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Trickstering, hallucinating and exhausting production
The Blackmarket of Useful Knowledge and Non-knowledge

Bojana Cvejic

There are projects that inaugurate or respond to a curated topic, and they act and are being looked upon as the curatorial markers of a period, for instance, the upcoming Documenta or the cancelled Manifesta exhibitions.
And there are projects that develop an autonomous practice over a longer period of time, and though they are not conceived in reaction or anticipation of a trend, their appearance seems to be amplified at times by a current curatorial interest. Such is the Blackmarket of Useful Knowledge and Non-knowledge, emerging from a series of projects, which Hannah Hurtzig created since 1995 to experiment with the forms of knowledge production and transfer in constructed public spaces.

For a brief account of the history of the Blackmarket should be mentioned the Mobile Academies (Bochum, 1999, Berlin, 2001 and 2004, Warsaw, 2006). Even if they are now lumped together with other summer schools and academies burgeoning all over, they were the first to hybridize (in-)disciplined workshops and lectures, cultural fieldwork and political activism in an event that creates its own imaginary community.

Out of "Fakelore" Academy that took place in Berlin in 2004 the first official "Blackmarket for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge" as "The Hallucinated Community College of the Mobile Academy with 100 experts from Berlin" sprung. An attempt at an encyclopaedic systematization of "terms and topics that played an important part in the past Mobile Academies" was a wild taxonomy of cultural, artistic, scientific, jargon, practical and common-sense based, disciplinary and non-disciplinary, acknowledged and clandestine areas of knowledge - forty-two topics from A for 'Aeronoutics' to U for 'Urbanism' in Arabic, Bangla, Chinese, German, English, French, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Low German, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Urdu and Viennese languages (or dialects).

Out of three elements set out in already the first edition - one-on-one talk between an expert and a client for one euro, thirty minutes long, with an audience offered to listen to it in headphones - a model crystallized that could be the object of discussion on several agendas. The reasons why I would like to talk about the Blackmarket is to analyze the specifics of its format and effects vis-à-vis new forms of knowledge production and their politics, and the roles theory has taken in an age of its performance. The particularities that produced the Blackmarket as a new autonomous model - I will observe element by element.

Machinizing a public space
What distinguishes Blackmarket from the artistic interventions that critique public spaces as being closed, controlled, and dominated by the marketplace consumerism is its proactive approach: not to discover, display or import the ready-made of a museum, theater, or academy but to construct in the city a public space that is not authorized for the production of knowledge.
Hurtzig explains that her resources were "archives and reading rooms in libraries, the stock-market and rooms with a special function in non-European countries, for instance, in Zimbabwe, where illiterate persons come to speak to a writing person in order to have their story or knowledge written down, the purpose could be a letter, an add, any written information to be stored."

The type of public space the Blackmarket is aiming for is a ''Benutzerraum'', a user-oriented space. What it shares with theater is the reference to the antique public forum and a mixture of performance and event. It is a performance in so far each expert takes the position of a knower=performer, self-authorized by the speech-act, and deploys all techniques of performing, and I hereby mean not the acting techniques but the linguistic craft of issuing, fulfilling or betraying a promise of knowledge.

Blackmarket is less a performance than an event inasmuch as it does not present itself in confrontation with an audience that seeks consensus in reception. There are no spectators to observe and receive a performance, but all participants - experts, their clients and the just-listeners - are users involved in shaping the event to a varying degree. The intimacy of the encounter at each table-unit requires a low volume - whispering and maybe even stuttering - so the view from above at hundred tables in one room bears very little representation, in the sense of resembling or standing in for or speaking in the name of something/someone else. Therefore, the Blackmarket is only an installation in technical terms, in its set-up, rather than in its genre of display. It is more a self-sufficient machine that operates a space in an open, uncontrolled, uncontainable production, dissemination and infiltration of knowledge. For now I use "knowledge" in the lack of a more adequate term, and I will further specify the difference in this notion.

