ďThe Utopia Station is a way-station. As a conceptual structure it is flexible; the particular Station planned for the Venice Biennale is physical too. It will rise as a set of contributions by more than sixty artists and architects, writers and performers, the ensemble being coordinated into a flexible plan by Rirkrit Tiravanija and Liam Gillick. It has been important to all concerned that the plan not present itself as a finished picture. Let us therefore conjure up the Station by means of a few figures. It begins with a long low platform, part dance-floor, part stage, part quai. Along one side of this platform is a row of large circular benches sit, so that you can watch the movement on the platform or silently turn your back or treat the circle as a generous conversation pit. Each seats ten people. The circular benches are portable; as an option one could line them up like a row of big wheels. Along the other side of the platform a long wall with many doors rises up. Some of the doors take you to the other side of the wall. Some open into small rooms in which you will see installations and projections. The wall wraps around the rooms and binds the ensemble into a long irregular structure. Over it floats a roof suspended on cables from the ceiling of the cavernous room in the old warehouse at the far end of the Arsenale where the Station sits. Outside the warehouse lies a rough garden.
The Station itself will be filled with objects, part-objects, paintings, images, screens. Around them a variety of benches, tables and small structures take their place. It will be possible to bathe in the Station and powder oneís nose. The Station in other words becomes a place to stop, to contemplate, to listen and see, to rest and refresh, to talk and exchange.Ē During the ďExit and VoiceĒ Radio Workshop in the TAT in Frankfurt we started an "utopian conversation". Participants in the Radioshow were:
Felicia Herrschaft: What are you doing in Sociology in Chicago?
Avery Gordon: Normally I am in California, thatís where I work. I am in Paris this year doing research. I am writing a book about Utopian Consciousness, which is I think why I am here at the Utopian Station with these folks to talk a little bit about that.
Felicia Herrschaft:We talked about the Auschwitz Process exhibition here in Frankfurt and my question to Erno Vroonen was: is there a connection between this kind of Utopia Station and how is it related to í68? How is it possible now to talk about utopia consciousness in relation to a utopian station and how is the Auschwitz- Process related to art concepts? The concept of modernity changed after Auschwitz. The question is how would you mention art in this context?
Avery Gordon: I think you should talk to Hans-Ulrich more directly. He should answer the question about the Utopia Station itself, because I am a guest really of the Utopia Station. But the question you have asked about the concept of utopia, I can speak to that a little bit. One of the things that Iíve been working on and writing about is less about Utopia as a place: a no place, the good nowhere, the future place that we have this idea of it in mostly in the West. But really trying to redefine the meaning of the term when we look at a whole set of different kinds of political activities and political consciousness, for example the anti-slavery movement that started many, many centuries ago, but that continues today in different ways. There are a set of, in fact the most important in many ways; radical social movements and profound social movements have never been taken to be examples of utopian consciousness or utopian practice. We think of utopia as a literary phenomena or something that is really imaginary. But the people who make social change are in many ways Utopians that is to say that they believe and act for the better world that they want in the present. So that is the work that I have been doing. This 1968 is not that important really quite frankly. Itís one date among many. You could ask the question of how about the question after 1769Ö
Felicia Herrschaft: Yesterday he was saying that í68 showed the limits of state power. If you think about Germany why was it a problem to have these limits? We had these limits because of fascism.The question is if utopian consciousness can be related to an uocoming new. Karl Mannheim wrote about that in "Ideology and Utopie".
Avery Gordon: I donít agree with Immanuel Wallerstein (Ö) with his historical schema that he presented yesterday. Because I think that 1968 is important but itís not particularly that important from other parts of the world, from other groups of people, itís not the most important thing. And there are other kinds of fascism. The whole point of being an Utopian is that you are going to believe that fascism or authoritarianism is not inevitable and not how it has to be. This notion is very ancient and it is very old and it will have a future. So things change that make us have different kinds of political movements. But that general impulse, I think, is very old.
Felicia Herrschaft: And you as a sociologist do you have a special perspective on how curators make something new?
Avery Gordon: creators or curators?
Felicia Herrschaft: curators or creatorsÖif they work on utopia?
Avery Gordon: I think curators, well, Daniel Birnbaum was just talking about the passive curator who says "yes" and doesnít say "no". But who is a facilitator for projects. I mean curators are, like in a way they are like teachers, they are like organizers, they help to make things happen. I donít know, Hans you are a curator.
