(about the actuality of the collaboration between Brecht & Benjamin)
When I was asked by DasArts if I could give a public presentation I said yes – as long as it is not a re-presentation, because that’s what I am afraid of – to answer a question that was posed by (or as) the title of a performance by our two hosts, Rabih Mroué and Lina Saneh, which I attended almost 7 years ago here in Amsterdam: Who’s afraid of representation? The answer: I am, but I’m not alone, I am the 99%. That was the slogan of Occupy Wall Street, a new social movement that spread incredibly fast last fall around the US and from the US back to Europe and the Arab World from where it had originated in the so-called „arab spring“ or „arabellion“. The theme of this DasArts block mentored by Lina and Rabih thus is the notion of actuality: ‚Current events in the past tense‘. Taking about Occupy Wall Street now almost seems like talking about a past event in a current tense: It began on the 17st of septembre, exactly one year before this block started.
I will talk about the notion of actuality with reference to the philosophy of Walter Benjamin and about the philosophy of Walter Benjamin in reference to the theatre work of Bertolt Brecht. I will also make some passing references to the political work of Christoph Schlingensief in which I was involved and to the actual piece of my group andcompany&Co. which we developed with in collaboration with a Dutch and Flemish cast called Der (kommende) Aufstand nach Friedrich Schiller, De komende Opstand naar Schiller, The coming insurrection following Schiller. The actual title of my presentation is only one letter, the 22nd letter of the Roman alphabet: V. V for what probably some of you have asked themselves: V for Vendetta as in the famous movie of the Wachowski-Brothers based on a famous comic book which has inspired so many activists worldwide today? V for Victory? (Or for Peace?) V like the title of the first novel of Thomas Pynchon where it symbolizes a mysterious woman? Or V like V2 – the infamous nazi-rocket which inspired Pynchon for his next novel Gravity’s rainbow – in the German translation by Elfriede Jelinek and Thomas Piltz Die Enden der Parabel (the ends of the parable). The answer is: yes – all of this. V for Vendetta, Victory, Peace and as a Thomas Pynchon trope. All of these references I want to use to talk about the actuality of Benjamin & Brecht today, in times of crisis. And about hand-signs.
The image that I want to evoke is that of the statue of Bertolt Brecht in front of the Berlin Ensemble, wearing a V for Vendetta mask while someone is hiding behind him, raising his or her arm to spread fore- and middlefinger – as you normally would behind the head of the person next to you while a picture is being taken. But in this case, Brecht is not being mocked, but someone lends an arm to indicate victory. And peace. If you put the 2 together you get the outdated German word: „Siegfrieden“ for ‚victorious peace‘. This was the declared aim of the military leadership in the First World War: peace through victory. As we all know, history took a different course and instead Germany saw peace only after defeat. My first comment would be that Brecht, who witnessed that war in a med-squad, fancied this kind of peace. Not a „Siegfrieden“ but a Defeat-„Frieden“. In his unfinished masterpiece The downfall of the egoist Johann Fatzer (Der Untergang des Egoisten Johann Fatzer) he encourages the victor to quickly leave the site of victory, even: to escap from the place of his success and to rather QUOTE dive deep under to experience the lesson of defeat UNQUOTE. (Fatzer komm)
This would be the first lesson by Brecht to be learned: that you can only learn through defeat, by being defeated. Only the one who is put in an inferior position, who has lost, the loser is able to learn. One could argue that exactly this is what did not happen in Germany after First World War, otherwise there would not have been a second one. This is true and this is also (one of) the reason why Brecht never finished his masterpiece The downfall of the egoist Johann Fatzer. According to Heiner Müller who made a stage-version out of Brecht’s manuscripts fifty years later (1978) it is a „Jahrhunderttext“ – „text of a century“ – and ever since he has first read an „object of strong envy“. Brecht had worked for five years on it, rewrote it a couple of times and abondaned it altogether in 1931. Two years later the nazis took over state-power and Brecht had to emigrate. In the following war whose inavoidableness Brecht saw very clearly, the first rocket was shot into space: the so-called A4 (Aggregat 4) which was called V2 for Vergeltung: vengance by the nazi-minister of PR Joseph Goebbels: a revenge-rocket, a so-called Wunderwaffe, miracle weapon that should turn the tide and bring about a reversal of fortune and finally lead to peace- through-victory. But once more, victory was on the other, the allied side, most prominently expressed in the spreading of fore- and middlefinger by the British prime minister Winston Churchill. Instead of „Siegfrieden“ Germany was faced with unconditional surrender: bedingungslose Kapitulation, abbreviated as: U.S. One of the consequences of this unconditional surrender was a military occupaton by allied forces: the U.S., Great Britain and France in the Western part, the Soviet Union on the Eastern side.
