The *foundationClass’ non-Cafeteria of the Academy of Misery
5.7.2018Akademie der Künste Berlin
Art academies reproduce mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion. Who is teaching, what is being taught, and who is accepted are not contingent on assumed “talent” but on the subjective assessment skills of those in power and therefore on individual and indisputable criteria. The autonomy of the arts as well as teaching thus legitimizes the contradictions inherent to the institution.
The artists of the *foundationClass do not use the obstacles engendered by this deplorable state in order to just point or blank out the institution’s contradictions. Instead, they use them as a point of departure for their collective artistic practice and to formulate demands for inclusive forms of teaching and education.
Akin to the kitchen table, the art academy’s cafeteria is a space where conspiratorial, heretical, unobjective, impertinent, and amateur opinions are articulated, validated, and dismantled for their own sake, rather than for the purpose of knowledge production.
Operating from a space of brokenness that is within, but not of, the academy and that is neither for nor against it, the *foundationClass invites you to join the non-Cafeteria of the Academy of Misery at Akademie der Künste in order to enter into study—a mode of thinking with others that is separate from the thinking the institution requires of you. This prepares us to be embedded in what Fred Moten and Stefano Harney call “the with and for.”
In support of equal access to art academies for those who have migrated or fled to Germany, the *foundationClass tries to create a social space where everyone’s resources are acknowledged and validated and where new formats of skill sharing and knowledge transfer can be developed. Ultimately, the *foundationClass wants to question the norms, conventions, and habitus of art institutions and the industry as a whole. The *foundationClass is located at weißensee academy of art berlin.
In 2017 the *foundationClass was nominated for an award by an initiative run by a multinational company that rewards projects that use culture for fostering equity in society. Winning the prize money, consisting of a sum that would ensure the continuation of the precariously funded programme for a while, was contingent upon the production of a video, a one-shot sequence underscored with a voice-over. During that same time the *foundationClass group of 2017 was also preparing to produce a collective work for the 2nd Berliner Herbstsalon of the Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin on the theme of “disintegration”. Unable to focus on this task the group spent weeks negotiating, discussing and coming up with visual strategies that could prevent the appropriation of their bodies through the camera. Taking into account the very setting and manner in which the video would be viewed, this task seemed to be almost futile: in the discourse of “Welcome Culture”, the context within which the *foundationClass emerged from and is often analysed in, the trope of the Refugee is still by and large construed as in need of assistance and protection by white Germans, a notion that we have been trying to refute since the very beginning of the programme.
Finally the production company agreed to one of the group‘s proposals: to film the participants while they would film them. But the group still had to come up with a work for the Herbstsalon... until we realised that the work was already done. We decided to take our own footage and turn it into an installation, underscored by multivocal texts and sounds that relate to the very discussions that emerged during the work process. The whole thing became an installation and was exhibited at Berliner Herbstsalon, Maxim Gorki Theater, 2017: TRUST US For this collaboration several artists came together:
Anwar Al Atrash, Fadi Aljabour, Marwa Younes Almokbel, Aram Al Saed, Mira Debaja, Amel Alzakout, Mohamad Halbouni, Dyaa Naim, Ramin Parvin, Nour Nasreddine, Oula Soleman, Yara Sulaiman, Max Grau, Miriam Schickler, Eva Karduck, Ulf Aminde
documentation video by Max Grau, photos by Mohamad Halbouni