Hans-Ulrich Obrist: Yes, I actually have to go back in a few seconds, back to the space, we are the organizers of this event. I just wanted to introduce Anton Vidokle who arrived, one of the participating artists. To answer maybe very briefly to this question about the curating. I very much agree with Daniel Birnbaum. Iíve always used his idea of the curator as the catalyst or facilitator or a tricker. Obviously a catalyst has to be able to disappear and itís just a catalyst of processes. I think one thing which is very important is that we havenít spoken about very much so far in the utopia station conference here actually here in Frankfurt is this link to urbanism. I mean a lot of this is very much inspired by practices of urbanists such as Johann Friedman Cedric Price, who in the sort of early Ď60ís started to question this idea of the master plan and started to say we should look, I mean if you look at cities and their planning and we should start to look at notions of self organization and we should look at notions of auto-organization and so on. In a strange way these ideas have never really been entered in a certain way the curatorial discussion. Which until quite recently has been a discussion about control, about a list of artists which is drafted, about an exhibition draft, which is done and then somehow executed. And we thought with exhibitions like Utopia Station, or cities on the move or laboratorium that it can be very interesting to sort of take these models, Cedric Price the non-plan, self-organization, and Jona Friedman, his idea of many, many autonomous elements which are linked through bridges in a way, itís like cells. Autonomous cells where actually you create bridges, pedestrian bridges as one could say as Felix Vernon used to say, itís another kind of definition of curating. Sort of you know, make pedestrian bridges for the different audiences. And I think one of the things which is interesting in all these urbanistic models in a certain way of Cedric Price or Jona Friedman, to which extent they resonate now and that was obviously, I think, one of the most important point of discussion of these two days here in Frankfurt through Averys presence, through Imanuel Wallersteins presence, through the presence of artists and photographers who all visited actually the World Social Forum in Mumbai and previously in Porto Alegre has been this idea to which extent there is a really interesting parallel structure going on between Utopia Station with all of these sort of temporary autonomous zones to use this term of Hakim Bey and in a way a similar thing happening in Porto Alegre and Mumbai and thatís why here, I mean I would say one of the central discussion was our plan now is the next step to actually go with Utopia Station to Porto Alegre next year and thatís one of the many links somehow to Avery and her work which has very been focused on the World Social Forum the activity Avery had in the first Porto Alegre events. But now I would think I would like actually lead this to Anton Vidokle who has very interesting notions of self-organization, urbanism and just on this wonderful project on Mexico.
Felicia Herrschaft: Only one question - why is it necessarily, a necessary thing for art, or Utopia Stations to be connected to new social movements? Is there a link between the Utopia Station in Venice and new social movements? Must there a connection? Is there a need for it?
HUO:: Yes, we donít start really from an a priori. It has all to do with conversations and these conversations always start with conversations with artists and decidedly through-out the generation if itís Leon Golub or Nancy Spero who we mentioned before who actually introduced us to Avery Gordons work, and Leon Golub is actually illustrating the new book of Avery, maybe we can talk about this a little bit later. Through to, you know, a much generation of artists this project is always based on an infinite conversation with artists. Out of this conversation grew this sort desire and necessity to redefine a sort of social contract of the arts now and that led to this project where actually utopia is not the theme show about utopia on utopia, utopia in this sense is all a trigger, itís an engine. Yes, I would like to introduce AntonVidokle and tell us about his very exciting projects.
Felicia Herrschaft: . Itís a conversation, Ö yes thank you very much.
HUO: Thank you.
Anton Vidokle: Yes, but also to answer your question a little bit more. You know things do not exist in a vacuum. I mean itís not really possible to maintain some kind of autonomous area for art practice.You know outside of events that unfold in the world, outside of new social movements so you know while it is not a necessity itís a condition you know.
Felicia Herrschaft:: itís a condition? Yes.
Felicia Herrschaft: How would you describe this kind of condition? Maybe an invitation toÖ?
Anton Vidokle: Itís not a new condition, itís a constant condition that art does not evolve or art does not develop itís ideas outside of a larger social sphere, you know, and a larger field of involvement which and part of is moved byÖperhaps.
Avery Gordon: I mean another way to say it is I think just that the artists, like the sociologists, the secretary, I mean any person has always to confront the world around them.
Anton Vidokle: Exactly.
Avery Gordon: And so you are always facing a moral choice about how you confront that world. For some of us it is more direct in our actual work whether in my case you are teaching and writing. You should say something about the projects you are actually doing very different than the old utopian architecture of the priestly city on the hill. Right? Very different. But we all face this choice. And so in that sense you know, you decide where I am sending my children to school or am I not. What are they reading is that ok, is that history, history that I am going to accept that they learn. Do I teach them something different? Do I vote for this person, that person? I mean all these questions about in some sense the moral choices of the society around us, everyone has to face them, so artists too. How to do this?
Anton Vidokle: Yes absolutely, life is kind of a permanent interdisciplinary condition where you are basically a one a one man band where you have to deal with all aspects of life you know.
Avery Gordon: You donít see people watching or experiencing anything.
Anton Vidokle: Right, life goes on, exactly.