When Brecht returned to Germany, he chose the Eastern part. In East-Berlin he was put in charge of the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm in which he had celebrated his greatest success with Die Dreigroschenoper (Three-penny opera) in 1928. Heiner Müller once joked that Hitler saved Brecht – from becoming a star of the Boulevard. The truth is that Brecht had tried to continue in this direction – and failed. What followed after this commercial failure was: the crisis – not Brecht’s individual one, but the Great Depression, the crash. This experience – and subsequently the rise of the nazi-movement – radically altered Brecht’s work. The most radical plays, the so-called Lehrstücke were written in this period between 1929 and 1933. It was also the time when Brecht & Benjamin started their intense collaboration: Five years before Benjamin had unsuccessfully tried to make the acquaintance of Brecht. In the same year he wrote that he was now convinced of the Q UOTE actuality of a radical communism UNQUOTE. By now he had abandoned his academic career to become a freelance writer. He had decided to become the most important literary critic of his time.
Thus Hannah Arend wrote about the match between Brecht & him: QUOTE The most important literary critic working with the most important writer of his time UNQUOTE. She was one of very few who described their alliance in positive terms. Most of Benjamin’s friends and colleagues, Gershom Scholem in Jerusalem, members of the Institute of Social Research, most prominently Theodor Adorno, but also Sigfried Kracauer, Günther Anders and others, were highly suspicious of this new couple. This suspicion also casted its light on the way that Adorno and Scholem edited Benjamins ouvre after his death, grossly underestimating and even surpressing the relevance that Brecht had for Benjamin. For Benjamin Brecht was Q the most actual writer of our times EOQ. Brecht was the unexpected appearance of a radically modern writer without reserve, radically committing himself to his time without having any illusions about it at the same time. It was not only their shared political agenda, but the way it expressed itself: QUOTE A literary work can only be politically correct, if it is also correct from a literary, Benjamin wrote in his essay The author as producer. In other words: „Commitment alone won’t do it.“ UNQUOTE
Brecht was a revolutionary cultural worker – in the literal sense: not as a theater-maker with revolutionary beliefs or convictions, with a certain political commitment, but as an actually revolutionizing artist whose works were undermining the way cultural production was organized. His aim was nothing less than the „total turnover“, die totale Umwälzung of the apparatus of production. His work was an elementary force just like living labour in the factory system as described by Marx. (This living labour, which recently has been discussed again a lot, has been described as collective creativity by Geert Lovink.) Brecht wanted to bring the cultural industry of state-theatres (today we might rather speak of creative industries) to its limits, to a point of crisis. He wanted to make his productions indigestible for what he liked to call ‚culinary theatre‘: pleasure for gourmets. In his eyes, theatres were drug-dealers: every evening they sold opium to the masses, false consciousness, ideology. Thus his declared goal was: the destruction of ideology („Ideologiezertrümmerung“).
