Ulf Aminde is a European artist based in Germany. He provokes encounters which are the preconditions to and starting points for his works. He uses multiple genres and techniques such as performances, photographs, installations, videos and many others to express his diverse thoughts and experiences through art. During an interview with New Age Youth, he shares his thoughts with Akramul Momen
IN HIS works, Ulf Aminde seeks people who live on the street or in social facilities; he depicts clients in big furnishing stores, in prison, or in their own home. For them, and together with them, he sketches out settings that function as the basis for success or failure of further events. In Aminde’s works it is uncertain what exactly will happen and the agreement is that everybody is equally open to the unexpected.
He has been working actively together with two fellow artists in a Berlin based artist group. At present he is also working on realising the ‘Foundation Class’ which enables refugees to enter the art academy. He also worked with several minor communities in Germany. He is a professor at Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin.
Some of his remarkable efforts are: Critical Whiteness (2017), The School of No Return (2016), Performing Labour Contracts (2014), The Weight (2013), Kragen (2012), The Driving Force (2012), Urban Tai Chi (2012), Bildet Banden (2011), Unterlenker (2008), Welcome Home (2006).
Two of his solo exhibitions were titled The Weight (2013) and Learning from Big Mistakes (2013) while another one was ‘We Are Collectively Working on Something Like This, But Not Like This, But Something About Else But Kinda About The Same Thing. Soon’ (2016).
Many of his works have also been exhibited in many group exhibitions all over the world.
New Age Youth: As Bangladesh is a developing space for performance art, many of our audience, including artists, are not well versed with the differences between performing art and other artistic forms. What do you think could be the turning point to lift the practice of performance art into a wider stage?
Ulf Aminde: Based on the artists I get to know, I didn't have the impression that performance art is yet to assert itself. It is rather the opposite; there is a very strong tradition of the performances, of dance, of theatre. To bring these into an exchange with global developments (by that I don't mean the western oriented art concept) I see it as a possibility to bring local specificities to the fore.
New Age Youth: A performance artist uses art as a weapon of public and social exigency. In Bangladesh, have you observed any possibilities for the use of performance art to fight authoritarianism? What are your suggestions for artists in Bangladesh?
Ulf Aminde: I like the question because we can talk about urgency, about the pressure as an artist to say something and implement something. Urgency is for me a very important category when it comes to drive artistic practices.
There are plenty of possibilities for artistic work as resistance against power systems and I see a lot of potential here. Artistic, especially performativity has the potential to recode readings and to overwrite existing images. This creates free spaces. In these gaps a rebellious consciousness is collect.
Performance based artistic works also negotiate with multiple identities, especially the self-assertive identities, voices, bodies. I consider this to be the strongest tool in the struggles for self-determination and self-assertion, self-empowerment.
Artistic work offers enormous possibilities for collective experiences and processes, including the associated transformations of a social body. This is very powerful and can be experimented with wonderfully in the sense of a power-critical desire.
New Age Youth: Do you see any basic differences in the practice of performance art in Germany and in Bangladesh? If any, what are they?
Ulf Aminde: In any way, there are a lot of differences because the cultural and economic situations are incredibly different. However, when it comes to self-empowerment, to the use of artistic work in the activist field, the ways of working are often similar, although the environment is very different.
What is certainly different in Europe is the arrogance of sitting on a knowledge that could apparently be internationalised. I reject that.
New Age Youth: What is the situation faced by queer artists in Germany? What are their struggles and challenges? Do you think they are freer to express themselves than queer artists in Bangladesh?
Ulf Aminde: I can only answer that to a limited extent, since I see myself more as an ally of queer communities than as a representative with affiliation. Queer culture experiences a massive revaluation through a cultural pop discourse in Europe, or in Berlin where I live.
But that definitely doesn't mean that people from queer communities don't have to suffer extreme violence, physical and verbal attacks. Queer stands in opposition to the majority, mainstream society and that means for the people of this community to go through a lot of unfortunate experience and full structural violence.
In addition, I believe that queer communities carry a lot of conflict inward due to the structural violence that comes from outside. There are plenty of conflicts between the academic and non-academic world about interpretation of sovereignty and the negotiation of attitudes.
New Age Youth: What are the differences in the practice of performance art on non-binary issues in Germany and Bangladesh?
Ulf Aminde: I haven't seen enough in Bangladesh to answer that properly. But I am deeply touched by the murderous violence that queer artists in Bangladesh have to endure and very impressed by the way this is transferred into their own artistic works.
New Age Youth: What lessons do you try to impart to the society through performance?
Ulf Aminde: Let us use our voices and our bodies to empower ourselves, to confront the mainstream, discrimination and the normative, to elaborate spaces of in-between-ness, opacity, the abject, the hidden secrets. Also let us build a society based on commons and under-commons.
New Age Youth: How much research work do you do before staging a performance? Do you think research is a necessary part of the artistic process?
Ulf Aminde: Absolutely. Research is very important for my work, as I feed my own work from a kind of knowledge acquisition that is not only rational but also encounters people, bodies, stories, but also complex thoughts and ideas that cannot be exclusively rationalised.
I speak rather of a kind of küsnterlische research, which includes above all my person, my social standing and my body.
New Age Youth: Do you think Bangladesh is ready for research-based performance art? What limitations may artists in Bangladesh experience when they attempt to do research?
Ulf Aminde: At first I do not see any limitation except my own. However, the social conditions are certainly limiting. I proceed with limitations so that I make them a component of my own work. So it becomes visible and negotiable, even changeable when things are going well.
New Age Youth: What do you think about activism-based performance? Is it necessary for performance art to have a spirit of activism? Is Bangladesh ready for performance art activism?
Ulf Aminde: I have already described above, I see a very strong connection between art and activism. I just think that both areas should learn from each other.
Activism often lacks multiple readings, because it should always be clear what needs to be expressed, and vice versa, artistic work often runs in arbitrariness, because the connection to real social conditions is missing.
For my own artistic work the connection to real social fields and discourses are constitutive, I draw out my forces for the work, I am not interested in discourses of the aura of infinity. I want to work in here and now.
New Age Youth: You have participated in a workshop organised by Goethe Institut, Bangladesh. Could you please tell us your experience?
Ulf Aminde: In the workshop we presented our partly very diverse artistic, performance works to each other for five days and tried to communicate our own approaches and explanation patterns to each other.
I think it was a very powerful work, because it soon became clear how much we all negotiate the impossibility to describe our own work, or we got to know each other through our relationship to the fact that it is difficult to formulate the motivations and the driving forces of our own work.
I don't mean that in an essentialist way, as if there was only one force that only had to be exposed. It is rather the case that by means of attempts to describe one's own work we become readable for others and in conversation with others we come to a perspective on one's own work that is very fruitful.
This is a mutual exchange process. I believe firmly and deeply in group processes and collective learning.
Akramul Momen is a young writer, theatre and dance activist.
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