3625 Words / London, August 2016

A short text, not necessarily concerned with a clearly defined artistic practice but rather interested in outlining an attitude, a motor, a drive...


See Arthur Cravan, 4 Dada Suicides (Anti-classics of Dada): Arthur Cravan, Jacques Rigaut, Julien Torma, & Jacques Vaché / translated by Terry Hale, Paul Lenti, Iain White (Atlas Press, London, 1995)

See also Sandeep Parmar, Mina Loy’s ‘Colossus’ and the Myth of Arthur Cravan (October 2007 / www.jacketmagazine.com)


See Graham Parker, The forgotten story of Jack Johnson’s fight with Oscar Wilde’s poet nephew, (www.theguardian.com / April 2016)


See Walter Benjamin, Critique of Violence (Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, 1921) - (Schocken Books, New York, 1986)


See ClaireFontaine, Human Strike Has Already Begun & Other Writings (Mute & Post-Media Lab / London & Lüneburg, 2013)


ClaireFontaine, Ready-Made Artist and Human Strike: A few Clarifications (PDF / Paris, November 2005), p.11


“Understanding how the devices around us work, brings an immediate increase in power, giving us a purchase on what will then no longer appear as an environment, but as a world arranged in a certain way and one that we can shape.”

The Invisible Committee, To Our Friends (Paris and Los Angeles, Semiotext(e), 2015), p.125


DAAD = German Academic Exchange Service


See Dan Hancox, A ‘Regeneration Supernova’ Is About to Destroy East London As We Know It,
(www.vice.com / April 2014)


Damien Hirst, Sensation, painted bronze, 198cm x 318cm x 165cm (www.damienhirst.com / 2003)


See Peter Bishop, The Guardian, Clive Dutton obituary (www.theguardian.com / June 2015)


See Reuthers, China to create new financial district in London
(www.uk.reuters.com / May 2013)


See Henry Wiltshire International, What Property Investors Need to Know About Canary Wharf (March 2015 / www.youtube.com)


“People are living in the back of shops, in basements, in kebab shops and in sheds. You see a betting shop or a chicken shop and there’ll be a room above it with ten or twenty people.”, says Mark Lancaster, community outreach advisor at Shelter. “People have even been found in commercial fridges, where meat is stored. And they’re paying rent for it.”

Anna Minton, Ground Control (Penguin Books / London, 2012), p. xxviii


See Anna Minton, Ground Control (Penguin Books / London, 2012)


See Josephine Berry Slater and Anthony Iles, No Room to Move: Radical Art and the Regenerate City (Mute Publishing Ltd / London, 2010), p.50


See Giorgo Agamben, State of Exception (University of Chicago Press / Chicago and London, 2005)


“The detached observer is as much entangled as the active participant; the only advantage of the former is insight into his entanglement, and the infinitesimal freedom that lies in knowledge as such.His own distance from business at large is a luxury which only that business confers. This is why the very movement of withdrawal bears the very features of what it negates.”

Theodor Adorno (1944), Minima Moralia - Reflections from Damaged Life (Verso Books, 2005), p.26


“After so many stories of men who had lost their memory, here is the story of one who has lost forgetting, and who - through some peculiarity of his nature - instead of drawing pride from the fact and scorning mankind of the past and its shadows, tuned to it first with curiosity and then with compassion. In the world he comes from, to call forth a vision, to be moved by a portrait, to tremble at the sound of music can only be signs of a long and painful prehistory. He wants to understand. He feels these infirmities of time like an injustice, and he reacts to that injustice like Che Guevara, like the youth of the sixties, with indignation. He is a Third Worlder of time. The idea that unhappiness had existed in his planet’s past is as unbearable to him as to them the existence of poverty in their present. Naturally he’ll fail. The unhappiness he discovers is as inaccessible to him as the poverty of a poor country is unimaginable to the children of a rich one. He has chosen to give up his privileges, but he can do nothing about the privilege that has allowed him to choose.”

Chris Marker, Sans Soleil (Argos Films,1983)

The fighting stance is the most fundamental body posture in any type of Martial Art. To have a good stance allows you to move effortless and quickly. It also allows you to transfer force from your body to your arms and legs. You block and you attack out of the fighting stance and after each move you return to it. To have a good stance means that you are always alert and ready.

