DRECK: EIN APPARAT
Berlin, Heizhaus at Uferstudios, May 30th – July 11th, 2015
Rijeka / Croatia, Zoom Festival / drugo more, September 25th, 2015
Hamburg, Kampnagel, January 28th – 30th, 2016
Malmö / Sweden, Inkonst, February 4th – 6th, 2016
We have a problem with things. Our culture produces too much and in ways that incite such radical changes that we have to be fearful for our existence on earth. We need to radically change the way we think so that it reflects matter in a new way: not as a passive object, but as an active agent. As part of a configuration of human and non-human agents that together go beyond merely describing reality but serve to produce it. To that end, the temporary collective formed by “DRECK“ took part in a six-week long residency in the Heizhaus at Uferstudios in Berlin and accumulated material. From concerts to leftover dinners, readings from the “Deck of Dust,” films and showings, performances emerged that have now lead a life of their own and go on tour both individually and in combination with one another.
Opening speech DRECK: EIN APPARAT | Inkonst Malmö, Schweden
I am very happy to be able to welcome you here in Malmö, our last stop on our tour with DRECK: EIN APPARAT. We have now spent almost a year together working on this project. Who is “we?” First of all, “we” is Thorsten Eibeler, the creator of this space and the person with whom I, under the label apparatus, imagine ways of creating better depictions of reality. Then, “we” is Björn Pätz, who, as production manager, holds this thing together. We is also his assistant Joseph Wegmann and is Almut Pape, who did not come to Malmö, since she is now involved in other projects. We is also this kitchen, these cabinets and the chamber of wonders, all part of DRECK, as well as the cold chamber, the digging in the dirt boxes, the foam and the white cubes. For us, these things are actively creating the process with us. So instead of going into an empty studio, we went into a space with more obvious content and players, which you would usually expect to encounter in a rehearsal stage. The “we” of the project is obviously mostly made up of the artists that developed work inside of this space, thinking and dealing with dirt, creating performances, audio walks, concerts, a choir of dirty secrets, video work, installations, cooking in our kitchen, dancing with dust and reading from chocolate and from the Deck of Dust and devising our fabulous Dirty Money Mud Wrestling. This “WE” includes Simone Aughterlony, cobratheater.cobra, Michael Günzburger, Liz Rosenfeld, Kareth Schaffer, Henrik Quast, Maika Knoblich, Colin Hacklander, Farahnaz Hatam, but also all of the people who contributed to the process with their lectures, their thoughts about dirt, all of which has inspired and influenced what has happened.
For six weeks, we worked with both human and non-human agents in this space as it was implemented in the Heizhaus at Uferstudios Berlin. Every Thursday, we would cook leftovers with Pepe Dayaw while listening to a lecture. We would eat together and afterwards enjoy a concert. Each Friday, we had an open house where the DRECK artists showed what they were working on. At the beginning, like here in Malmö, we opened with Mud Wrestling and at the end - also like here - there was a show, bringing together the different elements of what the artists were working on. “WE” here in Malmö of course includes INKONST and everybody helping us to make this happen. First of all, Ann Wallberg, who has helped with the project from the very first ideas onward. It also means Ziggi and Jonna, Elinor, Gudrun and all the other team members, it is Krobbe and all the other technicians who, together with Eddie Courts, built up the DRECK set. This work could not happen without the support of several foundations, amongst which include the Kulturstiftung des Bundes and the Berlin Senate. The realization the Swedish DIRT could not have been possible without the support of the Goethe Institut Stockholm. We are very grateful for that and happy that the directors, Arpad Salter and Josefin Fürst, are here with us this evening. Thank you everybody for your support and for your commitment to DRECK. Tonight, we invite you to DIRTY MONEY MUD WRESTLING with Kareth Schaffer. Tomorrow, we invite you to the DIRTY DINNER, a performative leftovers Dinner, with different practices and performances shared by our artist and special guest Siegmar Zacharias, who will perform DIRTY THINKING. And on Saturday, we are happy to meet with our Swedish friends from Institutet, who are inviting us for a very special kind of afternoon tea in Suellska Villa: Speech - In Absence of a Real Host. Who is in charge of speech and what linguistic waste is are questions behind the scenes of this durational performance. In the evening we will bring to you our final show, followed by a party with DJ Charlotte.
