EUROPE OR DIE
An Introduction, and Notes, 2018
We are facing an impasse, a situation of pâte, of being stymied as to where to move next and through what institutional framework. We need to establish a sense of our own involvement in art, our agency as cultural practitioners, and critique the larger contexts that affect what we can or cannot do. The Erasmus generation has defined a flow within Europe, watching the same films, hearing the same music, studying several disciplines in more than one university, communicating through social media, and stepping into the biennale system. But how to work collectively? Even across Europe.
Organs & Alliances began in 2018 as an:
Open-ended inquiry: recursive, risk-driven, a project that can fail.
Not artistic research as a normative thesis production. But something less tangible with an outcome that slips through one’s fingers – metabolic, if you like, but that requires commitment.
Organs & Alliances, questions:
What is the network that you connect to? Who do we address?
Who are your interlocutors?
Which networks are trustworthy?
Can one define and activate the notion of an alliance simply through friendship and mutual curiosity?
What constitutes a bond of engagement?
What is the underground for you?
How close is your collaborator geographically speaking?
What media do you use to communicate your presence when you arrive in a foreign place?
What role do you think social media play in terms of professional exchange?
Organs, some definitions:
An organ is not a publication that is merely ‘self-published’ but is deeply contingent on the mechanics of relationships
and on the need to mediate with urgency.
The organ is subcutaneous; it encodes and mobilises ideas and people, individuals and collectives.
The organ is often discourse-specific, e.g. in literature, in politics (manifestos), in artistic practice as in surrealism and lettrism. If you wrote a manifesto? Would it be an individual or collective? Can one read this individual or collective position from the manifesto itself?
Which organs operate effectively today in the context of transversal dialogues and disciplinary experiments?
In the beginning there were several names for the project:
Paroles imprimées, Drucken & Sprechen, The Printed Voice, and then Organs & Alliances First proposed to students in Paris at the ENSAPC and then connected to Leipzig HFG
To look at organs that have remained underground in the grey zone of the archive
To work with an offset printer. The ubiquitous GTO52 or Tiegel.
To place such a machine inside an exhibition space and to shift the curatorial emphasis onto production in the museum.
In Paris, students began by doing research on journals or organisations produced by Moroccan, Korean, Armenian, Senegalese, Congolese and Chinese communities. On the web, some investigated the ‘tropics of desire’ in Latinex and Chicanex groups living both in Paris and Los Angeles. Others identifed the journals of chess clubs that connect people across cultures. Another line of inquiry looked at how political slogans reformulated traditional proverbs used today by the Senegalese youth. And there were references to Feminist voices transmitted through publishing organs produced by Algerian women in Paris.
In Leipzig, political and cultural expressions of groups of students and intellectuals that came to the city during the socialist period of the GDR was an initial focus. Small archives and city archives – hard to penetrate, to access. 1968…
Preference: 1968 to cultural translation. Contemporary relevance of historical emancipatory organs 1980s? Grapus, other alternative forms of political voice? Fictional historicism? The question of the avant-garde!
Grey matter and subjective historiographies
Manifesto as Alliance
Interesting that the group Organs & Alliances has not wished to formulate a collective manifesto. Unlike the Lettrists for example, and their polemic attacks on the ‘sub-dada’ the ‘sub-art practictioners’.
Finance as Alliance
Seongju Hong: initiative to set up a tontine in Paris. She called it the “COMMITMENT FUND”.
First act of aesthetic, financial and social commitment: Decision to purchase a Tiegel printing machine that one can work with in more climates than with offset machines, climates with high moisture or heat. The Tiegel has transported messages everywhere. You make a statement by saying that you don’t want to invest in a laser printer. This is not office visuality or political office visuality. We have a back-up plan. If it fails we can sell the metal. It can’t go lower than this in value.
“Commitment for the machine”
Not everyone will be able to invest the same time. I think we require trust. Anonymously they bring together 1604 Euro.
