The Parliament of Bodies: Shame on Us: A Reading and Discussion
with Franco “Bifo” Berardi

AUG
24
8:30–10:30 pm
Fridericianum, Friedrichsplatz 18, Kassel
Live stream available

In response to the violence and volume of complaints and disparaging remarks received during the last week, we have decided to cancel Franco “Bifo” Berardi’s performance. We respect those who might feel offended by the title of Berardi’s poem. We don’t want to add pain to their grief.

However, we don’t want to simply accept these accusations nor abandon discussion and critical thinking. On the contrary, we need to activate the dispositive of The Parliament of Bodies to host all voices and encourage dialogue.

The new title of the event refers to multiple messages ending with the insult “shame on you,” as well as to Franco “Bifo” Berardi’s claim, according to which we should rather be ashamed of the violence of the necro-political techniques display by European governments to deal with the flow of migrants and refugees. What are we, collectively, ready to do with this shame?

Instead of fully canceling the event, we will open up The Parliament of Bodies for a session with Franco “Bifo” Berardi on Thursday, August 24, 2017 at 8:30 pm to foster a conversation including all voices, followed by a reading of his poem and a participatory discussion on the new faces of fascism and the current policies of migration in Europe.

The Parliament of Bodies is a claim for critical utopia when the possibilities of both critique and utopia seem to be vanishing. An experiment in radical democracy unfolding within the protected framework of an art exhibition, The Parliament of Bodies seeks to create a space of critical resistance and poetic insubordination that can’t hold itself aloof from concrete historical and social practices. Opposing formal parliamentary modes of representation, the plural enactment of The Parliament of Bodies works with radically heterogeneous embodied languages, with their complex historicity, which carry singular and collective traumas, as well as demands for responsibility and reparation. Yet, The Parliament of Bodies can’t be a space where the performative power of language can be used for violence. Challenging hegemonic grammars as well as already simplified ideological languages, The Parliament of Bodies demands that its participants step beyond fixed identity politics and naturalized positions, inviting them to engage in acts of deep listening and critical disidentification. It doesn’t seek a unified metalanguage. Instead, it aims to create networks of solidarity between different discourses and practices of working class, anti-racists, anti-colonial, anti-fascist, trans-feminist, queer-crip, and ecological struggles. Whereas these alliances can only be constructed while paying attention to the specificity of each and every history of oppression, it seems urgent to build a common critique of the underlying dominant capitalist and colonial epistemologies of race and sexuality that define contemporary conditions of life and death. You are invited to take part in this transitory gathering, becoming agent in its collective struggle.

—Paul B. Preciado, Curator of documenta 14 Public Programs


In response to criticism preceding the planned event with Franco “Bifo” Berardi”:

The intention of the planned discussion with Italian author and theorist Franco “Bifo” Berardi in conjunction with a reading of his poem within the program of documenta 14’s Parliament of Bodies is by no means to put the Holocaust into a relativized perspective. In its magnitude and systemic nature of state-orchestrated destruction of an entire race, the Holocaust remains a singular manifestation within human history. On the contrary, Berardi’s intention is to seriously and responsibly locate the Holocaust as the ultimate border reference for the extreme, violent, and systemic injustice perpetuated by national and transnational European institutional bodies toward the physical bodies of the refugees who attempt to flee to Europe and die during the flight, on land or at sea, or are detained in camps which are usually located outside of Europe or in the countries at its Southern borders. These highly policed camps are certainly neither transparent, nor are they built to open up any tangible future for their inmates. Instead, they serve the purpose of effectively removing the refugee “problem” from view of Europeans. The administrative apparatus, the technical and organizational means engaged to solve the “problem” by keeping refugees at bay and contained, are modern and highly advanced. However, while people are literally dying on our doorstep, the mainstream politics that enable the deployment of the technology in question remain hopelessly backward and incapable of tackling the issue head on.

We know very well what the result of such self-imposed blindness to the plight of persecuted and forgotten Others can be. The Holocaust was planned by the Nazi state and duly perpetuated by its functionaries and collaborators in Germany and in occupied European countries during a relatively brief period of time, while the “civilized” world—following the decisions of its elected politicians, who ignored the evidence of the few existing reports describing the plight of Jews in occupied countries, and through the passive stance of the majority of European citizens—chose not to see, not to know, and not to act. The brave and humanitarian acts of many known and unknown individuals could not change the outcome: the near-total extermination of European Jews.

The planned discussion and reading of Berardi’s poem within the Parliament of Bodies is a warning against historical amnesia, a call for an awakening of conscience and for collective action—and not an attempt to relativize the Holocaust. The discussion is not primarily concerned with the kind of memory politics that Germany has been dealing with for a long time, but rather with what is happening here and now, within and just outside of Europe.

—Adam Szymczyk, Artistic Director of documenta 14


​Franco Berardi is a writer and media activist. His last book, Futurability, was published by Verso. In the 1970s he was one of the participants in Radio Alice and contributed to the magazine A/traverso.​

Due to capacity limits we recommend to come promptly. People can enter the Rotunda at 8:15 pm; the event starts at 8:30 pm. Journalists are kindly requested to register under presse [​at​] documenta.de.

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