What you can see and perceive now and in the next few days is what I would like to call a Manifesto for a New Materialist theater. What do I mean by that? When something is manifest in the medical sense, it is no longer latent. It is perceivable, able to be physically grasped, palpable, recognizable. A manifesto is a public declaration of goals and intentions, mostly of a political nature. The manifesto of the communist party is probably one of the most popular examples. It starts with the famous ghost that haunts Europe, from the year 1848, the spectre of communism. A spectre or a ghost is obviously precisely the opposite of a manifestation, so Marx and Engels prove to use good rhetoric. A spectre here or there is rather latent, it haunts in a foggy form, cannot be grasped, is not where you expect it to be, it is impossible to hold on to. With their manifesto, Marx and Engels wanted to turn the spooky spectre of communism into a social reality. And we are aware of the consequences that ensued. The assertion made by Marx and Engels, that capitalism reached its decline more than 150 years ago, has be long disproven. The manifestation of communism as a polity is history. Thus the profound description of the alienation process is still valid for us today. They took it from the old romantic concept of alienation from nature through culture and used it to describe the process of capitalist production. Through alienated work, human beings created things that, following production, became strangers to them. That is what Marx and Engels refer to as commodity fetishism. We worship the things we create as if they were created in God’s perfection. We treat the structures within which we produce as if they were made out of concrete and are unable to be changed.
Any thing can become a fetish, fetishism being our belief in supernatural ghosts or impersonal powers that inhabit objects and our resulting treatment of them as holy objects. The force of a fetish can be activated or enforced through offerings and sacrifices. Fetishes are frequently treated as if they were human beings in order to enfold their force.
We seem to be rather far away from theater and even further from a manifesto now. But a manifesto does not necessarily need to be a written statement. I would like to refer to the performances, the installation, the traces in the room and all of us meeting here together as manifestations that can be understood as a manifesto in the political sense. We are promoting an idea and this is a plea for changes that need to be made. We are not doing this merely in words, we are doing it in acts, in performances. We are getting rough and physical about it. We are carrying out the necessity of performing theater in a new way. This has to do with the performativity of matter, that has not been considered enough in the history of philosophy or in the history of theater. Karen Barad serves as my reference for this, a feminist scientist with a background in quantum physics, who herself frequently refers to the physicist Niels Bohr. From her, we borrowed the term APPARATUS and from her, I take the notion of a queer performativity of nature, one that needs to be considered. While there has been a strong focus on the performativity of language in the 20th century, this performativity of matter was completely left aside. Language, of course, itself has a materiality to it, which we will look at more closely with the work of Siegmar Zacharias and Institutet. But while the force of humans means they are able to name things by way of language and who create their existence in this way, the active force of matter that lies before language seems to be a blind-spot not only on the part of theater, which is frequently staged based on a written text, or philosophy, but on the part of our common sense. How else could it be understood that we do know that matter is process, action and tension from physics for more than 100 years now, but still do not consider it in the way we treat the world? Maybe it could be explained by language being our fetish and the idealistic tendency to think of matter as being created through language. Theater as a New Materialistic theater would have to consider the materiality of language and matter in the scenery as actively staging agents in a whole new way. In her notion of the apparatus, Karen Barad stresses that all things, human and non-human things, including concepts and thought, create a situation. (Example: Californian Raisin, made out of grapes and sun…).
In order to change a situation, we need to consider all things, not only the obviously active ones like human beings, but considering us, for once, to be things among all of the other things in the world. In other words, we need to leave our still mechanistic view of the world behind us and start to think in a more complex way. With this aim, Barad becomes part of a new philosophical approach that focuses on matter, things and objects and is often referred to as object-oriented philosophy or New Materialism. This approach is not happening with an animistic intention, but inspired by the insight of science from more then 100 years ago. Ever since the new findings in physics and quantum mechanics were published, we have known that matter, and therefore things, are not passive. If we look into the smallest parts of matter, what do we find? We find process and tension, no passive entities that need to be moved by an anonymous unmoved mover.
Dirt is also process, even it’s smallest entities, just like dust. DRECK, this dirt here, is also process. Not only a process in the sense of artistic collaboration, new couplings or research. A process of accumulation without intention, of archiving, even stuff we never intended to archive, a process of finding something and loosing something else. Dirt accumulates without us wanting it to. Trash forms an involuntary archive of our culture. We are a wasteful society and are unable to handle or get rid of our rubbish. It is as if the act of wasting were that which is repressed and always comes back, as Freud states in explaining the repressed contents of our unconscious. Jane Bennett, a political scientists, refers to our culture as a culture of hoarders. She says, you just have to look at the ocean and the continent of plastic rubbish floating in it to build the picture for yourself. According to Bennet, hoarders, who are not able to throw things away, may be the ones who understand the call of things best. While most of us are ignorant against this call, hoarders are capable of deciphering the importance in objects and therefore cannot let go of them. Hoarders are closer to matter then most of us are, and maybe there is something we could learn from them. In order to get out of this vicious cycle of consumption and waste, of creating an archive of dirt that we will be swallowed by at some point in one way or another, we need to create a different understanding of matter. And here is where theater comes into play. In a very basic sense, theater means framing something in a way that makes it visible. It can also be something obvious, which then becomes invisible. This transparency of the obvious might be the structures in which we live and which believe in. All of you have probably heard that best place to hide something is in the open. Edgar Allan Poe made use of this idea in his novel „The purloined letter,” where the letter, which is desperately needed and searched for, is not hidden in a secret place, but very obviously placed on the desk of the person known to have stolen the letter. It takes the whole story to find the letter at this most obvious location. What lies before our very eyes can often not be seen as what it is and as something that we can change. The famous distancing effect by Brecht, which in German as Verfremdungseffekt is much closer to alienation, deals with the question: How can reality be staged in a way that the audience understands, that this reality can be changed. As heirs of this tradition, many current theater productions understand themselves in this political and enlightening tradition. But is Brecht’s answer from almost 100 years ago still the right answer for today’s questions? Should we not find other ways of using theater to not only create a critical space, but to manifest an example of a different reality?