Storytelling
Is the technology that explicitly distinguishes knowledge transfer in the Blackmarket from all other learning situations. Telling a story immediately undoes the object of transmission from a discipline with a history. That is furthermore why the Blackmarket is an event: its taking-place has nothing to do with the inscription of difference (the political mission of inscribing a different knowledge), with tracing or archiving the traces of erased traces. Even if it does have the economy of excess, of dépense or expenditure as the surplus of signification, it still is a trade and not a matter of gift and exchange. Selling one's story unmasks a fundamental social contract: it puts the storyteller in the blatant position of "perform or else" and the client in a position to demand the supply. Narration leads away from the academic methods of analyzing, contextualizing, commenting, and verifying information. It actually undoes knowledge from information and defines it halfway between what one knows as an object of knowledge, study, discipline (savoir) and what one is subjectified by as experience or acquaintance (connaissance). The knower here is not someone who has a love for knowledge and whose knowledge is necessarily legitimated by an institution, but the knower can be a trickster, who not only betrays the dominant regimes but also takes the possession of territories that do not belong to her, or do not exist yet and are, therefore, invented.

Subjectification and expertise
If subjectification is not just identification, or interpretation of something from one's own experience, but always already a transformation, making something one's own by bastardizing it, "fucking" it up, giving it one's own body, then expertise implies honouring a general condition, or a condition for a general intellect: there is always something one knows. It is not so much about what one knows, but how one knows, what one's ability to know and pass on that knowledge to someone else is. Subjectification is all about partiality and partial insights which, in fact, enable participation on a contingent basis. Partiality should also be read in opposition to "being impartial", i.e. objective, unbiased or dispassioned. Now, the Blackmarket's mission is not to empower humankind by making it realize its own capacity, but to unravel potentialities that make up uncertain and less visible circulation of that which makes up knowledge: assumptions, beliefs, opinions, habits, facts, information, techniques etc. The talk is an encounter that puts in relation knowledge and non-knowledge, activates learning and unlearning, explores the difference and the distance between ignorance and opinion and what is idealized as its opposite, namely, knowledge. In Hurtzig's own words, the Blackmarket should be understood pragmatically as a "tool to find problems for the already existing solutions".

Topics and experts
In the first Blackmarket there were a hundred talks featured under the following headings: Accidents, Activism, political, Aeronautics, Animals, Architecture, Cartography, Choreography, Communication, Customs, Dilemma, Ecotrophology, Education, Ethics, Games, Language, Media, Memory, Meteorology, Millinery, Music, historical stringed instruments, Music, listening, Music, composing, Music, noise/sound, Music, song, Money, Nirvana-Principle, No Headword, Orientation, Poetry, Quantum mechanics, Sex, Somatology, Space, Sports, Techniques, arts, Techniques and body, Techniques, crafts, Text,Theatre, Tourism Translation, Urbanism, Work.

Listing all topics serves to show that the heterogeneity was not choreographed from above, as a pool of themes to choose from and respond to, but the themes were a result of an aposteriori grouping of the talks, as they were formulated by experts. The formulations range within a variety of strategies and tactics of self-determination: from a straitforward understanding of one's own professional knowledge (e.g. Timan Muthesius, violin-maker,?"Historical stringed instruments before 1800. The Viola da Gamba and the Viola da Braccio"), through politically edgy propositions (e.g. Katja Reichard, co-initiator of the bookstore pro qm, artist, collective projects on urbanism, gender, work, "Forms of self-exploitation: working life in times of difference capitalism"), unexpected mismatches between profession and proclaimed expertise (e.g. Quantum mechanics, Alexej Kairetdinow, poet, translator, The uncertainty principle does (not) work without formulas. A philologist explains an experiment from quantum mechanics., or Percy McLean, judge at the Administrative Court, expert for human rights, honorary president of the organization for holistic medicine Der Weg der Mitte ?Face- and neck massage. Theory and practice) to characteristically humorous or bizarre inventions (Christof Kurzmann, musician, "Learning Viennese with Asterix", Carmen Bruder, Psychologist, phD TU Berlin, men-machine-interface "Why it's not your fault if your computer goes nuts?On the psychological background of technical system development. And what you can contribute").

