by Finn Brüggemann, Amalia Ruiz-Larrea and Nuriye Tohermes
“I think subjectification, events, and brains are more or less the same thing. What we most lack is a belief in the world, we’ve quite lost the world, it’s been taken from us. If you believe in the world you precipitate events, however inconspicuous, that elude control, you engender new space-times, however small their surface or volume.”
Gilles Deleuze in interview with Antonio Negri 1990 first published in the French magazine Futur Antérieur N1
About the class
The class Design for the living World (HFBK Hamburg) was invited together with Marjetica Portč to participate and propose a project within the framework of Urban Incubator, an initiative of Goethe Institut started in March 2013. Design for the Living World is a research-based, cross-disciplinary course focused on participatory design projects in which students collaborate with local residents in the tradition of learning by doing. One of the tools the group uses to engage these communities is creating a Relational Object. The class understands design as the production of ‘relational objects’ (i.e. objects that establish relationships). Relational objects are used by the people in a community as tools for changing their culture of living.
The class writes
Encountering Savamala as outsiders, we wanted to get practically engaged. Using leftover materials from other Urban Incubator projects, we were able to construct a small shelter, tables, benches, and a cooking station.
The first planned encounter with the neighborhood was cooking and eating together. From this point ideas started to form in close communication with people from the neighborhood. It became clear that there were already a lot of communities being active in different ways in Savamala. So we chose to focus on identifying these, and created performative actions that directly extend what exists in the neighborhood.
The process of the communication developed into five performative actions, which took place both in KM8 and Zupa Steamboat.
The Zupa steamboat // The relational object
The old rusty ship has drawn our attention since we came to Belgrade the first time in March this year.
Without knowing anything about it we climbed over the closed fence one night.
It was a wonderfully creepy atmosphere, the only light came from a lighter we found in our pocket, a streetlamp 30 meters away and from the light on the other side of the Sava, which was reflected on the water. The boat smelled like fish, metal, diesel and urine. We heard the sound of waves, squealing metal and the barking of a gang of dogs on the shore. Walking around in the dark, silent not to catch the attention of passing cyclists, careful, not sure if the floor would carry our weight and with spider webs sticking to our faces. We fell in love with the Zupa and its dust and dirt – A place that seems to tell forgotten stories about adventures, sailors, maneuvers, and the history of a river.
Five actions five points of view
Action 1 // The procession
On a Sunday we invited neighbors and friends to gather inside our workspace in KM8. Inside the room there was a structure. This structure was a former greenhouse, which we had now cut in two and equipped with benches, resembling one of the many self-made architectural additions one encounters in Belgrade. This structure was waiting to be moved by the neighbors towards the riverside of the Sava and into one of the oldest boats there. It resembled a house, but it rattled it shook it squeaked and it bent. The collective effort of taking the structure out of the room, of placing the necessary utensils for the gathering, and of dragging it over the uneven pavement of Savamala, made the object irrelevant, as the group became the meaning. The procession had started.
Action 2 // Zimnica – cooking together
To my surprise three beautiful elderly women put on aprons right away after entering the ship and started to bake paprika on the little ovens we had bought earlier. It seemed like they were waiting for the chance to do Zimnica and did not want to lose a second by not working or introducing themselves to us. Also it seemed like everyone knew them before – through working (and smiling), it is easy to make a connection with people.
Zimnica is a way to preserve harvested paprika and other vegetables but it’s also a social event for Serbians, it takes a lot of time to prepare the dish and usually the women of a family do it together.
Action 3 // Zupa Sounds
Zupa is solely constructed from metal, which makes its acoustic abilities very interesting to explore. For one of the gatherings when we cooked jam on the boat, we installed microphones under the deck, and so exposed every footstep and other movement around on the boat. It was impossible not to be part of the collectively produced sound image and naturally everybody started exploring the boat in this way. It was a speechless communication that involved everybody aboard to become one collective organism with the boat itself in its center.
Action 4 // the domino tournament
One of the most basic reasons for gatherings all over the world is playing games.
Stefan Savic, an art student from Belgrade who participated in a music workshop with us in KM8, came up with the idea of a domino tournament on the Zupa. In his practice he is using similar ideas to ours of how to connect people through actions and create platforms of exchange through happenings. Domino is such a basic game that it can be played by young and old and conversations can accompany the playing.
For the tournament four tables with white tablecloths were set up on the upper deck of the Zupa. Stefan was the coordinator and moderator of the games. He dressed up in a suit, a big tie with printed palms; his moustache was trimmed perfectly.
In the warm evening sun we found ourselves sitting on the deck, playing and talking.
This example of a gathering was the most simple practiced on the Zupa: Four Tables, four domino games, some people, and some Rakia. But it was an intensive experience through its simplicity and timelessness. The game, the Sava, the autumn light and the Zupa created an atmosphere reminiscent of an old movie; this happening showed us the potential of the space once again – an ambience that cannot be described rationally.
Action 5 // Parabrod Zupa´s Bioskop
On the lower deck of Zupa, chairs and benches were arranged in an amphitheater shape, with the greenhouses playing the role of a windbreak, their walls closing the semicircle for a closer and warmer gathering. A big screen was positioned on the upper deck, on top of everything, awaiting images to fill it with color. A big metal box with a chair on top was holding the projector. The space was ready to be filled by an audience.
When the movie Fitzcarraldo started, we prepared popcorn on small wood-fired ovens, wafting buttery popcorn fragrance over the boat.
The music of Caruso filled Fitzcarraldo’s steamship and the Zupa alike. These sounds and images danced before an audience awaiting popcorn while watching and talking. Some of us then moved to the rooms downstairs and continued the session watching Leptirica, a Serbian horror thriller from 1973.
This evening the Zupa became a Bioskop in which the movies became less important than the gathering and the location itself.
Our last action will be a celebration for new times of the Zupa. It will include performances by a local choir and a dance group, and will also conclude the sound and noise project of our group. At this moment it is important for us to underline the performative actions as a possibility, as an opening, as an image of how a space can be taken over and activated. Through this it can become a place. Instead of building a physical construction we propose these actions as our way to become involved within the community and make it a lively space. We will keep proposing.