documentamtam | issue 1: documenta -15 (2021)

Hello everyone!! Welcome to documentamtam #1!! We are using our tam-tam as a tool to share with AC network and beyond about what we are studying and questioning ourselves in the process of the invitation to participate in documenta fifteen.

Proposal: AC School المدرسة École Школа Escuelita

(March, 2021)

Bricolage is rather an “incubation”. Whenever you think you are at a turning point at history, people always keep using the word “new” – just like now, everything to do with globalization is new: new economies, new telecommunication, new materials.  Whenever you hear this word “new” you have to understand that you stand in a very fragile relation of the past to the present, and that is incubation. It is not as if you stand at the end of something or in the middle of a brave new world. It is a middleness of a different kind. It is, in a way, starting from thinking you are always in the middle of something – and that is the incubation-al and the spirit of time, that is part of the movement of bricolage.

– Homi K. Bhabha (2006)

Like Arts Collaboratory itself, AC School is a work in progress. A becoming.

AC School slowly takes form from the rich and dense chunk of clay that has come together over the course of many years of regular and intense practice of collective study.

Layers upon layers of entanglements, questions, common knowledge, tools, failures, good harvests, chaos, and more questions have become an intangible archive of sorts. The daily practice of self-organisation within Arts Collaboratory is an ongoing space for learning, un-learning and engaging with a paradigm shift that proposes collective economies, trust, and solidarity as some of its core principles. Distinct art practices, savoir-faire and ways of building and sharing knowledge, relevant to particular people and contexts (with their geographic, historical, social and political specificities) cross-pollinate and contaminate each other through the open channels proposed by Bangas, Assemblies, Working Groups and Collaborative Projects (among other entanglement spaces). A multitude of resonant spaces and people nourishes and is nourished through a complex and rhizomatic network.

Much like a harvest festival, AC School within Documenta XV is a proposal to open up and perform with a wider community – through different formats and artistic tools – spaces to co-learn in solidarity.

Currently, AC School is looking like the coming together of a Radio Station, a Newspaper, a series of Bangas, a Collective Workshop Space and a Newsroom; overlaps and in-betweens included.

All of these spaces have been imagined from principles of openness and self-representation, to foster an active interaction, exploration and cross-pollination between the practitioners from our ecosystem and from AC’s immediate and extended network, the permanent community of Kassel, the community that gathers around Documenta and other lumbung members.

To give more detail about our proposal, let’s first talk about Bangas. As a network of translations, we have organised ourselves around many languages, and adopted specific words where we have not found a known one that accurately pinpoints our intentions. Banga is such a word. Although it has evolved over time, Banga is, at its essence, a Know-madic get together whose main purpose is to gather around care, friendship and knowledge sharing/building to address a specific issue or question.In AC it is one of the most important mechanisms to enact solidarity, organisational rethinking and opening to the local ecosystems of its members.

During Documenta XV, Bangas are proposed as spaces to gather (in Kassel or elsewhere if pertinent) around specific topics that we believe are relevant at the present time and we want to study and explore beyond our network, such as the commons, collective economies, collective governance, trust building, language and translation, solidarity, migration, co-funding paradigm shift, equality, surplus, life cycles, lifelines, transformations, struggles and territories, etc. If the specific study spaces unfold to generate an editorialization of their discussion, this can be shared through the Radio Station and the Newspaper.

We are approaching radio as an artistic tool, and as space to bring together different spatialities, contexts and times; drawing attention to the rhizomatic structure of AC Ecosystem and Documenta XV. The Radio Station is a tool from which to create an archive (of AC’s interviews, sound, music, conversations); as well as to build a bridge to circulate back and forth from Kassel to our locations; and between locations. We think of it as a single being with multiple & collective voices; a platform to be occupied by many to develop experimental artistic practices around radio and in relation to our ecosystems. Radio to make sound a body experience.

Alongside radio, a Printed Newspaper, that, on account of its ‘old -school’ format can enter and circulate in certain spaces that traditional exhibition spaces do not reach. Could it be printed and circulated in Mexico, Dakar, Jakarta, San José, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Kampala, Bishkek etc. along with a main circulation in Kassel? Could it be a support for small and struggling printing presses? The printing medium has many resonances in our contexts and this editorial and self-publishing platform, as the radio, can incorporate many voices. If it was to be a boat, it would have a rotative captain (or collectively constituted captain).