* * *

Almost exactly 100 years ago, Arthur Cravan, born Fabian Avenarius Lloyd, staged a boxing match between himself and Jack Johnson, the heavyweight world champion at the time, in order to avoid British military service.
It was a means to escape. 1
Arthur Cravan was Oscar Wilde’s nephew and like his uncle he was a poet. In order to draw enough attention to the fight, he pretended to be a European champion. It was right in middle of World War One. Both Cravan and Johnson were almost broke and urgently needed money. Johnson had just escaped federal charges and a prison sentence in the United States, while Cravan needed to pay for his passage to the United States.
The match happened in Barcelona on the 23rd of April 1916. Film rights were sold, which was much more profitable than the amount of issued tickets. Yet for the film to be feasible, the match had to last for at least six good rounds. The show turned out to be a disaster. Cravan froze as soon as he entered the ring. He did not dare to fight back. Johnson played with Cravan for six rounds, then he knocked him out with a single punch. 2 The public felt cheated and suspected that the outcome was fixed. The next day local newspapers headlined the fight as ‘The Great Swindle’.
Nevertheless Cravan made enough money to leave Europe.

He got away.

* * *

Already in the 1920-ties, Walther Benjamin described withdrawal as a an act of resistance 3. Several decades later in the early 2000s, ClaireFontaine formulated her idea of the ‘human strike’ 4. She describes it as the most general strike of all. ‘Human strike’ means to become stranger, even to abandon one’s own sense of self in order to interrupt and to transform the instituted order of things as well as our belonging to it: withdrawal as a ‘means of halting’ 5.

* * *

When I decided to come to London to do a Masters degree at Goldsmiths University, I realized that it was almost impossible for me to afford the average rent, the tuition fees, the high living expenses, and to focus on my studies at the same time without making debts. I had to find an alternative, an affordable way to enter the city.
I did not stage a boxing match. Instead I decided to buy a cheap old van (Mercedes Benz 310 KA / built in 1992) in Germany. Friends who work as mechanics showed me how to restore it 6 : I cut out the rusty bits and I learned how to weld the broken parts. I repaired the underfloor and I lacked the car body. Later I insulated the van. Then I constructed a bed and a simple kitchen.
In August 2014 I drove it to London to live in it. With the help of other friends I gained access to the networks of their friends. This is how I managed to find an affordable place to park my van. Cody Dock is in the London Borough of Newham, right in the centre of the so-called ‘Arc of Opportunity’. The rent is just one hundred pounds. Internet, electricity, and basic facilities are included in the price. Officially I am Cody Dock’s first artist in residence. At the same time I applied for a DAAD scholarship 7 to cover the tuition fees and to have a monthly income. I got lucky.

I got in.

* * *

a SUPERNOVA happens with enormous speed.

It is is the opposite of halting.

In 2010, the authorities of London and the London Borough of Newham co-produced a silent promotional video of three minutes length for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo: ‘London’s Regeneration Supernova’. It advertises large areas of Newham as an ‘Arc of Opportunity’ for foreign investors. 8
The catchy title of the video refers to the brightest light in the universe: It is emitted by exploding stars for just a few milliseconds. However, it seems to me that the makers of the video did not take into consideration that a Supernova also is an extinction event. On a cosmic scale it describes a dying star. It either leaves a void, or it collapses into a black hole. What follows is emptiness.
But isn’t there also the saying that war is the father of all things? After the old is destroyed, the new can be built (once again). In the end the comparison to the cosmic death of a star may therefore be not very far away from the truth: an urban Supernova in the guise of regeneration is indeed desirable for investors.

* * *

If the system is too rigid to be broken, the only viable option is to find gaps that can be exploited. For example I had to ensure that my van was affordable, but still met London’s Low Emission Standards to avoid excessive fines. One needs to know the rules first in order to navigate them. Yet perhaps even more important than knowing those rules is a network of allies and friends.

* * *

From my van I have a good view on Damien Hirst’s sculpture ‘Sensation’ 9, which is part of a public sculpture trail. Next to Damien Hirst’s work, you can find sculptures by many other artists, including Martin Creed, Anthony Gormley, Mark Wallenger and Bill Viola. The Line 10 cuts right across the ‘Arc of Opportunity’, from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park in the North, all the way to the O2 Arena in the South.
‘Sensation’ is constantly monitored by live CCTV to keep the public at a convenient distance. For example, whenever children play soccer around that sculpture an alarm goes off. A disembodied voice out of a speaker commands: back off!

* * *

The idea for ‘London’s Regeneration Supernova’ can be traced back to one single person: Clive Dutton (born 6 May 1953; died 6 June 2015) 11. In 2009, Newham Council employed him to redevelop the Royal Docks. At this point several attempts to regenerate the area had failed already. Prior to the 2012 Olympics, Clive Dutton designed the masterplan for the area. His agenda, but also the legacy of the Olympics, resulted in the biggest shopping mall of Europe in Stratford (Westfield), an urban research centre at Royal Victoria Dock (Siemens Crystal) and a cable car (Emirates Air Line), which now connects the Royal Docks with North Greenwich (O2 Arena). In May 2013 the Royal Albert Dock was sold to a Chinese property developer. 12 Clive Dutton knew that art can be used to brand and to promote a new positive image. Hence, The Line was opened in 2015 to connect all of these landmarks: Westfield, Siemens, Emirates Air Line, O2.
This is not a new situation. Already after the decline of London’s former docklands in the 1980-ties, Canary Wharf was privatized. It soon became the centre of the UK’s banking and finance sector. In consequence property prizes started to increase in the area, a development that is expected to continue for many years to come.