Avery Gordon: But there is a sense in which you can imagine yourself just kind of standing out there and going with the flow of that sense of time and change. And I think that as someone who comes out, I mean I come from a long history of doing political activism and doing social science and you know all of that, ok, soÖ
Felicia Herrschaft: and you worked on radicalism.
Avery Gordon: You know I have a lot of time in meetings and people who want the facts and the real issues and you have to get down to brass tacks and all of this and, and there is I think a way in which the process by which individuals change and come to find ways of living that are better, are not like that. We are not rationalistic creatures like that. And so our engagement with these artistic processes whether we are making them, or watching them or participating in some way in that way is good for us politically. It frees us to some other way. Thatís good and that doesnít change you know, the thing that you got to vote at some point and you got to build the roads and all of that.
Erno Vroonen: Itís exactly, thatís exactly in that way that of although the installation of Tanya Bruguera functions inside of the show. Responsibility for faith is the title and she works with these two items with responsibility and faith and people get the possibility to think about these items trough her installation which naturally is in virtually completely different one to the other. But itís simply given the opportunity to interact on these items in a very specific way. Thatís what sheís doing. And she uses documentary material to realize this so the documentary material gives this freedom to act and to have another approach to such kind of ideas like responsibility and faith. That way you see in which you were explaining I thought was very exactly that.
Avery Gordon: Yeah. I mean I have written about this idea of fate because I am very interested in, to some extent, the agency of people to be in a fact divine. You know to assume the right of divinity and not to be always the objects of some greater superior powers making, thatís to me what it means to be an utopian. That you are actually the creators of your, of the world not that it belongs to someone else to do that. Which is very much, I think related to ideas of fate and also faith perhaps in a certain way.
Felicia Herrschaft: But, one moment, because I think this should be interesting in having a contrast to Erno Vroonen who curated the Auschwitz Process Exhibiton to the participants from the Utopia Station, because there are really some, a kind of negative utopian perspectives, because of the experience of Auschwitz?
Avery Gordon: Can I just say one thing? Which is that, the only reason that you need an utopian standpoint is because things are horrible and terrible and despicable and cruel, and the negative positiveÖ
Felicia Herrschaft: and thatís why I think Raqs-work is really interesting, because of their work with asylum seekers and they call it Ďwherehouseí thatís maybe interesting for you?
Shudda, Raqs: I mean, itís interesting to connect the ideas of a utopia or some other place toÖthe core of what we are trying to work with and grapple with in the Ďwherehouseí project where we are basically trying to invite those who would be made illegal or rendered illegal by state structures initially in Europe and possibly the project will expand elsewhere. To construct memories of the places that they have left behind which are in some senses unreachable places because if you are in a political exile you have very good reasons to leave and you probably have reasons not to be able to go back. Itís in a sense, in some senses itís the mirror of utopia, it is what one leaves behind rather than what one goes towards. And I think for me personally, the idea of utopian and itís interesting to connect it to the notions of faith that you were talking about, it is interesting only if itís like a persistent reminder, something that you look at everyday. I am quite taken by the idea, that for a materialist like myself, a philosophical materialist, someone who is committed to a materialist position in philosophy, I still find it necessary to inaugurate each day a question that sometimes gets asked better within concerns that are properly called spiritual. I think, there are always answered unsatisfactorily in that context, but they get asked. And I want to ask, I want to know how I can as a materialist ask a question about the relationship, itís almost an eschatological question, itís almost a question about what is the end of the time of oneís life, you know. What is the end, in the sense, not as a termination but purpose, purpose in termination in that sense, why continue. Why do you wake up in the morning? Why do you do things? And we have been playing around, Monika Narula, Jeebesh and I in Raqs, with this idea of utopia as being lands of milk and honey, which is why we spoke yesterday in the text about somewhere you go to procure provisions for living and if you do not have that provisions for living, of things that make living worthwhile or necessary, then you donít really have a reason to get up in the morning. You donít really have a reason to awaken yourself from any kind of sleep and thatís why for me, I am a person who could never pray because I have nothing to pray to, but I think a daily reminder of why continue without an answer is sometimes a necessity. And when I connect that back to the Ďwherehouseí project, those that take the risk to leave their lives, the material structure of their lives are taking a radical decision to continue because despite circumstances being such that they can not continue they have to locate elsewhere in order to continue in order to be who you are. For me it is very simple, if you are an Iranian exile in Frankfurt, one of the reasons you are who you are if you are a woman is because you donít want to cover your head. Thatís an important reason, it maybe a very small reason but it is an important reason. If you have to go back to Iran under present circumstances, you would have to cover your head. Itís possible that there will be exiles in Germany from France, who come precisely for the reason that they want to cover their heads. This is the opposite reason, but still the reasons in and of themselves are not as important in the fact that they are important to the people who believe in them.
