a portrait of the oeuvre as a process

i guess i always considered myself more as a worker than an artist. there is this classical romantic aura that haunts the modern notion of the artist. that has more to do with a lifestyle than with the work you are confronted with everyday. when i started out as a musician, it was more about this certain lifestyle, which bored me very early on. i think the funny fact about this certain radical, anarchist, and anti-bourgeois lifestyle of the early nineteenth-century bohemian, of the antisocial artist, that worked as a counternarrative against the normative settings of early modern life, and that informed the whole twentieth-century idea of an artist, is nowadays mostly lived in the most radical manner by every second stock exchange speculator. anarchically trading money worth small villages and family incomes within seconds, while listening to radical authentic hiphop with his new urban ear headphones, wearing a top-notch trendy slim fit suit by vivienne westwood while dropping some amphetamines, trading through the night before ending up at a smooth dubstep party. considering this, i was always very skeptical concerning this notion of the artist that was occupied by the yuppies during the eighties. i like the idea of the worker more. the idea of class. the idea of material. the idea of the worker as something invisible in contrary to the super-ego of this romantic-individualistic ideal of the artist. i like routine. i like the rehearsals more than i like the premiere. i like the process, i like beginnings, i like unborn ideas, before they have to become concrete, which means there will be compromises. i like new works and new questions more than identifying myself with »finished« texts or pieces. or acting, as if they’re mine. they’re not. after i finished something, it no longer belongs to me. that’s always sad, but then again, if you love something, give it away. what’s done is done and whatever is done, it no longer belongs to me. that’s my aim as a writer. to produce texts that are able to walk on their own. i like to produce continuously, to move from one idea to the next, from one text to the next, from one collaboration to the next, while working on one thing, already knowing the next things to come. as a writer you usually have the feeling texts have to grow slowly. it’s not that you are born with this idea, but society and the idea of the writer in modern western civilizations tell us that writing is something achieved over time and in solitude. i like the idea of slow progress and of solitude. i would totally agree with it. but I don’t like the idea that one of your products gets identified by the market as the big ONE, while all the other stuff rests next to it. i doubt, that any writer or artist looks at her or his work from this perspective. for me to produce means to be in a constant process, like mining. you process in a continuous way through the mines, resting in some places, where you find something interesting and sometimes you end up with a big piece of material, huge chunks and pieces and maybe you don’t know exactly what to do with all of it, you could do some small pieces, you could try to make a big one, but whatever you will do with it, someday it’ll be finished and you will move on. but working on each of these pieces of material, you find out a constant mining process leads you forward, brings up new questions and ways to reflect on old questions. and maybe without mining there would be no questions at all. i am writing for theater and in state theater and especially in literature in general the market still operates with the notion of the genius. being a writer means being an artist haunted by this weird notion of the genius, especially in germany. and with the idea of the genius, you end up with notion of the opus, of the oeuvre, that means, the genius writer produces one text in three years or something like this and then this text will be rich and fat and full of genius, because it grew slowly deep down in what they call soul. i don’t think so and i never liked this idea. it’s actually an idea that was produced in romantic literature. and i love romantic literature, but as with every subculture, they also produced a lot of intellectual rubbish. in fact, nowadays, the only argument in defense of this one-piece-in-three-years idea is that otherwise you would produce too much for the market. but i am not working to protect the market. actually i am not even thinking about selling stuff when i work on it. until today, having written about twelve pieces for theater, having worked with choirs, audio walks, installations, and dancers, i have no idea what a text for theater really is, but i don’t think that it is actually the artist who has to find a definition for work. the artist should pose questions that arise from her or his work. wait, i was talking about being a worker, not an artist. shit. so where is the difference. the mask of the worker that i wear when i work, is something that protects me from the heavy heritage of what art means and what artists mean and what artistic process means in western, postmodern civilization, where basically everyone nowadays works in some creative artistic environments. it has become very fashionable to say i am a designer, i am creative. thanks to the yuppie revolution and contemporary capitalism, that tries to hide behind this fashion, of actually not creating stuff but just offering a creative (digital) service: we have facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, which creates no content. we have bitcoin, the world’s biggest bank with no actual cash. we have uber, the world’s largest taxi company, which owns no cars. we have airbnb, the worlds’ largest accommodation provider, which owns no real estate. nowadays everyone is an artist. everyone who offers a creative solution, a service, for a problem is an artist. beuys was right, but in a perverted way. we are all service artists nowadays. but i think as a worker you are not offering a »service.« you are working on your material. you are producing solid stuff that resists time. you are not inventing problems, because you want to sell a service and a solution, you are living within problems that are basically unsolvable. the knowledge of passing time. problems of language; problems of communication. the modern history and its prolonged history of violence – there is no service for these kind of problems. there is only work to do. a lot of work. mostly of it will not be finishable in one lifetime, who knows, if it will be finishable in the lifespan of the human race. who knows if work has to be finishable at all. a service offers a solution to a problem. to work means to generate more problems. endlessly. to work i guess means to enter this endless void that only exists at night, when everything has vanished, as maurice blanchot once said. and when everything has vanished, the other appears. and to work means to find this other.


© Thomas Köck, 2017