Interview with Teodora Tabacki > Film-maker - Berlin
Tara Herbst

Tara: For your own films, do you think that it is possible that they could circulate on the level of media representation?

Teodora: Yeah, theoretically speaking it could, it is just highly unlikely. I mean I have nothing against the idea. There are just many obstacles to it , and I don’t think that mass media are sort of oppres-sing the poor naïve and innocent public, I think that what mass media show is at the same time what people want to see and I don’t think most people want to see my films or yours for that matter. Like even smaller audiences found it hard to understand (laughs).

Tara: So and if your work really could not be absorbed, what about money and fame?

Teodora: (laughs) Tja, I find it very easy to live without money or fame. Having money is nice, but what I would do for the money is ….there are not too many things I would compromise to get the money and fame and I think if you systematically struggle for something for years without money you can still can get fame or recognition at some point. I don’t know how exactly, if not that is also not that bad.

Tara: So you think you would not need that, social recognition of some sort?

Teodora: Let's say that the people whose recognition is for me important are recognizing my work and the recognition from other people is something that I don’t really give a fuck about.

Tara: Also concerning what one could call a social status?

Teodora: Yes.

Tara: Yes you don’t give a fuck about?

Teodora: Yes. Exactly. Yet .. I could put it rather simple. On this totally ground level of friends I never lacked recognition. So I think everyone very much appreciates my enthusiasm for unpaid work.

Tara: Your pioneer spirit.

Teodora: Yes. Exactly, my communist education and believe in pioneer duties. And at the same time concerning my status I know that I could very easily go out without money and that someone would buy me a beer. That's a sustainable system.

Tara: If there would be a critical mass you could have both at the same time. Do you see a critical mass at the moment?

Teodora: In a traditional sense of revolution unfolding in the streets not really, but I do feel that there is some kind of fluidity and a certain mass of people is synchronized in producing some kind of changement, and yet we don’t know exactly what it is or what it might be. And desire is something that never has a concrete object but undefined as it is there is still positivity in it. I do believe in the affirmation of this desire without any need for rationalization or concretization.

Tara: Concerning this dilemma, the choice between an inner compulsion and an outer ego-boost, what would you say, your situation at the moment…

Teodora: On one hand I would sort of agree with Sue Golding, binarisms are always sort of dangerous but this one fundamental like revolutionary or fascist still seems pertinent. For me it was never really a dilemma, I could not imagine doing anything but affirming desire. I don’t think people are horrible or bad or stupid if they do otherwise, it's just not my thing.

Tara: But there are sometimes situations, like going to the immigration centre for your residence permit and things like that. That would be outer demands…

Teodora: Yes. But fully understanding how important it would be in those rare moments to do what you do not want to do, I still haven't made a drag performance for the immigration. I don’t know I just could not force myself to go to get my visa properly dressed, I don’t think it would even be a very convincing performance. Like as you probably noticed in this film from Toma and Ivan 'EU penetration'. Like putting a dress makes me look like a very unsuccessful transvestite (laughs).

Tara: I think it makes you look like the queen of Europe. On Poppers.

Teodora: Yes, and queen of Europe is supposed to look grotesque, but I don’t think that would in any way help me deal with German bureaucrats.

Tara: And what would your present inner perversions be? If we keep making that difference.

Teodora: Inner perversion? I don’t know I would not really call it inner, because it is also public, there is nothing private about it, but let's say investing time and energy in producing contacts and values that are not material and not expected to be capitalized. Like from the trivial sense of always and only spending money on drugs and alcohol and to always and only working with people that I like and on projects that will never make money and so on. Believing in friendship or love rather than becoming rich and famous.

Tara: Concerning a transformative practise. Could you imagine the struggle for change in something other than a guilt ridden masochist way?

Teodora: Yes.   

Tara: On a practical level?

Teodora: Yes.(laughs)

Tara: What would it look like?

Teodora: You know it and I know it. It would include… it is not that complicated there is a whole history of progressive social movements, there are periods and personalities and that were neither masochistic nor dogmatic, I also believe that elementary social and political interest is connective, not implying closed self-help identity groups. I also think that understanding how world of view functions makes it literally impossible to think in binarist categories and that the complexity does not imply a failure or to put it differently that constant failure is not necessarily negative and does not in any way prevent further reflection that you can adapt your behaviour and always start from scratches creating different politics, different individual or collective projects. It would be certainly open-ended, temporary, free willing, and preferably growing. Where each and every individual would at every moment have the right to step in and out and would only be engaged out of pleasure in it and not obligation to some moral goal that you can never reach. And I think humour is very important.

Tara: And do you think that every struggle over power has to be organized around issues of identities?

Teodora: I think that issues of identities and struggle for power sort of belong to the same theoretical framework and I don’t necessarily subscribe to this one. I am already getting uncomfortable when it gets to struggle for power. In a way you already have the oppressor and the oppressed in the struggle for power, the right and the wrong, the identity of the oppressed is then a logical consequence but when you conceptualize politics and ontology differently, both power and identity become obsolete concepts.

Tara: And on a practical level? Considering minorities, the political struggle of minorities.

Teodora: If I am approached by a boring guy in the bar, I find it easiest to tell him that I am not interested being a lesbian. But that is the only context where I could possibly use that word. However in all organized identity groups I find it very important to bring in friends with me who are guys, though gay. Same goes for political groups, so that’s  the problem with identity, depending on which line of social conflict you choose as the most important one there is always reproduction of oppression against other minorities. And I find it really strange that this is often ignored. Same the existence of patriarchy makes it perfectly legitimate to organize lesbian police unites. And burn witches who do not worship women lesbian identity enough but sleep with men. Or moments when especially in Germany you are absolutely not allowed to laugh at a funny joke, because the woman who told the joke was Jewish and if you laugh at it that would imply not being aware enough of the horrors of Holocaust. And as long as there are individuals locally and internationally who deal with this similar kind of social reality or overlapping communities there is sort of a learnt experience and that is already a political potential. Let's say every single person that takes part in the Assembly project already proves the feasibility of a different kind of political or social or aesthetic struggle. What I also find important is that this is not political in the sense of whipping yourself.

