Reading Circle 09, curated by Malou Solfjeld

“Occupation in the air of expansion”
Is occupation something you do or something that occupies you, or is it both? In the 9th episode we’ll meet different actors from the art world, sharing their reflections on their occupation with us, from what it means to be occupying oneself as a curator, a female sculptor and a man-machine-man musical instrument. We also get a reminder from a secret book hidden inside another book, about who controls past, present and future, and this is intended as a heads up to everyone concerned with occupation – how’s your career going? Which history do you wanna write, which present do you contribute to and which future do you wish to see materialize – tomorrow and the day after.
Reading list 09

In Denmark, on May 18, 2020 is the day where most businesses, including restaurants, are allowed to open up again after months of lockdown. This makes me very happy, but also, I wish to remember to not let anything go “back to normal” – things as they were before were not okay in the bigger picture, in general, one should never go back, but move forward towards new ways of living and this brings me to the question of today, what does occupation actually mean, to the occupier and to the occupied? Is it a process in the air of expansion, or is it a tangible take-over of one’s body, mind and soul from living in a world not completely unlike the one we know from Orwell’s 1984? Does occupation mean something that enriches our lifes, or is it merely a matter of making money, more and more money, preferably, to obtain power and material wealth. These days the politicians spend a lot of time defending and discussing what is good for “the economy”, it’s no longer to be or not to be, or to die or not to die, as my friend said when we discussed covid and Baudelaire a few months ago. Today it is: To open or not to open. And can you believe that the museums, theatres and concert halls are actually the last places to open in Denmark? You can go shopping as crazy as you like, but experiencing – or one is almost forced to say consuming – culture and art, is secondary. I guess, I just wanna repeat what someone said when the financial help for lost income was starting to be a topic in the public debate: Try to imagine your lockdown without music, without books, without movies, without art. To be honest, I believe, this would have caused a lot more deaths (at least mental deaths as without aesthetic stimulation we would all become zombies). So let me ask all the art world workers once again: How is your career going? This question should not be a taboo, and what I find in Hito Steyerl’s text about “Art as Occupation” is the homage we should all start to pay to the endless interns, museum guards and so on, all the people in the art world, including the artists of course, but also the stageworkers, cleaning ladies or whoever might be involved in culture – so many of these precarious workers have lost their jobs due to curfews.
Our “motto” for #readingcontinuesathome was #flattenthecurve when we first started out with the podcast as an alternative to the physical meeting our reading circle was attended as. The “motto” was a play on words – reading circle – flatten the curve. Now, we need a new motto, and perhaps we even need a new occupy movement.

Aline Lenzhofer reads
“Art as Occupation: Claims for an Autonomy of Life”, written by Hito Steyerl
I think this text was referring to the Arab Spring followed by the Occupy movement, and it made me think of the protests in Hong Kong that seemed to have gotten lost in the corona crisis. When the curfews started all over the world, I saw friends posting demands about UBI. Un/fortunately this movement never became realized, but perhaps we witness the sowing of the seeds to a new revolution.

Ida Retz Wessberg reads
“A tribute to Camille Claudel”, written by Ida Retz Wessberg 
“AIR IS ESSENTIAL FOR THE WORK PROCESSES with traditional sculpture materials. For example, air is a necessary precondition for the creation of fire that can melt the metal down to the liquid form, used for casting bronze sculptures. In the same manner air is also fundamental for plaster to set into the solid form, we know from museum’s collections of casted sculptures. […] Air is essential for most living beings; plants, people, animals. But air can also be dangerous, spreading spores, viruses and forest fires.” (quoted from Wessberg)

Asija Ismailovski reads
“The Expanded Field”, written by Irit Rogoff
“The dominant transdisciplinarity of the expanded field of art and cultural production has entailed equal amounts of researching, investigating, inventing archives from which we can read in more contemporary ways, finding new formats, self-instituting, educating, organizing and sharing. Most interestingly, it has dictated that each idea or concept we take up must be subjected to pressures from other modes of knowledge and of knowing – it cannot simply stay within its own comfortable paradigm and celebrate itself and its achievements. And so in this other context, the expanding field is one of broader contemporary knowledge bases and practices.” (quoted from Rogoff)

Enar de Dios Rodriguez reads
“The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism”, written by Emmanuel Goldstein
Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. Maybe I should after all accompany my so-called art world worker career with becoming a teacher. And help the students re-write their own understanding of past, present and future. Or maybe rather learn from the students, to re-write my own understanding, since it seems like those kids are the one’s who actually got the point about where we stand in the midst of a huge global climate crisis – the sixth mass extinction on Earth, for the first time ever caused by humans.

Claus Haxholm reads
“Rhythm Research”, written by Claus Haxholm