I consume – therefore I am!
Consumerism is constantly being questioned in socio-political discussions regarding the economy. Where does art fit into the act of consuming? Mass media consumption in our time has been criticized for reducing citizens to passive puppets. This criticism now seems to manifest itself in new definitions of consuming art as well, a focal point in the work of Fabian Altenried, the initiator of the art project Exeo In A Spasm and member of the Schuldenberg Foundation (Mt. Debt Foundation). S2S’s Burcu Sahin, talked to Altenried’s about the Foundation’s recent production Exeo In A Spasm and Altenried’s desire to rouse to action artists and spectators alike. Exeo In A Spasm was performed as Live Cinema with video screenings, music and performance on the 29th of March 2013, at the well-known cinema Babylon at Rosa Luxemburg Platz in Mitte, Berlin. It was performed with Claudia Barth, Wanda Koller, Nataliya Dubova, Sebastian Ludwig di Salvatore, Kristof Gerega, Roman Schlonski and Rudi Spring.
S2S: First of all, what is the Schuldenberg Foundation (Mt. Debt Foundation)?
Fabian Altenried: I think there are as many answers to this as there are people involved in the Schuldenberg Foundation. It is a framework for experiments and a name under which people actively engage in the process of creating art. We work as a collective, but there are no fixed members, no board… Basically any one can be involved and has the same right as all of the others. As of now, we are coming together as impromptu groups for specific projects we call actions, but the structure is completely fluid, constantly shaping itself according to the action.
S2S: Exeo In A Spasm was called a ‘live cinema,’ how does the nature of cinema enter into your idea of this project?
FA: This project started with a video, where we produced four different scores. The video was then exhibited with four headphones with the different scores running simultaneously. One could pick up one headphone and listen to Ada singing, having Kristof talking into your ear, listen to the percussion or the classical composition playing. The exhibition was called Exeo In a Spasm. For the second installment of the work, we wanted to do live performances of all of the scores. At this point, we were talking a lot about that ephemeral “third space” between the public and art.
Cinema traditionally has created a strong distinction between the two. You walk in to the theater to watch an illusion on a screen, a finished product that doesn’t change. The viewer is rendered completely passive. Of course you can walk out, but it makes no difference. The space between the audience and the screen has a lot of potential. Of course it is the kind of space that can be found elsewhere, but in a cinema context it becomes more obvious and easier to break down. With LIVE CINEMA we wanted to activate this specific and very potent space, therefore it was crucial for our project. We saw the cinema as an institution with a certain history and the perfect place to redefine the act of art, and the consumption of it.
S2S: Which effects did you hope for the performance to have on the audience?
FA: This is a difficult question to answer mainly because of the fact that we do not believe in a strict border between the audience and the producers of art. We wanted to break down that hierarchy. The performers were walking, talking, shouting and playing music from anywhere, whether above or right in the middle of the audience. After five minutes, someone got up and said: “Oh my god, this is so bad!” which might as well could have been a part of the action. So, what specific effect? Rather than looking for an effect, I hope none. I guess we were looking for something else…
S2S: Besides from creating this new space, what was the essential purpose of this project?
FA: I do not believe in the struggle to fulfill a predestined purpose. The replacement of the exclusive story, the construction of identity and question of authorship are all aspects that we want to address, but they are merely a part of each step we take rather than our goal. What we are trying to do is to generate chains of actions. We want a constant production of art, rather than creating a product with a specific purpose. Therefore I think Claudia Barths’ work Manifesto, which was a part of our LIVE CINEMA, is so fitting.
Look at the order of the four words: Observe; Decide; Do (or Die) and then Focus. You focus on what? To start again? To observe what you’ve done? But then you are again at the beginning. What follows, I think, is a certain resistance to accept set frames and definitions. In the end it is about a redefinition, a struggle in which we get involved without having a solution.
S2S: What are your future ambitions with the Schuldenberg Foundation?
FA: To keep on working.