Something about events has been bugging me. I think i finally realised what it is. They feel way too natural and easy. As if going to a space to be with other people who constantly measure you and vice versa is somehow painless.
Affective labor and self-branding are real things, as corny as those terms might feel like after all the articles you read. I create my career by existing among people who measure and categorise different modes of existing, potentially granting each other with jobs, visibility, social safety and money, all of those things always temporary. By being seen and heard is how I generate most of my income.
A Finnish journalist was writing against demonstrations recently, claiming that they are pointless and ineffective. By adhering to that sort of logic, they missed the most important point of demonstrations: the chance to be in a general situation where you (ideally) don’t single out —unless you’re an active part of a bloc and need to prove your commitment to peers.
For me, a demonstration is about mass, in all of its meanings, but mostly as gravity. It’s about the undeniable fact of a group of people being somewhere without any one hero claiming the glory. Goes without saying I get agitated when career activists steal the visibility of a demo on Twitter, although I do the same all the time as an artist.
Anyway, this is why I freeze when I think of attending to an art event. I look at the names (speakers, artists, panelists, etc) and the venue, the number of people attending, the timing (only very formal institutions do things in the morning, and the later it is the more it is about getting drunk), the banner image. And everything seems set in stone, like this is how we will do these things now and forever, as if the content has been finally distinguished from form and this form can rule over us all.
Like somehow it would be the most natural thing in the world to invite people to discuss a problematic topic, to plan together, to listen to someone talking? Also, shouldn’t artists be the first to problematise any given condition?
If I do go, and let’s say it’s an event where everyone is expected or allowed to engage in discussion, I always-already feel like I’m performing discussion. Furthermore, be it how earnest, nothing will come out of it. One will forget the ideas, but in a soft way, like walking out of a blockbuster melodrama and wiping your tears before taking the bus home.
I only remember our bodies were in the same space for a moment. For me, that’s the most crucial bit of information.
When I was a teenager I felt anxious about going to city centre, which was just a shop or two and a grocery store. What mattered were the places were people would come together. The coolest ones would hang out at this burger kiosk, smoking. The nerdy ones would go to a Christian clubhouse. And of course all the people who did not fit into this dichotomy fairytale were somewhere else, unseen by whoever decides what gets to be counted as being seen.
Most times, me and my friends would sit outside somewhere, during winter too, in a makeshift assembly based around whoever had either cigarettes, alcohol or wheels. I was hanging out with older types until something happened I started to stay indoors listening to Nine Inch Nails. This is, I assume, when my identity-building addiction begun.
But I will not internalise or medicalise this, as in “events are exciting but it’s me who has demons and need to work on them”, the way one learns to do whenever capitalism fails us, because I sincerely feel we should look at the very gestures in building a public event and what those taken-for-granted gestures do to one (or many).
What I want to say is the logic was same back then. I wanted to connect and communicate and feel something and see what we can do together as humans.
What was good about those teen moments was that no one pretended we were out there in the cold for any other reason than being there. Although we didn’t talk about that, since there were no meta levels yet.
Today, I feel like all the themes and structures and topics are there at the event to cover up this awkward need to connect. Like, I just can’t organise an art event for the sake of not being alone and scared.
I don’t wanna naturalise this feeling I have, either, and deny the urgency issues can and should have, or look for an anti-intellectual hideout. Holism would be ideal. Pre-emptive emotional formalism is what dominates.