Actually, the Dead Are Not Dead
Statement of the Convener, Core Group and the Co-curators
Actually, the Dead Are Not Dead is a project dedicated to life. It revolves around imaginations, drafts and practices of life that defy its normative models and constructions as produced by the institutions of medicine, politics, law and culture. It rejects the dichotomies of life and death, human and non-human, subject and object, healthy and sick, able and disabled. If the dead are not merely dead, then life is multiplicity. Multiplicity here does not mean integrating what deviates from the norm into the structures, institutions and laws of the normative but rather abrogating normativity itself: a society, an assembly, a multitude of deviators who are not deviating, queers who are not queer, idiots who are not idiots, dead who are not dead, animals that are not animals, things that are not things.
Actually, the Dead Are Not Dead is directed against the prevalent politics of death: that is, against politics based on the destruction of the material and intellectual foundation of life of large parts of certain populations, on the exclusionist policies of social death, on violence against that which opposes the norm, on the death of countless people in need, and not least on the destruction of the planet, of a common world. To engage with the dead, with those who are no longer or not yet here, instead means taking on responsibility for the life of the past and the future.
The concept and programme of Bergen Assembly 2019 is based on a collective process. Our point of departure was the concept of assembly itself, which was critically examined both in terms of its political implications and in regards to aesthetic practices. What does it mean when a biennial (or in this case a triennial) is called an assembly? What expectations of art and the curators does this articulate? The focus was on the general frameworks and techniques of collective political or emancipatory action – and the questions of how, in what form and with whom we intend to develop and shape these practices in the context of an art project.
Thus, Actually, the Dead Are Not Dead examines the relationships between art, politics and life. Two aspects are foregrounded: first, the rebellious, dissident body as tool and object of artistic practices and, second, aesthetic forms and formats that make it possible to share the knowledge and experiences of emancipation and resistance. We have consciously decided to focus on long-term projects based on processes of artistic research and/or working together with local groups and communities.
Actually, the Dead Are Not Dead consists of a series of both independent and intertwined platforms which include an exhibition distributed across five venues and public spaces as well as numerous events and individual projects – workshops, screenings, lectures, panels, performances, game sessions, educational programmes, parliaments of bodies, and publications – that have been taking place or been realised since April 2019. For us, all of these individual elements are of equal value.
In April, we were able to open the central meeting place, workroom and event location of Bergen Assembly 2019: a place we imagined from the outset as a shared space that would also be open to local groups and initiatives for their activities. Until the end of Bergen Assembly 2019, it will continue to be exciting to see what coexistences result from it and how they will shape this space-in- becoming. We named this site after the Turkish singer Belgin Sarılmışer (1958–1989), who in the 1980s was known as the Queen of Arabesque and took the stage name Bergen after the Norwegian port city. Belgin alias Bergen is a central reference point of Actually, the Dead Are Not Dead, since she stands equally for the strengths and contradictions in the struggle for emancipation. In this project, we are interested not in the heroic and triumphal but rather in aesthetic and emancipatory practices in which strengths and vulnerability, mourning and joy, conflict and celebration, the living and the dead belong together.
Murat Deha Boduroğlu, Banu Cennetoğlu, Hans D. Christ, Iris Dressler, María García, Nora Heidorn, Hiwa K, Katia Krupennikova, Viktor Neumann, Paul B. Preciado, Pedro G. Romero, Simon Sheikh, Nathalie Boseul Shin, Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa