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.


01 In November 1990, the former headquarters of the WMF, a firm mainly manufacturing cutlery and kitchenware, became the spiritual starting point and place for the project "Dromomania - cult and ritual of daily movement-" Botschaft squatted the 4Th. floor of this house for the sake of working space room for events and initiated a project which operated on the intersection of architecture, city planning, art and citizens'initiatves.
02 "Richtig 92" was a row of events dealing about the understanding of reality and in a broader sense about "documentation". Excerpt from the press info "In traditional media, but also in disciplines like art or philosophy, under the heading ot such titles as "The Disappearing of Reality", there is a desperate creation of strategies to save "reality". Out of a helplessness confronting the complexity of the phenomenon, very often critic arises against the audio-visual-communication tools and the developing computer technology, which basically questions their use and meaning. By doing so one thing is overlooked. Man without a TV-set already had a problem with reality. The question: Who we are and what happens at the moment? is as old as mankind itself."
03 "Museum fur Geschichte" (Museum of History) and "Fishing for Documents", two "Richtig 92" events, which took place one after the other, had a completely different audience although both events belonged together thematically, and had to be understood as a global statement. With "Museum fur Geschichte" six artists, for the duration of one week each, located a model-archiv. In the spotlight stood cooperation as a means to connect that what was presented and took place before with the actual exhibition. Each exhibition followed a model and took over from the previous exhibitions an excerpt, a souvenir, a fragment. With "Fishing for Documents" video and film makers were invited to do a row of seminars. On two weekends working methods in-between documentary and fictional movies were presented and discussed.
04 Example: Row of exhibitions "Dagegen-Dabei" (Against it-in it) January 1995, Kunstverein Hamburg, shows production and strategy of art projects since 1969. Botschaft together with two other groups called "Büro Bert" and "minimal club" will work out a radio programme for 10 days. Temporarily the exhibition space will turn into an office, archive and broadcast studio.
05 Since January 1993 Dogfilm (5 persons who are all founding members of Botschaft) continuously work for a political TV-magazine called "Z", once a month which is broadcasted all over Germany on the frequency of RTL. As part of the editing staff Dogfilm has the possibility to practically realize its vision of a reflexive, interdisciplinary videowork.
06 1992/93 six ABM jobs (a project financed by the Berlin Senat for unemployed people) at Botschaft were granted. An equipment pool was designed and the wages of 6 people were divided so that 10 people could work for Botschaft
07 In December 1993 the "Museum for Future" was installed for the first time in the Künstlerhaus Bethanien for the duration of a fortnight. Ideas about future were collected and communicated. The collected material, which was ordered in numerical organizers is at the moment being digitized in order to be accessible through Internet. The structure of the "Museum for Future" is in a state of ongoing process and at the same time subject of discussion.
08 Three individual works, "cip", "pacemaker" and "E-SMOG", have been made and shown at Botschaft In the Shedhalle in Zurich (may 94) these projects were for the first time under the heading of "Botschaft Practice" presented. "Botschaft practice" referred to the aspect of a community as a practical platform of exchange.
09 By the example of "IG Farben" (During WW II the world greatest chemical industry, responsible for producing "Zyklon B"), it becomes clear how. a supposedly forgotten sector of German history is confronting us today again with the national-socialistic past. The "IG Farben" shares seem to be a good deal for young brokers. The main issue of the project was therefore to concentrate on the actual situation of "IG Farben", who tries to reclaim buildings in the former east. The 53 real estate objects in Berlin were marked by posters, which gave information about the history of "IG Farben" and what will happen to the buildings in the near future. Simultaneously in the exhibition space of Botschaft, the action as a documentation was presented and at the opening a lecture was given by Hans Frankenthal, who is a member of the "Auschwitz committee" and a former forced laborer at "IG Farben" and over 40 years now actively doing resistance work against this company. At the same time a lot of articles appeared in various newspapers.
10 "Beirut/NY/Berlin" is work in progress and has already gone through different phases of work and discussion. This was actually not expected when Jayce Salloum and Walid Raad, participants of "Fishing for Documents", came up with the idea of organizing something like an exchange. During the preparations it became clear that those who wanted to be involved only had access to little information and clichés. No wonder, cause Beirut is being described as "playground of terror", the media constantly spread anti-Arabic propaganda increasingly since the disappearing of the old enemy "communism". After almost two years of communication, misunderstandings, euphoria and skepticism, five members of Botschaft will fly to Beirut for a direct contact with the participants in Beirut.