Bergen Assembly 2019, Actually, The Dead Are Not Dead, begins its public programme on 5 and 6 April 2019 with the opening of its central working, meeting, and public space Belgin [ˈbælgən]. The space’s name refers to the Turkish singer Belgin Sarılmışer (1958–1989), who adopted the alias ‘Bergen’ after the Norwegian harbour city. With Belgin, Bergen Assembly 2019 opens a new space in Bergen’s city centre, which is conceived from the very beginning not only as a venue for Bergen Assembly itself but also as a shared space that is open to the activities of local groups and initiatives.
The introduction days of Bergen Assembly 2019, taking place both at Belgin and its neighbour Landmark, Kunsthall, comprise talks, debates, performances, and screenings introducing first aspects, concerns, formats and aesthetics of Actually, The Dead Are Not Dead. It will discuss the notion of assembly, the emancipatory potentials of art, aspects of sharing knowledge and experiences, and what it could mean if the dead were actually not dead.
With contributions by Daniel G. Andújar, John Barker/Ines Doujak, Bergen, Stacy Brafield, Capital Drawing Group, Hans D. Christ, Laressa Dickey, Iris Dressler, Ruth Ewan, Magdalena Freudenschuss, Lottie Hoare, Julio Jara, Hiwa K, Alexander Kluge, Nora Landkammer, MultiTati (Tatiana Palanca), Viktor Neumann, Tomás de Perrate, Andrea De Pascual (Pedagogías Invisibles), Daniela Ramos Arias, Karin Schneider, Daniel Seymour, Simon Sheikh, Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa, and others.
Bergen Assembly 2019
Actually, The Dead Are Not Dead
Introduction Days and Opening of Belgin
Talks, debates, performances, screenings, music
Admission free, in English
Belgin, Rasmus Meyers allé 3, 5015 Bergen
Landmark, Kunsthall, Rasmus Meyers allé 5, 5015 Bergen
FRIDAY, 5.4.2019, 5.30–9.30PM AT BELGIN
Bar Belgin (snacks and drinks)
Hans D. Christ and Iris Dressler: Actually, the Dead Are Not Dead. About Bergen Assembly 2019 and Belgin, its central working, meeting and public space (welcome, introduction, textual and audiovisual fragments)
Alexander Kluge: Der Kammersänger (The Chamber Music Singer, video, 2’)
ON ASSEMBLIES I
Bergen Assembly originates from a critical approach to the biennial format. The point of departure for the core group’s joint work towards the 2019 edition is the concept of assembly itself, which is critically examined both in terms of its political dimensions – as situated between hierarchy and participation – and with respect 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? Can an international art event be an assembly at all? The focus is on the general frameworks and techniques of collective political or emancipatory action – and the questions how, in what form, and with whom we intend to develop and shape these practices in the context of an art project.
The open discussion will be introduced by a general statement and two short presentations of two specific conditions or interpretations of assemblies: on the one hand related to its institutional and legal regulations, precisely to elections, and on the other hand elaborating alternative models of creating self-learning and self-organised counter-publics.
Iris Dressler and Simon Sheikh: Introductory Statement (30’)
Daniel G. Andújar: How to Understand the D’Hondt Method (Democracy) (talk and video, 30’)
Everyone has their particular vision of democracy, but few know their rules in depth. At a time when the algorithm dictates our present and monitors our existence, it is worth paying attention to the algorithms that have influenced our political system for decades. In 1878, Victor D’Hondt – a Belgian lawyer, salesman, jurist of civil law at Ghent University, and mathematician – surprised the world with his book The Proportional Representation of the Parties by Each Voter, followed by three more works all aimed at presenting a system for allocating seats to candidates in party-list proportional representation elections.
Viktor Neumann: Parliaments of Bodies (talk, 30’)
The Parliament of Bodies (PoB) was initiated by Paul B. Preciado as part of documenta 14. Viktor Neumann subsequently joined the project. Moving from Athens and Kassel to other contexts, it has since transformed into an apatride institution-in-becoming, which has no constitution. It is a place for cultural activism and a critical device for collectively imagining and constructing other ways of producing, reproducing, and governing knowledge and life, visibility, and affect.
