Botschaft e.V. (1990-1996)
This text is based upon a "talk" from 17.10.1994 at Botschaft.
The participants were Bettina Ellerkamp, Natascha Sadr Haghigian, Jörg Heitmann, Christoph Keller, Merle Kröger, Ed van Megen, Philip Scheffner, Pit Schulz, Florian Zeyfang.
Strategy and Party
The story of Botschaft can be read as follows: In the beginning there was a wish to find crossovers between different disciplines like i.e. art, science, TV. and every day life, in order to define new contexts. The motivation came from the unsatisfying situation of isolated individualism. As a result of this togetherness, the possibility prospered for the individual to use technical as well as communicative structures.
Dromomania 01 was the first event of Botschaft after renovating the squatted 4th floor of the WMF-Building, and "united-party" (3.10.1990; the German reunification date). Artistic reasoning was connected with political interest, the situation in the squatted house, and the reconstruction plans at the nearby Potsdamer Platz (the central place of Berlin). There was a concrete interest for local publicity. To concentrate on the interaction, none of the Botschaft members appeared in public with their own projects. Later a search started to integrate personal interests. Today, work is done by different kinds of group constellations, Botschaft functions as an information pool, work- and thought space. Out of a yearning for continuation of discourse, most of the members stuck on certain themes. Projects ran through different phases and as a consequence it came to differentiation and a more intensive interest. In the best case, these different point of views expanded, broadened the discussion, in the worst case they led to an obstruction of handling.
The attempt with Dromomania to bring together different disciplines, regarding a theme, was a model. "Richtig 92" 02 was the further developing of this idea. Border areas were sought, where valuation exists beyond the duality of right and wrong, true and untrue. Various projects and actions emerged from that. The different positions were presented one after the other and successively linked. Although different particles of publicity couldn't be brought together 03 , "richtig 92" reached a wide spectrum of people because of the heterogeneity of the projects.
What Botschaft is, has developed out of the continuity of events. The work is less strategic as it seems and it should be understood as an ongoing process. Instead of theoretical farness, rather practical nearness. It has less to do with art, maybe more with cultural work in the broadest way one can define cultural. This means being a place for interdisciplinary work in the center of Berlin as well as offering drinks and functioning as a bar. The local reference is central, the question about the art system rather peripheral. The "Friseur" was opened 1992 to confront events with a bar audience. Film screenings, video projections, music appearances, political lectures and art exhibitions took place. The art system is not strategically exhausted but rather used as any other system 04 . Invitations from the art context are often answered with self representations, which also reflects the actual relationship of Botschaft towards the institutions concerned and art in general.
Botschaft is not only known in a local area, but also in a peripheral group inside the European art centers, which means in the periphery of a so called peripheral area of art we reach a certain circle. To agitate local means addressing a wide spectrum of people. To be known by a group at the brink of the international art scene confirms the image of avant-garde in art.
The way Botschaft events like i.e. a party functions without strategy has its advantages and justification - one can't arrange "everything" by strategy-. To renounce a systematic and success oriented program creates room for action. In a certain way this is also - let's not call it; strategy - a concept. If i.e. the connection between Botschaft, "Friseur" (the bar) and the WMF-club (the discotheque) is being offensively represented, than just to demonstrate the rooting in different surroundings and to show that Botschaft is not just present in the art system. To concentrate on a group-strategy would have meant to name Dogfilm 05 Botschaft TV, the WMF-club Botschaft CLUB, and all members would have published under this label called Botschaft. Corporate Identity - Multi-Imperium - But it isn't necessary, cause the links are being made anyhow.
Considerations of becoming an institution were rejected because of the experience with ABM-jobs 06. Botschaft exists because of content, not by doing administration work. The two years with ABM and the bureaucratic bulk, paralyzed work and partly discussions were repressed. Today some members finance themselves by producing for a (B TV-magazine others by bartending or grants. Nevertheless Botschaft j|| takes over a few assignments other institutions would have to fulfill. Sll The infrastructure takes care of the social background.
The reunification, the result of squatting the WMF-Building, and its location in the east part of town, were certainly important for the foundation. The whole physical context influenced the events Botschaft organized. A situation which is changing at the moment. Projects which were bound to a certain time or euphoric start failed because the atmosphere changed.
The computer networks are now in a similar situation like the city was shortly after reunification. Something explodes into a vacuum. The webs are growing and free spaces are being created. Although at the moment the impression is spread that quick, swift action is necessary. Therefore, to squat "spaces" again...? The danger exists that the political connotation of these "spaces" will be neglected. We should be aware that what is changing is the form, not the content of the discussion.
Botschaft doesn't appear in public as a closed group, propagating a manifest. Ideas are taken up by members and further developed. Authorship is automatically being questioned, without becoming a central theme. The question: What will future practice look like? The pressure to make a statement about the art system is huge. It is annoying when projects don't function freely enough, although they are principally all right.
Projects with a more process like character such as i.e. "Beirut/NY/Berlin" or "Museum for Future" 07 stand beside events like "Botschaft Praxis" 08, a combination of three individual works or "IG Farben" 09 , a pragmatically political action. At the "Beirut/NY/Berlin" 10 project the ongoing character becomes clear. In the beginning two separate events were planned, one in Beirut and one in Berlin. However the realization was delayed. Out of that, developed an interest in observing the "non public" phases. A few projects consciously moved in the peripheral art area and use this place not as a springboard for the center but because of the quality of communication there, which isn't present in the center.
- The option to work in a small group over 1 or 2 years on a certain theme without giving way to the pressure of the public, could be signified as a "Strategy of Refusal".
- "Strategy of Refusal" is too superficial,
- It is a "Strategy of Refusal" because there is a "Dictation of Production", The latter means that results have to be delivered and in any case, continuously,
- Today the term "product" is differently defined, Information itself is the product. That's why it is necessary to tie strategic alliances, to build up, in a short time, a functioning web where information can be positioned,
- Although to justify certain themes, sometimes a change of velocity is useful to slow down in order to delay the moment of publishing. This also means to understand BOTSHAFT as a possible "public space".
- It is very convenient to declare the heterogeneity of the group as a fundamental principle. To give the inside communication a priority means excluding other parts of the public which could be an asset for the process,
- This has something to do with the fear of "failure"
- When the "failing" becomes and stays self-referential it is without doubt counter productive. If, on the other hand the public is integrated after a certain phase, then there exists the possibility that "failure" can release a public discourse.