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  • Diana Thielen

Blundering around...

pic by Florence Freitag

... in collective! Welcome to the 2nd part of our interview-fingerfood-lingering and listening-exchange gathering! A small group of 4 people (of 14 in total) of the queer-feminist artist collective Altes Finanzamt met in December 2019 to talk: What is Altes Finanzamt for us? Why did we join? What units us? Each of us raised one question that we talked about, each question will be puplished in a seperate post. Shanti Suki Osman, Florence Freitag, Qwigo Baldwin and me, Diana Thielen, sharing our quite eclectic and curious thoughts about and with each other.


I have a question. Well, it's more like throwing some words out and asking for your associations. As Qwigo eluded to earlier, we are in a beautiful place with our collective and we are working well together. I was describing it to my friends in Brussels this week, and one of them is also a member of a collective but it is organized slightly differently. They are not an association and a lot of the legal stuff (rent contract etc) is in her name, so everyone always turns to her, having the effect that she does almost everything - deals with new members, deals with organising the space, problems with the building....It's a bit of a shame. So my discussion points are:  The role of care and the role of motivation for sustainability in a collective.


I think I can jump on it directly. Because I think these three words alone say so much about my understanding of Altes. When I try to describe what is so precious about Altes, for me it is having an alternative working space where care is very important. And I feel the question of sustainability is accompanying us all the time and it's never really solved. I feel like it will never really be solved as we are constantly negotiating and adapting - but with the will to figure out how to be with each other in a more sustainable way, where care is an important factor.


For me, what we're doing right now is kind of the practical embodiment of these few words. For example, I feel quite emotional and sensitive today and I am here with the people I am sharing a collective and a working space with, that I even work with concretely in different constellations . And at the same time we can be together and we can be vulnerable and we can share. So there is care and care is what is needed for being sustainable. And for giving you motivation to continue. I am realizing more and more, that I never had this kind of exchange in Berlin in the way it is happening at Altes. Though of course as we are a lot of people at Altes and it might be very different kinds of connection for each of us.


One of the first things I said when I arrived today was: „If this had been anything else I would have canceled". I feel a bit tired after a busy few days, but I  really had this feeling, and this is also something I mentioned to my friend last week: I am motivated to care! To sustain this! I asked myself: Where did this motivation come from? It's like you said, Diana, this somehow comes from the motivation of others' and I am wondering how unique it is. If it's something that can be finely tuned - or if its even needs to be fine tuned? Diana you also mentioned the negotiation that leads to the sustainability. I would say the negotiation is this sustainability. The fact that we negotiate keeps it in process. Keeps it in dialogue. Well we said pretty much the same thing...That's why these words came out to me. I can feel it physically - in what I do and the way I think and act around Altes and its members.


I am struck again by how much things have changed since I joined. Of course, with  the high member turnover, from the fact that every few months the collective membership renews itself through who's there, it changes just in terms of people and what they bring. But some of the reasons that members have rotated through so fast or so much in the last three or four years, are, I think, from caring too much! A kind of “over-care“ or “controlling care.“

Lately a housemate said to me, “Care is control,“ and I thought “Oooh... that's a gripping statement.“ I can't really agree, but I see where it's coming from: This sort of wish to design a system, or finally create a structure, that will sustain everything, and then we'll keep everything running without so much attention! And yet somehow, the one or two people developing this system are “the only ones“ on whom the whole burden is resting. You feel that they're pulling the whole ship along. We have had different generations of this kind of care.

And at the same time, there are also many, many folks in the background who quietly try and make sure that the necessary things get done, or figured out. Or lately, just in the last year, people tend to this kind of care : “Can we please all pay attention to how we communicate with each other in writing and in live encounters.“

How are we with each other? I think more attention, more space, has gradually opened up for that kind of care. How are we doing what we doing? Not just that we're doing it “right,“ but are we doing it in a way that makes us want to show up? That's the motivation, I think. Is it generous? Is it tender? Is it fun? Do you feel as though somebody is going to offer you a lovely meal and a cup of tea, or if they don't ... You know, that's not a service expectation (laughing)... but do you feel that your other human, animal needs can be served here? Or that you can make that offer, because you've got enough to spare — you‘ve got enough to go around?

And I think that has become more and more central to how we understand the collective we're doing today.

Shanti Suki Osman is an artist working with sound and song.

© Helin Bereket

Diana Thielen creates bodybased art in Berlin and is usually busy with the actual failure of multitasking.

Florence Freitag arbeitet als Performerin, Video- & Stimmkünstlerin, Autorin und Kuratorin und ist von kollaborativen Austauschprozessen und instabilen (Hör-)Körpern, Klängen und Bildern inspiriert.

© Pauline Dalifard

Qwigo Baldwin alisa Qwigo Flux is active in Berlin in theater-making, storytelling, body music and vocal improvisation.


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