The Year 2017
A Collective Chronicle of Thoughts and Observations
Welcome to what is going to be a collective chronicle of the year 2017! This journal will follow the general change that we experience in our daily lives, in our cities, countries and beyond, in the political discourses and in our reflections on the role of artists and intellectuals. Originating from several talks and discussions with fellow artists and thinkers FFT feels the strong need to share thoughts and feelings about how we witness what is going on in the world. Week after week different writers, artists, thinkers and scientists will take the role of an observer as they contribute to this collective diary.
#25 June, 19th - 25th
June 19th, 2017
Been eyeing the first entry all day, procrastinating, attempting to win space, to disorganize the chronology of the day, detach myself from its sequential order, – today was yesterday and tomorrow will be today – open the floodgates of time, every day anew, the beginning lies before the beginning, only then is it initial.
Less and less clear on how to write here, as who and above all: to whom? Quick! Leave it!
June 20th, 2017
What doesn’t return, wasn’t there. Life relentlessly runs over to us and then is already over. That’s the dangerous thing about it, that is what we can never be safe from and why we need at least two lives, otherwise we will never have lived on this earth. Writing is a form of returning, recalling, conjuring up what has been and nothing shall be lost to us. The space of possibilities opened up by writing is an doorway towards what we call a past, which has simply not gone past. Heavens help those to whom that is clear. Today, they are wide, blue and full of heat.
Every day, the point that today is nothing, but today is driven home to us with greater and greater rhythmic urgency. No connection, no link, no story is communicated to us. Never, that the Afghans in Frankfurt are today still facing their impending deportation; it is again uncertain, whether they won’t be fetched from their houses at dawn. “At two the gendarmes surrounded the house and arrested us all. That is how pleasant it still is.” As Günter Eich writes, and that is a story dealing with how the next day continues.
Let’s not deceive ourselves, the daily news, its language, its unconditionality are a weapon, directed at our existence in all its uncertainty. We are being attacked by highly fictive promises of security, disguised as realism against the surging disorder of time, its flickering, blazing, its overflow, expressing something of a different duration, of a different substance than anything that we can identify.
To listen to all that which is also still audible, to perceive it is the basis of my work, to take everything seriously that happens to me, as Henry James once wrote the writers into their journals. Work, which keeps me alive, allowing me to gain time and beyond it, the prospect of another word in the vague territory of the real.
I am sitting in Basel, the window in my room opens out onto the old Roman town moat. Trees are growing between excavation pits with glass roofs, in which beautifully arranged small skeletons of Celts can be admired, bowls out of which they or the Romans ate and clasps, with which they fastened their clothes. At night, the pits glow so that they can be seen in the dark.
Over the summer, the city’s museum service has set up white nomad tents, partitioned into sections of equal size using wooden frames, like sandboxes on a playground. Over the last days, children have been gathering in front of the tents with their teachers from 8 am onwards. Their voices buzzing, screeching, murmuring, depending on the lesson and on how strict the accompanying teaching personnel is. Then I see them sitting in the sandboxes, digging for Swiss history. At great didactical expense, they learn to look for something that they should never ever find: that their own history may also be lying there. And the closer they get to this imperative the deeper they dig themselves into their own inexistence.
Every country has its own ways of denying its history. Even after thirty years of living in Switzerland as the eternal foreigner (which I am not unhappy about), I do not know Swiss history. For people in this country would rather not have it, prefer to have none, say: I prefer not to – just like Bartleby the Scrivener, the hero in Herman Melville’s eponymous story from the year 1853, “brother to us all” as Gilles Deleuze calls him. So children can go ahead and continue digging for their dead brothers; they will remain under lock and key and an eternal threat.
June 21st, 2017
Yesterday was World Refugee Day. The world has left home and I passed by my old addresses to see whether they are still there, whether they still speak to me. I worry about them. There’s Godard, who says we have to think differently, smaller, slower, who always makes two pictures of everything that happens, for, so he says, that creates connections, which are more than just one and one. He prays every day for the justice between fiction and reality. Then I continued on to Aichinger; heard her demand that words must pass through silence in order to be loud again in times of need, being needed and turning away neediness. For language is also capable of this – it replaces me with something, in place of naked, defenseless life. Then there is a word, another presence, a subtle body, belonging neither to me nor not to me. Then we are three. And no longer quite so alone, trapped, with references, like a need.