Cutting-through society
After the first Blackmarket, which obviously grew out of the assemblage of invited experts, i.e. persons that hitherto contributed to the community of the Mobile Academies, Hurtzig conceived the following editions of the Blackmarket around a cluster of topics. The principle of not assigning an overarching topic in order to curate knowledge according to artistic, cultural, social or political interests still remains in the ethics of the Blackmarket.
However, there are certain procedures and aims to pursue in preparing a topic as the area of research. However not imposing a particular theme for a particular context with the interpretative arrogance of "this is good for you", Hurtzig does account for a certain telos, or at least, a set of preferences and criteria: "As I'm not a talented person, I work on the basis of ''deficit and deficiency''. I search for what I think we're in lack of."
For instance, in the Blackmarket held in Warsaw in 2005 the topic of ''ghostly or invisible knowledge'' made connections between people, knowledge and experience from before and after the regime change in Poland, and presented different ways of deciphering and reading the process of political and economic transition and its ghostlines. The thematic guideline for this Blackmarket was a quote by Heiner Müller : "Ihe phantom of the market economy has replaced the ghost of communism".

Another example illustrates how Hurtzig proceeds when nowadays, after the model became popular, she receives commision or invitation on particular topic. Recently asked to make a Blackmarket on the topic of aging in Germany, she says: "Searching for what could be interesting apart from old people speaking about their life, which isn't particularly interesting, I came across a curious phenomenon of aged ''researchers'', people who after their professional career specialize in "small" topics. For instance, someone who spent 15 years since her retirement on researching the pit in the cherry fruit. They were the people who decided to do something they couldn't do before, being self-determined and non-institutionalized, these researchers are driven by a passion towards a knowledge not knowing who would use it."

The process of research likens a "rehearsal process identical to the result - a communication process of two to three months, where you consult different sources that help you rehallucinate a context." To do that, Hurtzig, together with her collaborators, performs a certain cutting through the society, which is entirely different from what is referred to as interdisciplinary research. Interdisciplinary approach presupposes that a topic arises as an event in the surplus effect of joining and mixing respectable disciplines. The mixture in the case of Blackmarket is along the lines of monstrosity: composing something known, established or reliable with something that is less all that; so, mixing disciplined, alternative, parallel, lay, practical, pragmatic, technical, experience-based etc. registers of articulating knowledge as something one has, one is capable of, one uses, one can teach, one can learn or one can only name. In short, this means "combine a scientific person with your neighbor". First, in this way you avoid "the usual suspects" or the discourse leaders ("Diskursstatthalter") and, second, the outcome is never one, one difference to what is established or dominant, and certainly not a coherent, unified or homogeneous set of expertise, but always an irreproducible connectivity between people, places, memory and interests.


Where to go and what to do
Some aspirations this project has: "I am interested in the situations where there is a collective moment of learning that people aren't aware of and which, potentially, could lead to action, arousing enthusiasm and hallucination with the impossible." (HH)
Maybe you noticed, "hallucination" is a recurring description Hurtzig uses here. I am trying to understand what she means by it, if it is located in perception or participation of the users or in a social significance of the event.
Today, when theory has become yet another superstructural development of late capitalism, featured both in the rhetorics of the arts as well as in creative industries and business management, it takes actually some art to de-instrumentalize it from producing the intellectual surplus value. The Blackmarket is not expressly a pro-theoretical project. However, it does conceptualize knowledge production, not by a critical interpretation of its place in contemporary society, but through experimentation which operates with possibilities and potentialities of concrete situations.

*All quotations of Hannah Hurtzig come from a conversation that took place in March 2006.

Published: 31 Institut für Theorie der Gestaltung und Kunst, No. 08/09 (Dec. 06), Zurich