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For me, it probably makes sense to make clear that this is not a re-enactment of a common room or our imagination of it. The name is to be taken literally. At the same time common room is a kind of very generic term, a space for being together. It is not a nostalgic gesture, an expression of a desire to repair something broken.
It is a stage to use the space to be a condition for speaking. A traditional one is a very socialist construct. Ours, however, is all the things the traditional one is but also is very counter-intuitive and paradoxical. But then again, it can be used to enhance a single voice or message when someone assumes control of the space. Maybe it represents some of our current issues, maybe not. But essentially, it is a stage for coming together and discussing things.
The implications of which are far reaching, but in a physical space that is rigged to manipulate you, it feels even more pertinent. For instance, here, your own voice is somehow being used against you. So, unless you are capable of harnessing the space and the people around you, via simplifying your speech and assuming control, communication will break down.
In that sense, the apostrophic speech of the sloganeer could find more success in the common room. I think both the traditional and our common room, have implications toward personal and public forms of speech. But the installation takes it a step further and questions the relevance of our social discourse and also our physical engagement in the technological world.
What today is a safe space? And what are these implications to each of us? Yes, a lot of it has to do with language and the conditions of speaking as being both a liberating act as well as a policing instrument, with a geometry between speaker and listener. How much can you understand? How do you read things? How cryptic can it be? How much do you want to know? Of course, language is only one aspect in how one navigates the world and encounter others.
It is actually dysfunctional in the traditional sense. But as a symbol or a metaphor it functions just fine as a microcosm of a larger more complex idea. I loosely referenced earlier the affects of social media, how it feels like we are finally all coming together side by side but in a funny howling at the moon kind of way, well, the room facilitates that feeling. However that is the opposite of what a common room was and should be. I think it is a kind of humbling exercise, in the sense that it underlines that the world is not an open book, which just has to be encrypted, made legible, discovered.
The Cambridge History of German Literature edited by Helen Watanabe-O'Kelly
We are, amongst other things, the different roles we play in everyday life, just as much as our online identities are formalized fragments of who we are, even if there is an increasing tendency to force them to overlap. How do the individual components in the space relate to the Common Room? The different elements all relate to different moments of conversation, or speaking in general; the informal conversation had over a game, the circle of chairs as in speaking to share something and the lectern for addressing an audience, for instrumental speaking.
SE I would also say that the sonic element is acting as a reminder of the danger of taking part in an exclusively singular conversation. Which is kind of what social platforms today might tend to cultivate. PH Yes, as a platform it comes with its perks and protocols.
The different elements come to be foremost about the conditions for speaking; wanting to say something, knowing what to say, to someone. The common room, in tying together different modes and moments of speaking, is more of a suggestion, reinforced and undermined simultaneously by the grand gesture that the name invokes. Also, the individual components become part of a larger conversation than the one we have been having ourselves.
And as much as Peter and I fight the idea, it is in its own way political. Everywhere you look today, political hysteria is present and it feels very dangerous. There has been a shift of some kind. Insurgent attitudes are developing within Western democracies, Trump and Brexit are key examples of this. And it appears that we are fueling that populism through our own idiosyncratic content, via social media, online algorithms and with the ubiquitous presence of confirmation-bias.
Real discussions are becoming harder to have under these conditions and in my mind this is kind of what the common room is alluding to. Just like any metaphorical model, common room is a necessary abstraction but a simplification nevertheless, which does however not mean you can ignore it. How do you go about with this hysteria? I agree, we have created a perverted circle-jerk scenario. How can the Common Room be used by the visitor, what is the function of the Common Room? The user is the input as much as she or he activates the thing in question.
It comes with a function, a set of intended possibilities of interaction, which however does not mean these are the only possible ones. I think, with curiosity and generosity, hopefully. It is an open invitation. There are no fixed rules but I assume some people play pool, others sit and talk and the odd extravert in the group will take to the podium and speak, all the while they will be reacting and adapting to the discombobulating sensation of the rooms interactive elements. Some people may even make a mess in order to feed the resident pet vacuum cleaner.
The common room is not an example, it is an invitation, it is a sonic mirror that skews just by doing what it does. How bearable it is, or how unbearable. Sound will become a form of content in the space; that could be as words, opinions or just noises. Along with all its affiliated happenings inside the space. And even further beyond that, the conversations and ideas that proliferate the space when people leave are also part of the room. The primary function of the Common Room is to facilitate and stimulate content through interaction.
Whose content is whose is another question.
Yeah, I agree with that. As much as we can say how we feel about things and agree that a lot of things should change, you cannot say which course it is going to take. And this is not the place to start it from anyway. On the upside, there are no puppet masters that control everything, nobody knows about all the effects and side-effects, we mostly cannot imagine nor acknowledge the consequences of our deeds.
It is not a space pretending to be neutral. The show is about that unstable relation between trust, risk and insecurity, in every meaning of the word. It could very well force people outside. It could be empty. It could do nothing. It could be a disaster. It could just be there to remind us of something. Well, they are a kind of common room already, I suppose. Especially this sort of project space, but that is rare.
The commercial galleries and museums of course are not this way even if they have a PR team dedicated to appear so. More likely they would be called the Uncommon Room; but this kind of off-space and program definitely interact and engage with people on a more social level, opening up the conversation without intimidation. However, this is a totally different conversation and critique. This particular work is not aimed at the idea of a cultural space in terms of art, but sure there is an interesting confluence of ideas happening.
The Cambridge History of German Literature
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