The attempt to turn a hot summer day (it is still spring) into a black cozy night, fails. In the afternoon, I am lying for hours in the hammock at the theater, trying to sleep. For a short period it works. With me in the hammock: bread, cheese, water, a cushion, a blanket. It is way too hot. Instead of sleeping I become witness to the day activism of the Kongress. Everyone is really busy. I believe to attract plenty of evil eyes: „He doesn’t do anything.“ Someone says: „And you are getting paid for it.” Someone says: „I like this refusal.“ But I don’t want to refuse anything. I just was active in the night before and am now trying to be passive, during the day. It becomes clear however, that trying to sleep in the middle of the Kongress, is however, work. An thus I address my sleep: work.
The thunder storm forces me into the theater hall. It’s 6 p.m. For me, this is morning. For everyone else it’s evening. We have Bortschtsch and salad. My breakfast. The Kongress drinks wine and vodka. I join in with the vodka: it wakes me up. I prepare for this night’s acitivity: reading „Proletarian Nights“ by Jean Ranciere one night long, in the theater hall. With a table and a small lamp.
The preface by Ranciere is beautiful Ranciere wants to dismantle the hierarchies of research – dismantle that researchers describe a reality, reality eventually has to conform to. Reality however looks differently and this is what Ranciere describes. The introduction by Donald Raid traces the battles between different leftist intellectual circles of the late 1970s in France. Then I read texts, slowly, very slowly, which can’t really be written for those people they describe, even if they attempt / to dismantle the hierarchies between the social groups of workers and intellectuals. That no book can be read without previous knowledge, without an already existing enclosed system of reference, that feeds you non-stop with context information. My system of reference is utterly incomplete. But nothing yet against this book: I only get through a tiny part today, it’s too early for a judgment.
While I am reading, aloud and in silence, accompanied by Rebecca and Anna, that read along and discuss with me, my Vagabund colleagues celebrate their Feierabend. I am reading theory, they are drinking. For hours, this goes quite well. Working on theory, surrounded by a party: perfect. This keeps me awake. After everyone has left, it‘s late, and I get tired. I can’t really concentrate anylonger. So I watch some episodes of „Homeland“. The theater hall becomes a spy factory. Dim lights. Across from me, they are tinkering on the cable cars. They could also put together a powerful bomb. At 4.30, a conductor comes into the hall and talks to me like the CIA agent on tv. Dawn breaks, I let the conductor go on with his work and walk home. Birds.
Keywords of this night – vagrant thoughts. A worker describes a walk in the sunrise with conversations and meta-physics. Workers are not workers whose only purpose in life is labor and struggle. Workers are labeled as workers for specific purposes. This purpose is to define an irrevocable order, within which workers are workers. Platon chooses the insidious/perfidious image, that some got a soul made of iron (the workers) and others a soul made of gold (the philosophers). Natural order of things. In his book, Ranciere writes against this kind of manipulation. In addition, In his research, different literary genres such as argument, fiction, citation, poetry and meta-physics ought to be treated with equal value. The texts he analyses written by so-called “workers”, are the work of men and women who wrenched themselves out of an identity formed by domination and asserted themselve as inhabitants with full rights of a common world. Workers, too, produce culture. Cultural production is not left to the cultural professionals alone. Old style artisans were dreamers who invented philosophies. They did not stuck into the analysis of industrial production and capitalist exploitation. Who defines what is important? The belief in historical evolution, says Benjamin, is the legitimation of the victors.
Which theorist of vagabondism has ever talked to a vagabond / homeless person? The real beggars didn’t want to have anything to so with the Vagabundenkongress, because they had other problems. Do we have to call ourselves vagabonds? Is it so cool/hip/terrific to be a vagabond-artist? Is it really terrific to be “an artist”? Aren’t these all ‘terminological crutches’? Siya says: Black Consciousness: the attempt to define oneself from within, to reflect on one’s situation without putting oneself immediately into a societal segmentation. The term “worker” in opposite to “bourgeois” cements a power relation, which always places the worker at the bottom. And should he ever be on top, he as to reestablish a hierarchy, because this is how he has been conditioned/trained to think. So: the bourgeoisie on the bottom, workers on top.
This is what Ranciere counters in his writings, as he claims. His book, however seems to reproduce the hierarchy: it’s a book for theorists. What is a real worker. What is a real vagabond. What is a real real. How do weg o about now with REWE? Do we have a permission or not? Are we allowed to or not? Legal clarifications help with strategic artistic decisions. The equality of intelligences.
Important to me are the accounts of our Vagabundenkongress-participant-friends from Russia, Argentina, Egypt. To hear how they perceive the situation, immediately changes my thoughts. Aya says: The presidential system doesn’t work for us. It´s a Western idea. We always had local councils. And this still works for us today. On Friday off to the mosque , on Saturday off to a nightclub. Azul says: For us there is no idolizing of mobility. For us, there is periphery and Center. Taissya says: We live in a dictatorship.
It’s important to gather a group of people, who are concerned with different problems. This allows to focus on different, groups, segments, topics. No theme is more important than the other. The diversification of interest is what counts. I go to sleep and Arthur cracks REWE.
Andreas Liebmann, 11.6.2014