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.
#28 July, 10th - 16th
0.30 am. On highway A89 between Lyon and Clermont-Ferrand. The Tour de France, also known as “The Big Loop”, has turned out to be piecework with a prescribed transfer of ca. 600 km from Chambery to Bergerac. Either this because the Tour is no longer popular enough in France to acquire enough en-route cities on the stretch between these cities, or because the organizers recently browsed through the works of Marquis de Sade; which they probably did anyway, if you look at some of the mountain stretches.
Whatever they are, the reasons remain a mystery. Fact is that the protagonists of the Tour, the professional cyclists have struck it lucky this time. They are neatly carted onto a plane, while the rank and file, aka the journalists, massage therapists, mechanics, complete the stretch via highway. A long line of accredited Tour vehicles, everyone knows one another, greets one another, meets again at the gas station.
Then signs turn up for Roanne. Memories flash by, not my own, but rather memories of stories. My father as a Wehrmacht soldier in France. After spending time in a military hospital for a shot in the leg – which was amputated years later; long-term effect of the war – he set out to catch up with his unit. Doing so partly by train, partly by truck, partly even hitchhiking. A Wehrmacht soldier hitchhiking through France, even picked up by Frenchmen, even as he passed through partisan territory. Which scared him, as he later told his son. Afterwards, he was in Brittany and in Normandy, hidden there in the classical hedges. Across from French partisans. Among them, as we later found out, a friend’s father; she was a guest at our wedding, and the fate of our fathers, who had both clung to the same speck of land, out of different motives, surely, but who both had death waiting for the other in the barrels of their weapons, was also a topic at the wedding. The flight paths of their weapons did not cross in such a way that we, our Breton friend and I, would not have not existed. Fortunately. If such thoughts still shoot through my head over 70 years after the end of that war upon mere sight of a harmless street sign – what ever may be going on in the heads of men and women in Iraq, in Syria, in Afghanistan? And how will it take for the war to become – to them and their children – no more than story told by their elders?
8.30 am. Woke up in an Ibis Budget, a pre-fab near the highway. The coffee there was only drinkable with reservations, so off I go into the bar at the Hypermarkt right across the street. There is an old lady attending. She’s offering coffee-to-go for 1,30 euro as well as bread-to-go, freshly cut for free. Do bakeries in France usually demand extra for cutting the bread? Maximizing profit with every flick of the wrist?
Then just highway. En route to Perigueux. Past the caves of Cro-Magnon man, past life-size figurines of early mankind. Also past the legendary Lascaux caves. Tour de France means coming to many charming places and many spectacular landscapes in France – and then not having enough time to devote to them. The race always has priority. On this so-called “rest day” with its 600 km transfer, there are still press conferences that have to be attended. Instead of Cro-Magnon man and his grand artistic achievements, the time is now for homo sapiens wrapped in Lycra on antiquated treadwheels. What comes chronologically later, does not always necessarily mean progress.
5.30 am. Woke up, well woke myself up, for work, before the tour starts again, in a cabin in the middle of the woods. A rabbit with long ears standing in front of the window. He belongs here, our host later tells us. Our hosts are from Paris, are fed up with big city life, as well as the money-making that has to be done to survive there. They bought themselves this property, where they now rent out rooms. They are happy, they say. And they really make that impression. During this three-week round-trip of France, we meet more such urban refugees, although they are more like refugees of neo-liberalism.
12.00 pm, Perigueux. The access roads here are blocked with excavators, dump trucks, tractors and similar large equipment from the construction and farming industry. Even scattered concrete and iron parts. The tour has the threat of terrorism hovering over it, especially since the Nizza attack of July 14th, 2016, which took place not too far from the Tour’s route at the time. None of this can be felt in our house in the woods. According to our landlords, the Perigord is not considered a region in which the IS recruits people. But Toulouse, they say, be careful about Toulouse, some people from there have gone to Iraq and to Syria. The Tour still goes to Toulouse, exactly on Bastille Day.
12.7. 7 pm, Pau. Finally some time to eat with colleagues, at an Italian place, pricey, but good. The Italian serving us, only speaks French, truly assimilated in second generation. If he is Italian, at all.
The colleagues talk about a cameraman from Eurosport, who draws portraits of the riders on the pages of the tour book during leisurely moments. They are charming portraits, the facial features merging with the profiles of the mountains that these riders have to climb. So, also some art on the tour. Sam’s creations can be viewed on his Instagram account: s4m_artwork.
Ah yes, Marcel Kittel once again wins this stage, his fifth already on this Tour. A tremendous achievement, which also entails a rare situation. The press conference ends early, because no one, really no one, has another question for the series winner. In Germany, however, we hear that the Kittel craze is gaining speed. Even people, who have nothing to do with cycling, have heard of his name. This is called media asynchronicity. We, the propagators of the craze, are no longer interested in details. The craze now surges on without us.
4.30 pm. Arrival in Peyragudes, an airport amidst the Pyrenees. 20 years ago, they shot a Bond film here, "Tomorrow Never Dies", as it was called; the region’s PR-representatives proudly telling us so in the press tent. We experience the present being laid to rest. Here in the mountains, Christopher Froome, threefold Tour winner, loses the yellow jersey for the first time, that which marks the best rider of the Tour. A historical moment. And the Tour de France promises to be as exciting as a Bond thriller, as exciting as the better ones in the series.
