a front for the coming out party of WUDWAS, a group of Luddites who have been apprenticing to nature and living clandestinely for the last 200 years. Their apprenticeship consists of learning how nature strikes back against development and the dominant discourse: tree roots cracking Wall Street concrete, termites devouring 10 million rupees in an Indian bank last April, martens chewing through break cables of hummers and bed bugs infesting ad agency Euro RSCG and shutting it down in 2010. Dressed in camouflage made out of living plants, WUDWAS led the audience out of the theater to a corporate headquarters to unleash these allies of biological disobedience.
But what tactics can we use to actually shut down corporations? How can we create inertia in the development system without relying on corporate-controlled media? How can we be more effective? Throughout history, nature has been extremely successful at germinating inertia to compost hegemony. Climate change being its most recent tactic to obliterate the parasitic behavior of the oil-guzzling, hegemony-espousing, upper echelon of the human species. The tactic of this garden is a seedling step to help those who are resisting humans’ parasitic behavior to form a symbiotic relationship with nature to make our resistance more effective and germinate more inertia.
My interest in biological disobedience is in using it to compost the mechanisms that perpetuate the earth’s destruction, including: capitalism, development, hege mony, modernity, timeliness, militarization, privatization, securitization and individualization. How has and how can nature intervene at these points of leverage? I am not interested in using biological disobedience to hurt people, such as by infecting the headquarters of an oil company with head lice. Although this irritation might slow down the company momentarily, it would quickly result in the fumigation of the building and killing of the lice – very much a one-liner. I think a more effective implementation of biological disobedience would be to introduce oil-eating bacteria at a refinery with the intention that the bacteria would neutralize the oil supplies and create a positive feedback loop of reproduction and neutralization – a systemic impact that creates inertia in the system.

Katherine Ball is an American artist whose practice is founded on a hands-on approach to environmental activism and social engagement. She co-directed SEA Change – an art, activism and community space in Portland, Oregon – and the “Free Market“, that fed people living in transitional housing and on the streets. At this year’s festival she will cultivate her “Garden of biological disobedience“.

7. Laugh your way to democracy!
By CANVAS - Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies

The internet age has brought about a number of new types of protest, such as “hacktivism”, “clicktivism” and even “slacktivism”. Now, however, we are witnessing the rise of a new –ism: laughtivism. Although pictures and videos of actions are often spread by the internet, laughtivism itself does not take place on a computer screen, but in the streets. Laughtivism can be defined as the use of humour, including mocking or ridicule, in social mobilisation and nonviolent action. Political satire and humour are nothing new, but laughtivism takes the idea of subversion of power through humour and applies it directly to protest.
Social scientists like to focus on so- called conditions, such as age, income and education, when explaining how nonviolent revolutions happen; excluding emotional variables, such as enthusiasm and humour. In the 1970s and 80s scientists stuck to the idea that revolutions were a “serious business” and revolutionaries themselves must be “equally serious”. Today’s revolutions do not fit that prejudice. Over the last two years, we have seen mass movements pop up in the Middle East, North Africa, the United States, Quebec, Russia and Mexico. These movements are not led by Che Guevara types, but rather by smiling students and educated young people worried about their futures.
Laughtivism is a type of “dilemma action”, an activity that is designed to put the authorities in a position so that no matter how they respond, they cannot win. The Serbian resistance movement OTPOR was expert at this when they overthrew dictator Slobodan Milošević in 2000. For example, they once placed Milošević’s face on an oil drum and left it in a crowded shopping street with a bat, for passers-by to abuse. The activists left and when the police showed up, they had no idea what to do. There was no one responsible to arrest, so they were stuck with arresting the barrel itself. The comical image of two police officers wrestling a barrel with the President’s face on it into the back of a cop car was all over the papers the next day.
One thing these movements have in common is that they are not going away. In 2013, we are sure to see more from all of these nonviolent movements as they learn, organise and adapt. As time goes on, these movements cannot afford to fall out of the media spotlight and therefore out of the public’s consciousness, so if they are going to stay relevant they will need to be creative. As concepts for and tactics of nonviolent protest are shared around the world, we have seen the creativity of laughtivism pop up everywhere from Egypt, where the revolution got a boost from Bassem Youssef, “the Arab Jon Stewart”, to Russia, where a group of toys held a protest against Putin in the small town of Barnaul Siberia, to famous American laughtivists called The Yes Men, who have literally “tamed the bull” of Wall Street. Most recently, student activists in one of the world’s most oppressive countries, Sudan, have held hilarious “elbow-licking” protests, after the term President Bashir used to describe them, when attempting the impossible by challenging his rule.
Laughtivism derives its power from the ability to melt fear, the lifeblood of dictators, to build the morale of groups and cut to the core of out of touch leaders, sensitive to derision because of their intense narcissism. It is impossible to predict where the next wave of nonviolent revolution will occur, but whether it is in Sudan or Burma, we are sure about what it will look like: cheerful parties with humour cleverly used, to mock and undermine the authority of autocrats. 2012 was a bad year for dictators and 2013 is set to be just as bad; with the revolutionaries laughing all the way to democracy.

