Johanna Bruckner

On my work

Interview with Johanna Bruckner

For the Magazin LOWLAND

Künstlerhaus Stuttgart


1. Who or what has been the biggest influence on your way of thinking about and seeing art?

            When I was young, I was a gymanist. I have always been fascinated by the structures of movement, and the changing metamorphosic settings and patters of how bodies relate to, merge with, and dissolve from each other. I was interested in chimeric bodily assemblages that invisibly and infinitely change their interwoven-ess. Later I became informed by the theories by postfordist performance, which let me critically examine the relation between labour and the dissolution of art into life, determinging the realities that subjects work and move in. I could link my interest in movement with political thought, which enables me to elaborate my own artistic position in this field, interestested in movement as an organising principle of social thought. In my work, the moving bodies are a laboring bodies, whose social intimacies created through the affective zones that appear between the bodies, produce new bodily languages that interrupt the Negropolitical of work as fields of agency.


2. What made you become involved with arts?

            During my first studies, Cultural and Social Anthropology & Cultural Studies and my interest in Visual Anthropology at the University of Vienna, I got in touch with theories by Stuart Hall, and others from the Subaltern and Postcolonial approach. This critical thinking especially from non-Western cultural contexts opened my eyes and influenced my interested in delegizimzing the world as a Western concept. While in touch with these concepts I wanted to challenge how knowledge was produced and affirmed as a historical Western canon. I wanted to overcome the academic legitimization of knowledge production by recombining and recomposing thought and practice. Artistic research allowed me to produce knowledge based on situationally created settings; proposing new dependencies between institutions, citizens and the technological instruments of the world. I founded the platform for critical artistic research, in which I developed a practice combining art, research and theory based on interventive encounters in society and discourse production. Moreover, this platform AAR tried to reconfigure and modulate what we conceive of „the Curatorial“ by means of art practices. After my theoretical studies I lectured on conferences and tried experimental formats of doing so.

My theory behind this approach was the following. The lecture performer is a worker on the stage; he/she is the producer of content but also the producer of affectivity. The mediation of the content depends on the performance of affect; the capability to address and impress the other, the potential to attract and catch audiences - the love he or she performs with. The body’s engagement is a measure of evaluation. Performance, as we know, has surpassed the art genre and determines the contemporary subject: the market demands a body, which is continuously performing to optimise his/her desires and pleasures.

I was interested in the lecture performance as it may challenge how language can be passed from one to the other (the articulation of language, for example, is completely open to the artist); more significantly, though, I approach the lecture performer’s body as a site in which the production of affects is integral to his/her work. One of my earliy works “Body Conference II”, a collective lecture performance, features participants in personified emotions and symptoms. The feelings of the body (a performer) debate on how they are put to work today. In fact, they resist being an “emotional motor“ of the market and consider their cooperation as a means of resistance. A lecture performance’ s method of transmission may be affective mediation from one to the other. So is the self a constantly mediating force today: the body serves the subject, and the other way round, back and forth; continuously evaluating the affective outputs in order to affirm or change direction. The mediation between body and subject is economic - the “fuel” is affect. Currently I connect these thoughts in my work on cryptocurrencies and post-monetary forms of value production.


3. What kind of processes are you interested in?            

I usually work with a number of performers in temporary social settings, in which the performers’ bodily, physical gestures, and their transmission aims to propose new social infrastructures for the present. Let me explain this process by referring to one of my recent works in Hamburg’s HafenCity, in which a temporary group has been performing on former warehouse wasteland and soon-to-be-built-constuction side area. An assemblage of performers, which I invited for this work, develops dance scores that transform the urgencies of construction labour, and paradoxes of housing policies and its associated ambivalent structures into possible collective agencies. Ground plans for future construction in HafenCity are redrawn, creating forms of housing that better accommodate prospective populations. The algorithms of floorplans for new urban development zones that are automatically and technologically generated are contrasted with the Brazilian Marxist architect Sérgio Ferro's drawings and proposed housing models, which are integrated into the performance of the newly composed algorithms.

The bodies perform in relation to one other, creating a physical language that remains temporarily autonomous because the scores, in their emerging structure, are temporarily foreign to the capitalist abstraction. The bodies’ movements are beyond the range and scope of HafenCity’s surveillance mechanisms, as they interrupt and disrupt the algorithmic streams of data and finance. These bodily constellations perform as self-determined, self-composed durational social endeavours, rehearsing relational accountabilities. Communal knowledge is created through horizontal exchange and learning, and different experiences in the investigation of labour and housing are discussed and put forward. A collectively produced manifesto poses demands to the authorities by HafenCity.

The group of performers is investigating questions about what it could mean to organise collective forces in response to the situational urgency in Hamburg: what does planning organisation mean and how would it manifest itself? Attempting to define organisation as a constituent planning force, based on situational immediacy; a practice in which organisation is determined by the participantsʼ consistent social relations and communication about aspects of politics that concern their rights, working hours, work load, duty times and so on. This organisational practice is simultaneously a general support structure and an archive and a data resource to be used on a global scale by those in need and their supporters: it is determined by workersʼ sharing of information about the situation and conditions on site and updating of information based on local and situational experience with references from radial practices such as Sergio Ferro and Architecture Nova Group. These practices are actualized by a changing group of performances on a global scale in response to situational immediacy. I call these practices Scaffolding Agency.


4. Do you think it is important to incorporate cultural, social or political topics into art consciously or does art deal with these topics in other ways?

            I think it is important that art responds and comments on the developments one is surrounded by because it may offer alternative views to the given state of affairs. Its indeterminancy may have an intention to transform, recompose, abstract... 

For example, I am currently giving voice to hacker ethics; how methods of hacking crypto finance may used to rethink of how subjectivities relate to each other. Above mentioned concepts of care, affection and crypto-solidarity are central in this work. More specifically, my works sheds lighlt on the hacker’s collective «Hacking with Care» which explores care as components of hacking while also seeking to liberate care, and to inspire alliances between "caregivers" of different competences such as decentralized post-monetary system of value production.

The hackers’ collective speeches moreover respond to the developments of logistics software that is linked to the warfare of the Global South and geopolitically instrumentalized. As the commercial surveillance industry grows, so too must the bridges between planning, policy, and advocacy communities; and I belive art may give directions in citizen’s understandings of agencies.


5. Do you think there could be improvements made in the paradigms of art sphere concerning the position of female artists  – economically as well as concerning their cultural statuses and roles?

         Indeed. The market is incredibly male dominated. I find it shocking when I look at galleries and see how many men are represented; although many more women finish art schools. Moreover the art world highly privileges those who have a well situated, financial background. Because the art world is aware of the fact that art needs time and confidence; which the art world ascribes to those with rather «stable» rather than precarious backgrounds. I think the visilibty of one’s engagement should not depend on financial resources. There should be a more equal distribution of ressources in the arts!


6. What good advice would you like to give to young artists just starting out?

            First of all, be passionate of you are doing. Secondly, demand more! Demand more regarding pay, exhibition techniques, facilities & support. Thirdly, get in touch with the people, curators, artists etc. you are interested in and want to work with, don’t wait until they invite you. Individual people can help you a lot in your careers. Fourth, risk things and try out as much as you can! As young artists you can experiment more than ever. Use this time and don’t compete. Take the time you need in your studio / post-studio site or respective art infrastructure you invest in.