»Awaiting without horizon of the wait, awaiting what one does not expect yet or any longer, hospitality without reserve, welcoming salutation accorded in advance to the absolute surprise of the arrivant from whom or from which one will not ask anything in return and who or which will not be asked to commit to the domestic contracts of any welcoming power (family, State, nation, territory, native soil or blood, language, culture in general, even humanity), just opening which renounces any right to property, any right in general, messianic opening to what is coming, that is, to the event, that cannot be awaited as such, or recognized in advance therefore, to the event as the foreigner itself, to her or to him for whom one must leave an empty place; always; in memory of the hope—and this is the very place of spectrality.« –Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx
Chapter 1 Arrival
The Schloss… We go back in time, right to the very first day, the very first chapter of the Solitude story. It begins again and again, a never-ending cycle, with the next fellows arriving this month or next month, next year or in ten years, stepping out of the city bus, crossing the square in front of the rocaille castle, ringing the bell at Haus 3, finally putting a face to the voice on the phone or the emails sent about visa applications or travel arrangements… Great expectations.
Chapter 2 Orientation/Synchronisation
Entering the Solitude universe means one foot under the breakfast table and one foot in art. It’s a limbo between everyday life and work, the public and the private – best typified by the sight of an overtired fellow in a bathrobe lost in thought, falling out of his studio right into an exhibition space, mumbling »hi« on the way to grab a coffee at the cafeteria, passing by a Chinese delegation being shown around the building by the director. The Schloss is many places: hotel, office, exhibition space, playground, think tank and bar, all at the same time. Unlike scenes. Loose orientation leads to synchronisation, following the inner logic of the place, adapting to the rhythm, thinking Across the Grid, always a step ahead of the next smart encounter with your future curator, actor in your next movie, someone who writes music for you… or falls in love with you. Whatever the case, you feel as though you are incredibly well placed.
Chapter 3 Consolidation
After being thrown into this universe, it takes a while to see things clearly again. You are navigating the different components of Solitude: the space, the staff, the other fellows – you place yourself in this intersection, within Decided Indecisiveness. The next thing to figure out is how your (artistic) practice fits into the circumstances, how you contextualise it – within the institutional frame, next to it or even in opposition to it. What kind of fellow are you? There is no good or bad fellow. There are loud fellows, lovely fellows, sociable fellows, those who never attend any events, those who come to all of them, busy fellows, fellows who ease friction (like us), demanding fellows – regardless, you’ll be remembered when you leave. Some stories become Solitude classics and are passed on through the years, or may even have reached your ears before your time at the Akademie. You might already have heard about the boar attack in the forest or the spontaneous marriage proposal on the bus.
Are you feeling settled now?
Chapter 4 Solitude
You are living in an epic place, a summer residency on top of a hill with a beautiful view down to Weil im Dorf. There are horses in the fields, a vast forest behind you, tree-lined avenues and generously laid-out historic parks with greenery from all over the world. Almost everybody refers to Akademie Schloss Solitude as »the Schloss« though the castle itself almost fades into invisibility in day-to-day life. At weekends, though, things are different up here. Even a hopeless romantic might feel disillusioned by the wedding factory as yet another bridal couple ascends the curved flight of stairs. Luckily most of the tourists remain at the front of the castle instead of in the yard surrounding the gentleman’s houses – our backyard. After hours, when the administrative staff go home, the Schloss belongs to the fellows. Time for some »Schlossiness«. As Good As Gold.
Once the feeling of displacement is gone and you get used to the scenery and the surrounding beauty, you’ve become a regular. Your solitude up here might be highly productive, but you could also get lost. And the other things going on in your personal life don’t simply stop when you’re at Solitude, which makes this place just as central as it is remote.
Chapter 5 Third Place
One might call Solitude a »third place«, as Oldenburg describes it in The Great Good Place, a home away from home. Here people who would not otherwise have met are brought together. At lunch, you might sit next to a Finnish professor of economics talking about his counter-investment cooperative and an algorithm named »Parasyte«. Or an artist from Slovakia who builds furniture designed by an architect who never existed. Or a writer who offers you a whisky to celebrate completing the last page of his book. Or you might listen to a computer scientist and his dreams about data. But you’ll never see a chess player – they’re always training, though they might give you an insight into the workings of their mind at the next internal presentation.
What is real? Reality is a place where no one wants to go. In this third place, the mood is playful, with largely unplanned activities as an escape from routines, a place to find new routines in a community shaped by the shared experience of this exceptionally strange and quaint situation. And once you have been to the playground, you become part of the game, you form a bond with the place and even with future players. And then you want to recreate these moments, and you feel an urge to return… This is the driving force of this special communitynetwork – even more tangible after the actual time spent at this place. Future Scenarios with an Open End.
Chapter 6 Production
What are we producing? Although production is not a primary goal at first sight, fellows are of course productive: writing texts, publishing books, finishing doctoral theses, rehearsing dance performances, traversing creative deserts, sharing and swapping skills, planting a herb garden, jogging, bartending, experimenting, dealing with bread-and-butter jobs. »Serial nature«. Often you find yourself in situations where something is rising out of nowhere, simply because interesting people are brought close together and given time. And this time is precious. As coordinating fellows, we are challenged to open up and manage the incredible potential of the fellows alongside other tasks and responsibilities. It’s inspiring to see how a chance meeting between a musician and a computer scientist, for instance, can lead to synchronised creative processesleading into a joint piece and Mapping the Space together.
Chapter 7 Epilogue
Fellow 1: Did anyone take the lovely iron from the Waschsalon? If so, please return it – I can’t deal with the shitty one that’s left there.
Fellow 2: My bad. I was making grilled cheese sandwiches with it last night. I’m soaking the iron in water right now to get the stink off.
Fellow 1: Ok, see I was wondering if I should include a »PS: Fuck off« line to my email exclusively for you my friend, but I decided not to. I will say, though, that the day a hot iron leads your hand over one of those wrinkly shirts of yours, you’ll understand the desperation of this email.«
Fellow 2: I know where I went wrong: I forgot the aluminium foil!
Fellow 3: Please never take me off the fellows list.
Claudia Gehre & Clara Herrmann were fellows for art coordination together at Solitude in 2014.
The italicised titles throughout the text are names of exhibitions and projects that have taken place at or with the cooperation of Akademie Schloss Solitude.
The text was first published in South As A State Of Mind (2014).