Avery Gordon: I mean, in some ways faith you donít need to pray to anyone. Faith is just that continuity without certainty. I mean I was talking early today about Utopianism being about, being unable to, refusing to be subject to servitude, being or becoming unavailable for servitude and Molly had said, I heard you say ďcertitudeĒ and I said, these are not the same which I donít think they are but I do think that the continuity without ďcertitudeĒ which is all, we donít have it of course. Thatís all faith is. You all have a wonderful formulation that I really like, which is that, utopian, utopia is a ďhearing aidĒ, which I like, because I think of the utopian as opposed to the place as a kind of standpoint for living in now. We donít ever live in the future, we only live now. And this notion that it is, the manifesto, or the piece that you read yesterday was very beautiful about listening, since we are on the radio too, about the hermeneutics of listening and utopia as a hearing aid, this is their idea. Itís very nice I think.
Felicia Herrschaft: Yes this philosophical notion about the question on ďwhat is a good lifeĒ is always connected to utopia and this kind of thinking on the good or better life. The question here is really if this hope that you will give maybe in connection to the freedom of art, is there hope that you can give, if you work together with asylum seekers and their remembrance and their kind of having a memory on their Ö
Shudda, Raqs: Well my views on art or on the road to art are cautionary towards modesty. We had a discussion about this early thatís because, I am very, when people for instance call us artists, I always look over my shoulder, I think that they are talking about someone else. But I take art very seriously, I mean, the field of art is, I think, extremely exciting, in the sense that it allows people like us, I mean I would say that what you are doing in radio, what you are doing today is art practice. And why should it not be considered art practice? Are you an artists?
Felicia Herrschaft: Sociologists?
Shudda, Raqs: I would hesitate, because I share solidarity about with you. I think solidarity of hesitation, but what we do when we create meaning, when we create ethics, I think it is extremely important. If the Ďwherehouseí project is able to raise a few questions in peopleís minds about the necessity of an ethic of hospitality, about how does one receive the presence of others; I think it will have gone a faith way. Itís not designed to do more than that.
Erno Vroonen: Thatís a lot, yeah. I would like to interact on that because also in this project of the Auschwitz Process we have this young Belgian artist, Els Dietvorst who has an association in Brussels which also is an association that deals with people on fugitive people that are coming from other countries without anything and she creates within this association like casting, theatre, film, so to give these people a sense of their own future, of a possibly utopia. Her association is in fact a transmitter of an utopian way of seeing a future for such kind of people who left everything behind and come without anything to this Brussels to the Belgian capital city and she works for this association for already for 6 years and she is really doing wonderful jobs and she will present within this Auschwitz Process exhibition her newest film on some prisoners, youngster prisoners in Belgium who are talking about guilt and not being guilty so to transport within the future also when you have this historical context, also to transport within these items a certain future for the people who visit the show. Such kinds of things are very important it is not only about this historical, letís say historical event, but also certain items within this historical event put into a possible future. And see what artists are doing with this as transporters, as mediators, itís in a little bit in the way that you are talkingÖ
Shudda, Raqs: no I think that is extremely interesting because I think that only by looking at the condition of the prisoner can those of us who are outside prisons examine ourselves. Only by looking at the person without papers can we begin to understand what having papers means. Not as an enabling thing necessarily but also how having papers restricts us, restricts our view of how we construct the world. I mean there is, not to romanticize it, but there is also a freedom of the exile. There is the freedom, there is the act that a person has taken, has a step that a person has taken to refuse to live under certain conditions. You see the choice for an exile, and I think this is very important for people to understand in Europe, the choice for an exile is suicide or exile. If you feel that your life is impossible to live under these conditions anymore, you can either refuse to be who you are, which is even if you continue on living is like a form of suicide. I think you refuse to be the person you want to be or you take steps to move.
Avery Gordon: It is certainly a form of what a man named Orlando Paterson called Ďsocial deathí.
Shudda, Raqs: Social death, yeah exactly.
Avery Gordon: And um, the real, I think, issue of concern for the people of today is the extent to which people who are already potentially suffering from social death either in their home countries or for example in the United States in their own communities or in the civil society that they live in, who then enter into, who are taken into prison where they suffer then, in a way, doubly from that. I mean social death was a concept that he used to describe the condition of the slave, and of the social negation not of the person in and of themselves, because they of course maintained that they were people. But the way in which the society treated the person as if they were dead but they are none the less living. You see, so when you begin to treat living, breathing human beings, who are quite taxed, whether it is the exile or the refugee, and then you treat them as if they are dead, this is a terrible form of social violence.
