Ignorance is Scary
Published in 'Dating the Chorus' at documenta 14, 2017
This text is the result of having exposed myself to a public which I wouldn't have chosen to meet if it wasn't in the context of a dialogical process of socio-cultural mediation. This public has received me with intrigued and adventurous gazes, and excited ears as well as distracted looks, judging thoughts and closed minds. I'm intrigued by the notion of reflection and reflexes.
Through my temporary work as a professional 'conversador'/ mediator, I've gotten to know fragments of a society which I had grown distant towards. Now, the direct confrontation with individuals, who I feel I would never have spent time with otherwise, forcefully pushes me towards a thorough reflection on the character of society in general and in its faceted detail.
After almost 60 walks with strangers, I can't help but to feel alienated. I have, in the past, chosen to alienate myself from the mainstream by being active in so called sub- or hopefully rather anti-culture, DIY and squatting culture in particular, so I'm used to this position not necessarily being an intimidating or lonely one. It's the fact that I'm perceived as 'different' when I've gotten used to being around individuals who have realised that everyone is 'different' and complex by nature. It's the fact that strangers confront me with my 'Otherness' without realising themselves that my 'distinctiveness' is comparable to their own 'individuality'.
Ignorance is a virtue which I subsequently embraced in the process of building my personal bubble. I realise now that I had no clue about the „Mitte der Gesellschaft“, which I merely assumed to know. The majority of individuals I meet on a daily basis in Kassel seems to view ethnicity as an identity-generating element. Instead, I regard the manifestation of identity based on various other elements, culture being a main factor in this regard.
Meeting strangers at eye-level seems to invite them to open up and express thoughts honestly. Based on my personal convictions of openness, solidarity and empathy, I tend to implicitly express such an invitation to individuals I meet on walks. I speak openly and honestly, clearly express emotions and generally use the informal “Du” when addressing individuals. I tend not to position myself hierarchically in a space and am okay with getting involved in personal individual conversations. I act upon my ideal of an open-minded society. It feels like I'm initialising a challenging and discomforting struggle which I'm believe is necessary when aiming for an open, tolerant and honest society.
I feel foolish to have assumed that individuals interested in contemporary culture would be tolerant, open-minded and empathetic. I've encountered too much discriminatory behaviour to value the encouraging expressions of gratitude, honest discussions and open-minded personal reflections as integral to my experience: Sexism expressed passively through dominant behaviour or actively through verbal expressions of the overarching rightfulness of traditional gender roles; latent, as well as straight-forward, racism against myself, artists or artworks; disregard for my own personal and professional integrity disguised as (im)polite behaviour. I seesaw between an optimistic belief in an inclusive society where the notion of 'otherness' has been liberated of its bad aftertaste, and a bland normality of arrogance, fear and boredom.
Having chosen to isolate myself from socially normative structures and beliefs in my professional and personal life, as a step towards socio-cultural inclusive collectivity, now feels like having chosen in favour of ignorance. Walking through the Neue Galerie, I sometimes stop in one of the space's corridors and speak about Pope.L's sound installation which whispers “Ignorance is a Virtue.” With a group of teenagers, we discussed ignorance as a potentially positive, protective behaviour but concluded that repeatedly ignoring painful behaviours would eventually blow up in one's face and cause some kind of (over)reaction. Banu Cennetoglu has spelled out “BEINGSAFEISSCARY” on the facade of the Fridericianum. Being safe is scary. Beware of the breaking of one's bubble.