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Issue 200

Krzysztof Kosciuczuk on ‘The Parliament of Bodies’

‘It’s a tenacious act of enthusiasm within Europe’s changing political landscape’

BY Krzysztof Kościuczuk in Fan Letter | 15 FEB 19

Sergio Zevallos, Civic Education, 2016, documentation of performance as part of the launch of the documenta 14 public programmes at Parko Eleftherias, Athens. Photograph: Stathis Mamalakis

In Athens, in 2015, the streets and squares were packed with people: undocumented or misrepresented, living hand-to-mouth or protesting. The city was experiencing the aftermath of the so-called long summer of migration, the financial crisis and the government’s refusal to acknowledge the results of the bailout referendum. ‘The Parliament was in ruins. The real Parliament was on the streets,’ commented the philosopher, curator and transgender activist Paul B. Preciado, while launching the public programme of documenta 14 in Athens the following year. Titled ‘The Parliament of Bodies’, the programme paved the way for the upcoming exhibition, which would open in Athens and Kassel in 2017, but it also aimed to address these urgencies and paradoxes by forging unlikely alliances with activists, thinkers and artists, bringing together anti-colonialist, feminist, queer and trans practices in a procession of public meetings held first in Athens’s Parko Eleftherias and, later, in the rotunda of Kassel’s Museum Fridericianum.

Now, ‘The Parliament of Bodies’ returns as an expatriate entity and, as I write these words, prepares to convene at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw for the first session, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Polish Independence Day. The inaugural meeting is a call for the formation of an ‘anti-fascist, anti-colonial and transfeminist coalition’, which will stand in defiance to the official celebrations that soak up far-right extremism. The Parliament will continue its sessions in Warsaw throughout 2019 and continue to venture further, to be hosted in institutions, including in Bergen and Cologne.

In its ongoing attempt to exercise freedoms and celebrate struggles within the field of visual arts, ‘The Parliament of Bodies’ is, to me, a tenacious act of enthusiasm enacted within Europe’s changing political landscape, one that slowly but steadily slides into regimes of control. ‘Nowadays people do not mix, they remain autonomous, separate audiences,’ said Preciado. ‘I strongly believe that the future of politics is heterogeneity.’

Krzysztof Kościuczuk is a writer and contributing editor of frieze. He lives between Poland and Switzerland.