Wolfgang Fiel


The immediate catalyst for having taken up this study was the violent outbreak of weeks of public unrest in the Paris banlieus in the wake of the shooting of young man on the run from the police on October 27 2005. The obvious inability of local municipalities and police forces to explain, let alone to anticipate the swelling discontent with a system which is generally assumed to work effectively and to benefit all has led me to the assumption that we have entered a stage where the concept of representational democracy is seriously compromised. The sheer scale or projected growth rates of urban agglomerations worldwide is certainly a strong, if not the only indicator for the radical change of ‘lived experience’ in the wake of globalized economies, politics and communication networks. If once the lack of a ‘unitary theory’ was attributed to the field of urbanism (Lefebvre, 1991 [1974]), from a contemporary point of view the range of issues and problems at stake far exceed the boundaries of any discipline in particular. Furthermore, to start the inquiry by reasserting the importance of the human condition will allow us to delve into the process of individuation, the diverse realities of individuals, their gathering in groups, their dialogue amongst each other and with their environment in its totality in order to account for the complex interrelations within a highly dynamic network of associations, since the emergence of a fully emancipated Many – as opposed to the One of the state – requires more than the flawed promise of representational democracy to act for the ‘common good,’ or ‘general will’ (Rousseau, 2009 [1762]) of all. Clearly this task is ambitious, for we have to bridge the gap between the needs, aspirations, emotions, anxieties and dreams of individuals on the one hand, and the temporal emergence of collective co-operation on the other. ‘Official’ knowledge, incorporated by endless columns of statistical data, gathered and administered meticulously thanks to the firm grip of institutionalised observation, is of little help though, for we have become increasingly conscious that the representations thereof are a poor match for the complexity of networked realities ‘on the ground’. My artistic practice conducted together with Alexandra Berlinger under the name of Tat ort is precisely aimed at looking into “matters of concern” as opposed to “matters of fact” (Latour, 2005) in order to gain a genuine insight into the workings of existing settings, where we introduce ourselves as intermediaries for the initiation of a process of active participation by means of interventional apparatuses, conceived specifically for the context in question. Our respective experience has led me to the conclusion that instead of providing alternative representations based on presumed universal identity, the full-blown heterogeneity of the multitude thrives on the general intellect and the activity of the speaker. To speak is to act, and to act is the predominant trait of political praxis. It is through our acts and deeds that we disclose ourselves in public in the presence of others (Arendt, 1998 [1958]). And it is through acting that we start anew and leave our mark in a situation the moment we intervene in the circulation of empty signifiers upon which we assign a name, the name of an event. It is through our interventional participation that we allow for novelty to emerge in time, as a process without representation and based on sustained fidelity. My research is centred around two questions: First of all, is it possible to devise an interventional apparatus (physical infrastructure) which would work independent of contextual factors, and secondly, is it possible to retain the site-specificity through a process of dynamically mapping the amalgamation of existing information and the data obtained by participants based on face to face communication in order to draw up the ‘portraits’ of existing communities beyond the scope of institutionalised representation. Emancipating the Many therefore is a statement about difference marked as intervention. This intervention requires the presence of others and the intention to act. It is the emergence of a ‘constitution of time’.

Document Type


Publication Date