May 8, 2023 → Who Are We #9 Contribution Seminar ‘On Collective Work: Deconstructing Structures’, UdK Berlin

Our notes for a conversation around forms of artistic collaboration with Lara Stöhlmacher and students within the seminar ‘On Collective Work: Deconstructing Structures’ at UdK Berlin:

Collective work is a choice that we want to continue to affirm. In order to cultivate such practice it is fundamental to be in a permanent state of (self)reflection, even if it may seem painful at times, to reflect collectively, sharing experiences and coping mechanisms, in order to be able to practice it in a healthy and just way for everyone.

The interactions and issues that characterise collective practices are not very different from the way families, groups of friends, school or university work are organised and function. We therefore consider anybody an expert in the field.

“There is no such thing as a structureless group” states Jo Freeman in her article ‘The Tyranny of structurelessness’, “the idea becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned hegemony over others”. Collective work is always shaped by structures that are given (class, race, gender). As long as we live in an unequal society, we all reproduce these structural inequalities – it is not by chance that Freeman compares structurelessness or laissez-faire in activism and in economy, they both produce a system of exploitation where the first is in a sense a consequence of the second.

In order to counter this mechanism, to prevent power dynamics from prevailing, different forms of attention (awareness) and conscious structuring are needed – but the power dynamics will always be there. Attention and structure do not eliminate them completely, they make inequalities visible and offer mechanisms to counter them.

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*Lara Stöhlmacher is part of fem-arc collective and intiated the seminar at UdK Berlin.

Who are We? is a discursive, self-reflexive event format that strives to accompany its participants’ independent spatial and artistic practices of sensible, urban transformation. Its first session happened in 2020 in Berlin. The initiative aims to encourage a discussion on collaborative organisations: Who belongs to them? What are the existing power structures? Which communication and decision-making cultures are prevailing?  Which projects, spaces, cities “we” design and build accordingly? How do they influence the way “our” city is produced and represented?

by: Licia Soldavini & Mascha Fehse