AN INFINITE EXPERIMENTAL LABORATORY
Last night, after a day full of discussions with my students at the Institute for Popular Music, I had almost fallen asleep when in this strange interphase of states one last memory sequence stole into my mind. I was suddenly in the year 1988 at a street corner in Washington, D.C. Back then on my first trip through the US one block away from the White House I accidentally met a guy whom I had known from hardcore and punk rock shows in Stuttgart. He was grimly peering towards that house where Ronald Reagan lived back then and was listening, suitable for the moment and his position, to Minor Threat and other Dischord bands (Reagan Youth would have been even more fitting). Admittedly a very introverted kind of protest of the circumstances – but, as it is still resonating in my 29 years later, nonetheless a lasting one.
I don’t really have draw on Freud to know why this memory is coming up right now. Nothing has been more present in our everyday life in the last days than the political ambient noise. Ever since Brexit and Trump’s election even those who have always seen their cultural engagement as separate from something like every day politics feel compelled to position themselves.
Which brings us to the nucleus of the discussions that characterized my last couple of days in Berlin at the, as always, very inspiring CTM Festival. As much as it is understandable and desirable that so many people are thinking about getting actively involved in political parties and political projects, and often decide to take active action, as much it has to be made aware of how much every day cultural work is already part of the answer to the problems of our time that are becoming ever more established.
This shouldn’t been understood in the sense of self-soothing. No, of course nothing is okay, after all the noose of the neoliberal greed and the ever more blatant displays of primeval racist urges is tightening more and more. It should rather be seen as a boost of motivation. Because the more obvious it gets that all of us have become personae non gratae of those who at the moment (and hopefully just for a short time) usurped the democratic majority of voters. We are that just because we live lives that represent everything that those people negate: cultural openness, interest in and compassion for our fellow human beings and a high grade of willingness to get involved in actions, projects or even jobs without economically promising conditions.
It might not seem like it to many, but these are powerful arguments that many of those people, who at the moment – for whatever reason – got into the fatal (political) coalition with the absurd and evil, cannot elude from in the long run and that (hopefully) will be able to convince them to question their positions.
A festival as CTM is nothing else than an infinite experimental laboratory for a world without citizenship and small-minded perspectives. It brings together artists and visitors from all over the world without making aware these manyfold origins in the steady flow of shows, panels, DJ sets and talks – with exception of the focus on Mexico this year (the exhibition “Critical Constellations of the Audio-Machine in Mexico” at Bethanien, still open till 19 March, is very recommendable).
If you are doing just that, like me here in the review, so you will surprisingly notice who you got to know and met again during these days and how you all were able to talk in one tongue to each other. For example the Finish festival booker Lauri Soini with his predilection for the German crime show “Ein Fall für Zwei” and the Four Hills Tournament who week after week is working on the deconstruction of boundaries between the sexes with the orientation of his booking. Or the gang of the Romanian magazine The Attic with whom I talked about the anti corruption demonstrations in Bucharest in the coldest backstage room of all times. Or the off-culture creators from Berlin whom discussed with one another about their vision for the local cultural sector with a pleasant diversity of positions. And last but not least the Franco-Canadian musician Marie Davidson who has been enduring the absurdities of a regional (language) conflict since her childhood.
And all the moments apart from CTM as well: Christiane Rösinger’s Flittchenbar at Südblock, stimulating as always; the exhibition from the Polish artist Anna Krenz at Schaufenstergalarie, with which she is demonstrating against the ostracizing politics of the current Polish government; my conversation with Jason Williamson who got excluded from the Labour Party for Twitter obscenities and strange intra-party processes; a visit at Dirk Dresselhaus’ (aka Schneider TM) studio to talk to him and Max Müller about recording of the new album by Mutter; as well as Omer Fast’s exhibition at Martin-Gropius-Bau, who with his movies let’s the political reach people’s everyday life in the most painful way.
The cultural versatility and openness is our greatest strength. We should live it even more intense.
(Translation by Denise Oemcke)