Open discussion, moderated by Iris Dressler and Simon Sheikh (45’)
FRIDAY, 5.4.2019, 10PM–1AM AT LANDMARK, KUNSTHALL
Hiwa K: Pre-Image, Porto, 2014 (video, 6:35’)
Pre-Image documents a performance in Porto, Gdansk and Vienna, among others, and between Greece and Rome along the way. On his nose, Hiwa K balances a bar on which motorbike mirrors are mounted. The DIY navigation instrument reflects the environment in which he is walking. The balancing act and the fragmented image in the mirrors compel the artist to err on the side of caution. The vertical gaze that he uses to move forward horizontally is fragmented, distorted, unreliable. This allows him to re-experience the lack of stability in the midst of his constant state of movement during his migration. The title Pre-Image refers to the difference between how we imagine the places we want to reach, their possibilities before they become images, and how they are in reality; the contrast between vertically imagined places and the horizontal reality in which we experience places on the ground. The performance shows Hiwa K’s first impressions of the cities he discovers on his escape route. Interpreted as a reconstruction of his migratory past, of which he has no photographs, the performance could also be called a ‘post-image’.
Moon Calendar, Iraq, 2007 (video, 12:16’)
The rehearsals for an unrealised dance performance took place during a visit to Amna Souraka, The Red Security Building, in northern Iraq. This building complex used to be one of the infamous jails where Saddam Hussein detained political prisoners and today it hosts the Iraqi National Museum of War Crimes. Hiwa K tap-dances in the premises of Amna Souraka to the rhythm of his own heartbeat, which he follows by listening through a stethoscope. As the intensity of the dance increases, the speed of the feet and the heart lose simultaneity and chase each other in a beat and counter-beat discordant pulsation. The rhythm of the heart isolates the artist from the surroundings thus creating a private and hidden space for his own thoughts. The ludic dimension of the dance allows for a state of denial that makes trauma absent while still being present in the place.
DJ set by MultiTati (Tatiana Palanca)
MultiTati is better known as the artist Miss Tati—and for creating fireworks on stage. She likes to DJ rhythmic, upbeat music or relaxing songs from all corners of the world, but especially from the African diaspora.
SATURDAY, 6.4.2019, 11AM–11PM AT BELGIN
Bar Belgin (snacks and drinks)
SHARING KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCES OF RESISTANCE AND EMANCIPATION
As the German writer and filmmaker Alexander Kluge says, it is a mistake to think that the dead are dead. He proposes to deal with them, sharing their experiences, for example in regards to long-gone, buried, and unused moments of possible emancipation that enable the imagination of another present and future. One important concern of Bergen Assembly 2019 is to explore alternative methods of sharing experiences and knowledge of resistance and emancipation, regarding aesthetic as well as educational forms and practices.
Part I: Educational Forms and Practices
Iris Dressler: Introduction
Daniela Ramos Arias, Stacy Brafield, Andrea De Pascual (Pedagogías Invisibles): Education and Mediation of Bergen Assembly 2019 (talk and discussion, 60’)
The education and mediation of Bergen Assembly 2019 takes the three positions – Assembly of Idiots, Doing Assembly, and Assembly of Phantoms – as defined in Bergen Assembly 2019’s concept as a starting point. It provides an approachable and inclusive entry point to the triennial. The education and mediation focusses on utilising the triennial as a place for exchange, offering the opportunity to share experiences and knowledges, seeking positions that were not foreseen and remain open to the unexpected. The mediation and education will be run by Stacy Brafield and Daniela Ramos Arias and has been developed in collaboration with the collective Pedagogías Invisibles. For the Bergen Assembly Introduction Days, Stacy Brafield, Daniela Ramos Arias and Andrea De Pascual/Pedagogías Invisibles will introduce the education and mediation for Bergen Assembly 2019.
Bar Belgin (Lunch, snacks and drinks)
Ruth Ewan, Lottie Hoare: Asking Out (talk and discussion, moderated by Simon Sheikh, 60’)
Ruth Ewan and Lottie Hoare discuss the current development of Ruth Ewan’s project Asking Out for Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP). Ewan will present the project within the context of her practice, which for the last 16 years has involved working with children and young people. Asking Out explores the work of the untrained primary school teacher Mrs Muriel Pyrah. Developed through research at the National Arts Education Archive, based at YSP, and interviews with former pupils and colleagues, the project recreates Pyrah’s 1972 Castleford classroom as a facility to explore and expand on Pyrah’s educational ideas. Lottie Hoare will discuss the context within which Pyrah was working and the wide reach of the progressive and influential educational model created in West Riding Education Authority.
