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Stefan Beck: Some notes on "the seminar"

» Seminar Texte: Was ist Kritik?
» Seminar Texte: Notes on the seminar
» Seminar Texte: Selbstanzeige
» Seminar Texte: Was heisst Seminar?
» Seminar Eins
» Seminar Zwei
» Seminar Drei (Underground)


What is the seminar?

The seminar is a weekly discussion group of people from different backgrounds like artists, musicians, actors and political activists on all topics concerning cultural politics, the political climate as a whole or the state of the art system in general. But this is only a few of possible topics.

Idea of the seminar

The idea of the seminar is bring people of different practices and points of view back to the coffee house table and let them talk together on the perception of the situations mentioned above.

It's not only about artists talking to musicians, and musicians to political activists but about filling a gap between the two most common discourses around: professional criticism (i.e. writing papers for magazines or symposiums) and gossip of a particular scene. If the first is too difficult to achieve for most of the people, the latter is hardly satisfying on the long run.

The seminar wants to establish a discourse which gives people working in the cultural field a way of articulating their ideas, their perceptions on how certain things are running, and even the way they're living without forcing them into alternatives which as extreme forms put heavy pressure on their participants to conform to some ideals they have no influence on. (Even if gossips looks like everybody could engage in it, once you're into it you're normally forced to produce new contributions in order to be accepted by other participants and get fed by their knowledge. In a way it's exactly the same way any academic discourse works.)

Contrary to a round of friends involved in a discussion at a pub for example the very idea of a seminar happening give its participants the possibility to switch in a reflective mode without becoming too personal. The framework of a seminar gives people the freedom to speak from a position of a seminarist.

Although they may speak of personal attitudes they're shifted a little bit from their normal role as friend, partner, colleague aso. At the seminar there is at any point the possibility to speak about the seminar itself which is not always possible at a pub discussion.

I understand the seminar as an application of every-day-science introduced by sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. The accepted difference between high and low culture shall be abandoned and be replaced by an more integrative approach which allows to bring back different topics normally incompatible to each other like painting and sports, tantra-sex and home-cooking, drug-usage and political-activism, temporary autonomous zones and hair-cutting and much more into one unifying discourse.

The seminar shall be a journey into the field of "micro-politics" (Foucault); whereas most people somehow hear about common big concepts like "globalization" or "liberalisation", there is little understanding how these concepts will affect every-day life. The seminar tries to counter-attack those concepts by asking where any individual persons gets his/her idea(l) of being "global" or "liberal".


Rules of the seminar

To work in the above mentioned context some few rules are necessary for the seminar:

  • The seminars meets weekly at the same place and time. There're no exceptions.
  • The seminar meets in public.
  • Everyone who accepts the rules of the seminar is allowed to participate.
  • No one is forced to come to the seminar. But in order to be a seminarist you should come on a regular basis
  • The seminar normally goes on for about 90 min and is recorded on audio-tape for later review.
  • There're no topics or subjects imposed on the seminar from outside. Everyone is free to start with any topic what he/she thinks to be interesting for the seminar.
  • Everyone has the right to speak as long as he/she likes. No one has the right to interrupt an other person without making his reasons for it public.
  • There's no leader who directs the seminar into any direction. The seminar itself decides where to go.
  • There is a common agreement among the seminar that people shouldn't talk out of books. The seminar is about thinking alone and expressing what one is into at the particular moment. Although it is not forbidden to bring books to the seminar or to quote from them, the seminar should help in - as one of its members said - "the fabrication of thoughts while speaking".
  • There should be no punishments for whatever utterance as long as they're not open sexist or racist. Any such utterance may be discussed immediately within the seminar.
  • It is possible to speak about the seminar itself at any time (reflective mode).


History of the seminar

The seminar is a direct result of my dissatisfaction with the local Frankfurt art scene. In a few words I find it too much dominated by the top curators Kasper König and Jean-Christoph Ammann. While there are just a few independent projects around they're pretty weak and influenceless compared to the crowd which is shared around two figures.

After several frustrating years I tried to get in contact with the more lively and vivid music and party scene in 1995. The first project was to establish a sake-bar as a kind of ambiguous object.

The sake bar one hand it was to perceived as a real bar serving Japanese rice-wine, on the other hand it was a distribution centre for all kinds of information on political and cultural affairs. From that experiment I've learned that the music and party scene shows the same lack of interest in political topics like the art scene. They want fun, and politics is no fun. My reaction to this was the conception of a club within a club I called "the seminar".

People should go on with their club activity but should find an offer to engage in political discussions in their familiar club environment. Unfortunately this could happen only twice due to the restrictive attitude of local club owners against all activities which are not directly related to music, dancing or drinking. One of them told me: "If this (the seminar) is going to happen at my club no one of my guests will ever come back, and I'd be forced to shut down my house."

So I sat down with several people who showed me their interest in the ideas I've proposed to discuss about the situation and what measures we were to take. Without knowing, this was the origin of the present form of the seminar.

Although the possibility of going into the clubs is still open the seminar has established itself as a discussion group and understands its essence in producing a steady stream of discourse.

As an extension - as I've still not given up the project with the sake-bar - I've rented a small cabin within one of the industrial wastelands of Frankfurt. This cabin will give me possibility to experiment with other kinds of performances not covered by the seminar so far like club, bar, music installation, hang-out place and others. See multi.trudi


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