A Visit to the Choir of the Self-Organized. daegseingcny
read Karl Marx and we've taught ourselves to dance" - just this one
line and Aina forgets about her doubts, why she came here. The adapted
number one hit by Bros fades away. Aina scans the room and the present
people, her expression tells that she's exploring invisible lines, structures
of the social space: the subtleties a spectrograph would miss.
Two hours ago she arrived at the semi-public choir rehearsals of the university.
It's her first time, but she's familiar with the situation: ten to fifteen
people, most of them recent graduates, a common challenge (singing in
this case), a challenge which is the focus of activity but also compost
and catalyst for socialising and networking. One sings songs politically
and produces a political space, singing. All done in self-direction.
is an enormous lumber-room, actually a saloon of an time-honoured institution,
yet to be renovated and thus it can be used by the choir before it can
be rent out to corporates as prestigious party location. Neo-classicist
style, old mirrors on the walls, endlessly reflecting the extravaganzas
of both setting and performance.
So the choir
rehearsals are using this dusty curlicues interim. During the rehearsal
time rehearsing and breaks become more and more blurred. The breaks extend,
some people resume singing while others still drink their coffee. For
two weeks it has been openly discussed, if rehearsing and breaks should
be separated more strictly again. First of all, this discussion lead to
more commingling, which has been reflected upon as well in turn; after
all it has been decided to pick this phenomenon up in the songs. Well,
the songs… next on the list is a remix of a Prog-Rock classic. From
the apocalypse concept album "666", a song in which Aphrodite's
Child use a famous counter culture slogan, attributed to Abbie Hofmann.
of the Self-Organized:
"We found the system to fuck the system
We found the system to fuck the system
We found the system to fuck the system"
The self-organized have a cigarette break and talk another time about
the late 60s. Another time. Some chat about their own past and the relation
of space and work. Matt, almost 40 and surely one of the elders in the
"15 years ago we moved out of the studio. We wanted to get out of
there, into society, mix ourselves again, and if only with other studio
Other voices report:
- We've also been looking for the others. The ones that left some decades
before us. We wanted to know what they became?
- Oh well… actually we had been thrown out. They threw us out, we
should be looking for a job in the creative industries.
- Looking for a job? Inventing a job! And to be honest, we did a good
job, didn’t we? We could be proud, couldn’t we? SHOULDN'T
- Actually I haven’t been around for that long. I just think it
that way. To me the question has never been posed, studio, or not studio,
respectively it appears only now… All this project-based work, well
I don't know. Fizzled out a bit. Another empty gesture. "Artists
and their flexible and subjectivity-based economic models are becoming
the role-model of post-fordist labor conditions, also here the material
production in the studio gives way to project-based research and communication
Recently read in a funding application. Or written? In such statements
there is a weird mix of self-critique and pride. Because at least the
artist plays a role again, doesn't she? After the Situationists the avantgarde
model was gone for while in the arts, but now we're part of it again,
the vanguard, and be it only of the economy (stupid).
By the way,
do you know the story of Frederick the Mouse? A family of mice gathers
reserves for the winter: corn, nuts, etc. Only Frederick doesn't. So the
others ask him "Why don't you work?" He says, he DOES work,
he gathers sun rays, colors, words. Later in winter, all the food has
been used up, and Frederick shares his supply, telling about summer and
colors. The story is a parable for kids on the function of art.
"Ok, let's take it like this for now, this reduced understanding
of art. What I find interesting about this today, is that the role of
immaterial labor, affective labor is being described. In the context of
the ongoing discussions on transformed labor conditions the question of
the legitimation of Frederick's work cannot be posed like that anymore.
Rather, if not all of us have become Fredericks, respectively who gathers
the corn now?
A few meters
aside, Aina steps into the next conversation.
"Recently I watched the Muppet Show. Paolo Virno was the guest, presenting
his current book 'A Grammar of the Multitude'. When I was in London last
fall, taking part at this meeting about artist unions, everyone had a
copy of the book in their bags. Some kind of an unofficial conference
reader. Virno sketches out a differentiated image of the multitude. Some
of the key terms of the book underline the role of the contemporary artist
as model for post-fordist economy: virtuosity, performance and performative
art, idle talk, curiosity and cooperation. Kermit introduces him, the
curtain moves and Virno stands there, big bushy beard as Marx, and starts
his first sketch. He handles balloon figures and tells some stories about
surplus value and the special status of performative artists. With their
work, there is no end product which could be separated from the performance,
the activity, the act of producing itself.
totally impressed by Virno and scents the chance that his virtuous talent
might be discovered finally and he makes it big. He shadows Virno and
wants to know what he still needs to learn. In his wardrobe, Virno shows
him the next trick: He conjures Hannah Arendt out of his hat. Arendt strikes
out and compares virtuosity with and political activity. Both need a publicly
organized space - the presence of others - and both share the lack of
an end product.
Virno goes on lecturing, about the role of communication and language
in the context of affective labor, particularly by two terms of Heidegger:
idle talk and curiosity. According to Heidegger curiosity is the degraded
and perverse form of love for knowledge. Curiosity is the persistent search
for something new, without dwelling on it anytime. This takes place when
there is nothing to procure for. Curiosity is characterized by non-dwelling,
distraction and restlessness. And idle talk defines curiosity - what one
"has to have read or seen".
At the end
of the show, Virno tells poor confused Gonzo: "Each one of us is,
and has always been, a virtuoso, a performing artist, at times mediocre
and awkward, but, in any event, a virtuoso."
Meanwhile the break is over, and some self-organized resume lilting. Smiths.
"And you must be surfing very long tonight / The devil has found
work for idle times, too..." Aina remembers her last visit to the
theatre, an evening about post-fordist labor conditions. "A stage
with mirrors on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice, and she sings
'We are all just prisoners here, of our own device'. Amazing play!"