Editorial #four

by Mira Hirtz and Johanna Ziebritzki
May 2017

In a romantic understanding, specialists follow their practice without being directly connected to an institution and its mechanisms of approval via titles. They become specialized for the sake of their own interest. From the opposing perspective, that is in an economic understanding, specializing without even getting paid for it merely realizes the imperative to become a subject.

In the artistic and intellectual field there is the tendency to draw back into a niche and specialize in topics far off utility and efficiency. The deep and continuous focus slowly transforms them: they become a specialist – without getting assigned badges. Having nested in a highly specialized niche others perceive them as nerds, weirdos or artsy eccentrics. They don’t care, although they know that the nerdy knowledge becomes valuable only after others did appreciate it as such. Then the specialization might turn into a cultural force which has the power to slightly shift the canon of values (like Anita Berber, Aby Warburg and Neo in Matrix have demonstrated).

In #four: The Specialists we invited specialists to share their theoretical and artistic knowledge and practice. The contributors might not have labelled themselves as specialists, but we did. And even though some dismissed our labelling, it generated a productive starting point for the contributions. For issue #four we, the editors, took on the role of specialists for finding specialists. Now we make their poetic knowledge and practices available to you.

Thus the issue doesn’t provide an art theoretical overview but rather performs a playful appropriation of its theme. #four: The Specialists collects various forms and formats of communication. Next to essayistic contributions there are the collaborative formats of interviews and dialogues. In these formats we invited the contributing specialists to communicate in written language as well as non-verbal forms like images, video, objects. In the interviews we, the editors, talked to the contributors. For each dialogue we asked two contributors – who didn’t know each other before – to develop an exchange. The playful contributions invite you to discover different fields of specialization – some of which you probably didn’t even know exist.

The contributions:

In his column Sophist’s Choice Daniel Neumann speaks from both a philosophical and personal perspective, reflecting upon the relevance and redundancy of academic specialization.

The ‹autonomous sex-toys› Friederike Nastold constructs are as multi-functional as she is pluri-talented: She lets people play with them and make their own experiences, she shows videos of it in art exhibitions and speaks about them and her different practices in the interview for this issue.

In contrast, Adam Gawel’s ‹clumsy objects› cannot be used practically but are nevertheless playful creatures. In the interview it becomes clear that Adam is not only a specialist in making them from electronics and material, but also in bringing them to life by using dis-functional mechanical qualities.

Clara Saito’s and Judith Milz’ dialogue about ‹anarchy in dance and cucumber high standing› reveals that specializing serves in everyday life as well as in artistic contexts. It provides a reflection on the difference between object-based artistic practice and performance. In two videos the artists create an anarchic approach to moving cucumbers.

Some artists dance with vegetables, others try to make a living of it by opening restaurants. In the interview, Julia Modes shares her art-historical knowledge about three ‹artist-run restaurants› and the art of cooking as an artist and not chef.

Being estranged from the given meanings of the everyday world can give way to an artistic and scientific process. In her essay Chance and Estrangement: Toward a Personal Equation Mariana Castillo Deball reflects this initiative moment.

The choreographer Jasmin İhraç made a piece of and about House-Dance which is shown at art institutions. The transformation processes of ‹shifting contexts› by means of a bodily practice is the topic of this interview.

In their dialogue, Frédéric Armspach and Lea Meyer experiment with ways of communication about ‹naked encounters and autodidactic practice›. Thereby they explore possibilities of getting to know each other, of deciding for and showing ones own practice. In the end, what renders the own practice special can only be perceived in encounters.