Anna: The three of us are sitting here together because of the Corona virus, since no performances, training sessions or workshops can take place. Instead, we have decided to resume our conversations and continue communicating our thoughts and mindsets. In this respect, we are not here to present a specific result, but to exchange ideas or rather ‘think and talk about…’. My starting point is always the body, not the movement. Meaning, in the first place, my body is always a social and political body. And I believe that by producing so much, my need to spend more time on research and discussions has increased. That is where the idea was born to develop a research project with the Nomadic Academy, that initially pursues no specific goal.
Frauke: I can imagine that it is difficult to not work towards a goal. When a group of people starts gaining momentum, we tend to immediately think in terms of results, because that is what we were trained to do, right? Or does it work well?
Anna: I think it works quite well. But I also think it is beneficial that we as a group are involved in a lot of other projects. Everything we do here continuously flows into something else on an unconscious level anyway, it’s not about deliberately not allowing something to affect another artistic work. And that means that, either way, I’m constantly creating an output. But what we do as part of the Nomadic Academy is not preparatory work for anything in particular, it doesn’t have to be ‘processed’ right away.
Nora: How did the Nomadic Academy change your relationship to this space here, the playground? You have this location where so many different things are going on, including things that at first glance are not directly connected to the Nomadic Academy. In addition, the space is not a nomadic one. It is a fixed space and at the same time, I assume, it is conceptualized differently within certain contexts.
Anna: That’s right, the space isn’t nomadic at all but in a way it is. When I am working with students, for example, I have found it helpful to remove them from their context and place them into another one. I enable others to nomadize here. And it was clear from the beginning that I didn’t want to do this in other theaters or at other venues like I usually do. And if I had, I would have liked to use a wide variety of spaces, but that tends to exceed our organizational capacities. Here, I am immersed in the idea of ‘queering spaces’. We can easily convert the space from a party location to a training session or to a soup kitchen with a long dining table on the floor. This creates a pleasant feeling of re-functioning a space.
Nora: I think this coincides with the idea behind FLORIDA Lothringer 13 , Frauke, where you are a member of the committee?
Frauke: First and foremost, FLORIDA is a municipal art space. Meaning it is an institution and I’m only a part of it – currently, Beowulf Tomek, Maria VMier and I are working together. We have this space and want to use it, but it takes a lot of work and administrative effort and we also have to adhere to a budget since we don’t earn a lot of money with FLORIDA. My point is that I can understand you, Anna, and that you don’t want to realize certain projects in theaters or other venues, because it immediately involves institutionalization and integration into specific structures that are not necessary in a space like this. At FLORIDA our aim is to keep the institutional barriers as low as possible, but they do exist here and there and that is where we suddenly catch ourselves thinking like an institution. I personally was made aware of this during the Corona restrictions when due to the new uncertainty about what is permitted and what isn’t, my need to seek reassurance from the city of Munich suddenly increased. I was relieved when my colleagues called this to my attention. Suddenly, an institutional insecurity had taken hold of me.
Nora: I find that interesting because in the email you sent to Anna and me before we met today, you described that Corona helped you notice how your awareness for alternative spaces has grown. And so, the question arises, for example, whether you perceive FLORIDA as an alternative space? I’m guessing that in a way you do and in another you don’t. But what you were actually describing is a contradiction to the stronger perception of alternative spaces. Or isn’t this a contradiction?
Frauke: When I was writing the email, I also asked myself where this awareness comes from. It mainly relates to the Kunstpavillon in the old botanic garden. Of course, at FLORIDA we are discussing what this new situation means for us. We have to completely revise our program and think about new possibilities. We refuse to resort to a ‘digital’ format and are trying to come up with other ideas. But due to the lockdown I suddenly had more time or rather, I took more time for myself.