Nora Landkammer, Karin Schneider: Past Violences, Present Entanglements: Learning and Difficult Heritages (talk and discussion, moderated by Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa, 60’)
In education programmes that attempt to open spaces for learning about and from difficult, potentially contentious histories, the violence of the past connects with the positionalities, positions and memories of present-day participants. Which pedagogical situations could make these entanglements productive? And what happens if they are silenced and glossed over? The presentation will discuss observations made in the frame of the project TRACES – Transmitting Contentious Cultural Heritage with the Arts, in guided tours and learning programmes in exhibitions and memorial sites in Germany and Austria that aimed to foster debate and personal engagement with histories of colonialism and of Nazi crimes, including our own practice as museum educators. Focusing on selected ‘episodes’ from educational practice we attempt to understand how participants effectively engage with history, and the entanglements and conflictive spaces created through this engagement.
Part 2: Aesthetic Forms and Practices
Magdalena Freudenschuss: preparing4prison (presentation and Q&A, 30’)
preparing4prison (p4p) collects experiences, stories, and best practices of the involuntary assemblies of people imprisoned due to their activism. It combines them with the insights and perspectives of their supporters, their families, and their lawyers. Virtually assembled, p4p offers an easily accessible crisis set that does not prescribe a certain way of coping with this particular kind of crisis, but allows for inspiration and guidance as much as for rejection of the proposed strategies. In the p4p workshops within Bergen Assembly 2019, Magdalena Freudenschuss and Peter Steudtner open the space up to local activists as well as to participating artists, inviting additions to the assembled stories and experiences, and allowing for the individual or collective reassembling of the collection.
Hiwa K: Star Cross, 2009, (video, 12:14’)
Star Cross is drawn from a story told to Hiwa K by his oldest brother, Adib, when he was eleven. Adib had just returned from the prison where he was held captive for three months. He had tried to escape from the regime in Iraq and go to Europe, but he found himself in a Pakistani jail where he was asked by the other prisoners to solve the following riddle, told to him in the form of fairytale: A man goes to the West and falls in love with the Princess there. He asks the King for her hand. He sends the man to prison and gives him a riddle: ‘If you make a cross out of this star without touching it then you will be my son-in-law, but if you don’t manage this by tomorrow morning, you will be hanged in public.’
Laressa Dickey: re:assembling emotional labour (presentation and Q&A, 30’)
re:assembling emotional labour is a process of re:appropriation and exploration of emotions and emotional labour in the context of political imprisonment. Laressa Dickey and Magdalena Freudenschuss re:work their experiences during 2017 as partners of political prisoners, as part of Bergen Assembly. Re:assembling goes along with dis:assembling; the dis:assembly intended by state violence is subverted by producing images of humour, strength, and togetherness, within the frame of the photoautomat. By means of text production, this re:assembling process follows the depths and heights of resilience, resistance, and trauma. Feminist perspectives are tool, motivation, and reference on that path.
Hiwa K: Do You Remember?, 2017 (video, 4:51’)
This video documents an intervention undertaken by Hiwa K and a group of local activists on 25 April 2011 in Sarai Azadi Square, Slemani, nothern Iraq, after two months of the civil protest. The international media have never properly covered the protest, which was finally brutally quashed through armed force and numerous threats by the local government. Legal demonstrations were subsequently prohibited. On 18 April 2011 in Sarai Azadi Square, the stage from which the activists were addressing the people was burnt.
Capital Drawing Group (talk and discussion, moderated by Simon Sheikh, 60’)
Capital Drawing Group (Andrew Cooper, Enda Deburca, Dean Kenning, John Russell) grew out of a Marx reading group. The project to collectively illustrates Das Kapital and is an attempt to visualise the economic and political forces that dominate out lives today, often in disguised and complex ways, as described by Marx. The ongoing work is to be understood as a reading and as a political and pedagogical resource. For the Bergen Assembly Introduction Days the Capital Drawing Group will present a series of images from different sections of Capital and describe some of the ways in which these have been put to use.