CANVAS (Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies) is a non-profit educational institution and international network based in Belgrade. It is researching and sharing knowledge on nonviolent strategies in order to provide an overcome of political conflicts and has been known to assist activist movements in Georgia, the Maledives and Egypt. At steirischer herbst 2012 they will participate in the marathon camp “Truth is concrete”.

8. Imagine new narratives!
Von Zentrum für Politische Schönheit 

Aktionskunst versucht, Formen für die Rettung der Gesellschaft zu gießen. Diese These gilt zumindest für den Strang einer Tradition, die von Diogenes über Duchamps bis Schlingensief reicht. Das Material der Aktionskunst ist die jeweilige Gesellschaft – das Ziel ihre Rettung. Das Zentrum für Politische Schönheit (ZPS) hat sich zum Ziel gesetzt, die Gesellschaft nicht nur zu formen oder zu retten, son-dern zu veredeln. Dabei beschränkt sich das ZPS auf die höchste Form aller Künste: Politik. Der Sinn für das Große und Schöne verkörpert keinen antiquierten Instinkt; ohne Schönheit bleibt das Leben unvoll-ständig. Nachdem die Wissenschaft ein ganzes Jahrhundert selbstsicher die Nie-derungen der Menschheit abgesucht hat, muss das 21. Jahrhundert für die Erfor-schung der Gipfel des Menschen stehen – oder sinnlos vergehen.
Die öffentlichkeitswirksamen Personen des Zentrums für Politische Schönheit sprechen immer wieder von der Formation eines „aggressiven Humanismus“. An einer Person wie Varian Fry lässt sich dieser Geist festmachen: Fry kämpfte mit dem Recht des Stärkeren für das Recht der Schwächeren. Er nutzte die Privilegien seiner amerikanischen Staatsbürgerschaft aus, um Menschen im Jahre 1940 aus der kontinentalen Todesfalle zu retten. Fry war Staatsbürger einer angesehenen und überlegenen Supermacht. Einzig sein Pass erhob ihn über alle Mitglieder der europäischen Intelligenz, für die er sein Leben riskierte. Gerade weil Varian Fry unbetroffen war, drang er zu Botschaftern und Beamten durch. Statt sich abseits zu halten, mischte er sich ein und sabotierte die schrecklichsten Ereignisse des 20. Jahrhunderts, indem er mindestens 1.500 der berühmtesten Intellektuellen, Künstler, Philosophen und Schriftsteller vor der Vernichtung rettete.
Wo sind die Varian Frys von heute? Somalia gleicht seit zwei Jahrzehnten einem titanisch versinkenden Schiff, das von allen verlassen wird. Was der amerikanische Pass für Fry war, wäre der EU-Pass in Somalia: Er schützte ungemein. Das Auswärtige Amt zahlt jährlich dreistellige Millionenbeträge, um deutsche Staatsbürger aus „zerfallenen Staaten“ freizukaufen. Aber aufgrund der hohen Zahl der von Varian Fry begangenen Rechtsbrüche würde ihn jede Menschenrechtsorganisation rauswerfen. Frys „Werk“ bestand aus einer Vielzahl von Rechtsbrüchen gegen das Unrechtsregime Hitlers, für die er heute unverzüglich von den hehren Mitgliedern deutscher Menschenrechtsorganisationen als Bedrohung ihres „Images“ – nicht als Legitimation ihrer Existenz – empfunden würde. Menschenrechtsorganisationen sind heute schon glücklich, wenn Zeitungen ein Foto ihrer Aktionen veröffentlichen. Fluchtrouten, Schiffe, Züge, Flugzeuge organisieren, Pässe fälschen, Beamte bestechen, Menschenleben retten? Unvorstellbar!
Elie Wiesel meinte einmal, im 20. Jahrhundert habe es nur drei Sorten von Menschen gegeben: die Killer, die Opfer und die Danebenstehenden (bystanders). Bis heute scheinen viele den Sinn unserer Entscheidung, sich im Kern mit Genozid zu befassen, nicht vollends verstanden zu haben. Es ist die Dunkelheit, die Erkenntnis erleichtert. Die dunkelsten Stunden der Menschheit erleichtern zu erkennen, was politisch schön war und ist. Finsternis schluckt die Umherstehenden und lässt die Handlungen aufblitzen, funkeln, glitzern, die moralisch und politisch schön waren.