In a conversation between Ilya Kabakov and Boris Groys published in German in 1991, entitled “Garbage,” Groys talks about how garbage had been integrated into the exchange cycle through the new ecological movement at the time, and was thus lost to art. He also claims that it was precisely those artists, who exhibited garbage, that had paved the way for its technological development. This assumes that art has an influence on society, which it can then employ. We might reverse the critique of the artist critique, as was formulated, for instance, by Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, and stage speculative proposals of the world that can or should still become real. Contrary to the conversion of art’s particular social focal points, this means not bidding farewell to autonomous aesthetics, but describing a use for this autonomy in an attempt to describe the world in better ways so as to develop different narratives from the dominant one. This kind of arrangement is the idea behind DRECK: AN APPARATUS. Not a festival, but an apparatus, in which and through which a new milieu emerges in an intra-active fashion. The apparatus is open to and does not shut itself off from its surroundings. It works rhythmically, regularly inviting guests and visitors to take part in it. It establishes a practice of participating in processes between artists and other human and non-human agents. Hence, we are not only promoting a New Materialist but also a Post-Humanist perspective on theater in this manifestation of DRECK.
Perhaps the history of humanism could be told as the history of how people proverbially treat other people and the world like dirt. And perhaps we need to have a different way to encode dirt to get away from the humanist narrative. Economically, garbage has long been a fertile commodity, raw material and matter, and in the right configuration, it demands the kinds of high prices otherwise only required for rare earthly elements. When China raised the price for phosphorous in 2008, it made up one part of the finance crisis of that year, which was not only a real estate crisis, but also a food crisis. These examples also indicate a general crisis of matter–if the real estate bubble had lost all contact with material reality and overturned the neoliberal analysis of capitalism ever since, the food crisis on the other hand clarified the necessity of reflecting again on matter, on how to deal with it, and how to distribute it in the world. Matter is not inanimate, inactive, or dead, but is processual per se. The tiniest particles are held together by tension. And we are not confronted with this tension from the outside, we are part of it. The discovery of phosphorous was a byproduct of the search for the philosopher's stone, and was made in 1669 by Henning Brand, a German pharmacist and alchemist. Brand had vaporized urine into dehydration, thus discovering white phosphorous, which glows in the dark due to its chemiluminescence. Phosphorous is used to this day in firebombs to devastating effects, but phosphorous also gives life as phosphates, and to this day, the food supply is dependent on the amount of phosphorous available. For this reason, the development of phosphorous fertilizer in the middle of the nineteenth century also contributed significantly to the so-called population explosion. In dirt, we find matter that both gives life and annihilates it. Dirt itself is “vibrant matter,” as the political analyst Jane Bennet entitled her book, which I referred to earlier.
With DRECK: AN APPARATUS, we have been embracing dirt with alchemical intention. As the saying goes – turning shit into gold – can be an artistic practice, where artists of today take over the position of former alchemists. DRECK: EIN APPARAT is not only a manifest in this sense, but a manifesto with the aim of turning the spectre of New Materialism into a social reality. We are not representing or mirroring reflections of reality, but creating a manifestation and depictions of reality that still could and should become true. While there might be a narrative throughout DRECK, you wont be able to get the image at once. So let us not be afraid of the ghosts of our time, which tell us within the figure of capitalist realism that our system cannot be changed. Instead, let’s start to listen to matter, a force that might and most probably will strike back, like the famous empire.
I wish you a pleasant stay at DRECK, dive into the dirt boxes and find some gold, get your hands dirty by betting on the mud wrestling, enjoy the rescued food in our Dirty Dinner tomorrow and join us for our final show on Saturday: may the force be with us!