We more than enough in need and rare is a language capable of turning away that need. For we will not have it taken from us, have handed it and ourselves to boot over to a generalization of sayability, an absurd concept of being suitable for the masses. Art is haunted by a specter of majorities, of the greater audience, of the winner, of strength, of universality; it is nothing more than the old specter of Europe. It demands from us strict belief in feasibility and that what seems real is actually there. Cheers to that. As if reality were there, as if it had ever existed, been present, genuine – and no one is allowed to ever leave it. That itself is then called the realism of the 21st century and it has already become an established movement. What a highly ideological, completely twisted notion, sweeping aside all the heavy work on the inextricable link between fictionality and reality, for which there is no cure. Have we completely forgotten that we are not master in our own house? That the uncanny inhabits the home, before we can live in it?
Where are the artists, who write for the few in themselves, who seek to converse with the Other, with the weak, with he or she, who feels too silently, within themselves? Where are those who dare to journey into speechlessness, to cut back feigned connections, the meanings, which are only claims anyhow, if they aren’t wrested, translated, carried around, picked out line by line, word by word out of the big evidence-less sea of language? A great ossification has taken place. Power is again and still admired, affirmed. Only few take the liberty to say no to the proposals of urgency, of significance, of terror voiced by security and happiness; no to the names of the great actors, whose expression has always already been there, who are more and simultaneously also less than dead, which is what makes them so treacherous.
As if we weren’t capable of doubting that which is proposed to us as being important, as real and also as unreal (it is one and the same). All that rattling with the threat of missing the moment and with it the burning events of the present could also be dealt with differently, – with a dismissal of referentiality, with the question of whether that is a connection? And if yes, is it one that binds me? How can I know that, and who else than myself can know it? Questions as necessary as silence, as looking closely and as the suspension of chronologies. In Aichinger’s words: “Controlling the landscapes of the heart, its illumination, the flickering, the blackness. Don’t stop.”
The enlivening possibilities of language lie on the borderline to speechlessness. Only from there can we say what is missing and ask, how to do do justice to that which is constantly missing, which is incessantly made to be missing – aren’t that we ourselves? – A justice, which has never before been right, which refuses to do right to itself.
June 22nd, 2017
An old friend called me, we had a date in the afternoon. She asked me to buy and bring along a Basler Newspaper from the newsstand. I asked her which one I should bring, yesterday’s, today’s or better tomorrow’s.
When we met, she was slightly worried about my mental state, we blamed it on the heat, while actually – I am pretty sure that today’s news is the same as yesterday’s. Then we spoke about India. She was in India in 1974, on her return journey from a two-year study trip to the Sepik, a dying river, with the Yatmul in Papua New Guinea. Together with her husband, she lived in a small house, two meters above the ground, which was flooded during the monsoon season. That was the time of year, when the houses cast off and set out on the water. They drifted in their reflections, glided over them and became earth and sky. In order to visit each other, people boarded their dugouts, paddled over to their neighbors. The dugouts were carved by the men for their women, who went out fishing in them. They exchanged the fish for sago, betel and tobacco. Yet the fish became fewer, that was the river dying. It was suffocating on algae growing rampant since being thrown out of an aquarium into the river.
She and her husband held interviews there. To explore feelings and people, who have always lived along the river. They had a premonition that people will talk, always, there is no other possible way. No matter how foreign they may have seemed at first. They wanted to listen to the foreigner, also wanted to hear, what it would be like, if they listened to them, wanted to know, how they were saying, what they were saying, in which situations, at which points in the conversation they said which words and which not. All this was very exciting. They savagely studied to become ethnopsychoanalysts, that lucid tribe of researchers from Switzerland, hungry to learn all the things that people have said, thought, felt.
Later they wrote a book about it together. When my friend’s husband died almost three years ago, many Sepik travelers, who hadn’t been there for quite some time, came to his funeral. But when they met each other, so as to bid farewell to one of their own, they brought the river with them. It lives. On this evening, it flowed through us all, flooded the earth and we floated on its reflecting surface through the hall on the first floor of the guild house ZUR MÄGD. In front of the windows flowed the Rhine and when we stepped outside the door late that night, it had become the Sepik.
In the evening, a meeting of my literary group, where we have been reading books and talking about them together for many years now. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace has been on our list for quite some time. Now we’ve read the first three hundred pages. The book, published in 1996, is the most precise, most radical – simply the most unrestrained – inventory of the more than frightening state of US-American society, in which everything is addicted: education, sports, life, thought, family, death, radio programs, secret services, even madness is addicted. Aka driven, overloaded by something that excessively, unquestionably, unstoppably demands to be nothing other than real. Addiction is the function of a necessity derived from itself, whose fulfillment always only again confirms its necessity. Aka total confinement, total bondage, unable to hear anything but that which is there, – desire, lust, reflex, empty, missing, unreferenced, impossible to relate to any other life than that of the addicted evidence. This has become life in general, in other words, could also be lived by anyone else, this kind of jest and entertainment.
