Acknowledging the crisis of the modern utopia of “public space” within the framework of the European Union, in which documenta 14 is institutionally inscribed, as well as the unprecedented proliferation of counter-power movements within art, culture, and society, the Public Programs refuse to be a discursive side-event attached to an exhibition. Instead, documenta 14 unfolds into a Parliament of Bodies, a performative structure that challenges not only the traditional exhibition/public program divide, but also the opposition between Kassel and Athens, North and South epistemologies, normative thinking and subjugated knowledges and practices as well as gender, sex, race, and class hierarchies.
What does it mean to be public? How does a body become public? What are the political conditions of representation? Is representation the only form of political, democratic action? Can the social contract be rewritten? Can an exhibition be thought as a Parliament of Bodies, as an ensemble of relationships between animate and inanimate beings producing agency through cooperation?… More
The Parliament of Bodies forces Bruno Latour’s “Parliament of Things” to face feminist, queer, anti-colonial, and indigenous critiques, considering humans and non-humans, objects and social artifacts, institutions and social ensembles as bodies sharing a common biocultural, sexualized, and racialized history. At the same time, the Parliament of Bodies acts against the individualization of bodies and against the transformation of bodies into a mass. Bodies, living and non-living, animal and human, are singularities. Thus, the Parliament of Bodies is neither a bank nor a collection of data, neither “folk” nor corporation.
Inspired by micropolitical self-organizations, collaborative practices, and radical pedagogic and artistic experiments, the Parliament of Bodies is a critical device to queer both the exhibition and the Public Programs. It brings together artists, activists, theorists, performers, children, workers, migrants, etc. to experiment collectively on the conditions of a radical transformation of the public sphere, the construction of social bonds, and a multiplicity of heterogeneous forms of subjectivity beyond identity politics and national or state boundaries.
As an institutional structure, democracy has not been fully realized, and yet it already lies in ruins. Emerging from these remnants and counterfeits, the Parliament of Bodies is a productive parody, a queering of traditional political institutions, and the occasion for building a state-less, post-neoclassic heterotopia.
Pointing to its constitutive outside, the Greek notion of métoikos (meaning “those who change home,” from méto, “to change,” and oikos, “dwelling place,” and including both slaves and foreigners) becomes relevant to the Parliament of Bodies since it is made of visitors and migrants, travelers and refugees—occasionally or permanently lacking full political recognition in national and existing governmental parliaments.
The Parliament of Bodies is a place for cultural activism, a critical device for collectively imagining and constructing other ways of producing, reproducing and governing knowledge and life, visibility and affect, and implicating disenfranchised bodies, subjugated knowledges, and artistic practices.
The Parliament of Bodies is about experimentation, not about representation.
The Parliament of Bodies is about the proliferation of processes around the production of subjectivity, not about identity politics.
The Parliament of Bodies is a ministry without force of violence (Hoheitsgewalt/ananke) but with agency (Handlungsmacht/energeia).
The Parliament of Bodies proffers many languages without the possibility of a single metalinguistic translation.
The form of the Parliament is the unform. Its rule, chaosmose. Its constitution is the destitution of institutions.
The Parliament of Bodies is the Free Ensemble without a State.
The Parliament of Bodies is a protocol for inventing freedom.
Program from October 2016 to February 2017
Between October 2016 and February 2017, the Athens Municipality Arts Center at Parko Eleftherias is the site for the development of the Parliament of Bodies, which progressively introduces languages, practices, and critical debates and constructs, together with the Athenian public, a field of action and critical intervention. By the time of the exhibition opening, the Parliament of Bodies will have moved to other venues and spaces in Athens and Kassel disseminating actions, screenings, performances, talks, and encounters.
The aim of the Parliament of Bodies is to create an experimental public sphere in Athens (which later migrates to Kassel), where some of the critical parameters of the documenta 14 exhibition can take collective shape within the city. During the months leading up to the opening of the exhibition in Athens and Kassel, artists, critics, musicians, theorists, writers, and activists are invited to contribute to the construction of the Parliament of Bodies.
Can the museum be used against its own colonial and patriarchal regimes of visibility? How might we produce critical agency within the economy of the exhibition in a global neoliberal context? Can the tension between Athens and Kassel be used as a critical space to think an alternative artistic and activist project beyond the framework of the nation-state? Against essential origins, reified borders, and identity politics, the Parliament of Bodies proposes to act as a space for cultural activism, inventing new affects and creating synthetic alliances between different world struggles for sovereignty, recognition, and survival.
The Parliament of Bodies addresses displacement and dispossession, the undoing of political frontiers, exile and shelter, ruins and anti-monuments, heterochronologies and “other modernities,” institutional critique and new institutionality, libertarian municipalism, communing and confederalism, crip and transfeminist politics, restitution, schizoanalysis, green guerrillas, eco-sex, hunger, necropolitics, alternative technologies of consciousness, post-indigenism, archeo-acoustics, anticolonial practices, nonalignment, and radical pedagogies. The Parliament of Bodies is a dissonant chorus, a conducted practice of heteroglosia and heterogeneity.
The program is implemented over the course of twelve months through a series of collective devices.