Yesterday, at the performance we all have something to burry
by Lola Diaz Cantoni, attended by some 20 people I was given the opportunity to read out a letter. The letter was about the event itself, the commoning involved and was directed to Federico Bonelli. In this text about the event of the performance and its aftermath I mainly reproduce the letter and have added some notes and experiences of the rainy but great afternoon at the PAIR residence
in Groningen. I apologize beforehand since the text is not at all cheerful as it is about burying something and next to that tries to shine a light on the circumstances in which I perform and organize art and other events.
Hey Federico, I guess you are very busy, good! Enjoy! You cannot be at many places at the same time. It was a very good experience at the PAIR. After the performance I talked a little about Lola’s performance and how it gives context to me talking about commonfare. It is the gift by Marcel Mauss (1954) that inspired me to write and think about it. Lola’s performance is a gift in which obligation and liberty mingle; as a participator you are free to do whatever you want but participating is the only way to be reciprocal. The artist has thought of way to give the you, the spectator/participator the opportunity to say goodbye to something you no longer need and it is up to you what that might be. It is as if we are performing an ancient ritual that even fits the time of the year. No money is involved, no entrance fee, no forced feedback of sharing what you did burry, just a get to gather in the acknowledgement that we all carry things with us that we might better leave behind to be able to move forward again.
As I state in the letter there is a ‘we’ in having things in common. I read out loud some of the texts in the commonfare pamphlet but they seemed to be quit out of the order of the afternoon. It really needed some sitting at the fire and linger a little before be talked some more about it. All of this was happening on a former industrial terrain that is now temporary available to alternative initiatives for culture, social innovation and events. Importantly to note that this is organised in a very top-down model that brings in many formal circumstances. The PAIR has been there since three years and this is rather strange in the history of the PAIR as it is a portable residencies and this particular site is the fifteenth location it is at.
From the letter:
Basically the terrain (a former sugar factory terrain) has always included a promise of experiment for culture, co-operation and sustainability. But neo-liberalism commodifies everything, doesn’t it. Many initiatives on the terrain hold promises but as I myself also have to be very honest about: it is a matter of being able to afford it and especially being able to afford resistance. I can only point out that the PAIR has always been an off-grid portable initiative that strives to produce art where we want it. But regulations, permits, negotiations and intentions of co-operation have consumed most of my time and money here. Not to draw too much of a dystopian picture I like to point out today with Lola and Hannegijs, both of which took initiative to work in or from the PAIR, the portability of the PAIR itself becomes by not using its portability more and more a signature of this terrain and maybe even the current society we sit in. To be able to be portable, mobile and free one has to first be registered, noted, placed, located. In other words get stuck and adept and jokingly I would say wear a yellow safety jacket while doing so.
Is this the creative neighbourhood that we all have visited once in a while to party? Or is there more to it. What does it actually mean to be here with a small group and work together as individuals respecting each other’s anger and grief in a performance in a ritual performance? Does it promise change, does it provoke. None of the people involved with the other initiatives on the terrain are at the performance, although they were invited, and only one of them sends me a short message on the phone. The message is trying to be funny by saying the sender is digging a whole somewhere else.
Later on, at the cosy fire, I tell some more about the developments of the terrain and can already clearly see that not moving is becoming a performative aspect of the PAIR residence. Being stuck while being portable as an off-grid residence that has no desire to get connected to conventional sources is maybe pointing out that it will soon be time to stop resisting and leave. As a sideline I like to add that I have learned a lot at this specific location and some really nice art projects happened. Especially the food related projects by Florent Poussioneau
and The Onkruideniers
pointed out the possibilities of the terrain in a great way.
Yesterday the reading and explaining was followed by an introduction to the flea market that I hold next week in which Commonfare will be giving a presentation.
From the letter:
Next week in Nieuw Annerveen, a location not on the map of the public transport system, some thirty kilometres from here, some others and I will hold a flea market with an additional program. On Saturday the singer songwriter Esther de Jong will play at 13.00 hours as a former resident of the PAIR and the TAIR residence (the TAIR being the little sister of the PAIR, and currently located in Nieuw Annerveen). On Sunday I will host Federico and Commonfare at the flea market. They will tell, play a board game that is specifically not monopoly and together we will talk some more on what we hold in common. I think precarity is probably an important subject in this as was already shown clearly by the troubles it gave in organising the flea market. The people that organise all have their individual reasons to sell their stuff also have very interesting practical problems concerning housing but none of us is really poor, but none of us is really in control especially not in control of having the time to keep it socially together. A common ground is strongly desired at a farm that is so much ready to be a great cultural hub in a very specific region of the north of the Netherlands.
But it might even turn out that this is the final stage of my stay at the farm, as I have felt before because all the individuals, which all want the farm to be a success, are all individually looking for money, housing, jobs and next to that working on nature preservation, walking as way of doing therapy, fresh air as solution for lung problems, cooking wild plants, caring for the recently re-introduced beavers, socially engagement in a region with many problems and culture. As both noted by commoners, yellow jackets and myself there is a ‘we’ in what we have in common but how to make that the most important subject. Maybe I am afraid of that? It probably triggers this feeling of having to run as I am experiencing myself that it is difficult to be part of a we.
The flea market, this weekend 8 and 9 December is happening in an area that has been a colony of the wealthy industrials for over 400 years to excavate as an area with fuel (peat). In this long period the surface of the region, about 15 by 80 kilometres big has been lowered by an average of 4 meters. All of the peat has been burned, locally but mainly in cities like Groningen, Amsterdam, London and others. And now recently it has been decide by the national government that the region is getting over 70 windmills much bigger than average in size. The extremely flat area, once a colony for peat and now becoming a colony for wind in an area that is not particularly windy compared some other regions will produce large repetitive shadows in many houses, and other problems are expected. The protests already let to people going underground and do very severe threats to the staff of building companies involved. And also the farmers that sublet their grounds for windmills, rumours has it they get like 50000 euro for each windmill, are experiencing social problems. As social housing is disappearing and many people can not find affordable housing the house owners in the region are now seeing the value of their houses going down due to the windmill plans. An area in turmoil, but much is below the surface, below the very flat surface of this so-called Veenkolonien. And I invite you all to come by, spend some money, eat a pancake and enjoy the conversations, scenery and go for a walk, it might just show to be very therapeutic.
Yesterday was a great event, not only because of the very sincere performance organised by Lola Diaz Cantoni but also due to the current artist-in-residence of the PAIR Hannegijs Jonker who provided us with some freshly residence-made cheese.
I hope the weekend will draw a crowd.
(addition) I have received some comments and see that it is very much about myself and how I am looking to find this 'we' I am looking for. In an attempt to write a little more about 'what we have in common':
I think 'We' is an open group of which I am part and that group is able to sustain itself. The problem that occurs is that when the group is open it points to something radical being when the groupsize or groupdiversity changes for it to sustain itself it will influence its environment and might even thereby loose or change the common. Following this line of thought points out that there is not seperate we from the what we have in common. Any dynamic in any of the subjects has an influence on the others. To sustain a group commoning itself needs a constant renegotiation about what the group holds in common with awareness of discrimination, abuse, exclusion and how it uses its environment. I guess there is much to learn for me in this. With my text clearly I myself show a lack of dynamic and communication.