* * *

From an investment point of view, the increase of property prizes by almost 40% in recent years is positive 13, even though it inevitably results in the segregation of London’s diverse working class.
Nearly half the population in Newham lives below the poverty line. Locals and most immigrants cannot afford the high cost of new expensive houses. There is just not enough affordable housing left. In consequence they are either displaced further and further out, often beyond the outskirts of town, or forced to live in precarious conditions 14. Thus Anna Minton argues, that the conversion of public property into private property, owned and secured by international corporations, has led to intensified social class divisions and a climate of fear. 15
It is a well known fact that not only public art, but also the very presence of artists in an area, is used by developers to increase its value. 16 In an urban Supernova, property, capital and art are linked in a complex dynamic.

* * *

A fair balance does not exist. We are surrounded by an unprecedented amount of accumulated wealth. Yet it is inaccessible for most of us. The gap between rich and poor grows bigger. Indignation. We feel anger, sadness, fear and helplessness. We are faced with constant conflict and crisis, yet we seem to be unable to imagine a different future. One could argue that we have lost control.
Resistance against what?
Against whom?
If we are to some degree aware of global politics and the power mechanisms that are responsible for violence and inequalities in the world, and if we are conscious of the permanent ‘state of exception’ 17 we live in, we know that change has to start within ourselves, because we constitute the system that encapsulates and absorbs our lives.

* * *

Withdrawal or open rebellion? Personally, I feel discouraged by the outcome of past revolutions. But isn’t there also the constant risk that withdrawal becomes an act of compliance 18, rather than an act of resistance? And doesn’t getting away inevitably mean to get into something else?

* * *

Sometimes I still feel like the distant traveller in ‘Sans Soleil’ by Chris Marker, who comes from a future that has lost its ability to forget. He wants to understand. Yet it is as impossible for him to grasp the idea that unhappiness once existed in the history of his planet, as it is for me in the present to imagine the existence of poverty in a poor country. Even if I choose to go and live there, I will always be a distant traveller. Even if I give up all my privileges, there still is the dilemma that I cannot do anything about the privilege that has allowed me to choose in the first place. 19

* * *


I was born in 1985. My two brothers and me grew up on the German country side next to the Czech border. Hof, the biggest town in the area, used to be the last train stop before the Iron Curtain. After high school I went to India to do a Voluntary Social Year, during which I worked with mentally disabled people, followed by one and a half years of Philosophy at the ‘Freie Universität’ in Berlin and an internship with ‘Restaurierung am Oberbaum’, where I was involved in the restoration of David Chipperfields ‘Neues Museum’ in Berlin. In 2009 I moved to the Netherlands to study Fine Art at Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam.

When I decided to come to London to do a Masters degree at Goldsmiths University, I soon realized that it was almost impossible for me to afford the rent, the fees, the cost of living and to focus on my studies at the same time without making debts, even though I managed to get a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). I had to find an alternative, a coping strategy, a way to enter the city. My solution was to buy a cheap old van in Germany. I restored it and I converted it into a mobile live/work studio. In August 2014, I drove it to London. With the help of friends I discovered Cody Dock in the London Borough of Newham, where I could safely park.
Officially I am Cody Dock’s first artist in residence.

In my experience, if the system is too rigid to be broken, the only viable option is to find gaps that can be exploited. For example I had to ensure that my van was affordable but still met London’s Low Emission Standards to avoid excessive fines. Generally speaking: one needs to know the rules first in order to navigate them. Yet perhaps even more important than knowing those rules is a network of allies and friends.

To take a stance in the world means to get involved on a personal level, as Georges Didi-Huberman wrote in 2009, in an essay on Harun Farocki’s work: “Lifting one’s thought to the level of anger (the anger provoked by all the violence in the world, this violence to which we refuse to be condemned). Lifting one’s anger to the level of a task (the task of denouncing this violence with as much calm and intelligence as possible).” (How to Open Your Eyes (Harun Farocki: Against What? Against Whom?), edited by Antje Ehmann and Kodwo Eshun (Koenig Books & Raven Row, London, 2009), p.39).