With this position Brecht & Benjamin came into opposition to most writers organized in the Communist party. This became obvious in the failure of their attempt to launch a magazine of left-wing intellectuals to intervene in the political situation. The title: Criticism & crisis (Kritik & Krise). No issue was ever printed, but this project maybe was the most important intellecutal initiative of its time. Its title was its program: QUOTE to discover or bring about the crisis by the means of criticism. UNQUOTE For the first issue Brecht proposed a text called „greeting (welcoming) the crisis“ (Begrüßung der Krise). For him politics was but a continuation of critical practice with other means (die politik als ihre fortsetzung mit anderen mitteln). What he wrote about the crisis in 1931 seems actual today in an almost uncanny way: QUOTE the crisis is recognizable for everyone, but at the same time it is the crisis that prevents people to really recognize the greater crisis they are in UNQUOTE
die jedermann zugängliche tatsache, dass es krisen (der mathematik medizin außenhandel ehe usw.) gibt, führt nicht ohne weiteres zu der erkenntnis der großen umfassenden krise deren oft nur momentane (auftauchende und wieder verschwindende) scheinbar voneinander unabhängige erscheinungsform diese krisen sind, ja, diese tatsache verhindert sogar oft jene erkenntnis.
The everyone accessible fact that there are crisis (of mathematics medicine foreign trade marriage etc.) does just like that lead to the realization of the great global all-embracing crisis whose often only momentary (appearing and again disappearing) seemingly being independent from each other manifestation (form of appearance) these crisis are, yes, this fact often prevents such a realization.
Thus the crisis is not seen as an end, but as a turning point (like during diseases), in which things come to the surface that have been invisible before and the result is either a cure (healing, Heilung) or death. In Germany the healing was death: the nazi-greeting „Heil Hitler“ was equivalent to the slogan of the Spanish fascism: „Long live death!“
Brecht, Benjamin and all of the writers that they wanted to cooperate with in this magazine were forced into exile, many of them, like Benjamin, did not survive. Benjamin committed suicide in 1940 during his escape through the mountains. Brecht only heard about it a year later, when he arrived in California. Together with the news of his death, he received the manuscript of Benjamin’s On the concept of History. In the sixth thesis Benjamin concludes: QUOTE not even the dead will be safe from the enemy, if he is victorious. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious. UNQUOTE.
These thesis have not lost anything of their actuality today: but it is an actuality intertwined with the past. There is a secret appointment between the generations of the past and that of our own, as Benjamin said. Our task: QUOTE to brush history against the grain. And: To explode the continuum of history. The goal: to enter into a new constellation with past events. UNQUOTE To be able to quote the past, certain moments of the past. This is exactly what V does in the movie V for Vendetta.
V for Vendettatakes place in a future fascist regime in Great Britain. After acts of terrorism and a terrible plague a new order is being installed. V is an avenger, a terrorist, an individual anarchist who eventually brings down that system. He is wearing a mask because he had become a victim – V for victim? – of medical experiments that the regime had undertaken with parts of the population. It turns out that not only did they carry out the terrorist acts, but also cause the plague which created a state of emergency in which they were able to seize power. V individually eliminates everyone who was involved, at the end even the fascist dictator. The story ends with his death, but instead of revealing (re-V-ling) who V really is, the people – masses of people – turn into V by wearing his mask, his hat and his dark coat and march towards the London parliamant while V is being buried. Instead of being put in the ground, V is put in a underground-cabin full of dynamit and set in motion to explode the parliamant: this is the revolution.
The historical reference that V operates with is the memory of the so-called gunpowder plot in Elizabethan England: Guy Fawkes a Catholic revolutionary – or counterrevolutionary – had unsuccessfully tried to bomb the parliamant on Nov. 5th 1605. On the same day V starts his action: He manages to enter the public television (T-V), to highjack a whole studio and to activate a state-of-emergency channel to commemorate Guy Fawkes‘ deed as a heroic action of a singular man as a wake-up call to the people. One year later his mission is accomplished.
