Notes on Escaping and Belonging, Dis-Identifying and the Possibility of Celebrations

by Tim Stüttgen

I consider that we have entered into a new time in identity politics. (…) Don’t ask me what is beyond…the only thing I know, we have learned from Big Brother, it is that visibility is not enough, and sometimes it is not even politically desirable. (…) I would say that they are high risk politics. In my view, queer theory has been very useful to come out of a political and theoretical impasse, but it seems clear to me today that there is no political outcome without a working together of queer strategies with post-colonial, anti-globalisation political practices. (…) I think about an alliance of dissident posthetero-postgay-postlesbian-posttrans and even postqueer people that try to look together for strategies to build new collective bodies and affects. It is still to come…a dream.
                                                                                                                                         Beatriz Preciado
Let´s start with a kind of clichéd line: Something in me is always searching, always on the run. I do not know where I am heading, I just know: I have to get out of here. But I am pointing towards the next station, the next ensemble of subjectivities interacting for a reason, the next community. The need to run – not like a schizo, but like a prisoner escaping spaces that he possibly called home in earlier time spans – is fed by a new need to belong, a new need to identify, a new need for… I don´t know.

Stop. Maybe I do.

That people don´t know, that people try, that people experiment, that people are tired of this thing called representation and classic identity politics, is neither a surprise nor a disappointment. It makes sense. That´s why it seems fascinating to talk about the Multitude, however trivial its concept is. That´s why it seems obvious to look for connections in the queer-movement(s), however difficult the ongoing discussions are, how big the traps might be and under whatever sexual orientation I shall be categorized. And that´s why it is understandable to pray for a manifestation for the spectres of Marx again.

Dis-identification is a difficult task. I tried to start dis-identifying as a straight male, even if I have lived nearly my whole life in this narrative, made performance-photos in drag and sucked cocks. Am I gay or am I bi? I´d love to tell you “no” and would love to answer the same if you ask me if I am straight.

And I tried to disidentify with the magazine Spex, a space that once was important for discussions about popmusic and subcultures, a time long ago. I still write for it. So myself, some friends and others tried to form a new magazine. It is called MAKING OF. Everybody who came here, was searching for a new space. The Neo-Marxists and the Sociologists, the left wing of the pop-journalists and the musicians, the queer activists, the Deleuzians and others. We tried something new – at least for us. We met once a week, read texts, tried to talk in plural tongues, made an internet-portal for discussions, wrote protocols about our weekly sessions, organized events connected to the local politics in this city called Cologne, drank Vodka and smoked pot, shared affects and exchanged prejudices, sometimes listened to each other, sometimes not. We had all the big words written on our heads: Collectivity, Anti-Hierarchy, Counterculture, Working in Process, radical Positioning. What we didn´t find, at least most of the time, was the only thing all the discursivists and pragmatists, however their positions did differ, was progress and the kind of collective constitution we were longing for.

For one year, a lot has happend, but not the kind of event that we were striving for. Yes we had fun, yes we had seminars, yes we discussed löike maniacs, shared text-ideas and questioned concepts, sometimes made something happen. But it didn´t. The project “free speech” in the context of twenty different individuals changed into a project of potential leaders and followers, talkers and listeners, pseudo-anarchists and wannabe-bureaucrats. Then there were others, who wanted to break the already building hegemonies and built little war machines to destroy molar structures – or just left. Something had to change – that was clear to everybody. But nobody knew exactly was.

I at this time, also confronted with a loss of a loved one and a disorientation in life in general, felt close to losing my political subjectivity. I had the feeling of understanding so many different positions and problematics at the same time - or maybe I understood nothing at all – that I didn´t know anymore where to stand. I just knew we needed an affect-production that was true to us: Nothing more and nothing less. Eve Kosovsky Sedgewick once wrote that erotic identity only exists in relations and never for the sake of itself alone. I am sure that this is not only true in the identity-formations concerning erotics. But what can you do when you have so many relations, and not for the fun of pluralism, but because of the need for a multiplicity of options, disjunctions and antitheses, that virtually might exceed the repeating narratives of closure and tiring coherence-compromises that the public calls necessary positioning (and sometimes is still absolutely right in doing that)?

So I went on the run again. I went to Berlin, on a small travel, actually the same travel that made a friend of mine decide to leave the collective before even one single page was printed. After twelve months of discussions he didn´t feel any sense of belonging there anymore. At this time, my experience of the Assembly was only a virtual one. I read about it in the internet and was excited about the people Tara and Nicolas had interviewed. Even the event itself at the Kino International had already happened. But, as Tara and Nico agreed in a talk very soon to follow, the event wasn´t conceived as a kind of closure to the work they had done in the last two years. In this sense, I invited myself to join the Assembly, not sure if as a spectator or a performer.

I mirrored the practice Tara and Nicolas chose for their project: I interviewed them. What I expected? Interchanging experiences about groups and communities, possibly even answers to the problems I experienced with the collective in Cologne. Did I get answers, useful cartographies or even applicable strategies? Not really, or maybe a little of each. But I got a sense of belonging, not to a coherent identity formation, but to a plateau of affect-exchange, that was more about not having found a solution, not having found an answer, not having found an already perfectly working conceptual machine. The need for braveness and saying out these conflicts aloud, the interest in looking for new representations (and possibly others than representing yourself), the lust for dis-identification and invisibility on the one hand and publicity and a new kind of networking on the other gave me a hint of what a new understanding of belonging might be.

One or two months later, with one of my feet already on the move to a new life in Hamburg, the situation of our collective changed. We finally managed to start writing a program about what we wanted and building a structure that promised more freedom and less frustration. How that happened? I am not sure. People started to feel interested again in each other, threw away the utopia of one coherent collective identity and fill the virtual space called Making Of with new life. Now it can actualize and start to produce. I am sure it will be exciting. If we manage to share this excitement and don´t forget that, as Nicolas pointed out in our discussion, that every success of a group doesn´t change the fact that society mostly continues to function in the way it does, there is possibly even reason to celebrate and fill out further lists of invitations, invitations of people we possibly yesterday didn´t even think of.

Tim Stüttgen