June 24th, 2017
In a 1969 French film co-production on the Vietnam War, Godard shows just how much the Vietnam of the news knows nothing about Vietnam. At the same time, he gauges - frame by frame -just how much Vietnam occupies him, what it is like there, in him, with him, every day, everywhere. Much the way that he has continued working to this day.
We must avoid knowing, where we are not, we must avoid speaking for others, who are not the others inside us. What can we say about the insanity of a society, which treats people fleeing across the globe, by asking (whom? the law? God? the police?): Can we take them in? Unless we ask ourselves whether we can take ourselves in and if the answer is yes, then where? As whom? As the maniacs, who believe they have a right against those in need, the weak, the helpless, the right to reject them, send them away. Can we take this upon ourselves?
When Columbus conquered America against the odds and came across the first people of this new continent, he named them after the country, which he thought to have found, but which was a different country: Indians. And so the thus named lost their land, were foreigners on their own soil, which now belonged to those, who assumed the right to name it. We know how the history of the Indians continues to this day: they must still be eradicated, never-ending to the same degree that they cannot be eradicated; they keep coming back.
The thus thoroughly addicted society, which David Foster Wallace writes about in his book, is this society fleeing from itself, with everything around it destroyed.
June 25th, 2017
Had my block seminar at the ETH Zürich, where I teach the course: Writing as Work, Linguistic Precision as a Research Field of Literature, every semester since 1996. I’ve steered the class through the demise of two professorial positions for German language and literature and through all Bologna reforms. And what I do is nothing more that provide a space of interest, in which texts can be looked at differently – their impulses, their hidden treasures, their dreams and limitations. The seminar is actually a little vessel at high sea, where texts can be uncertain and in transit. Today, the participants were asked to write a text on the subject: Unfortunately, sometimes we lose. A line that I got from a Kiarostami film. At the end of TEN, the main character says this line to her friend, who has just been abandoned and shaved off her hair. And it is like an awakening.
P.S. I ask myself, whether that was really seven days?
Translation: Elena Polzer
Friederike Kretzen born 1956 in Leverkusen, Germany. She studied sociology and ethnology and worked as a dramaturge at Residenztheater (Munich). Since 1983 she lives and works as a writer in Basel, Switzerland. She has published several novels and works as a literary critic, essayist and teacher for literature and writing. Resent publications: Weisses Album; Natascha, Veronique und Paul; Handbuch der Ratlosigkeit (Co-editor). Her latest book: Schule der Indienfahrer.
#1 January 1st - 8th Jacob Wren
#4 January 20th - 30th Alexander Karschnia & Noah Fischer
#5 January 30th - February 6th Ariel Efraim Ashbel
#6 February 6th - 12th Laila Soliman
#9 February 26th - March 5th Gina Moxley
#11 March 13th - 19th Agnieszka Jakimiak
#12 March 20th - 26th Yana Thönnes
#13 March 30th - April 2nd Geert Lovink
#15 April 10th - 16th Iggy Lond Malmborg
#17 April 24th - 30th Jeton Neziraj
#20 May 15th - 21st Bojan Jablanovec
#22 May 29th - June 4th Segun Adefila
#23 June 5th - 11th Agata Siniarska
#29 July 17th - 23rd Maria Sideri
#30 July 24th - 30th Joachim Brodin
We are deeply saddened by the devastating news that Mark Fisher died on January 13th. He first visited the FFT in 2014 with his lecture „The Privatisation of Stress“ about how neoliberalism deliberately cultivated collective depression. Later in the year he returned with a video-lecture about „Reoccupying the Mainstream" in the frame of the symposium „Sichtungen III“ in which he talks about how to overcome the ideology of capitalist realism and start thinking about a new positive political project: „If we want to combat capitalist realism then we need to be able to articulate, to project an alternative realism.“ We were talking about further collaboration with him last year but it did not work out because Mark wasn’t well. His books „Capitalist Realism“ and „The Ghosts of my Life. Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Future“ will continue to be a very important inspiration for our work.
Podiumsgespräch im Rahmen der Veranstaltung "Die Ästhetik des Widerstands - Zum 100. Geburtstag von Peter Weiss"
A Collective Chronicle of Thoughts and Observations ist ein Projekt im Rahmen des Bündnisses internationaler Produktionshäuser, gefördert von der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien.