ESR 4 Blog August 2021: Jenny Fradranski

Month of pleasures

It’s already end of August and I am longing for a magic spell to slow down time. August is the perfect month for practicing doing nothing or to read about it in Jenny Odell’s „How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention the Economy“ and to build a relationship with the birds outside of our windows instead of our multiple screens. But that requires time, since next to doing nothing there is so much else to do in our accelerating modern lives. For the past week I have been on vacation in nature reading „Losing Eden – Why Our Minds Need the Wild“ by Lucy Jones realizing how much I, but actually all of us, need the closeness to trees, the sea, the wild meadows, and the mountains to be psychologically and physically sane. Being in nature is a great way of practicing nothing. Jones writes that there are two ways of attention, one is the focused attention when we are trying to read and do something specific and the other one is the more gentle attention that is caught by the sound of the sea, a singing bird or the colors of the mountains. The balance of these two modes of attentions are crucial to restoring our energy – an insight that will help me to take my eyes off my screen more often.

Research-wise this also has been going on:

For my first field work beginning of August I took part in a workshop by Radikale Töchter, a spin off from Zentrum für politische Schönheit. Radikale Töchter is a non-profit run by artists that specializes in giving workshops about art interventions around political issues mostly in the Eastern states of Germany where political apathy is widespread next to a dominance of right-extremist networks. The 2-day workshop took place in Wurzen close to Leipzig and was hosted by the Netzwerk für demokratische Kultur e.V.. We were a group of around 10 people of different ages. The first day was filled with getting to know each other, learning about different art interventions and how they had an impact in the public, but also with identifying the political issues that are disturbing us. The next day we split into two groups, one developed an art intervention on the topic of the sexualization of the female body (a machine that transforms the shape, color, gender and size of barbies producing unique barbies and thereby destroying the stereotypical one) and the other group, developed an art intervention on the topic of making people with migration background visible in Wurzen (a speaking stone that would lead passing people to the stories of migrants that are shown on big displays).

For the development of our ideas we used a tool box developed by Radikale Töchter that included 9 steps or methods which I think is an excellent, easy accessible, but still challenging, way to come up with political art interventions. It showed me, and I think the other participants too, that it is not only fun to come up with crazy ideas but that it is also possible to make them happen.

The atmosphere in Wurzen was on the one hand very peaceful and quiet, since it is a small town with not much going on. The stories of the workshop participants and the employees at the Netzwerk für demokratische Kultur e.V. added another layer though, one of fear and exclusion. They told us that they have witnessed a hostile atmosphere for people with migration background due to the strong presence of right-wing and extremist groups. Also young people who are not taking on heteronormative identities and who have a leftist political orientation are well aware of when and where not to walk alone through the town and are leaving Wurzen – eventually moving to Leipzig which is a much more open-minded place.

The workshop was a politicizing experience, by coming together as a group and entering into dialogue about the local and more global political issues that we struggle with and it was an empowering experience by learning an approach to channel our energies and engage politically in the public sphere.

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