Last year – on this very day, the fifth of Novembre, I was here in Amsterdam to take part on Museums Night. I was invited by The Living Room(s) to take part in their event The revolutionary playground in De Appel. The date seemed to fit perfectly for the event – the only problem with this reference is that Guy Fawkes nights used to celebrate that the gunpowder plot was discovered, that Guy Fawkes had failed! How come that a Catholic terrorist has become the symbol for a global anticapitalist movement? My answer would be that V has become a symbol for revolution – against the principle of representation. The bombing of the British parliament is not seen as an attack against a democratic institution, rather as an attack against the ‚fortress of representation‘. This is the sentiment expressed in the mass-masking of V. It resonates in a strange way with Brechts poems and plays in the time of crisis in which revolutionaries, but also normal city-dwellers (Städtebewohner) are told to delete their faces, to efface, to become – anonymous.
The uncanny quality of these metaphors is that they anticipated a reality which became true only a few years later – in exile. As Heiner Müller once said: QUOTE the actuality of art is tomorrow. UNQUOTE So is it possible that today is this tomorrow? I want to argue that Brecht’s images of effacing, of escaping the place of success, of embracing defeat has been actualized as a new political strategy: an anti-representational strategy. This strategy is shared by the different social movements of last year – from Tahrir place in Egypt, the tents on Rothschild-Boulevard in Tel Aviv, Puerto de Sol in Madrid to Zuccotti (or Liberty) Park in Wall Street – but also the initiative that Christoph Schlingensief started in Germany during federal elections in the year 1998. It was the year of Brecht’s one hundred birthday and the year in which finally, after many years the learning play Die Maßnahme (The measures taken) was brought on stage.
It is Brecht’s most controversial work since it seems to affirm the elimination of a young activist by his own comrades. Again Brecht had anticipated the course of events: just a few years later the time of the Great terror began in the Soviet Union. Today a different reading of these plays may be possible, they can be actualized in a new constallation. I want to argue that this anti-representational aspect brings Brecht to his own limit, to the site of his defeat. The arm which raises the V for his statue thus expresses his approval of this defeat. Which defeat?
The defeat, the downfall, der Untergang of the egoist Johann Fatzer. This Fatzer is said to be the strongest man in a squad of four who operate a tank during World War One. By mistake they drive off the battlefield, but instead of returning to battle, they decide – following Fatzers proposal – to leave the war behind and to desert, to become AWOL „absent without official leave“ (offical military term). They hide in the city of Mülheim and wait for a QUOTE general insurrection of the people that would end the war and praise desertion UNQUOTE. The revolution doesn’t come, instead these four men turn against each other. At the end it is three against Fatzer. He had promised to supply them with food, but he had failed, because he had started a fight with a few butchers. Instead of helping him joining the fight, his comrades pretend not to know him – as they have agreed upon before as underground survival-strategy. His failure and their betrayal happen simultaneously: The main question of the piece is if this „type Fatzer“ really is an egoist, radical individualist, anarchist or if in reality a collectivist, a communist. Is he as amoral, voluntaristic, irresponsible as V in V for Vendetta (the prototype of an individualist terrorist) sacrificing survival of the group to his own vendetta against some butchers? Or is the group, the collective which betrayed him asocial, immoral and at the end terrorist?
This conflict is expressed in the antagonism between Fatzer and a figure called Koch, who becomes the new leader of the group and puts Fatzer on a showtrial to have him executed at the end. Heiner Müller has described this conflict Fatzer + / – Koch as a conflict of Brecht vs. Brecht. It is in essence a conflict between anarchist and party-functionary, the old conflict of the left between spontaneity and organisation. My attempt would be to show that we have to find a different, a third space between these two terms to get out of the deadly ping-pong of dialectics. But instead of looking for some higher ground, some elevated level, an „Aufhebung“ in this sense of synthesis, let’s focus on the conflict: „Conflict is the only thing in which I can still believe“ Heiner Müller once said. V for Versus.
Fatzer is a typical Brecht-figure, a „type“ like Baal or Mecky Messer: Brecht called them „great asocials“, Benjamin „virtual revolutionaries“: V for virtual revolutionary! This is actually what I would like to speak about: virtual vs. actual revolution or maybe virtual and or even as actual revolution. Benjamin’s actuality today derives from terms like „virtual revolutionary“: after the renaissance, the rediscovery of Walter Benjamin in the years following 1968, Benjamin was re-rediscovered in the years after 1989 in the context of what the internet critic Geert Lovink calls ‚German media theory‘. Benjamin & Brecht both shared a certain sense of enthusiasm for new technology and – different than most intellectuals of critical theory, most prominently Adorno – of mass-culture. Early forms of today’s pop-culture. Benjamin today could be the prototype of what Lovink calls „virtual intellectual“: a precarious, but independent thinker.