That way indignation becomes a driving force.
The search for new encounters, complicities and alliances describes an attitude which foregrounds an artistic practice that is not defined or limited by a specific medium. I believe that there should be no blueprint, and no recipe. Every project not only has to change its shape in conversation with people, but it also should enter a dialogue with the situation and the circumstances it emerges from. It can be seen as a negotiation perhaps, or a spark that interferes with the structure of the world and that in turn allows others to interact with its complexities and its contradictions - an interplay of action, reaction and reflection.

In September 2016 I graduated with distinction from Goldsmiths University (MFA Fine Art).

group exhibitions

24. June - 15. September 2016 // 'Damage & Loss' (Alternativa, Gdansk, Poland)
14. - 18. July 2016 // 'MFA Goldsmiths Show' (Goldsmiths University, London, UK)
14. May 2016 // 'Die Yuppie Hipster Artist Scum' (No.w.here, London, UK)
25. January - 08. February 2016 // 'Between the Lines' (GRAD, London, UK)
23. April - 19. June 2015 // 'Collaborate!' (Oriel Sycharth Gallery, Wrexham, UK)
12. - 26. October 2013 // 'Anthropozänta' (Helmbrechts, Germany)
03. - 09. July 2013 // GRA Graduation Show (Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Frederik Roeskestraat 96, Amsterdam)
16. - 24. November 2012 // 'Ultimate Harmony': HARD.CORE (Upominki, Kapelstraat 32, Rotterdam)
01. - 15. September 2012 // 'Žinkovy Arts Festival': HARD.CORE (Žinkovy, West Bohemia, Czech Republic)
12. - 13. June 2012 // 'Unfamiliar Parcours' (Holland Festival / Frascati Theatre, Amsterdam)
08. - 16. June 2012 // 'Hardcore / Ding-mon-seek': HARD.CORE (Amstel 41, Amsterdam)
31. March 2012 // 'Creating a Context' (Front of House, Bologna, Italy)
16. October 2011 // 'Learning to Sea': HARD.CORE (Retort Art Space, Amsterdam)
15. - 17. April 2011 // 'Open Ateliers Zeeburg' (Amsterdam)
09. April 2011 // 'About Blank Spaces': Daniel Dressel & Anne de Boer ('Slow Lloyd' / Lloyd Hotel, Amsterdam)
17. February 2011 // 'Chief Noise' (Oude Diamantslijperij / Tolstraat 129, Amsterdam)
22. April 2010 // 'Call & Response' (Gallery Schijnheilig, Amsterdam)


April 2015 // 'Arte + Ecología' (Cortijada Los Gázquez / Andalucía, Spain)
March 2012 // 'Creating a Context' (in collaboration with Nosadella.Due and Neon Gallery / Bologna / Italy)
February 2012 // 'Swedish Connection' (Aspnäs, Härnösand / Sweden)
September - October 2011 // 'About the Relationship between Chaos and Silence' (Kolkata / West Bengal, India)
November 2010 - January 2011 // 'Slow Lloyd' (organised by slowLab / Lloyd Hotel, Amsterdam)

commissions / grants / awards

2015 // 'ICA Moscow / MFA Goldsmiths Exchange Programme' (supported by Moscow Biennale Foundation and the Tsukanov Family Foundation)
2014 - 2015 // 'DAAD Scholarship' (Fine Arts, Design & Film / Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst)
2013 // 'For Sylvanus': A memorial for Sylvanus Tutu Donkor (commissioned by Gerrit Rietveld Academie)

Creative Commons: LogoCreative Commons license: AttributionCreative Commons license: NoncommercialCreative Commons license: No Derivative Works
26.05. - 04.06.2017

private view: 25.05. | 6 p.m.
exhibition: 26.05. - 04.06.2017

11c South Crescent
London E16 4TL


Peer Session #76

19 APRIL 2017

organized by: Peer Sessions (Kate Pickering & Charlotte Warne Thomas)

Deptford X / 7 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Ground Floor, Norfolk House
9 Brookmill Road
London SE8 4HL


Peer Session #76

24.06. - 15.09.2016

opening: 24.06.2016 | 6 p.m.
exhibition: 24.06. - 15.09.2016
organizers: Alternativa Foundation & National Museum Gdansk

Former premise of Gdansk Shipyard | Hall 90B

Alternativa 2016

14.07. - 18.07.2016

opening: 14.07.2016 | 6 p.m.
exhibition: 15.07. - 18.07.2016

Ben Pimlott Building, Laurie Grove Baths & Richard Hoggart Building
New Cross, Goldsmiths University of London
London SE14 6NW


MFA Goldsmiths Graduation Show 2016

14 MAY 2016

316 - 318 Bethnal Green Road
London E2 0AG