Bergen: music clips, selection and introduction by Banu Cennetoğlu (videos, 15’)
The Turkish singer Bergen, alias Belgin Sarılmışer, adopted the name of the Norwegian city. Famously known in the 1980s as the ‘Queen of Arabesque’, Woman of Agony was one of her most popular songs. The song title was later identified with the singer, whose own life was characterised by agony. Her jealous husband threw acid in her face one night when she was on stage, blinding her in one eye. Despite this injury, she continued performing, using her glamorous hairstyle to cover the eye. The self-confident and provocative manner in which she dealt with the attack made her even stronger and more popular as a public figure. Against all odds, she kept her ties with her husband, but in 1989 he shot and killed her at the age of 28. Bergen nevertheless remains an icon in Turkey for the emancipation of women and resistance to domestic violence.
ON ASSEMBLIES II
The Political Parties project, conceived by Pedro G. Romero and María García for Bergen Assembly 2019, is based on and part of their ongoing research project formas de vida (life forms), which explores the relationships between modernity, popular aesthetics, and diverse Roma cultures, especially flamenco, from the 19th century to today. In Bergen, Romero and García are focusing on the political implications of the feast, which resonates in the double meaning of the English term ‘party’. The kris (the Roma court that can be convened anywhere) serves to mediate conflicts and regulate the legal, social and moral order of Roma groups, independently of the respective local law. Traditionally, the kris merges into a feast organised by the victor of the dispute.
Iris Dressler: Introduction
Tomás de Perrate on Serafín Estébanez Calderón’s Asamblea general (General Assembly) with an intervention by Julio Jara (video performance, 20’)
Political Parties is structured starting from a working hypothesis: the text Asamblea general (1846) by Serafín Estébanez Calderón, one of the first texts in the history of what would subsequently be called flamenco, doesn’t only describe a celebration but is in fact the description of a kris, an assembly at which the Roma of Triana, Málaga and Cádiz solved their troubles, pledged their children and organised their business. This ambivalence of celebration is an affirmation of the public sphere, i.e., a literal embodiment of a parliament, a court, a trade union. The voice of Tomás de Perrate, a Roma flamenco singer and direct descendant of one of the families gathered at the celebration, and the contribution of Julio Jara, anticipate the text Romero and García will use as an index for Political Parties.
Daniel Seymour: Flamencologia, 1970 (video, 20’)
In 1972, after attending the Encuentros de Pamplona (The Pamplona Meetings, a contemporary music event), Jessica Lange and Paco Grande visited their friend Danny Seymour in Setenil de la Sierra. There they discovered that one of the stars of the avant-garde encounter, flamenco guitarist Diego del Gastor, was based nearby, where he followed his personal way of life. Darcy Lange, one of the guitarist’s pupils, used to say that Diego del Gastor had not only managed to make flamenco gatherings a job, a way of earning a living, but also and undeniably a manifesto of autonomy and political challenge. Danny Seymour filmed these sessions in two experimental sequences that include a philosophical speech by Diego del Gastor himself on his understanding of life: one in the actual town of Setenil and another in the country house known as el Cortijo Espartero, a true factory of lumpen productivism that Dan Graham has compared to Andy Warhol’s Factory.
Julio Jara: Los mil y un cartón (One Thousand and One Cardboards, performance, 20’)
The regular work of Julio Jara, artist, poet and performer established in Madrid since the eighties, focuses on the homeless, on immigrants with drug abuse problems and on transgender refugees. He carries out this work for a religion based institution in Madrid called Martín de Porres. Los mil y un cartón is one of his works based on an open collection of narratives on how individuals spent their first night outdoors, in that fuzzy and hostile outside world that we find threatening. Making that first night on the streets public is an eminently political gesture. With these elements, Julio Jara creates songs, dances and gestures, endeavouring to project a specific form. Furthermore, the work moves between collaboration and anonymity, as the idea is naturally to try and leave a trace, any trace.
John Barker/Ines Doujak: Masterless Voices, 2014 (video, 30’)
Masterless Voices is a musical based on the themes of carnival, utopia, and rebellion. It begins with a singing mountain. Once, European explorers climbed the Andes on the backs of indigenous carriers. Fed up with the exploitation of its resources, the mountain dons a skirt and sets out for carnival. Masterless voices sing their unforgiving songs in the dark, sparks fly, and working women tell us that they are not dressed for conquering. A shameless investigator – sometimes naked and sometimes dressed in camouflage – goes out and about among the carnival masses in Bolivia and finds herself with a group of Brazilian Baile Funk dancers. She does not regret anything.
Bar Belgin (drinks)