I have been a member of the Kunstpavillon, an association with a unionist background, since 2013. We, the board of directors Katharina Weishäupl, Lena Bröcker and Johannes Evers, as well as other members of the association and the designer Anna Lena von Helldorff decided to take on our own history. Because this year, the Kunstpavillon will be turning 70 years old. We want to revisit the reopening in 1950, when artists who were linked to the union initiated the reconstruction of the building that had been damaged during the war. This means that the anniversary project will neither be dealing with the year 1937 when the Kunstpavillon opened nor with its history during National Socialism. This period introduces the question of how to deal with a heritage that is based on the appropriation of a Nazi-building. At the time, the artists were mainly focused on the idea of self-marketing and self-organization. After the war, open air exhibitions – or that is how I would describe the provisional activities at the time – took place in the old botanic garden. After the currency reform, the artists had no money and presented their work in the old botanic garden as if it were a flea market. During this time, they apparently had the idea to rebuild the ruins of the Kunstpavillon and use it as an exhibition space. This undertaking ties in with the history of the Glaspalast, in which artists also exhibited their work. After the Glaspalast burned down, there were various plans that were not implemented until the idea of the Haus der Deutschen Kunst (house of German art) at the Englischer Garten was realized by the Nazis. It was not until the lockdown arrived that we became fully aware of the unionistic identity the Kunstpavillon is actually based on and what possibilities this unfolds for us. For example, we found a document, a petition to the Bavarian government, which demands that artists should be permitted to use the Haus der Kunst in its entirety and not only to a limited extent, in order to be able to exhibit their work independently. This was not based on an idea of an institution that exhibits artists, since museums mainly work retrospectively, but it was about the self-organization of local artists who are still living. Especially nowadays, it is interesting to take a closer look at this.
Anna: The term ‘alternative space’ has actually always fascinated me. An alternative to what? An alternative to closed urban spaces? Or is it about a form of administration or self-administration? I could say that the playground, for instance, is a totally alternative space. But I could also say that I am currently using it as private property, even though it doesn’t belong to me. I come here because I choose to do so and I do what I want in the space, and because of Corona I no longer even share it. So, at the moment I am also asking myself: what should an alternative space have to offer? Does it become alternative because so many alternatives are possible? Because so many people have access? I can’t answer that question at the moment.
Frauke: We are also broadening our view concerning the old botanic garden, which, due to the wide variety of requirements, which are also situated in a gray area, is a very diverse space. We want to be mindful when we fill the garden with our ideas, we don’t want to upgrade the location or drive people away through our actions. And, of course, it is a balancing act and a challenge to deal with the prevailing circumstances on site.
One thing we keep stumbling upon is a construction fence which faces Elisabethstraße in the direction of the main station. It’s just been standing there for some time now and we don’t know of it’s supposed to prevent people from peeing in the park or if it the police uses it to possibly stop a person from escaping in that direction. In any case, it is definitely a restrictive object that we do not fully comprehend because we use the garden in a different way. At this point we ask ourselves: what is going on here and what exactly are we doing? Or there are those small fences to prevent people from walking on the lawns – quite trivial but also very important to keep in mind. We should start thinking about these fences.
Anna: I find those little fences so amusing. They definitely stop people from walking on the grass, but they also create an aesthetic framework, they are continuously exhibiting: a lawn. And then I always notice how well the grass is mowed. I wouldn’t be that aware of it if the lawn was not fenced in.
Frauke: Exactly, and it’s fascinating to think about the idea behind it and how it creates a restrictive element. How does this restriction work in reality? Comparing a small fence to a large one is really interesting. And this is directly connected to our thoughts on the Kunstpavillon, where we deliberate the question of power and architecture: we have a Nazi building, we are reviewing its history but we are not allowed to attach the wall newspaper, which is part of this work, to the facade, because we would impair the axes of the building’s overall impression in combination with the Palace of Justice and the Ministry of Finance.
Nora: I would like to briefly come back to the low fence again. Because there is a different effect depending on whether I am looking at the small fence from the outside, for example when I’m standing at the train station and see the green lawn behind it, or whether I’m standing on the lawn and looking from ‘the inside’ out. What you are describing echoes the question of perspective. Including the question of whether this place, when viewed from the inside out, also allows resistance, which, however, when the view is reversed cannot be upheld, because the boundaries in the reversed perspective reveal the power construct.
Anna: I find that is an interesting thought because it revolves around apparent openings and non-openings. The ‘queering spaces’ idea stems from re-functionalization, or from re-thinking spaces, altering their original function, and this functionalization is often historical, so there is a connection.
