Chto delat?questionnaire When artists struggle together

  1. What are the mostexciting and powerful examples of collective organisation in art?
  2. Is there any perspective for artists, as the most precarious producers, to build new sustainable organisations that would oppose the profit-driven logic of the market and the economization of cultural production?
  3. How is the struggle for artists related to general issues of social and political struggle? How can they be made to connect with each other?
  4. What kind of political organization do cultural workers need today? Trade unions? Soviets? Art movements? Networks? Is it time to think about something radically different from all that we have known before?
  5. To put it more simply, what is that artists can and must do together now?

1.The most exciting collective organisation I know is the publix theatre caravan

(about which Gerald Raunig is writing in his book “art and revolution” ) or maybe I should write it was the publix theatre caravan, because the last performance of the theatre group has been shown in 2005 – it was a play about the things that happened in Genova 2001 at the G8 summit, where some of the caravan participants had been imprisoned. I joined the group from 2003 (when we went to a noborder camp in Timisvoara with a noborder lab and with the wonderful publix theatre bus) to 2005, when we created the play I mentioned above out of interviews with people who have been in Genova and showed it in Düsseldorf at the fft (forum freies theater) and in Vienna at the ekh (Ernst-Kirchweger-Haus, an autonomous space, sqatted house in the 80s) and the fluc (a bar in Vienna at Praterstern, which have had a beautiful performance stage at that time).

If you ask me about the most powerful examples of collective organisation, I first have to think about: what does that mean – powerful? Do you ask about the effects of the collective organisation for the members of the organisation? Or do you address the political power which results from collective acting? Or do you ask for the visibility in media?

2. To your second question I would like to send you a few sentences about sustainability which I just read in the current issue of an austrian/german literature magazine called perspektive, a group of writers who have been publishing this magazine now already for 35 years. It´ s my favourite literature magazine and I´ m in a loose contact with one of the editors, who is sending me some copies of each number since 1998 to put into the hands of friends or people I might think they could like it or could need it. Well, it´ s always fine to get some new perspectives! https://www.perspektive.atAnd I also want to mention them here because “gruppe p.”, as they call themselves, have been working on the theme of avantgarde for many years. But here is the cite which stands on top of the editorial:

“Character particularly focuses upon the long-term aspect of our emotional experience. character is expressed by loyalty and mutual commitment, or through the pursuit of long-term goals, or by the practice of delayed gratification for the sake of a future end. out of the confusion of sentiments in which we all dwell at any particular moment, we seek to save and sustain some; these sustainable sentiments will serve our characters, character concerns the personal traits which we value in ourselves and for which we seek to be valued by others. how do we decide what is of lasting value in ourselves in a society which is impatient, which focuses on the immediate moment? how can long-term goals be pursued in an economy devoted to the short-term? how can mutual loyalties and commitments be sustained in institutions which are constantly breaking apart or continually being redesigned? these are the questions about character posed by the new, flexible capitalism.” (richard sennett, the corrioson of character. the personal consequences of work in new capitalism. nyc 1998)

3. Regarding your third question I can only speak about the past years when we have tried to

bring together different groups of the social movement, artists/cultural workers and also some new groups of an austrian union in the euromayday movement here in vienna. As the visible part of this organizing we initiated the viennese euromayday parade which is held in many other european cities too. But organizing, connecting these groups was not easy. The connections between people are often very loose. The precarious connections are more precarious than connections. Networking is work too and mostly unpaid – but I´ m speaking here as an unemployed artist worker who made a work about networking, this magic word which is in “aller Munde” (in the mouths of all). I made a “njet- working” postcard for the magazine bildpunkt to the theme of strike, drawing my mouth speaking the 3 syllables of “njet-wor-king” (the word njet-working I picked up from slovenian activists because I liked it at once). bildpunkt is the magazine of the ig bildende kunst https://igbildendekunst.atin vienna which I am member of, an organisation which is fighting for the interests of visual artists. And maybe I should mention also a new project here in vienna which developed out of the Euromayday process, it is the socalled prekärcafe, a regular meeting of people who like to exchange experiences in precarious work and life. Every meeting has a special focus. The next is about the current situation on the arbeitsmarkt and the gouvernmental services for unemployed workers.

(have a look to my new website:


a) Art movements? Hm – I don´ t know.

b) Networks? Njet- Working!

c)Soviets? to be honest, I don´ t know what kind of organisation Soviets are/have been, I first have to read about.

d) Trade unions? Diedrich Diederichsen, who is professor at the academy of fine arts in vienna, held a speech at a symposium about creative cities and I asked him about the text of his speech (theoretically it has been possible to follow the speech on a video screen but practically it was impossible. so I asked him about his text, which he send to me (title: art work – a pragmatic analysis)). At the end of this text he tries to formulate some possible demands if we imagine ourselves in a trade union position. I just try now to translate these demands for you (the editorial staff of the magazine grundrisse https://www.grundrisse.netwhich I am member of, want to speak about this text in one of our next sessions – after summer!):

the re-de-emotionalizing of personalized techniques

the dispose of possibilities of retreat

the re-appropriation of the self through the self

the de-economizing of the soul, the body, the presence, of the sexyness

the re-politicizing, re-objectifying, re-reification of abilities, skills and knowledge

uff! hope that theory doesn´ t kill me some time= poor precarious artist working transversal!

at last I want to set a link to one of my former art-teachers who is a master in dialogue and to whom I used to send trouble-mails about the strong viennese art-world-focus on discourse. (issue 5 – my first published text in which I am gabbling about hamlet).

5. I think we should try to listen to each other care-fully and try to create spaces were we can meet and speak (with our mouths or hands or knees and with/through our products). And I think we should build a new school together.

elisabeth steger, july 09