Curator's statement by Thomas Plischke

Identities move

If we speak about the concept of Identity we always have to address also the concept of difference as they are conjoined twins. Through philosophy, psychoanalysis and social sciences we have learned that being identical – being the same with oneself (authenticity), one history or people (origin, family, nationality), is problematic as it presupposes and produces singularities by means of laws, morals, behaviors on the base of exclusion. We can observe this in most communities ranging from the youth culture, lifestyle to religion. You can only be an authentic punk, skater, Catholic, yoga practitioner if you follow pre-determined behaviors and rules. So the question of identity here is rather static: find out about one fundamental truth. I don’t think this debate is interesting in the arts, as fundamentalism is causing enough troubles and I propose to broaden the concept of identity to processes of interaction rather than fundamentalism: how does the personal and the public self interact with the complex social environment today? And already with the addition of a public to the personal we can no longer speak of one self, but rather of collections and clusters of selves. With different persons different interactions emerge. And these interactions are always a chance to challenge laws, morals, behaviours. Even and especially in the community they are part of. For me the concept of one self and authenticity is quite problematic as it reduces the number of possible interactions I can have in the social sphere. Richard Sennet claims in his iconic The Fall of Public Man (1977) that the concept of authenticity is the main reason for the dramatic reduction of social life in the past centuries. It is acting as a permanent inhibitor and censor, as an agent of exclusion. So if I can only have real social interaction with people that understand the real me it radically reduces my social life. And with this reduction I lose all the power of interaction, and thus influence: it is anti-emancipatory. The quest for the one self annihilates the potential of the self. A clear example here is the generation of my parents. Their social life is reduced to maybe one other couple they meet on some occasions. The rest is watching television and calling their children.

If I want to be authentic in my community, I don’t see the necessity to challenge laws, morals, prescribed behaviors as I can only be authentic in obeying them. And in the best case, a psychoanalysis has shown us, perfect fulfillment is impossible: there will always be a deficit, a gap and distance between the self and the true and authentic self. The true and authentic self remains a powerful projection of the community where it emerges: Just do it, be yourself, Think Different, Vorsprung durch Technik, Yes we can… life reduced to a lifestyle prescription. This is why in art I see the concept of authenticity problematic (as in the techniques of  Authentic Movement, Somatic Practices, Body Mind Centering, Method Acting, Jerzy Grotowski, Konstantin Sergejewitsch Stanislawski, Klein Technique etc.). What is presented as a recipe for authentic presence is rather a therapeutic process. I think this phenomenon is a heritage of the 20th century and its Western obsession with Gestalt therapy. From Mabel Todd to Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, Susan Klein and FM Alexander, the aim was – and is – to correct a personal deficit. Many of these techniques have a story of a personal deficit that was healed by technique and now has a universal value, like the knee of Susan Klein or the throat of FM Alexander. These stories function as gospel. And most of these techniques are copyrighted in the western legal system :-) Art in my opinion should never articulate from deficit and correction, but rather be an assertion of form. Form is always a dynamic emergence of social interaction and negotiation, not of personal problems. Form in live art is mutually negotiated.  A simple example: my favorite remark when teaching an improvisation class is that just because we improvise we don’t have to suddenly all act strange. It seems a convention that in improvisation we act weird. But this weirdness is quite foreseeable, as it comes with an understanding of art where the artist is allowed to all behavior that society represses. If we allow art to be strange, we can be strict as a community, we can point our finger to art and say: ahhhhhh we are liberal – art is the exception here. The stranger the art, the more straight and normal society can be. England throughout the reign of Queen Victoria can be a great and alarming example. In art it produced amazing figures of fiction and sexual obsession, the most famous being the vampire. So there seems to be an active agent, a shared idea of how we should behave when improvising: strange. Strangely then, there is no longer any improvisation, as this would mean acting only in response to an actual given, not to a prescribed behavioral role. This is why for IDENTITY.MOVE! I want to think of collections of identities, dynamic collectives rather than singular and local ones. And with a twinkle I would like to challenge the title of this project and replace it – at least as a working title for myself – with the statement: identities move.

As mentioned above, we need to speak of differences if we speak of identities, as they are the permanent identifier of identity. Differences are negotiated all the time and differences are the defining borders in this negotiation: the outlines of different identities. We can observe this quite well in the current crisis in the European Community for example.  But the difference is not only the fighting ground of fundamentalism, but rather the prerequisite of exchange, as exchange cannot happen in what is the same, but takes place if differences are productive for the environment they appear in, when interaction is dynamically challenging and modifying the rules that are active in a community: when limitations and borders become negotiable and permeable, when terms and definitions start to drift, it is important for us to clarify our identity in this project and how we can help to make differences productive for artistic work. So I need to say a word about our work. And I use the personal pronoun not for the entire group of curators, but for the constellation I have been working in over the past years: the artistwin deufert&plischke. Because since 2001 there is no work by Kattrin Deufert or Thomas Plischke anymore but only work done by the two of us, it is clear that the question of identity and authorship is at the base of our constellation. Not so much in the frame of “who we are” but rather “how we are”, about the form and its consequences: how are we making decisions together, how are we generating material together, how are we organizing material together etc. Our first collaboration in 2001 already confronted us with the task in hand. And this collaboration was a curatorial one (read an article about this event here) where I curated a 10-day 24h nonstop event where audience and performers could live in the theatre and Kattrin curated a workshop programme inside this event on ‘illegal experience’. Kattrin and I met at this event!  In German ‘together’ is translated as 'miteinander' (with-one-another). But we have replaced that term with 'durch-ein-ander', a term that literally translated means through-one-another but its actual meaning is: mess. And the mess we have is precisely the task of art: to make our cultural, political, moral, sexual, sensual, physical and other limitations tangible and also to make apparent that it is these limitations that make us who we are as subjects and also as communities. But as artist we cannot stop here! Unlike social sciences, in art this would (and quite often does) only result in a display of peculiarities and pathetic navel-gazing! The assertion of artistic form happens as a process in the experimental set-up and social interaction that is necessary to overcome these personal and public limitations.  So if working on the question of identity, the artistic process, the experimental set-up and social interaction need to be developed in relation to the initial question(s) about identity. These researches have to be original! And this is why in order to do a just selection as curators it would be important for us to know the initial question(s) or interest(s) in the subject from each participating artist and also to get an idea, a fist suggestion about how it is related and translated into a possible artistic process.