This is the connection I deal with here at the Kreativquartier, with various artists, socio-cultural projects and other communities. There is such a friendly coexistence here, but sometimes, when we are rehearsing, I have to tell the children who live on the premises and like to sit by the window to watch us that it is time to close the window now. So, I am looking for a form of opening on the one hand, but if I’m being completely honest there is also a level of control that I want to maintain. At the moment I find the idea of opening up to different groups interesting because it creates encounters that are within a certain framework. But then it is also necessary to understand what their purpose is in order to really engage in a dialogue.
Frauke: That reminds me of a project I did last year (Widerstand – Aneignung, Übersetzung und Transfer. Ein Realitätstheater (Resistance – Appropriation, Translation and Transfer. A Theater of Reality.)), for which I interviewed five cultural activists in São Paulo. We met on a rooftop terrace in a safe space. I find the space interesting in reference to what you are describing. It’s called Esponja (sponge) and is located on the eleventh floor of a commercial building right in the center of São Paulo. The space itself is unbelievable due to the location alone, which is why Yusuf Etiman and Luís Khnis, who run it, are always thinking of ways to share it and make this resource available to others. The question is how the space can be made available to the interested community or to realize projects and which rules and limits the management of the space entail. I did my residency there and used it to invite Bárbara Esmenia, Cláudio Bueno, Márcia Silva, Peter Pál Pelbart and Sylvia Prado, all of whom have very different perspectives on theater and art production, to have a conversation with one another. The discussion was transcribed and translated into German and formed the basis for the two re-enactments that took place and dealt with the appropriation of the text back in Germany. The project as well as the text are designed to develop from reading to reading, because the perspective of the white German artist, who is part of the conversation, continues to develop, because I keep developing and learning, and because the reality in Brazil is changing. And since in the meantime so much has happened, I am rethinking how to update the printed book. For this project I am collaborating closely with Anna Lena von Helldorff again and so far, we have been using errata which we added for the reading in January at KV Leipzig. The process of correcting myself in the printed book is extremely important to me. But the aspiration to create a theater of reality – as we want to define it – is up for discussion. At the time in São Paulo, we discussed the local situation and my part in it, but that was in February of 2019, just after Bolsonaro’s inauguration and now in June of 2020 everything has escalated dramatically. I am mentioning all of this because I keep asking myself what role I play in it all. I feel that I at least tried to open up a space, but it was actually only a moment that brought us together in São Paulo. It isn’t something that automatically continues just because we met once. Then I spent so much time working on the text, I translated, edited, cut, reflected and added footnotes. But for the five of them it was just a conversation they had in February of 2019… so what I’m getting at is: how can we open up spaces? What responsibility do I have without slipping into the role of the European who wants to help, because it is obvious that the five of them don’t need it. But I also think it is incredibly important to talk about this and think about what part the traveling artists across the globe play, especially in countries with a colonial history. One could say that my naive impulse to open up gave me the opportunity for self-reflection.
Anna: Maybe it’s about the fact that at the moment there is a need for dialogical formats, dialogical spaces, whatever that means. Maybe then it doesn’t matter if it is a clearly defined space that has a specific function, a tango space, a space for movement or whatever, it’s about spaces that can be questioned time and time again. Here we call these performative sketches; we actually borrowed the term from the field of visual arts. A sketch stands for itself, but it can also be a sketch of something. It permits a level of ambiguity, and it is generally also possible to make corrections. A sketch is also something that can be discarded. I don’t know what the difference between a dialogical space and an alternative space is. And maybe that’s not important, maybe it’s just a play on words. But we return to this administrative logic, so to speak. What takes place in a space is one thing and how it is organized and managed is another. And, of course, the one thing determines the other on many different levels, for example who has access, who is informed, who dares to enter.
Frauke: I’ve never compared the two of them but instinctively I have the feeling that there is a fixation inherent to the alternative space – the idea that the people have who open up the alternative space. While the dialogical space is much more a negotiation space that is still maturing, that opens up and develops further? I don’t think you’re wrong, it’s not just a play on words. There is a difference.
Nora: Frauke, what you described about your project also raises the question of whether the spatiality of the project can change in a more abstract sense, by continuing to recognize that forms of thresholds exist, but actually embarking on a completely different process. This is where the term ‘nomadic’ comes into play. Because if you include this form of mobility, then you can think about that kind of project in a different way. Then, nomadism might not have a goal, it is not about beginning at point A and arriving at point B, but the entire field is grasped in its openness.
