Alpine Anarchist meets Gerd Dembowski
How do your many interests and activities – soccer, music, writing, theory, traveling – constitute a »political project«?
My life is a meandering project, an anarchist project – it is always in a state of becoming. The deterritorialization of soccer is one focus, country and folk music another. These are my passions – and that's why I always have to question them. Dieter Bott, a German sociologist who studies soccer fan culture, once said that in a different world he might be a playwright and theatre director – but, as a political person, this world makes him do other things.
Despite, or rather because of the relentless critique of pop culture formulated in Alles Pop? Kapitalismus & Subversion [Is Everything Pop? Capitalism & Subversion], a book I published with Marvin Chlada and Deniz Ünlü, you can live within what Adorno called »the wrong life«. You have to. You cannot avoid being part of it. To participate in pop culture and to combine this with theoretical reflection brings me the closest to other humans that I can get.
If everything can be appropriated, everything can be interpreted in different ways too – I don't have to take anything seriously, least of all myself. To play country music beyond Johnny Cash with children's instruments and toys – which I do during my readings – is a conscious way to push myself further and to deconstruct what I've written. I don't want to create literature when I read; I don't want to create anything except myself as a project that is always flawed, always failing. I become what I talk about. This makes me sort of disappear, because others in the room can enter the process. A lot of them get confused and ask: »Have you really experienced this, or is this a fictional character?«
Live performances are very important to me as they make people realize what's at stake: namely to become the politics and the desires that you articulate. This happens in an amateurish but committed manner. You become haunted, but you defy it with the wink of an eye. To a certain degree this is self-exhibition and therapy. It helps me to continue being politically engaged, to keep the fire alive. As someone who is not very group-oriented, my socialization doesn't allow for anything better.
I often read in front of people with backgrounds that are very different to mine. I get interesting feedback. But I also like to read in squats and autonomous spaces, especially in rural areas, where I can inspire, motivate, encourage – and where I can retreat to and feel the support of comrades when I hit a brick wall. This happens when you are traveling 75% of your time and have three homes: in Berlin, Brighton and on the Scottish Island of Arran – which in fact leaves you with none. On the one hand, this evokes a feeling of freedom, and it's a feeling that keeps me going. On the other hand, such rootlessness can sting deeply when you are overwhelmed by emotion, realizing that – despite the efforts of many comrades – the world around you is still far away from the world that you wish you would have been born into. Then it can happen that I escape to dear friends in Neugersdorf or Eisenberg where desperation gives way to defiance. It is important to me to accept such ups and downs rather than to deny them – it allows me to cry out from my self-chosen silence. I follow the words of Gilles Deleuze: »There is reason neither for fear nor hope – there is only reason to find new weapons.«
An example of all this was the campaign »Die WM kommt – Fefczak geht« [The World Cup Arrives – Feczak Leaves] on the occasion of the 2006 Men's Soccer World Cup in Germany. As the fictitious character Fefczak I retreated to a solitary island. There I maintained an online chat with Carsten Does and Elsa Rodeck, wrote a column for the left-leaning daily Taz, and published videos on YouTube, explaining why I, as a soccer fan, had to escape the event. Many viewers reacted furiously – to this day I receive angry comments about the video clip in which I cut up a German flag to turn it into a black-and-red tablecloth. I wanted to send direct messages, while everyone else relied on faking. Another such message was a T-shirt saying »Scheiß WM« [Fucking World Cup] which I wore around Berlin before I left. I was spat at and attacked as a »psycho«.
I try to find simple, maybe futile techniques of resistance, of desperation and of defiance: »Let us imagine a common existence not as personal getaway, philosophical escapism, subjective retreat or autism, but as a strange experiment, inexplicable to those around you, and based on an uncompromising rejection of the social.« In Was Tun? 54 Technologien kulturellen Widerstandes gegen Machtverhältnisse im Spätkapitalismus [What To Do? 54 Technologies of Cultural Resistance against Power Relations in Late Capitalism], Alexander Brener and Barbara Schurz challenge us to change the location of our own being: »Let us imagine an individual warrior first on the roof under the night sky or under the morning clouds, then in the prison she would enter if she insisted on such a praxis of resistance.«
Traveling is a big part of my life. As I said above, I am traveling 75% of the time. I find it impossible to truly arrive. During my travels I develop many ideas for projects. This causes me anxiety because I don't have the time to realize them all. I end up shelving many of them – for example the European distro for the DIY label Plan-it-X. My friend Chris Clavin's credo of »If it ain't cheap, it ain't Punk«, and his way to live, give me a lot of strength. I am intrigued by the refusal to make everything perfect, even when it is possible. I am fascinated by the way in which bands like Ghost Mice, ›Definace, Ohio‹, the singer/songwriter Paul Baribeau and Spoonboy demonstrate that living the life of the hobo is still possible. For over a decade now a new US-American DIY scene has been developing in people's basements. People also play in parks, forests or under bridges, without amplifiers or microphones, to reach audiences who are looking for something different. This is what listening to the Carter Family might have felt like before the first country tunes were recorded in the 1920s, and it is as powerful as Woody Guthrie after disembarking from another freight train. It is convincing, wonderful, driven by a desire for freedom. It is Punk. It is a battle against yourself and everyday life, but there is no bitterness. It is about shoplifting and soapbox racing. It is about eating well, about hitchhiking, about creating radical communities. It is about life, family, depression, suicide.
Soon I will help Chris renovate a run-down house in the almost completely abandoned town of Cairo, Illinois, which once boasted 50,000 inhabitants. The house is not his, it is open to everyone. Ever more anarchists intend to move to Cairo to revive the town in their very own way. This is no exit strategy. When the time is ripe and political convictions demand it, Chris will move on. A Plan B always helps. In times without mass movements, people like he and I would perish otherwise.
All of the above seems somewhat chaotic and it might not make a lot of sense – but you can't expect too much from answering a question like that.