Review of the London Kick-off Meeting
June 6, 2010
Let The Exchanges Begin!
By Steven L. Bridges
True to form, the atmosphere in London was abuzz—a dense mixture of humidity and rain, the bustle of a world financial center, and the constant chatter of an arrhythmic urban existence. “Mind the gap,” announces the androgynous voice in the London underground; a statement that seems rather apt for a number of reasons, but especially as it speaks to the conditions of everyday life in this place, and so many others like it. For so often in contemporary society do our lives seem to be defined by the gaps that exist between and among us, the (at times entirely arbitrary) divisions that put us at odds with one another, and even with ourselves, forcing us into categories that are rarely as neat and tidy as those in power would hope or presume them to be. However, one could argue that the very presence of such gaps also offers the opportunity for abridgement, and the articulation of new relationships that hitherto have been overlooked, ignored or even disdained. This potential is thus also the potential for radical moments of exchange and growth.
From May 31 – June 2, 2010, at the Hub King’s Cross in London, I was lucky enough to be in attendance and to participate in the kick-off meeting for the Europe-wide Live Art festival Exchange Radical Moments!, a new decentralized festival model that is being orchestrated by Die Fabrikanten. The Hub proved itself to be a relevant and appropriate location to hold the many meetings and workshops, as a self-described “place to work, meet and connect.”
And so, over the course of those three days, the project team of Exchange Radical Moments! worked, met with and connected with many of its potential festival partners and artists, thereby adding yet another layer to the London atmosphere. But in this case it was one of great anticipation. Like any extended journey, there was a pervasive sense of excitement coupled with the daunting knowledge that the path would not be easy, that there would be many twists and turns over the course of the next 16 months.
In attendance were a number of prominent art world practitioners—directors, curators, artists, designers, theorists—all of whom had been drawn into the net of Exchange Radical Moments!, and all of whom were there to explore the very possibility of their involvement. The meetings were emblematic of the wide-range of interests, practices, theoretical approaches, cultural backgrounds, and national identities that are at the core of the festival, that is, as a truly interdisciplinary, pluralistic gathering of diverse moments in specific locations, all converging to a point on the 11th of November, 2011 (11.11.11). The kick-off meeting included the Die Fabrikanten project team (consisting of Gerald Harringer, Wolfgang Preisinger, Andrea Rammer, Boris Nieslony and myself); along with a number of partners, such as Claudia Zanfi (co-Director of aMAZElab, Milan), Monika Burian (Director of TINA B., Prague), Biljana Isijanin (Director of Elementi and the Attitude Festival, Bitola), and Darryl Chen and Liam Young (co-founders of Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today, London); and with a number of potential Live Art practitioners, like Scott Burnham (London), Mandy Romero (Liverpool), Toby Huddlestone (Bristol, UK), Nai Wen Chang (Berlin/Taiwan), Tatiana Fiodorova (Chisinau, Moldova), Selin Kocagöncü (Istanbul), and Kaye Winwood & Sian Tonkin (Birmingham, UK).
The conversations that ensued were both practical and theoretical, looking at the big picture as well as the smallest details. The participants posed many difficult questions—of themselves, and of each other—prodding the concept of exchange and the radicality of moments in search of the appropriate couching for themselves within these terms and within the festival at large. Of keen interest were the threads of commonality that ran through much of the work that was laid out before us for examination and discussion. Themes like the crossing of borders, geopolitics, dystopia, communication, and “the art of encountering” slowly began to work their ways into the festival, the thoughts and minds of the very people who are driving this project forward. Above all was the idea that the traditional spectator-artist/performer relationship must be abandoned, and that new, radically innovative relationships must be developed that draw the viewer into the fold with the resulting projects very much hinging on the very input of such participants.
Probably most importantly of all, the 3 days of meetings and discussions called back into question the underlying questions that are the backbone of the festival, and forced everyone to reconsider why and for what reasons they are initiating this festival idea. For, in the end, whom is this festival for? As one can easily imagine, there is much that remains open, and still to be determined. Many questions were left on the table there in London, questions that we all continue to mull over and deliberate, like how will all these disparate events come together on this single day of “GO11”? How will these largely ephemeral and processoriented projects be transmitted to larger audiences and continue to exist beyond their immediate realities? And so the development stage of Exchange Radical Moments! begins…
 A phrase I borrow from Boris Nieslony, renowned performance artist, festival organizer, and ERM! advisor.
ERM! blog: http://exchangeradicalmoments.wordpress.com/