PSR “Voneinander Lernen / Common Learning - Bodily Knowledge in the Social Sphere” laboratory

PSR “Voneinander Lernen / Common Learning - Bodily Knowledge in the Social Sphere” laboratory

Within Performance Situation Room a group of artists addressed the issue of mutual learning on local level and on the term social choreography in relation to choreography as social practice. 

Over a period of 2 months, we organized a research laboratory of Berlin artists and (unfortunately only occasional) visitors from the neighbourhood on what formats of outreach works and methods could stimulate the Uferstudios neighborhood, bringing different strata, groups, clusters, individuals of society together. Within we followed following questions: How can an art scene, that tends to close itself up, be expanded within its context? And to what extent are our working constellations in the art field enriched by the involvement of experts or non-experts, from other fields and professional practices?


The laboratory was structured and guided by Constanze Schellow and Simone Willeit. The lab included:  

a) Analysis and exchange on commonly used literature / theory: i.a. Claire

Bishop "Artificial Hells", Boyana Cvejic / Ana Vujanovic "TKH Journal Social Choreography: TkH no. 21 (En / Srb) ", Miranda Joseph "Against the romance of community" 

b) Clouding statements, Wishes and proposals from the neighbourhood, via analysis of the forums / comments on social Media and Discussions 

c) Practical excursions and visits to potential collaborators, e.g. Mädea, Be'kech, EOTO and Agora


Following question marked the beginning of the research:

-     How we spend time in places, what time do we construct (horizontal/vertical time, disrupt institutional time)

-     How can community / communities be mobilized

-     How to bridge the gap of “preaching to the converted”

-     How to establish a discourse on social choreography without falling into the traps of cliché/stereotypes, presumptions (especially by undifferentiated “grouping”)

-     Questions of “marginalized” groups or directed towards specific communities / groups – avoid or enhance, or rather: how to go about not to “cement” the same group-closings again, or: centering their voice to disturb the core?

-     How to create “unlikely encounters”, disruption, new relations, surprise, chaos, messiness

-     How to go beyond eating together, table tennis or ‘Nachbarschaftstreffen’....; how to conceive “community” works within the neighbourhood beyond the known?

-     How to create agency in the place you live?

-     Crossing different expertise

-     Disruptive force of power-structures in institutions

Part one of the Lab tried to find a consensus on the question of “autonomy of art” versus “instrumentalization of art” by social-, outreach-, educational-work - especially when explicitly directed towards communities far away from the art scene in terms of income and education or with a heterogenous cultural background. In order not to re-narrate this binarism of the western modernist discourse, these markers should be considered:

Within Part two of the Lab we agreed on following (incomplete) findings: (preliminary as agreed on within the participant group at that moment in time). 

-     art is always intrinsically involved with cultural/social practice, be it overtly or implicitly inscribed.

-     the question should rather be formulated as how and by what art becomes an explicit active social practice and how much knowledge and changemaking is already implicitly inscribed in daily art practice and “only” needs to be released overtly. 

-     there needs to be a balance between the fear of instrumentalizing art and actively using it’s entanglement in the flesh of the social. Always consider the two-dimensionality and the entanglement in it, in order to accept it as such, instead of artificially separating them through analysis

-     Social choreography is about relations, and on shifting social relations seeming predominant; it could be about observing public space and occupy what it does to the public space; 

Within this, social choreography is a) creating disruption, b) connecting unlike relations. Thus we are searching for: creating disruption, chaotic situations in institutions – not in order to destroy them, but to shift them; creating unlikely relations in between public institutions, NGOs and private business; displacing one’s own artistic practice. 

-     one needs to be attentive that outreach work acts out a patriarchal gesture of the "giver", especially once stepping out of the “usual” peer group of artists or the usual audience community of “educated” art recipients. 

-     In order not to fall into the trap of patronizing, one needs to reconsider the used knowledge in art as stemming from somewhere and actually inviting sources to participate as experts within this field, even not being artists. 

-     In order not to fall into the trap of patronizing and to avoid that the artistic field “exploits the “other”, it is crucial that all proposed formats/topics/ideas really stem from an honest own interest and desire to know,  or to come from a really felt gap of knowledge/skill we want to bridge for ourself. May be only this “selfish” approach eradicates the paternalistic approach towards the “outside”.

-     Everybody keeps their very individual form of expertise, never mind in what field. Encouraging the expression of everybody in a safe environment allows to constantly twist around roles of audience, participant, artist. Thus performative settings need to be conceived not as a One-way street for a passive audience, but for one that would have to be activated and involved in participation, but one which requires to turn around the question to the visitor as an active part, who understands and moves within a personal artistic and knowing practice.

-     A “new” concept of time seems to be crucial to all of participants  – may be because time is one of the biggest “institutions” normativity produces? And that time is strongly embodied? How to spend time differently? How to spend time together? Operate with the notion of “horizontal time” and “vertical time” – which one do we want to “live” within our social choreography art? And does it still call for some “vertical time” moments? Striving for “breathing time, permeable”, durational-not product orientated, permanence


Part three resulted in designing, sketching potential formats for the above described:

Accompanied by very lively and controversial discussions, a series of individual project ideas involving the neighbourhood got designed, discussed and tested. An example includes the project SHARE your DANCE, a Project which looks at the personal preferences of dancing or other individual physical rituals, but  offers the opportunity to examine such in its social, historical and cultural complexity: this has been demonstrated through a Madonna video, through danceaoki sessions, and by participating in trainings for everybody. Other project ideas were also considered: Having co-lectures by "local experts" on a regular basis, do a mapping tour on the location, neighbourhood and urban surroundings; Imagining the future of these surroundings: how do we want to live, including even building models. 


Although the Lab had now practical stage related turnaround right in the end, we continued collaborating with the same group of artists for Uferstudios program series “AUSUFERN”, financed by Spartenoffene Förderung des Landes Berlin. Within the special edition of AUSUFERN 2019 – Transformation the group curated and performed an event for the re-opening of our Heizhaus, where many of the thoughts, findings and concepts of the lab were reflected in an 25 Hours event, titled “HouseHeating”; some of the sketched out ideas and formats came into realisation with the participation of more than other 15 artists, in cooperation with participants of the refugee-based project Mondiale Berlin/Tandem Radialsystem and two social-cultural initiatives from the neighbourhood.  

The performance event “HouseHeating” was very well received and is grounding stone for future collaboration with the group for further programming in the Heizhaus of Uferstudios. 

View the evening sheet of "HouseHeating" in the upper right column.


One of the main sensitive issues within the Lab – and also with the proceedings towards curating the performance HouseHeating – is, that the approach toward local initiatives,  which partly are working with marginalized and discriminated groups, needs not only a high degree of sensitivity but also continuity: Rightly, it seems there is still a certain scepticism coming from local social-cultural organizations to individual inquiries from the field of "art", which - as well as in our case with an initiative -  is often perceived as tokenism. Such collaborations need long-term development work and gradual building of trust, for which at least a first step could be achieved so far. 

12.11.18 - 26.02.19

Uferstudios, Berlin (DE)

supported/organized by Uferstudios