Forming Collectives. Strategies in Modern and Contemporary Art

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2017, March 9th-13th, Studienkurs Warburg-Haus, Hamburg

Organised by Petra Lange-Berndt & Isabelle Lindermann

Since the nineteenth century a multitude of artists have been experimenting with forms of collective work, habitation in colonies and communes, or group-orientated activism. In a post-communist world these projects are taken up again and revisited within contemporary practices. In this workshop we would like to ask: How is the desire to speak in a collective voice relevant today? Under what conditions does the need to organise in collaborative structures occur and what kind of dynamics are being produced? What does it mean to speak together on a commonly shared platform, to assemble as a group, cooperative, commune, network, sect, horde, pack, or swarm? And how are artists enacting change and proposing alternative ways of being in the world?

Collective actions are closely connected to a critique of the ‘new spirit of capitalism’ (Boltanski / Chiapello) and current crises. In this experimental field, through the fusion of art and activist strategies, social relations can be investigated exemplarily – with actual consequences (Bourriaud / Bishop). At times these processes strengthen the institutions that control events and gain the symbolic capital of increased attention. More productive case studies, however, are investigating if and how one can escape or redesign the digital networks of post-Fordist societies or the neoliberal concept of the Ikea Family. We would therefore also like to assemble and debate the historic and current meanings that are connected to collective and collaborative artistic strategies. Is there an afterlife of the utopian concepts of the early avant- gardes? How have these concepts been adapted under current capitalism? What kind of many-handed practices can be described and how do they work? How do the bodies assembling in collective alliances have critical potential (Butler)? How can one describe the psychological aspect of being with, the processes of becoming a community (Nancy)? Is it possible to form collectives that are functioning as a plurality but where the ‘we’ is not acting as a totality? Are collectives at all suitable to oppose power structures in the expanded field of the arts and beyond? And what does this mean for the practices of art and art history?

Participants: Bill Balaskas (Nottingham), Petra Belc (Zagreb), Ana Bilbao (London), Julia Ramiréz Blanco (Madrid), Jacopo Galimberti (Berlin), Suzannah Henty (Paris), Journal for Northeast Issues (Alexandra Köhring, Christoph Rauch, Monika Wucher, Hamburg), Lucy Lopez (Birmingham), David Morris (London), Geneva Moser (Bern), Wylie Schwartz (Binghamton), Friederike Sigler (Dresden), Francesco Spampinato (Mailand), Jordan Troeller (Berlin), Sarah Wade (London), Kristin Watterott (Prag), Clara Wörsdörfer (Mainz), Samira Yildirim (München)

Experimental dinner by a.ACHAT kitchen (Berlin) at Comune, Gängeviertel, Hamburg

Keynote lecture by Sabeth Buchmann (Berlin / Wien)