I want to use Benjamianians terms to reflect a bit about „virtual revolutions“: the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, real, actual revolutions, were often enough labelled „facebook“-revolutions. For a certain time the Egyptian google-manager was made into a public figure, a public face of the revolution. But isn’t the strength of these revolutions exactly the effacing of its protagonist, that they are „revolutions of persons“ – as a Spanish activist called it, according to the slogan: „real democracy now!“ The angry shouting against all politicians: „They don’t represent us! They shall all leave!“ In Germany in the fall of 1989, just before the fall of the wall, the people in East Germany were shouting: „Wir sind das Volk.“ – „We are the people“. A tricky translation: The English word ‚people‘ means both, population and persons. The German word „Volk“ doesn’t. The excessive use the Nazis had made of that word has lead Brecht to the conclusion that it should be dropped, he was only speaking of population, „Bevölkerung“ – accordingly the artist Hans Haake has proposed an artwork in which he wanted to change the inscription of the parliamant from „Dem deutschen Volke“ („for the German people“) into „Der deutschen Bevölkerung“.
In 1998 Christoph Schlingensief founded a political party that was supposed to be based on persons alone: „Vote yourself we know how to do it!“ was the slogan. The clou was that German law allows individuals to run for office without a party – all you need is 200 signatures of people in your area to become a candidate. Schlingensief propagated that: „Du bist 1 Volk: 1 V“ („You are the people: one people!“) Like in Spain today this V means persons: not public persons, but also not private persons. How could you be private in a mass of millions? Is it rather „common persons“ – in a very strong sense of „common“ as a new, a third space between public and private. Maybe even as the key-concept of all these social movements we have seen in the last year: „common causes“ – maybe even „commonist“?!?
This brings us back to Fatzer, rather: to his antagonist Koch, later called Keuner. The stories from Mr. Keuner later became an independent work of Brecht – the name, said Benjamin, derives from the Greek word koinos which means: common man. Who is, as Benjamin writes, a leader (Führer). And a thinker. But thinking, as Brecht & Benjamin always pointed out, is a collective practice. More than that: Thinking is the common! Mr. Keuner, the thinker, is very lazy that’s why he has to be carried on stage to watch what is going on there. This is exactly the attitude that Brecht wanted from his audience: cold-blooded, relaxed experts, smoking cigarettes, looking cool and distanced.
Thus Brecht urged his actors and actresses not to identify themselves with their roles, but to des-identify: no „Einfühlung“ (empathy), but „Ausfühlung“ (ex-pathy, so to speak). To put a distance in-between: between actor and role, but also between audience and figure. This distancing device is called: Verfremdungseffekt or V-Effect! V for Verfremdung! In English: alienation or estrangement, but it’s tricky: it is not Entfremdung, the alienation of the producers from the product that Marx had analysed, but an artifical device to change the appearance of well-known phenomenons in a less known one, stranger, more distant in order to recognize the misuse behind the use, the exception behind the rule. (This programatic has been actualized for example by Judith Butler who had shown that the category of gender is not naturally given, but socially constructed. Or by the research of critical whiteness which shows how race also is a social construction.)
