• 17​ – 19​ 10​ 2014 •
Symposium Reports to an Academy

Concept & Presentation: Ekaterina Degot & David Riff

With Haig Aivazian, Yochai Avrahami, Christian von Borries, Keti Chukhrov, Gabriel Dharmoo, Fadlabi & Lars Cuzner, Hu Fang, Felix Klopotek, Uriel Orlow, Our Literal Speed, Manuel Pelmus & Alexandra Pirici, Naomi Rincón Gallardo, Jalal Toufic, Stefan Weidner and others

Reports to an Academy was a non-academic and emphatically theatrical three-day symposium of performative talks, visionary presentations, stand-up dialogues, musical pieces, and special “conference choreographies.”
Its title refers to a short story by Franz Kafka (performed at the symposium by Uriel Orlow) about an ape, who delivers a report on his own humanization to an academic commission.
Artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers, and dancers today find themselves often in a similar position to Kafka’s ape, faced with a choice between the cage of a zoo and satisfying the expectations of an audience in a music hall. Like Kafka’s character, they tend towards the performative option, and their “reports” on the complexity of human circumstance in a contemporary planetary world tell a story of their own post-identitarian condition, as well as holding promise for a very different, pluralistic, and non-oppressive Academy which creates a space of debate with the audience.

DAY 1, FR 17 10 2014


Decoy: A Report to an Academy is partly based on Franz Kafka’s eponymous short story f rst published in 1917, in which an ape speaks to a scientific audience about his past in a West African jungle, his capture by humans, and his eventual escape by means of imitating and reproducing human behavior, including speech. The ape-narrator is trapped between being something he no longer represents and representing something he no longer is. There is no original authenticity and no uncontaminated identity. Speech itself has become a decoy, trapping language and its mimetic contracts.


Anthropologies imaginaires is a solo vocal performance that interacts with a video mockumentary. The featured “experts” comment on invented vocal traditions that are demonstrated by the singer-performer. The music is inspired by various odd and/or isolated vocal expressions found across the world, revisited through imaginary folklore and experimental, extended vocal techniques. In a reversal of academic lecture conventions, the subject of analysis and scrutiny, rather than the speakers, is physically present on stage. Anthropologies imaginaires showcases the virtuosity, versatility, and strangeness of the human voice. The breadth of vocal styles questions concepts of normality by reminding audiences that people across the world use the voice dif erently to convey cultural identity and artistic sensibility. The project deals with questions such as postcolonialism, post-exoticism, cultural extinction, globalization, normalized racism, and cultural appropriation in an ambiguous, humorous, and disturbing way.


The Dill Pickle Club in Chicago was widely known from 1917 to 1935 as a place where one could drink in the company of common criminals, drug dealers, and prostitutes. Above the entrance there was a sign saying, “Step High, Stoop Low, Leave Your Dignity Outside.” In actuality, the saloon largely lacked the criminal element that made it so famous. Only the prostitution was real. The club was a fake, popular with socialites and intellectuals – ethnic districts like the Levee in Chicago and the Bowery in New York were popular slumming destinations for bourgeois tourists who would emulate the badass, bohemian artists venturing among the poor and dangerous to discover the mysteries of the social underworld. In a setting inspired by the Dill Pickle Club, artist duo Fadlabi and Lars Cuzner tell us of slum tourism and human zoos, their historical and contemporary articulations, and the collective moral panic they provoke, where the power of suggestion and fiction is far more dangerous than any reality.

TAG 2, SA 18 10 2014


For Marxists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it was very clear: the world revolution would begin at the center of the developed world and not with “historyless” peoples, colonial masses and former serfs. A great exception to this common orthodoxy – which Marx himself did not necessarily share – was the thinking of Western Ukrainian Marxist social historian and political activist Roman Rosdolsky (born 1898 in Lviv, died 1967 in Detroit). His historical-materialist studies evinced the extreme relevance of “peasant masses” and colonial subjectivities to revolutionary events; a relevance one can see even in today’s world, as dispossession and exploitation create more and more pressure on growing rural populations. Felix Klopotek presents a scenic reading of Rosdolsky’s life and work that reaches from Haiti via Detroit to Galicia, uncovering traces and points of reference indispensible to an emancipative perspective for today.


In 1924, the doctor and writer Alfred Döblin made a journey to the city formerly known as Lemberg, in what was then Poland; a city in which almost a third of the population was Jewish. Döblin, German of Jewish descent, had journeyed to the city to discover more about Eastern European Jewry, and Lemberg was a center of Hasidism and secular Yiddish culture alike. Ninety years later, author, translator, and literary critic Stefan Weidner follows in Döblin’s footsteps, narrating as he goes a journey to what is now Western Ukraine, at the height of the Ukrainian crisis of 2014. Döblin’s original report serves as contrast foil for a contemporary rewriting: part travelogue, part political reflection on Europe’s troubled past and uncertain future, beyond the short-sightedness of daily political developments.


A protagonist stands on the plaza of inverted time, and sees himself walking towards a life-changing tipping point: a trip to a rural activist’s funeral and the revisiting of a Chinese garden, abandoned long ago. This is a ghost story inspired by the news of Edward Snowden and his stay in a lonely hotel room in Hong Kong.

DAY 3, SU 19 10 2014


Inasmuch as we hate – though, of course, we do not want to hate! – we hate those who hate Dif erence; those who would seek to destroy heterogeneity, complexity, and ambiguity within our societies. Our enemies are disciples of purity, simplicity, and authority. And, art tells us over and over again: that which is heterogeneous, complex, and ambiguous is ultimately humane and human; that which speaks in dialects of “purity, simplicity, and authority” must be resisted. With this in mind, we must describe a new sociocultural formation that has appeared on the world stage. It is a friend to all of those who have been historically oppressed by Imperialisms, Colonialisms and Fascisms. It is a revolutionary, multicultural, enlightened, and emboldened society, whose art and culture live and breathe heterogeneity, complexity, and ambiguity. This Avenging Empire of Dif erence is, of course, the twenty-first-century United States, and the question of our time is this: How does the world resist the socio-cultural-economic embrace of America’s aggressive, militarized capitalism, without providing any comfort to those who would destroy Difference?

NOT EVEN DEAD by Keti Chukhrov

What happens to the survivors who choose to stay home rather than follow all the other refugees to safety? They are counted nominally among the living, yet are unable to take any action or even make life go on. Nobody is in charge, and there is nobody to govern or to manage. The shops are empty or closed, and most of the neighbors are dead or gone. What remains is an abundance of empty space and unoccupied time, which cannot be taken advantage of by people who are still, or already, too paralyzed to act. It is in this weird situation that the play begins. Ilona Wekua left her small hometown some time ago as a refugee, and returns now as a young artist on commission from a Dutch institution, tasked with making and collecting material for a new piece as her contribution to a research exhibition about survival strategies. The remaining townspeople assemble to meet her, and she places a camera at the site of their gathering. Can she join them at all? And what will these desperate undead do to her if she succeeds?