The Collective Workshop Space is a meeting place for organising and experimenting around other mediums and art practices that are relevant within the AC Ecosystem, such as drawing, ceramics, textiles, etc. Drawing from certain aspects of the trade/guild schools (los oficios), it is proposed as a space to focus on learning and creating together.

At the crossroads of ecosystems, pressing topics, radio, newspaper, workshops space, Kassel community, bangas etc. is a sort of neurological and sensorial hub, the Newsroom. We think of it as a poliglotal room to gather stories and narratives from the many fronts where AC organisations carry on their particular and specific struggles and practices; and to focus on discussion, research and editorialization. A lively space of discussion from where to curate the archive;  but also to report on the present, to create it in symbiosis with a radical imagination for the future.

We believe the continuous practice and becoming of AC School towards and during Documenta XV, will outline a lasting – but never stagnant – curriculum; a tangible, accessible and permeable harvest of tools and narratives that can add in a meaningful way to an everlasting lumbung.

Tooling Future plan in living curricula

For me (Gertrude) the starting point of AC School is still the Future Plan and based on it the learnings we have had in the past so many years and are continuing to have now.

How can we use the concept of school to tool those learnings and build a living curriculum, so that the knowledge become more open to others.

I think the curriculum could be thought of in terms of paradigm shifts mentioned in future plan like:

  • Lifelining
  • Funding paradigm shift
  • Study – learning from failure and success instead of project approach and success
  • Peer to peer Governing, assembly, hosting etc.
  • ‘commoning’ (word needs another term) from AC member’s perspective and AC (Future plan) as a commons
  • Working across Territories
  • Etc. etc.

But also transversally with some of our values Trust, Solidarity, degrowth come to mind first maybe.

So taking Trust as an example I was thinking we would from now on collect the learnings of our work around Trust in different levels-instances: How we build it, what is trust and what levels of trust are needed, trust in relation to each other as members, trust as we practice it in the funding paradigm shift, trust in decision making, but also trust as it is enacted with our ecosystems and maybe how that has changed over the years.

I was thinking once we mapped where the knowledge on trust is, we could use the editorial, radio, workshop, bangas as ways to bring the knowledge about and tool it. So this can be starting now within AC, within our ecosystems, can continue in the Rijksakademie, we can work with the documenta gGMBH on it, and also the 100 days in documenta can be used to continue it.

Maybe we think of tooling in differing forms: what would it be for the school curricula Jack is working with, what for future documenta participants, what for funders, what for artists collectives etc. And always maybe tool on the three levels we work in AC:

  • In our ecosystems (f.e. tool the process of MAMA in building more horizontal trust in the ecosystem, or maybe what is trust in the context of Al-Ma#Mal)
  • Within the organization (f.e. tool the processes of Teoretica or Crater internally in relation to Trust)
  • And within AC as a network.(f.w. tool the differing levels of trust in the network, or the experiences with DOEN, Lambent, documenta gGMBH etc.))

As a process I see this curriculum as living and in constant development. So documenta is just one instance. On the other hand I think it is a good moment for AC to push itself to publish the tooling by the end of the 100 days in documenta and start practicing use of it with other collectives and publics in documenta. So this would mean that there is a good bases before the 100 days, but we can definitely work on it further in the 100 days, so that documenta becomes useful. Maybe we could split the 100 days time based. For example every week another issue. One week about trust, one week about funding, one week about ‘commoning’, one week about assembly, hosting etc., but I could also imagine this includes a more particular subject as proposed by Jack: school curricula.

For sure there will be many others we can invite to collaborate with in documenta, f.e. in Fridericianum as a school on the curricula, in the lumbung on funding, other collectives on hosting etc etc etc. Once we are clearer what topics-lines to follow (as AC) we can map this in the A-team and bring it to this working group.

Working in weeks would maybe also allow others in AC to join. So people can sign up to join a specific week that they feel they can contribute to specifically. Maybe we call it a series of bangas all over.

This means from now as a group we define still together which issues, and for which people/groups to tool those issues, and then we split into smaller groups (that can invite others in AC to join) to specifically work on starting to tool those topics in ‘living curricula’.