Benjamin and later Roland Barthes wrote that this V of Verfremdung is an effect of writing. Just as letters, especially the „types“ of a typewriter, need blanc spaces in between, an actor or actress has to „write“ on stage, has to become an author. In a very literal sense: QUOTE He must be able to space his gestures as the compositor spaces words (sperren) UNQUOTE The singular gesture is the material with which an actor works: QUOTE „The more frequently we interrupt someone engaged in an action, the more gestures we obtain. Hence the interrupting of action is one of the principal concerns of epic theater. („die Handlung unterbrechen“) UNQUOTE. Thus V is like an intervention, an inter-vening V: just like the mark one makes to put additional words in a sentence. The V as graphic sign is a symbol for splitting or for opening up a gap, a fissure. It is a de-vice to produce distance, an interruption or an inter-vall. An insert: Control and V is: a quote. The goal: QUOTE „to make gestures quotable“ UNQUOTE
The epic actor/actress has to put her gestures in quotation marks: V like the fingers that accompany a word or a sentence with a certain gestures to mark them as quotes, to distance the speaker from the spoken. This Brechtian technique has to be radicalized and generalized for making political art: thus a performance is never to be limited to a cause or a certain message, but is always already something else, less or more, double just as the actor or the actress on stage who is supposed to show (a role) and to show (the act of) showing: Verfremdung as Verdopplung, doubling. As the theatre-scientist Hans-Thies Lehmann wrote: QUOTE Political theatre is the interruption of the political UNQUOTE. If there was no time for art there was no time to look twice. Art is the second look, a double, doubling look. Becoming identical with the political process corresponds in a twisted way to the mere onlooker, the Voyeur. Art, theatre or performance is something different, it is the third space between passive watching and acting (in an activist sense). It is the space that opens up like – a V. It never fully actualizes itself, but always also remains virtual. It is the re of revolution, the return: it is the escape from the site of success, the embracing of failure.
At least, that’s what Benjamin said in his last writing On the concept of history: Empathy, Einfühlung, is wrong, because with who does one empathize? The answer is QUOTE irrefutably with the victor. Those who currently rule are however the heirs of all those who have ever been victorious. Empathy with the victors thus comes to benefit the current rulers every time. This says quite enough to the historical materialist. UNQUOTE The practice of quoting is a means to explode the continuum of history, to brush history against the grain. It is always an act of violence (V for violence) – to rip something out of one context and to put it into another one. Only in a free, liberated, resurrected society no violence would be needed , all moments of history would be at the hands of humanity. Thus Benjamin & Brecht were dreaming of artworks that were composed completly out of quotes. Which proves Lyotards paradox of postmodernity that one has to be postmodern in order to become modern. In a variation of a well-known postmodern slogan we could say today: „We have never been postmodern“.
Artworks composed completley out of quotes require an audience able to read it. Thus the attempt to abolish the difference between production and reception as consequence of this dream. Brecht was hoping that the radio could be revolutionized in this way that it transforms from an apparatus of distribution to one of communication. Accordingly Brecht tried to revolutionize the way of theatre-making – in the original sense of the word from the astronomer Copernikus who toppled the geocentric view of the world and substituted it with a heliocentric one. In his conception of the „Lehrstücke“ (teaching plays), Brecht performs such a Copernican turn: He toppled the view of theatre that was centred on the relationship between actors acting on stage and an audience watching them do that to – the actors acting! He proposed to kick out the audience – since it is the actors who are the ones learning (by acting), not the audience (by watching them act). This radical conception of play Brecht labelled „Lehrstück“ – teaching play. But because of this emphasis on the act of learning, he himself translated it into learning play („Lernstücke“). The audience is only allowed in, he wrote, if they are of any use – for the actors. This notion radically undermines the differentiation of teaching and learning in order to transform it into a process, a process that takes place simultaneously: It is – quite literally – a learning (and teaching) by doing: by performing. There is no longer a certain message being delivered from by a teacher to a pupil, but a continuous process that works both ways. It is a sabotage to the principle of representation (in German: Darstellung). And that’s why: it had to be stopped. The experiment had to end.