Anna: You are referring to the spaces in between. At the moment, what is in between things is what is potentially interesting. And that brings me back to the term ‘queer’. So often it is about standardization or dogmatization. Incidentally, urban development often deals with the question of why our lives are no longer intact within our cities. Because, for example, due to the distance people have between their balconies or apartments and the rest of the world, or the “keep off” signs, there is no way to engage in a dialogue anymore. If I live on the 17th floor, I obviously don’t have a connection to the street anymore. In art spaces we try to address these issues, but it is not clear yet how we can make these boundaries, that often are spatial, permeable. On the other hand, I think the dilemma of art spaces is that the aspect of protection is essential. Meaning we require a protected space in order to conduct a certain discourse, bringing about a shift in perspective and action. I don’t even know if I would want to dissolve all of the boundaries, but I also wonder how this kind of permeability can be established.
Frauke: Involvement, exactly.
Nora: Anna, there is a graphic on your website. There is a dot in the center from which everything else radiates. I think that’s very conclusive image for the project as well as the subject of organizational logistics.
Anna: You can also move the graphic around and change the entire shape.
Nora: Exactly. It is such a fitting image that can be used as a slide to place on different issues and reassess who is positioned where. And this also includes the matter of relinquishing power.
Anna: My personal highlight is that you can move all of the dots and that the formation changes each time. But there are also certain positions where some of the dots can no longer be seen. It’s such a great image: you move one thing and something else disappears.
Without being invited in, someone enters the room where we are discussing and exchanging ideas. Our conversation is interrupted.
Nora: Frauke, the other day there was an article in the SZ on the Kunstpavillon project. And at some point in the text the term “punk” is used to describe you.
Frauke: (laughs) I knew that the author was going to get hung up on that term.
Nora: It really stuck with me. Because so often terms are attributed to a person and people who create any form of alternative space are assigned a specific term, or they use one to describe themselves. How can it be possible to create that kind of spatiality without having to subject yourself to such a designation of resistance?
Anna: This is where I come full circle to the historical background. When you say things like “let’s punk this space, let’s punk this revolution, let’s queer this space, let’s queer this revolution”, you establish certain references. These are just two examples. An ‘alternative revolution’ would also be a possibility. And it is all in line with a certain tradition.
Nora: Yes, but I also think that you can flip it around. Using the same example: why is the term “punk”‚ utilized by the SZ, even though it is probably not of interest in a historical sense? By emphasizing this term, the author is telling a different story, he is assigning a specific intention to you that might not be your intention at all.
Frauke: I used this sentence in order to explain how self-definition works. The Kunstpavillon is an artist run space, it is 70 years old and one-of-a-kind, and we don’t even know exactly how to define it ourselves. In an attempt to find out what our goal is and how we can collaborate, Anna Lena asked us the question “Okay, are you actually ‘punk’?”. And we answered “Well, maybe a little bit, but we would probably use the word ‘brash’ or…” and then we started collecting terms we would use to define ourselves. And what the SZ took from this is that we are “punk”.
Nora: Exactly. This way, the author of the article locates you ‘outside of’ and in doing this, an entire structure can be recognized.
Frauke: Yes, thinking within certain categories is always an attempt to make a space that does not fit into a standardized organizational structure of an institution comprehensible.
Nora: And so the idea of the small fence comes into play again.
Anna: There is always one difficulty – when is it about visibility or localizing designations in order to produce visibility and when is it better to go without a designation in order to allow something completely different to take place?
 The ‘playground‘ is Anna Konjetzky‘s studio, a space for physical thinking, choreographic sketches and artistic research on the grounds of the Kreativquartier Dachauer Straße.
 FLORIDA Lothringer 13 is an art space of the city of Munich. FLORIDA’S base is located in the back building on Lothringer Straße 13 and houses a library of de-privatized book collections, an archive for the (counter-)public, a recording studio and the editorial office of “Magazine Florida”, which was first published in 2014. In addition, FLORIDA enables employment promotion and residencies. FLORIDA stands for artistic production in collectives and collaborations: “Discussing, screening, reading, eating, training, caring, struggling, improvising, practicing and manifesting artistically”. https://www.lothringer13florida.org/info/