Shudda, Raqs: I mean I think the question is also for a city like Frankfurt and I think it is important to ask these questions. A city of 700,000 people. 10,000 deportations occur every year from Frankfurt airport. It is important for people in Frankfurt to consider for themselves, whether they are prepared to continue living in a society in which 10,000 deportations occur every year. I am asking the question the other way around. It is not only, we recognize the fact that an Iranian, or an Afghan, or an Indian, or an Iraqi or whatever, has to leave their homes and come here, has made a decision that they can not continue to live in those societies in as much as those societies continue to do certain things. People must ask the same question, the presence of the refugee or the exile in a city like Frankfurt must make the citizen of Frankfurt ask the same question about themselves.
Felicia Herrschaft: Yeah maybe there is really a need for a kind of a new political discourse in relation to what will going on when the Auschwitz Process exhibition will open because they had millions of deportations not only 10,000.
Avery Gordon: Incarceration, it is a very good context raising the legacies, the contemporary issues that emerge also around the question of deportation, imprisonment, forced labour and I mean many migrants are essentially in a condition of forced labour. I mean, you know, theyíre not just, they canít live for quote unquote for political reasons in the narrow sense but most of the worlds migrancy now is about following circuits, in many ways, of impossible labourÖwork camps.
Felicia Herrschaft: Now 60 years after Auschwitz, we have this kind of deportation situation, which we accept now, because we donít know it really or we donít want to recognize it, as we should?
Erno Vroonen: Itís put behind certain curtains where people are living because they are living very much in a certain form, in a material form and they only function within this, what you call, this material wellness and they donít want to see certain, or they donít want to even maybe hear certain things or read certain things. Itís more or less what you allow yourself and maybe that is also because thatís why I really think this exhibition is important because a lot of people say I would not like to go to this exhibition. They are still like avoiding this item to go there and having like a bridge towards a certain possible discussion within the presence and within the future, I think if people can start seeing this within the context of the art works that are presented and installations that are presented in the show which maybe give them the opportunity to think further beyond their fears to go, to pass this form with the material (Ö) the form of avoiding, I think that could that could be very important for this society because I think we still have, I think what I notice in Germany is a certain kind of avoiding of certain problems. I donít know how this in other countries but I think itís the same.
Felicia Herrschaft: I donít know what we experience
Avery Gordon: I come from a country where denial is the major national culture.
Erno Vroonen: Itís in every culture.
Felicia Herrschaft: But what I would like to know is what Hans Ulrich Obrist said is that conversation matters, that conversation matters in a way for this kind of definite talk with artists this could be a really interesting connection because what you said when we went to an asylum seeker apartment, you were talking on that this kind of conversation has to be started. It has to be; it has to be yeah coming up.
Shudda, Raqs: I think the work of artists is anyone working with images and texts you know. Letís look at the circulation of images in society. Letís take a simple thing like an identity card or a passport, which is an object that carries within it an image or data. It carries within it an image of a person and a life of a person, so in a sense it is a story, an image, a portrait, which is you know, what literature is all about. I mean you could say that the passport or identity card is a work of art that is produced by agencies that govern the existence of millions of people. If you look at the history of the passport, it is something that I have been quite preoccupied with. First there is this brash, a very beautiful and ironic statement in the FlŁchtlinggespršche, which says that it takes a lot more to produce a passport than it does to produce a human being. And, you know, I know this, it is much more difficult to establish your worth as a citizenship than for a man and woman to come together to create a child, for a child to be born. So birth and citizenship. Birth is easy but citizenship is difficult.
Felicia Herrschaft: Yeah and if you read Peter Weiss. ďDie ErmitlungenĒ about the process you can imagine how the SS organized to kill people.
Shudda, Raqs: But what I wanted to say is that the current form of the passport, itís current aesthetic, the particular size and shape of the portrait that must carry of a person, because this are very strictly, you know, because there has to be a certain distance, there has to be a certain colour, it canít be just any picture of a person you know. And early passports are very interesting to look at because people put just any picture of themselves and authorities said: ďno these pictures wonít doĒ. And the production of the earliest passports were of the passport photograph is something that actually was created due to the result of the huge production of refugees after the first world war. So you needed mechanisms of identification to deal what we take for granted is the badge of citizenship was actually created first, to govern refugees.
Avery Gordon: Well the pre-modern passport, which didnít have, photographs, pre-photographs, but they had something else which was the seal and words of introduction and approval from the king. And thatís essentially they were the pre-modern passports were documents of introduction and verification for people moving between war zones requiring if you like, the passport from the king and that legacy is very much in the modern passport too. That the sovereign authorizes you as an agent with their approval to move, within and beyond the walls of the kingdom and so now they have this you know, these more, they have the aesthetic that you are talking about but they were vouch safe documents initially, I mean they come directly from the right of the sovereign to determine who can move within borders.
Felicia Herrschaft: Maybe in India it is really problematic to get passports now?