It was ended from the outside: the rise of a fascist regime. The German parliamant was set on fire in an individual act by the Dutch anarchist Marinus van der Lubbe, but instead of waking up the people as in V for Vendetta, the nazis use the incident of the Reichstagsbrand to abandon all democratic rights and to install a dictatorship. When Brecht heard the Reichstag was on fire, he left Germany immediately – just in time before he and his team were caught and put into a concentration camp. When Brecht returned to Germany 15 years later, he could not continue where he had stopped. Instead he had to rebuild the German theatre slowly out of ruins. But in the mean time he had also changed his theory. Now he announced that the focus was no longer on the process of representing, but on that which is being represented. This, at least from our point of view, was a step back – maybe a tactical one as in Lenin’s phrase: one stead ahead, two steps back, but the theatre is still standing on that foot that stepped two steps back without ever getting ready to step ahead once more.
It was not the theatre that stepped ahead, but visual artists who started to perform themselves and call their performances performance art. Often audiences were seen as useful and admitted, but it was clear that they were only allowed in as witnesses of a singular act (like shooting yourself in your arm). While most performances today are not as self-mutilating as these pioneer performers who initially „were afraid of representation“, contemporary theatre-makers have adopted that term of performance in order to express exactly that: being afraid of representation and wanting to shift the focus from representation to the act of representing, to: performance. This requires more than Brecht’s nonaristotelian dramaturgy, rahter a postaristotelian dramaturgy that always begins in the middle: everything starts from there. No more beginning, middle and end, only middle. Brecht was unwilling to go that far. So in the end he remained in the frame of Aristotles. Brecht was not ready to sacrifice the story, the fable or parable.
Brecht defended the parable-principle in the exact moment it came to an end according to Thomas Pynchons novel Gravity’s rainbow, in German: Die Enden der Parabel (the ends of the parables). Pynchon’s parable is the line of flight of the V2 rocket. It is called the Blitz (flashlight) since it hits the ground before you can hear its sound. Since then the order of cause and effect is lost forever. Maybe Brecht was aware of it and thus he defended it. In a terrible way it is the rocket that brushes history against the grain, that literally explodes the continuum of history. „The enemy has not ceased to be victorious.“
At last V for Veto or for Voice: At the beginning I have promised to speak about hand-signs. Not just 2 fingers or 4 fingers, but all fingers. (Put your hands in the air!) This is a sort of clapping without sound. It was invented in New York when the police prohibited the occupiers of Wall Street to use technical equipment, loud speakers or other electric amplifiers, in German: „Verstärker“. Thus the group started to amplify themselves by repeating the words of the speakers in a choir: the so called „human“ or „people’s mic“. Along with this choir went certain hand-signs that enable the gathering, the general assembly or asamblea to communicate on a horizontal level and to make collective decisions in a radically democratic way. The similarity to Brecht’s learning play practice and radio-theory is striking: Brecht envisioned to put the listeners in contact with the learned choirs of his plays or to broadcast to the general public the counseling and decisions of the people involved in learning plays which he called „meetingähnliche Kollektivveranstaltungen“: meeting-like collective events. Sounds like a fit description for an asamblea.
Or the other way around: asambleas as model for learning plays. The „people’s mic“ produces for the participants a strong V-Effect – Verstärker, amplifier-effect – but also Verfremdung, alienation in the original Brechtian sense: the seperation of elements, the showing of the showing as well as displaying an attitude, a commentary. The people that constitute the „people’s mic“ are simultaneously listening, repeating and commenting via hand-signs, either agreeing with what is said, disagreeing or simply passing it on. While from the outside the „people’s mic“ might look like the old model of a preacher preaching to the converted, it is a new model of communication, a multi-voiced choir that could be described as epic in the Brechtian sense. At the same time it follows a postaristotelian dramaturgy, since it is no longer a process of linear representation form production to reception, but it begins and ends in the middle. The choir is a form of live media which is no longer a tool or instrument, a means for an end, but what Agamben has described as QUOTE „means without ends“ UNQUOTE: It is part of the production of sociality. It is a Great Education Council – „ein Großes Pädagogium“ – as Brecht envisioned in Fatzer. By repeating the words, copying gestures, testing different attitudes the people are learning. Thus the theatre is transforming into what Benjamin has described as „laboratory of versatility“: V for versatility.
P.S: Sloganomics: „Stop reading Benjamin, start to live Benjamin!“