Tara: So concerning feminism, you could imagine non-essentialist feminism.

Teodora: Yes.

Tara: What would that look like?

Teodora: I would mention first Judith Butler, then Donna Haraway, Sue Golding, then Beatrice Preciado, although some of them have different kinds of essentialist aspects but there is an already established track either coming from Foucault or from feminist deconstructivist readings. There is this really inspiring sentence from 'Cyborg manifesto', 'I would rather be a Cyborg than a goddess'. So it would not so much deal with the notion of women but more the becoming of monstrous forms, of humanity or not even humanity. And always singular.

Tara: What about what Terre Thaemlitz calls non-essentialist trans-genderism?

Teodora: I like it.

Tara: What would that look like?

Teodora: Lets say that’s why I so much loved Bubu de la Madeleine much more than any other Tokyo videos that you did, Bubu' s performances are drag and transgender performances although they do not fit into this pattern of women disguising as a man and men disguising as a woman. I think it should go further I mean always working on this species of transition like contemporary presence of manliness, femininity and else. It's always about bodily practises; in as far as socialization or body regimes are very complex, sophisticated and different you can no longer stick to essentialist categories. Like sissy beer (showing her bottle of Beck's Gold into the camera) .That is also non-essentialist transgenderism.

Tara: So how would you define the political? Where do you see possibilities for yourself to invest into the political?

Teodora: There is this quote 'When politics take life for its subject then the life itself becomes political'. So I think absolutely everything that I do has a political dimension that you don’t have to specially prepare to go for a demonstration to make a political statement. There are different ways of politics and this representative level is not the most interesting for me, so I don’t have any ambition to enlighten the masses and prepare a revolution that’s another possible way of having politics but that’s just not mine. So I rather believe in producing paradigmatic examples that might be seductive for other people…

Tara: For the masses (laughs).

Teodora: Unlikely, but let's say exemplary behaviour. (Laughs) That could also be the question how do you imagine a feminist that is not essentialist, whatever I imagine is something I also live. I don’t think I could do more and I also don’t feel obliged to do more.

Tara: You do not want to tell the essentialist that they should not be essentialists.

Teodora: Yes, exactly. I just find it important to prove that the other ways are possible without ever wanting them to be a majority opinion.

Tara: But you would say that you are a feminist?

Teodora: Yes.

Tara: You would use the word feminist.

Teodora: Especially in non-feminist circumstances. If I am surrounded by feminists, my punk identity might get triggered, so to say.

Tara: Communities, they are at the same time a threat and a promise, do you feel being part of communities?

Teodora: Sure, but always in the same way of not fully belonging and being also a part of other communities, I need communities in a way I need to feel at home but as long  as they don’t turn into gated communities.

Tara: And in what way do you feel not belonging?

Teodora: In many ways but to try to summarize it basically in the sense that I always notice the limits and the moment I feel the limit, I need to get out, I get claustrophobic.

Tara: And of what do these limits consist of in the different communities?

Teodora: Disciplining member behaviour like establishing a frontline to other communities and the exterior world.
Tara: And in what sense do you feel belonging to these communities?

Teodora: Spending a lot of time with them, having vivid exchange of ideas, feeling supported and feeling also a certain responsibility to support other people, like in depends what communities we are talking about, this favourite community that I could not name of my friends, I feel love and being loved, that's a very strong feeling of belonging and also feeling that we are producing something together that we have quasi a political agenda.

Tara: And other communities you belong to, they are based on other things than love?

Teodora: There is a community of former Yugoslavs that usually start getting on my nerves when it gets to topics such as that Germans will never be able to understand the insurmountable difference there is between us or that they could not possibly express themselves fully in foreign language, or Premil always starts getting on my nerves when we go out together and he starts bugging how a club was not gay enough and no one ever told him that the club was gay, it was a Techno club, you  go to a Techno club because you like techno music, not because you are gay.  I wish there were Techno gay clubs but there are not. Or say Techno scene starts getting on my nerves as soon as we are not in Techno club but are supposed to talk to each other, or the political scene gets on my nerves the moment when I tell a joke that is immediately interpreted as a violation of political correctness. And so on and so on. It's like the absurd, so the political scene gets on my nerves because it is purely political and does not understand anything from fun or aesthetics and the art scene gets on my nerves because it is not at all political (laughs). But I think it is important to usurp these spaces of divide.

Tara: Yeah, I agree. So your choice to live in Berlin is dependant on your social context here.

Teodora: Certainly.

Tara: And your production, too?  

Teodora: Yes. Strongly. The parts of my production that are not related to social life are not really coming up.

Tara: Coming up?

Teodora: I am not doing much in other fields, I will have to do that but only when the deadline comes. I don’t enjoy doing it, anyway.

Tara: What do you mean by 'it'?

Teodora: Writing my PhD, you know what I mean (laughs).

Tara: Just for the Others. Of course I know what you mean.
What do you think how could we avoid this kind of static power structures within communities or limits you were talking about?

Teodora: I don’t think we can avoid them, they are just there, they are produced by concrete people and I don’t think that people could or should be better. That’s this humanist utopia, dream. The only thing I can do is finding ways to float on the frontiers. Like necessarily understanding myself as a non-homogenous and non-unitary subject in as far that I recognize those various aspects within I don’t have a problem dealing with it.