The truth: When the tones of the flutes go flutes

Labor dispute perverse: Now the artists of the subculture are also on strike. With terrible consequences for everyone involved.

Stage artist calls for a strike

The delicate flautist Jolanda Friedhelm calls for a strike Photo: AP

Hooray, the class struggle is back! It’s not only in France that people set fire to their cities so they don’t have to work until they get old. Even in Germany, which is otherwise well-behaved, workers everywhere are on strike to ensure that inflation only leads to moderate wage losses. But one group of people has been strangely silent so far: the artists of the subculture. That shouldn’t change now.

“Two weeks ago, we founded our own trade union, largely unnoticed by the public,” explains performance artist Korbinian Seeger at a press conference in the corner pub “Zum goldenen Hahn” in Berlin-Kreuzberg. “As the first chairman, I chose the founding name ‘SOS – Self-Organization Subculture’, but I’m open to suggestions for improvement. We want to be dynamic in every respect, a Fluxus union so to say.”

When asked about the goals of the association, the gaunt 23-year-old, who is dressed all in black, elaborates: “We, as a counterculture, are the thorn in the fat flesh of capitalism. It is we who initiate critical discourses and give aesthetic form to utopian counter-proposals. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain our resistance – the corona crisis, mad rents and the beer price explosion are making life hell for artists. I believe that society has a duty to provide better financial support for our sharp criticism of society. That’s why we started our activity with an extended strike. For a week we put down our brushes, pens and guitars: no backyard concerts, no gallery readings, no free jazz-accompanied free dance in the foyers of city museums. Our voices from underground were silent.”

Fear in the comfort zone

When asked why no one noticed the strike, Seeger fell silent. For almost a minute all that can be heard is the belching of the pub patrons. Then his colleague, the delicate experimental flutist Jolanda Friedhelm, takes the floor: “The problem is that too few people in Germany are open to alternative culture. Many seem afraid to leave their personal comfort zone and have challenging experiences! That’s why unfortunately too few people realize what they’re missing out on when we go on strike. We have now decided to change our strategy: from strike to forced confrontation! For example, in the coming week I will introduce people on public transport to my improvised music inspired by whale songs.”

It is only now that the third person on the union’s provisional board has also reported: the writer Rüdiger Kowalczyk, better known among his fans in the reading scene by his nickname “Klöte”. Like the other two, he’s wearing a red safety vest, which seems a bit out of place in this location. “Last week I actually read a story at our reading stage ‘Bierfurz’, how I stand at the supermarket checkout and meet my clerk from the employment office, although I’ve called in sick. But I went on strike and just told the story to the guys at the bar. Well, at the end of the day, so many listeners warn. But next week I’ll go out on the Kudamm and tell the passers-by – whether they like it or not.” After this announcement, the rather spherical Klöte raises his glass in greeting and then sinks under the table.

“I have conceived a performance that makes the concerns of our union physically tangible for the audience in everyday life,” explains Korbinian Seeger. “I call them ‘Siamese Twins.’ I’ll attach myself to complete strangers with superglue, forcing them to accept art as a constant companion and to reflect on the distance that usually seems insurmountable between them and us creative people. In order to move away from themselves again, I offer them solvents in exchange for a generous donation. If you still don’t understand that it’s impossible to evade art, you really can’t be helped.”

subsidy to the subversives

But what concrete goals does the artists’ union want to achieve with their action? This time the chairman does not hesitate to answer: “We appeal above all to the state. It is his duty to ensure that we creative people no longer have to fear for our material existence. Various solutions are conceivable: the public could be paid from budget funds to attend cultural events. You may also need to think about mandatory visits. A direct subsidy of all subversively active artists through a basic income is inevitable anyway. If the state does not meet us, we are ready to further escalate the conflict: atonal music, hermetic poetry, auto-perforation artistry – we still have many weapons in our arsenal.”

But doesn’t this strategy border on predatory blackmail? Could the actions alert law enforcement? Let’s ask ourselves and the strike leader. Korbinian Seeger only elicited a resounding laugh at this accusation: “I’m not worried at all! Art is free – but that doesn’t mean it’s for free!”

In a spontaneous survey of pub guests in the “Goldener Hahn”, only a few showed any desire to have to take advantage of the exhausting free offers of the subculture all over the city in the future. In any case, experimental flautist Jolanda Friedhelm knows how to grow with her sound pounds: “People definitely don’t have to teach themselves the tones of the flute.”

The truth on

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