Jonas Roßmeißl: Do we need to find a legal framework for moving the machine? Can we place it on someone’s pavement, rather than on the road? Do we need to think about the route, which takes us through Germany, Luxemburg, Belgium, and into France, and can we deploy an EU law to enable us to do this?
How do we describe what we are doing? Who are we? Do we need an avatar that allows us to infiltrate the legal situation more easily? Are we a service? Should we register our name somehow? Araks is interested in the issue of “forbidden”, “forgotten” and potentially censored statements.
Bruno Latour: “Et donc de dessiner quelque chose comme une carte des positions imposées par ce nouveau paysage au sein duquel se redéfinissent non seulement les affects de la vie publique mais aussi ses enjeux.» Page 11, Bruno Latour, “Où atterrir? Comment s’orienter en politique” publié par La Découverte, 2017
Dissemination and Performance
This issue permeates the response of several members of the team (Tibo, Paul- Alexandre, Bocar) and there is clearly a performative element to the situation. Each location will require a different engagement.
The mapping of where we will place our machine and with whom we will engage with.
a motorway convenience store
an arms factory
a holiday resort
an art school
Timing – Spatio-Temporal Strategy
Do we do 24 hour actions (remember the great work of Thomas Hirschhorn with 24 hour Foucault, circa 2004).
Do we create a “binge-production”, intense and concentrated wherever we stop? How many stops do we make on the way?
Relations to Interlocutors, to Communities
Be these artists or communities of different kinds, we need to have a sense of how to approach people and what to ask of them. Do we want to work together with communities with a cause? What is the logic when we print our own work?
Content – The Organ
The political and the aesthetic?
The organ trade and black market in body parts.
Rawan: tells the story of a Syrian girl who was kidnapped south of Damascus. She was killed and all her organs were removed. The head of the military police is an organ trader with links to Turkey.
Elias: sometimes refugees from Turkey are seduced to travel to Egypt for work. But when they get there, they are forced to give up some of their organs or they cannot go back home. It is revolting.
Rawan: I have forgotten just how many Syrians live with only one kidney! The organ is the machine!
Tom McCarthy: you see, there’s an overlay of bodies, of groupings, of machines and media – and the operative term that links them all is ‘ORGAN’. Ulysses: in Chapter Four, Leopold Bloom is introduced into the book with the line ‘Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liversplices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.’ Then, in Chapter Seven, he goes to a newspaper office (which is also the printers), and the huge machines pumping out information become lungs. Joyce inserts an intertitle, in capital letters: HOW A GREAT DAILY ORGAN IS TURNED OUT
Georges Bataille: “A museum is like a lung of a great city…. The crowd flows like blood into the museum and emerges purified and fresh… The lungs – Bataille and Joyce
Clémentine: One night in January, I dreamt that Markus Dressen (Leipzig) showed us a male body. No sexual parts, a naked body, complete, pink-white. An image without movement. In Paris, Saif, an art student from Iraq who briefly joined the group and had come over in the wave of open-door hospitality that took place in 2016, Saif, took this body and created a sequence of images out of it. On each of these images one could see the dismemberment of the body. The torso, the leg, the chest, conceived as a series of 8 cuts. The whole dream was in colour, but there was no blood, no wounds, no eroticism, only perspectives onto a dismembered, fragmented white body. In my dream I felt that Saif had proposed a manifesto.
The Cadavre Exquis – Organ vs organism vs organization
Becoming an organism while understanding what the different roles of each person might be.
Seongju: I am cartilage. We need cartilage. That’s what I am. I like the idea of the weight. Perhaps it the machine is the combined weight of all of us together?
Tibo: The organ, which interests me the most is memory and the deformations memory produces in combination with the voice. I want to learn things by heart: this is a form of inscription, of printing in memory.
Paul-Alexandre: says that 25,000 mutiliations have taken place in France on intersex people since 1990. The point is not to use the word hermaphrodite.