Shudda, Raqs: I think it will be. After 9/11 it is not going to be easy for anyone to get passports anywhere to be honest, you know. I mean this is not true of India, it is as true of the United States, a credibility of citizenship has to be established through information about who you are as a person and the funny things is like citizenship is something like a credit history. If you have nothing going against you, thatís also ground for suspicion. Itís like if you have no credit, if you have never taken a loan.
Avery Gordon: Itís like you havenít spent any money.
Shudda, Raqs: If you have never taken a loan you will not get credit so you have to have a relationship with the law and you have a relationship with the law if you do something wrong. So people who have no traffic fines for instance are just as suspicious as people who have too many traffic fines. So citizenship is you know, is a fine piece of work.
Avery Gordon: I mean it is an interesting question if you think about the Palestinians for example. I mean people who really in many ways are stateless you know. The question of how a Palestinian travels is an interesting one, with what documents are they able to travel and in what places are not. I mean we havenít talked about the practicalities of any of this about going for example to Porto Alegre in Brazil. But the government of Brazil, two years ago established what they called a policy of reciprocity and it was initially directed towards the United States. Because the United States requires Brazilians, if they are interested in entering the United States, a visa that has to be applied for in person at the variety of US Embassies or Consulates and charges a very expensive fee; $100 to get a visa. So the government of Brazil said we will establish a policy of reciprocity and therefore they began a new policy requiring of any US citizens a visa that had to be applied for in person at the 2 Brazilian consulates in the United States, there are only two of them; one in New York and one in Los Angeles. So itís a laborious process and they charge a $100 for it and when you go to apply for your Brazilian visa you must leave your passport with the Brazilian consulate they donít give you the visa then, you have to leave it with your money and your photographs and everything else then they send it to you or you can go back and get it depending on how far you are. I think this is an interesting action on the part of a nation towards another nation, but there is also, there was also something slightly, for example when I went to apply for my visa, there was something slightly absurd in the whole process. There was a bunch of us and we had gone to get our visas to go to the World Social Forum and they know exactly why you want to go and they are asking you and you are telling them and they think it is really good that you are going. They put you through the paces of this anyway and you say OK I understand this and itís OK. But it nonetheless at some point itís, this is not an answer this reciprocity to the larger problems around mobility and citizenship and placement in the world today. And I think that these are very complicated questions that I would like to see people start to talk about more concretely in the future, about how we are really imagining the nature of governance in a context in which we have very good reason to both need nation states and the protections that they continue to offer but also they are not sufficient forms, thereís not one of them that I can think of that is democratic. They are not sufficient and for many people in the world they just donít function. So I think that this is a subject for which there is considerable work that a lot of people from lots of different, you know, different forms of the kind of research that they do need to begin to think about that. I think, like what will, if you, do you imagine that we will need a passport in 20 years? If so what would it look like?
Felicia Herrschaft: Good question. Maybe we should make a short break if IÖoh I can see there is Cerith Wyn Evans. Hello. Would you like to come by? Thank you very much.
Avery Gordon: It was nice to meet you.
Felicia Herrschaft: This ďghostly matters.Ē What do you mean by ďghostly mattersĒ?
Avery Gordon: It is a book about social violence and the haunting effects that it produces. It is about thinking about the power as the meeting of force and the individual meaning about how to understand the large-scale systems of power and the way they create ghosts. That is what the book is about.
Felicia Herrschaft: Would you like to sit and explain your?
Shudda, Raqs: Thank you and can I, can I exit? Having said my voice can I exit?
Felicia Herrschaft: Yeah. You said ÖCan?
Shudda, Raqs: Thank you very much for this.
Felicia Herrschaft: Cerith Wyn Evans, I saw only a little part of your film. Can you explain whatís your part in Utopia Station as an artist?
Cerith Wyn Evans: Well really itís a, itís partly intention, partly desire and partly coincidence actually to be here. But I think this is one of the great ways in which this forum functions. It should ideally be loose and flexible, because I think Utopia must be flexible at all costs in order to embrace the arena of contradictions where desire and reality live. So somewhere in between this negotiation in between these two notions is I think where I am very interested in taking this space, which I am very fortunate to be provided, by a group of people who have been generous and attentive enough to listen. I think we are in a very privileged position. And I think itís a, I feel a little responsible for recognizing and appreciating that actually. I mean the conversations that were happening earlier about immigration, migration, identity, itís a great expense in value that we are able to have these conversations that are so important so I think as artists, thinkers, readers, as cultural producers, we have to a certain extent some kind of obligation to value that space, to encourage that space. This is I think where Utopia Station is at itís most productive.
Felicia Herrschaft: Hans Ulrich Obrist said conversation matters in the way he is talking to artists, and what do you say how are curators really talking and having conversations with artists? What is really special with it?