The individuals really doing the work of interviewing, collecting knowledge, materials, harvests, doing artistic, educational and editorial translations etc. etc. can be paid from the production money to actually do this work.

The Rijksakademie as an instance can be used to maybe work with DOEN on tooling the funding paradigm shift, also maybe to work on the Assemblying-hosting curriculum, that can then be experimented with also with the Rijksakademie residents. And maybe to use the facilities like the print workshop to publish a first series of toolings, that can be developed further over time.

In parallel maybe some of the radio’s in AC, Tropiezo and others could do a parallel process from now on to develop radio-podcasts on a specific curriculum topic, with AC members etc. etc.

How do we tool the experience we’ve gathered in AC over the years?

How do we tool trust?

What is trust and what levels of trust are needed?

What is trust in relation to each other as members?

AC School Radio

Sound has become one of the desirable tools, mediums, and experimental research tool for the AC ecosystem. Let’s explore it during the AC school at documenta before, during and after. It is a place and sound-space where we could meet, exchange, listen, play, experiment through; conversations, experimental radial performances, radio novels, DJs from our contexts, AC sound archive, weave contexts and so forth. We are all conscious that we are using radio, as well as with the Lumbung radio practitioners.

Either event-based radio or ongoing radio, this is something we need to discuss. During the 100 days, everyday we could “book” interventions, radio shows, and broadcasts.

Newsroom: a place to meet

We have spoken a lot that AC School is not limited to a “place”. In this radical imagination thinking schools expanded beyond four walls or a specific locus is important. Maybe AC school is a walk in the woods, a meal with Lumbungs, a visit to a workshop. And this is great because a radical school is in its roots that are made of pedagogical practices beyond traditional evaluations, hegemonic knowledge and tests. In terms of pandemic times, it would be also needed to discuss the hybrid place between digital and physical.

Still, a “headquarters” seems desirable and we could play with the idea of “a newsroom” more in the idea of a “living stage” and not a newsroom from CNN or something like that. Actually much more influenced by the autonomous free media experiences where coffee, teas, informal conversations, notes, post its, pictures, photocopies, computers meet with the people who are making it happen.

This newsroom could be our headquarters, where the “exhibition” also shares space, as well as the radio cabin. From there we “organize decentralized creative action” but is a place we could always use to gather as a team to have a place to meet and share. Not everything happens there but yet it is in account of what we are doing and who we are. A place where the values and practices, tools of AC are available to see, interact, play, take part. As an ongoing installation, this place could start with only some things and eventually become a place where all the experience of AC school could be embedded spatially.

All AC School bodies are intertwined, but i think is generous to stress this point out. It is a rizomatic entity that has different outputs and spaces.

Exhibition as a celebration! of the ecosystem

AC as an ecosystem with its energetic individuals, collaborations, collectives, institutions, friends, funders have worked with their love and commitment to their contexts-ecosystem. This love and commitment have nourished AC into an alternative network of art and culture agents around the world. Let’s celebrate it!

The proposal is for us as AC school to invite each AC organization to present a piece; painting, performance, podcast, drawing, embroidery, video, sculpture, publications, and however each organization is thinking in self-presenting.

This curatorial proposal is meant to host an exhibition space inside AC school. This place could also host the radio studio, the newsroom, and a place where some workshops could happen. Not imagined as a White cube, rather as a gesamtkunstwerk (synthesis of the arts) where all forms of art meets.

This is to show the first draft of the comix that is not yet publsihed online by Bak, in collaboration with Mariana Botey and invited by Sven Lutticken.

Documenta strives to canonize contemporary art practices, but how can this project be decentralised? AC proposes a return to the material, visual and artistic cultures that influence how we work as a network – and are an integral part of what we do – and to bring them to the heart of documenta 15, thus intervening in the “canon” with pieces that we as 26 arts organisations, consider important. Each organisation will propose an artwork made in the time that Arts Collaboratory has existed, and we hope that this assembly of works will not only speak to and of our positions around the world, but will also shine a light on artists and practices we feel have a role to play in shaping our present, and the canon to come. We will develop the methodology of making this exhibition in reverberation with the Arts Collaboratory ethical principles.

How would an exhibition of AC look like if it was imagined from our ethical principles?

How would an exhibition be planned if it was decentralised?

How would the pieces in an exhibition of AC dialogue together if they were in an assembly?