Spectors of Summer
Summer is long gone but blog publishing duties don’t decay, so traveling back there with you for a quick post before returning to winter compost and creative thinking mode.
A bright summer morning in July. I take an early train from Kassel (visiting documenta) to Berlin to gather with a group of women at Martin Gropius Bau to learn about feminist collective practices with the artists Ayumi Paul and Alex Martinis Roe. Ayumi is this year’s artist in residence at Martin Gropius Bau and invited Alex who has done the remarkable project ‘To Become Two’ in which she developed a genealogy of feminist political practices in Europe and Australia from the seventies until today.
Arriving just on time, I am joining a circle of women, sipping fresh rosemary tea that Ayumi is passing around and noticing the pleasant smell of tatami mats that are covering the wooden floor. The room almost feels like a home to me and is charged with all the aesthetic experiences that it holds space for – I have been there a few times, recently for some sessions as part of Ayumi’s yearlong singing project. I am trying to dive into my sensory memory, to excavate what has been meaningful for me during this day. The singing together, introducing us to each other by telling what we have recently overcome, breathing together, sharing a beautiful lunch in the summer sun and getting to know each other, making little gifts for each other with a message from the future after having shared with a partner what our goals, dreams, ambitions, desires are for the near future, granting each other the authority to present something to the group that reflects our individual abilities and strengths, singing together again, drinking a beer together after the workshop, not wanting to part from each other after a day of nourishing connections with beautiful strangers.
I was especially intrigued by the practice of authority and the impressive diversity of contributions we had in our group. Instead of giving you the theoretical roots of the practice, I think it is inspiring to read the instructions as developed by Alex Martinis Roe and Lea von Wintzingerode, that were published in the book To Become Two. Propositions for Feminist Collective Practice.
- Form partners. It can be interesting to pair up with the person you know the least in the group.
- Observe each other for a period of time while undertaking other activities. One day may be sufficient, but it could also be much longer.
- Then, privately make an invitation to your partner to contribute something to the group. This invitation is based on your observations of her habits, competences, and desires. Ask yourself, for example, how you can get her to contribute something of her knowledge, but in a way that overcomes her habits that tend to block her desire. What or how can you ask her that will contribute to your own knowledge?
- Each take some time to formulate a response (in any format) of no more than one minute in duration.
- When everyone has prepared their responses, gather together. One partner states her invitation to the other in front of the group and then her partner gives her response. Spontaneously, in response to what has just happened, partners make their invitations and give their responses in turn. (p.251.252)
In our group I was asked by my partner to share something that gives a glimpse into my research around art and democracy and given the proximity to the collective practice of singing together during that day, in the very short time I had, these few lines in manifesto-style came on the page. I shared them with the group and felt like sharing them with you as well.
In the simultaneous singing expression of our individual voices, we can experience our human ability to form a peaceful and cooperative culture. On this small scale, we experience the complexity of society trough the universality of our voices. In the ability to truly listen to others, and to speak/sing with your own voice lies potential to overcome the antagonism that rules the public sphere. Using your voice beyond casting a vote feeds the intelligence of the many voices. The intelligence of the many voices needs no representation.
I recommend Alex Martinis Roe publication To Become Two. Propositions for Feminist Collective Practicepublished by Archive Books (London, 2018). I’m also sharing with you a video in which violinist and composer Ayumi Paul talks about her artistic practice, that gravitates around many forms of listening, water as a carrier medium of music, stitching rhythmical scores and collective improvised singing.