Content is Infrastructure
Jonas: I think infrastructure can create a collective work. Because it’s not a manifestation of content. Instead, through infrastructure, roles can become autonomous. It’s about a production process. And instead of worrying about content, we focus on the infrastructure that will influence the frame within which we shall work and print. The infrastructure will frame the content. The machine creates presence. And out of this presence, we are emerge. Behind the machine. But until the point when the first page comes out of the machine, we cannot define it. yes, the platform is the infrastructure and the infrastructure is:
We have to use this economy for our own purposes.
For access to electricity networks.
Collective decisions can be made based on the extent of the machine’s mobility, and the platform we place it on.
In a forest, up steps, there are so many decisions that will affect its accessibility and use. Infrastructure is a collective process. We work together in order to facilitate the machine’s functions.
If you ask, how do we communicate about the machine?
Then this is through concrete common processes.
The tension between individual work and collective engagement.
The tension between politicised work and artistic work, the process of emptying out either politics or art.
Where does sharing taking place? When you share through networks and the digital space, the longevity is shorter than with printed matter. We are facing a chronic loss of material. Information overwhelms us, then it goes kaput or disappears altogether. This instability affects the sharing. How can we develop the sharing moment through the materiality of print?
The problem is that we produce printed matter that ends up in the dustbin and is forgotten. But that has to be connected to the content. I want to understand how we can push a dialogue through this. The machine is the organ.
Organ traffic is also a mafia that involves the state, refugees, security systems. These are all relevant issues.
If you put this machine on the road, it becomes a metaphor and we need to be aware of what this action communicates to people. The movement of a machine only happens in war for strategic reasons.
It is not a dead exhibition moving from place to place. We have to ask who will accept to host this freedom of action?
We omitted all those places that are connected with weapons, nuclear power etc.., in order to work with people rather than denounce them. We thought about finding people rather than finding places. E.g. a farm, but who owns the farm? Who can work with us? So we need to find hosts, connectors and look for human beings rather than places. We need to establish common ground with the people who host us.
What are these leaves?
Voice organs? Sprachorgane? Organes paroles?
Will the ‘voice organs’ that we print build a coherent configuration when they are placed together? Or are they singular, individual, and disconnected emissions? Do they constitute a corpus? Like the dream I had?
What makes an artist or writer want to print with us? Say they publish books or catalogues regularly, why would they want to produce printed matter with us? What do we offer that they have not achieved to date with their practice? Can they afford to give us material that may not fit into the mainline of their work, that is somehow uncomfortable?
Alliance of infrastructure
Alliance for content production
Alliance of aesthetics
Dismemberment: organs. Taking words ‘literally’: Organs and alliances
Cadavre exquis: results of research, spatializing the organ market, ramifications of the economy of health.
Anne: I went to the Library at Coney Island in Leipzig, which has anti-fascist and feminist archives but I only found a Turkish newspaper. I also analysed the lists of registered community centres in Leipzig (Vereine). This list is on the net. It’s interesting to see what there is in Leipzig: there are groups with migration background, all kinds of different centres. They can be used to finance projects. If you’re a member you can set up an account there, and publications can be produced in this way. I also want to go to the Leipzig Central Office (municipality) to find out how the population of Leipzig has developed over the years. I want to know what kind of collaborations existed before 1989; how the student body was constituted.
Clara: I am doing research on the Karakul sheep that came from Uzbekistan to Leipzig and in particular Halle. The animals were brought here by farmers. Here in Leipzig, attempts were made to optimise their hair growth so that the ‘Astrakhan’ fur could be cultivated for popular demand. Then this animal husbandry moved from Halle to Namibia. This took place in the context of fascism in Germany, Italy, and Portugal. It was part of a settlement policy and intended to provide income to Europeans who lived on the African continent. Jewish traders got involved, and then in 1970s and 80s there was animal protection and feminism movements and the trade sort of panned out. But it contributed enormously to economic development. Baby lambs are killed to produce Astrakhan coats and hats. I want to develop this in terms of economic colonialism, gender relations. I have found a quite a lot and am going to Halle tomorrow. I mentioned that I was working on the sheep issue, and visiting an experimental institute in Halle, where tests were made. Together with a friend, we wondered why a sheep from Uzbekistan was in Halle – but actually they came to there in 1903. So there was an alliance built at the time between Halle and Uzbekistan. Halle began a special breeding initiative to change the curl of the fur. Karakul fur: this involved killing the new born lamb to make hats for men and coats for women. Animal transports went to Namibia to develop a cultivation for Europeans in Africa. There are many branches that go out from this. Italians sending sheep to North Africa, Germany becoming independent of Russian markets in Astrakan. Leipzig has a main shopping area, which earlier was just made up of fur shops. It was the biggest centre for the fur trade. And a mark of prestige.