Cerith Wyn Evans: There is a history in the in which people have wanted to reinvent this kind of notion of being the curator and we have gone through a very interesting talk that Daniel Birnbaum gave this evening about somehow
Felicia Herrschaft: To say yes and not no
Cerith Wyn Evans: Yes, and somehow to have a, somehow the notion of just enabling an artist to enter within this kind of social matrix and change the rules a little bit, is different from saying we want this painting and that painting, we only want the work from 1929 and not the one from 1931 because it is not as good etc. changes. So the rules have changed a little bit and thatís, many people I suppose have tried to reinvent that and look at that again. So this kind of return toÖI am a little nervous about the kind of positivitistic humanism, which invades notions of the utopic as a kind of revisiting of a kind of radical sheek from a certain moment. I am a little suspicious of that. You find that filtering through into pop or cultural forms in many many different ways and this kind of post-modern notion of revisiting the kind of radical space is I think one we should be a little bit suspicious of. But then at the same time I think of, you know George Bataille and John Cage or Cageís you know, how to make the world a better place, you will only make matters worse.
Felicia Herrschaft: Yeah. Yeah.
Erno Vroonen: Thatís also something maybe to also to come back to the exhibition because with Fritz Bauer who is the
Felicia Herrschaft: This is the exhibition on the Auschwitz Trial
Erno Vroonen: The one who was, letís say initiating this process was Fritz Bauer the attorney in law, and he naturally also had this kind of utopia about that Germany would see through this process their own past in another way and could, not in another way but letís say could think about what happened before in another and different way. So he had an utopistic vision on what he wanted the society to become. And this utopia gave him the force to make this process happening, because he really wanted something to change inside of the society and I think thatís important. In the end, because he saw also that he maybe have reached everything that he was visualizing and he was also a little bit in the that field letís say confronted with reality but the motor was still an utopian vision but the reality that comes afterwards should also be considered a very important point, if you have a utopia you have also a reality behind this utopia or created by the utopia.
Cerith Wyn Evans: Absolutely yes. I think in as much as it would be great to be a complete in and of oneís self, narcissism is kind of cul-de-sac. I think transitivity between bodies is what we are looking for.
Felicia Herrschaft: Yeah. You worked together with Derek Jarman?
Cerith Wyn Evans: I did many years ago yes. Derek was an enormously influential person in my life; very, very generous. I was an art student in London. I moved from rural Wales to London in 1976, so many years ago now. And a, somehow there was a kind of revolution happening in my life and so right into the center of the West End of London and I think the second day that I got there I met Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols in the pub next door. So this was like coming in on a very high level actually. You know this was pretty exciting. And Derek lived over the road. He had an apartment Phoenix House, on Charing Cross Road and we met in a cake shop around the corner in a French patisserie called Patisserie Valerie. And for some reason maybe he was a little bit hung over, he couldnít remember the name of Louise Brooks and he said whatís the name of this actress who took part in Pandoraís Box? And I recognized who he was but I couldnít help myself from just replying to his question and so that was the answer and so thatís how we met. It was over Pandoraís Box and Louise Brooks.
Felicia Herrschaft: OK and his last film the Blue
Cerith Wyn Evans: The Blue One
Felicia Herrschaft: Itís on the transitivity (Ö)
Cerith Wyn Evans:I suppose it is, yes. We were never, we never saw eye to eye in terms of the kind work that he made and I worked with him for quite a long time. He is an incredibly generous, very supportive, but itís a different thing. Derek wanted other things than I wanted in a sense. We never had a physical relationship in anyway but we had an incredibly intimate relationship over the kind of way in which we would share our work. And that was really something because he would say ok dear, now you are going to edit this one. Or you are going to film the next one, or you are going to do the sound on the next one. It was really a pretty great education actually, so he was wonderful. We kind of I wasnít so close to him by the time he died because I was actually terrified of the fact that he would actually leave and I wasnít strong enough at the time in order to be there for him but thatís how it goes. But he made some great things. His Super-8 movies, the movies that he made when he was a kind of gay hippie were are just the best actually. They are really great. These people kind of dressing up and taking their clothes off and shining mirrors at the cameras and this stuff. When itís really a little bit more playful for me it was better than the kind of the position he would take, because he was absolutely vilified by the British culture industry also. So you know he was also in the corner and he was also, that must have been a horrible place to be. You know really tabloid newspaper shock horror scandal stuff and this is what way before the whole kind of disgusting YBA, young British artist thing was happening. Derek was really a kind of maverick at a certain time when, there wernít structures of acceptance about that kind of, that looseness, that honesty actually.
Felicia Herrschaft: Maybe now the last minutes it would be great if Molly after this kind of effort, after these 3 days or 4 days of this Utopia Station here in Frankfurt - could you say maybe what these results are for you as a curator - cause you had now some different perspectives on what the Utopia Station can be and the way as Daniel Birnbaum says, yes to everything maybe or in the way the conversation matters and so on. What is your interest in the utopia notion?