8 pm, arrival in Barousse, a small town in the Pyrenees. Gavin, a Brit, bought a hotel here in spring and is still stuck in the middle of renovations. He hadn’t planned his withdrawal from the working world of the metropolises until next year. Then he fell in love with the place, bought, built and opened his doors to gueszs. A friend from the Czech Republic helps out. On a pleasant evening in a town of 600 souls in the French Pyrenees, a Brexit-Brit, an East Berliner, an Eastern European and a woman from the Bodensee are united. Old Europe, we marvel at your wonders!
Ah and.. even far from the cultural strongholds, there are problems. Gavin tells us about the Internet provider Orange, who has left him hanging for months now. Having suffered the Telekom and 1und1, we not even want to know the details, but still ensure Gavin our greatest sympathies.
12 pm, Saint-Girons. At the start of this stage, disabled riders on dual wheels are rolled to where the professionals also stand. A great meeting of mobility. Many a hardened pro is touched by it. At the nursing home just 300m further down the road, the occupants are not accompanied outside. They chafe their hands on the fence; remain captives of their institution. Bravely, we tell each other that never, ever will we go into such a home. We do not ask ourselves whether these old people once claimed the same. Nor do we let them out ourselves. The Tour requires our attention.
9 pm, Toulouse-Blagnac. Our hotel lies not far from the airport. Hotel des Etats Unis, it is called - Hotel USA, perfectly suited to Trump’s visit to Paris that same day. We hope that The Donald will not also visit our USA – and are lucky. We are too tired to go see the fireworks marking the French Bastille Day. We sit on the balcony in front of our room, open the champagne – still nicely chilled – and search the sky for fireworks. In vain. The next day, we read in the newspaper that the fireworks were very beautiful. Jesus, you can’t have everything.
By the way, we did not encounter any Islamists in Toulouse, that alleged IS recruitment region. We only read of Muslims demonstrating against violence.
7 am. According to navigation device, the Hotel USA lies in a park, the Parc de Fondeyre. In search of the park and in search of a coffee, whose quality exceeds that of the coffee in the hotel, I set out on my own. The Parc de Fondeyre turns out to be an industrial “park”. Tire dealers with warehouses beside fuel depots. Also trucking companies of all kinds. Business does not seem to be running too well. Numerous office buildings stand empty. The realtor’s signs, attempting to sell or rent them out, are so tattered, so faded that even the realtors can hardly believe in closing a deal any more. The local press writes that business people here are complaining about burglaries and prostitution and demanding more police presence. I can’t question the business people myself, for there is almost no one on the streets. All right, it’s also Saturday. Just a few singular characters loitering around behind the fence of an ESSO warehouse. Yet I wander further through the industrial area. It feels more like home, more familiar, somehow even more beautiful to me than many a modern suburb with the always same family homes, the same hedges, the same double garages. Even in the absence of life, at the periphery of Toulouse, working life is visible here, even if only its very cracked traces. Enough reason to skim through Marc Augè’s essay "Non-Places" again, I note to myself, well aware that it won’t happen.
Finally I find a café that is open. Truck drivers from Eastern Europe sitting there, largely silent. Only once in a while someone says something, which indicates a Slavonic language. I keep completely to myself, savoring the wordless and anonymous community. Then I notice that these men are probably sitting right here and driving their trucks, because they are working for themselves and their families towards those very same suburban homes, which I would rather not even walk around. I do not mention to them these (my) contradictions.
2 pm. On the way from Rodez to Le Puy-en-Velay, we notice that along the Tour de France route almost nobody is staring into their smartphones. Only around every tenth person is engaged in telecommunication or texting. The majority of the people is sitting, lying, sprawling or standing there – and turning to each other. There is quite enough to do: entire seating and table arrangements have to be set up. Coolers are unpacked; their contents emptied out onto festively decorated or Spartan-rustic tables.
Once that is done, the many delicacies that have been brought along, also have to be consumed, the wine and beer bottles emptied. It is not even really possible to say that the spectators are truly waiting. They are well occupied with each other, with packing and unpacking, with eating and digesting, yes, even with talking to each other. If boredom does at some point threaten arise, when the hand twitches towards the phone, then a vehicle from the advertising caravan is sure to come by, the neutral retinue or even a team vehicle, which must be waved at, presents demanded, once again providing a new cause for conversation.
What becomes clear is that the Tour de France is a dual anachronism. With slow vehicles, powered by an ancient principle of transmitting force, stretching over long distances, often not even connecting start and finish by the shortest route possible. And although there is a giant media hype surrounding the entire event, there are, at best, radios giving information. Apart from that, the people are occupied with themselves, with “tools” trained over centuries: tongues and vocal chords, sometimes hands and feet. In this respect the Tour de France almost deserves consideration for the UNESCO World Heritage List.
At the end of the day, we again land with the urban refugees. A woman from Charlottenburg, who moved to the Auvergne in 2002 and is now raising sheep and pigs, which she then slaughters and turns into food for a school, a nursing home and the guests at her hostel. There is a sheep beside our room named “Yalla” – Arabic for “Let’s go”. Yalla is still being raised on the bottle, because it was so weak at birth. In a comforting thought for us city dwellers: Yalla will not be made into sausages. But Yalla needs to begin bearing new lambs in a few months. That how things lie for meat, if it is still alive, going “baa” and not lying in a lump on the glass counter. Yalla, yalla, we have to go now.
Translation: Elena Polzer, ehrliche Arbeit / freies Kulturbüro
Tom Mustroph *1967 in Berlin, lives and works in Berlin and Palermo and elsewhere on the road as a free author and free dramaturge in various social and cultural subsystems as theatre, fine arts and sports. Thereby he is mainly interested in how self responsible work may succeed with elegance and under keeping of at least minimal moral standards (sometimes in fine and performing arts), and which kinds of constellations systematically tend to fail (doping, mafia).
#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.