Clémentine: is there a merging today of animal and human? Animal-human transitioning? The organ morphing into the organism
I’m also interested in how graphic design engages with and enters into public space. What role does the public domain play? Is there a socialist idea here, something that isn’t based on a capitalist foundation? For example, Grapus- the collective in Paris in the 70s and 80s, the Ateliers Populaires…. These were very politically charged graphics. Pierre Bernard, very left-wing. I’d want to look at the methodology that underpinned this.
Urgency: street newspapers, the seller gets a percentage. The newspaper for the homeless. I think this format is interesting because people buy it but don’t necessarily read it. It has another meaning.
e.g. Die Kippe (Leipzig)
Strassenfeger, Die Motz (Berlin)
This is also described as a ‚Sprachrohr’.
Here the organ becomes very concrete, with a clear context.
I see this as an example of the application of the term Sprachrohr. Does our organ have to have political urgency?
Alliance has a specific goal. Common circumstances lead to the forming of an alliance, for example, a threat, or economic interdependence. You need a goal. You need to be prepared to compromise on everything except these goals. I find it astonishing that we haven’t spoken about our political thoughts yet. We assume we have a common ground, but do we? With an alliance you need a goal. With regard to our group, I feel there is sense of suspicion between us. It has to do with the fact that we are in an art school, a factory of individualism, and for this reason we have trouble fitting within collective work.
The group from Leipzig all refuse any skype contact before they meet the group from Paris. They claim Intimacy is more important. And that it is not about images or how people look…
What is printing within art practice today and how does it jar with the exhibition system?
Concepts : Metabolism, Dismemberment, Circulation, Code, Alliances:
Dividing the spaces of mediation, taking elements to their limit. Parts instead of wholes. Two prototype books: les murs ont la parole, and Claude Lemaitre: De Gaulle et le Sexe.
What happens in each case? What does an organ do that only produces and transmits images?
What does text do when it is reduced and prevented from including images that coincide and illustrate what is being said?
Le démembrement de la voix après des choques graves : comment se défendre. Le changement de corps, un corps amputé, comment bouger ?
Think about circulation as more than sending something round a circuit. Think of it as the arteries of an organ.
Distinction between the archive, and the subjective historiographies in the making that many artists are currently undertaking. E.g. Luke Willis Thompson
“The artist is on a moving stairway (or escalator) about whose position he is trying to communicate but whose movement is itself a function of his efforts to communicate.” Gregory Bateson, 1972
Christoph Menke, artworks are “experiments in freedom”,
Die Institution der Kunst muß eine Institution der Freiheit, eine Institution der Experimente sein. Das heißt: Die Institutionen der Kunst müssen das Unmögliche wollen – die Realisierung eines Paradoxes.
New Institutionalism of the late 20th century and until say 2010.
Charles Esche – Rooseum. Community-oriented politicised. ‘Creative bureaucracy”, art for large audiences, anti- aesthetic, anti-relational aesthetics! Discursive turn. Together with artist-led organisations.
Problem of legal constitution that makes equity and flat hierarchies impossible. The idea of the association today?
Allegiance and alliance!
Celine Condorelli: on friendship: an “essentially political relationship of allegiance and responsibility”. “Friendship in this way is both a set-up for working and a dimension of production. In addition, working together can start from as well as create forms of solidarity and friendship.” “Friends in action”. In “Too Close to see: notes on friendship, a conversation with Johan Frederik Hartle” in Self-organised, ed. Stine Hebert and Anne Szefer Karlsen, Open Editions 2013 p. 62-73