Dialog in Common

Wolfgang Zinggl: On Collaboration

Founder and member of WochenKlausur, Vienna.
pressTranscript of phone interview with Wolfgang Zinggl [WZ] by Markuz Wernli Saitô on April 19, 2006.

Shelter for drug-addicted women

A cinema for immigrants (2006): upon invitation of EV+A Biennial in Limerick, Ireland, WochenKlausur realized a movie theater catering to ethnic minorities.

WochenKlausur works upon invitation of art institutions: How do these come about?
WZ: Beyond our website we don't do much publicity. Our activities attract a continuous interest among certain art organizations which contact us in regard to a local issue. This is followed by an exchange of profiles to see if the mutual interests are compatible.

Based on what criteria do you accept an invitation?
WZ: For our current project in Limerick, Ireland, we saw a potential for transformation between our interests and the community involved. We go into projects which allow us to sort out the themes ourselves like a classic artist who has full autonomy over the subject matter. In Limerick we analyzed the cultural landscape and saw a need to enliven the local cultural live which we illustrated in three practical case studies. One suggested to create an alternative movie theater which is currently made reality. Two members of Wochenklausur were tracking the conditions and needs in close collaboration with a group of local artists. This is the framework where we can grow and tackle our mediator and communication skills.

We're able to consider roughly 50% of the project invitations and pursue maybe one or two projects a year. To avoid thematic concentration each time we select a challenge with different focus in an attempt to alternate between educational, social, or environmental issues.

We are assigned to undertake measures for the improvement of human co- exististence. A commissioned assignment in art context leaves the final result undetermined and open. Therefore we don't consider ourselves as consultants but artists.

How is the WochenKlausur team constituted?
WZ: We have currently a core group of four artists who work in various professions and work for WochenKlausur on a case by case basis. Right now in Ireland we have three members from Austria closely collaborating with two local artists introduced by ev+a Limerick, our institutional contact.

Since its inception 14 years ago WochenKlausur shifted from large project teams (of around ten persons) to smaller task groups which make for better group dynamics and cost/value ratio. We work with fewer, more qualified persons. To remain publicly accessible Claudia Eipeldauer is our office coordinator in Vienna.

In 2000 WochenKlausur did a collaboration in Fukuoka, Japan: Where there any cultural implications?
WZ: We initiated an NPO to bridge the disparate levels in the educational system of Kyushu Prefecture in an effort to link school programs better with real-world demands and practices. During the three weeks working in Japan most things appeared at first glance similar to Europe but the dynamics proofed to be quiet different. We did preliminary research with our Japanese partners in Austria but the actual disposition was difficult within the limited time horizon. It was often not possible to interact with stake holders directly. Contrary e.g. to our drug-related project in Zurich where we were able to get in touch directly with the city mayor Josef Estermann within just two days.

Your projects are realized within a short time frame. Don't require social projects more long term commitment?
WZ: Our competence is to spark the plug and from that point the train ought to run on its own. Through bundled resources, and clear focus we breech shortcuts and accelerate the process from idea to implementation. Sometimes we do give little assistance later on like we did for our very first project. After its five years of operation the mobile medical unit for the homeless in Vienna needed to replace its bus which was in bad repair. In this instance we helped out organizing a fund raiser.

What is WochenKlausur's take on intellectual property?
WZ: We don't claim any copyright on our methods or project ideas. There is plenty to do in this world for constructive social interventions. Wochenklausur's concept is based on the honorary effort and therefore disconnected to ones own name and prestige. In contrast to contemporary visual arts where some 'signature artists' increasingly attempt to accrue much success with the least possible effort.

What does meaningful collaboration need in your practice?
1) The collaborative group must possess a homogenous culture of communication and get along really well with each other.
2) To be efficient our projects ought to be secured – with sufficient financial backing and a clear objective. So often in the realm of art we see this deficit of criteria. WochenKlausur knows within one week what is to be done, prior to going into the undertaking.
3) Our projects come to live and are made viable though creative ideas, risk taking, and the indispensable element of play which help circumvent obstacles.

Since 1993 and on invitation from different art institutions, the artist group WochenKlausur* develops concrete proposals aimed at small, but nevertheless effective improvements to socio-political deficiencies. Proceeding even further and invariably translating these proposals into action, artistic creativity is no longer seen as a formal act but as an intervention into society.

*) The name WochenKlausur could be translated as "weeks of closure". The German word 'Klausur' is related to the English words enclosure, seclusion and cloister.