Molly Nesbit: Well, I wouldnít exactly call myself a curator. I think by now we each, I think it is interesting because technically we are defined as curators, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and me. But I think we are more organizers, you know, like the grass roots organizer is an organizer. And we try to create a structure or an occasion for people to meet each other, bring something to the occasion or the station which is what we call these things. Rirkrit would say, we bring something and take something away. And that kind of exchange becomes very interesting whether it happens you know in words or images or in a more transient way such as we just had at the TAT. Or whether it happens, you know, in a sustained space as it did in Venice as it will in Naples and so on and so on. Itís a kind of experiment in a complex exchange which I think everybody finds, who gets deeply involved in it, in any ways, and who actually exchanges there as opposed to who just goes and looks on, you know? People find it very interesting because the exchanges are very surprising and so for instance we just finished two days at the TAT, with a kind of, well a kind of exchange a kind of collaboration, a kind of duet by Thomas Bayrle and Tomas Saraceno in which we ended really with our heads in the clouds. Because Thomas showed his airport city project and the balloon launching and all of us had a human exchange that was taking place off the ground in the space that is on the air side of the airport a kind of international zone right where another world I guess is already possible but we wouldnít call it utopia quite yet it is a sort of unchartered undefined zone that kind of falls out of state legal systems into a kind of international air space, I guess. We came from you know documentary or what you would called basically documentary photographs of the World Social Forum in Mumbai yesterday that was kind of our point of departure to this. You know these balloons being launched, a big black balloon being launched in Argentina and as a trajectory it was pretty fascinating but itís hard to summarize such a thing, because there are many, many points on the way. I mean Ceryth was actually dropping the points of others I guess you should speak to this maybe rather than me, but a little Merleau Ponty a little William Boroughs, right, a little more
Felicia Herrschaft: And maybe you are suspicious, having a positivistic humanistic view on utopia and this would be a question because have here Erno Vroonen who is the curator of the Auschwitz Trial here in Frankfurt. So we have maybe two different positions this is what I am interested in what kind of contrast are contrasts interesting.
Erno Vroonen: Maybe you should explain it a little bit more because maybe it is too abstract I suppose.
Molly Nesbit: Actually I could say though without even hearing of the contrast right, or the opposition that the answer would have to be ďyes and chessĒ, which is Marcel Duchampís sort of famous reply to everything. Because I donít know when we get into the zone of the social project for the arts if you have got a really open experiment going which is what I hope the Utopia Station is, that it is very productive to get into the yes and no of it. Itís because I think we are at a place right now with it that itís more important to try to do something with whomever you can find to work with and that the, it is a bit like doing the peace marches. There is a kind of movement there, itís disorderly, it comes from different places, the motives are very mixed, you could call it unified in some ways but not in all ways. And, but the important thing really is that there is something moving frankly, you know.
Erno Vroonen: That is exactly what the exhibition wants to do with the contemporary artists, because you have such a heavy, letís say, historical team. And you try to bring something in that gives a movement towards something without really knowing to define what this something can be. But there is something happening like letís say, a positive or whatever, but a way that goes further than that what is there. So there is a kind of interchange of ideas creating new platforms, creating maybe a platform for totally other public because totally other public is coming there and are confronted with art pieces and theyíre bring maybe this kind of people that would normally never come into this art situation or whatever situation of communication create for them platforms to communicate on something which really has a historical meaning that maybe is very difficult to communicate for certain people. So I think that is what artists within the show, the artists that I selected from different countries with different approaches with other media I would like to happen that the public finds a new way or another way, not even a new way or another way to communicate about certain kind of items. But I cannot define, itís a definition of the spectator, itís a definition of the ones, the people who really want to go for something like that. And I think thatís important.
Molly Nesbit: Right, well everybody has a past. Everybody speaks some language already. And the question of communication often involves simple things like translation but I think also when you get into the international air space that itís, how should we say? It gets very complicated in terms of understanding things exactly. And perhaps the point is not to understand things exactly. And to let there be some kind of slippage
Erno Vroonen: exactly.
Molly Nesbit: between the old words and the new words. The other things that I would say to all this is that there is, I guess I should parenthetically say that I am a teacher. I have realized over the years of teaching that one of the most difficult things to do is to teach somebody something that they donít know already. And to get them to try to grasp the thing that they donít quite understand yet. And all knowledge really takes place in that zone where you go to the thing you donít know. And you donít really know why and this whole business of trying to stop on the way to utopia and exchange has a lot to do with looking at the black hole beside you or the black hole inside your head and jumping in. Itís like, I hate to go here but I have to, itís like the black balloon being launched in Argentina all right. It doesnít exactly fly for very long. It kind of doesnít get off the ground. But there is something in it, right. Something there.
Felicia Herrschaft:: Yeah that is really a good ending. Thank you very much for the talk.