Das Zentrum für Politische Schönheit ist eine Gruppe von Aktivisten, eine „Denk-, Gefühls- und Handlungsschmiede für die Suche nach moralischer Schönheit, poli-tischer Poesie und menschlicher Großge-sinntheit“. Grundanliegen sind eine huma-nitäre Kurskorrektur der Gegenwart, die Verhinderung von genozidalem Massen-sterben und die Formation des „aggressiven Humanismus.

Center for Political Beauty/Zentrum für Politische Schönheit ist eine Gruppe von Kunstaktivisten sowie ein Thinktank für die Suche nach „moralischer Schönheit, politischer Poesie und menschlicher Großgesinntheit“. Sie versteigerten die deutsche Kanzlerin Angela Merkel unter der Rubrik „Gebraucht“ auf eBay oder planten ein Denkmal für Srebrenica.

9. Create new software for the city!
By raumlaborberlin 

The old urban planning paradigms are destined to fail, raumlaborberlin the group of architects responsible for this year’s festival centre, are convinced. They go for procedural transformation strategies, for re-appropriations and interventionist permeations instead.
There are many parallel urban development tendencies between the opposite poles of shrinkage, global cities and growing megalopoli. Today’s cities have become so complex that experimentation is vital to grasping their complexity. Rigid planning procedures such as the static master plan are becoming obsolete. They tend to be disconnected from actual reality and incapable of adapting to rapid changes in development processes. Identity cannot be planned or produced, but needs to develop, needs to grow. A new type of planning is evolving, that motivates rather than determines, that provides room for new links and all that is being generated.
Situations of deprivation are to be reinterpreted: this is where raumlaborberlin’s work begins. It recognises space as a potential, looks for lost or new connections on a special and social level. Spaces that have been pushed aside are brought back into the field of vision. Transportation hubs can become exciting places. By inserting new imaginative narratives, such as developing new software for the hardware that is the city, raumlaborberlin is exploring contemporary methods of upgrading the existing and re- opening it for new appropriation. Inflicting new uses, even temporary ones, is a vital moment in generating new activities, experiences, adding a new layer to the urban narrative.
Bottom-up strategies must be used to appro-priate space. Interventionist permeation, exposing oneself to experiences through self-experiment, establishing contact to residents and setting up new connections and networks, are all experimental and procedural strategies with which to approach and change places. They produce first ideas, but also bring up important local knowledge and actors supporting that knowledge, as vital contributions to and collaborations within idea-workshops and laboratories for the future.

raumlaborberlin was founded as a working group for architecture, art, planning and action in 1999. Benjamin Foerster-Baldenius, Andrea Hofmann and Jan Liesegang are responsible for this year’s steirischer herbst festival centre / camp.

This entry was posted in Mission statements by herbst. Theorie zur Praxis 2012. Bookmark the permalink.

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