Dec 7, 2021

On Techniques of Gathering

In the context of the exhibition Magazine at the Kunstverein in Hamburg, the New York online radio Montez Press Radio invited the Impossible Library to create a programme. The programme: "Impossible Library and Aron Rossmann-Kiss on Techniques of Gathering" was recorded live at Kunstverein in Hamburg on 27 October 2021. As the programme was a German-English language melange, the script can be read in German or English here or listened to on the radio here.

In a kind of radio zine we brought together fragmentary thoughts, impressions and copied material and introduced the project space Impossible Library. The term "techniques of gathering" is at the diffuse center of the contribution, circled on elliptical trajectories and placed in the context of our work. The artist and our former resident Aron Rossman-Kiss will add to the voices.


Ina Römling (IR):

watching alone
eyes passing by
turning pages — echo

Torben Körschkes (TK):

Impromptu visitor
pervades the library
courtyard door: Ciao

We speak
briefly interrupted only
by the coffee grinder

Nina Prader (NP):

Revolting Assembly
Libraries Online
Subcultures survive together

2 years of impossible
in hindsight
readable piles

Annika Dorau (AD):

In the niche
hangs living texture
in the wind | ow.

The door is open
The gaze lies
In the impossible.

The reader
enters the space —
It is non conform.

Regalia to the top
On tiles floats
The text.

Thinking I sit
In the impossible room
And turn the page.

But who are we? Readers, tigers, librarians? Guests or ghosts?

IR: Hi, I'm Ina. I´m currently reading: Ocean Vuong – On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

And the last gathering I attended was the Booky Mc Bookface organisational meeting.

I have a private collection of: plants

TK: Hi, I’m Torben. I am currently reading: The End of Loneliness by Benedict Wells and Augmented Spaces and Maps by Christine Schranz

The last gathering I attended was a meeting with my roommates

And I have a private collection of: potential book titles

NP: Hi, I’m Nina. Currently reading: The Prophet – Khalil Gibran

Last gathering attended: gathering of commemoration strategists

I have a private collection of: various notes

AD: Hi, I’m Annika. Currently reading: The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

Last gathering attended: here. Radio Show

I have a private collection of: Shells

We are librarians at the Impossible Library, and we are here to talk about techniques of gathering.

This talk is kind of a radio zine. We all contribute small texts and thoughts about gathering. And we have a very special guest. Actually, a very special guest voice: The artist and researcher Aron Rossman-Kiss who was our artist-in-residence a week ago. As you may have noticed this is a German-English mixtape. But for those who only speak German or English, don’t hang your heads: There will be a text script published on the Impossible Library website and Montez Press shortly after our talk here.

IR: The space we want to talk about is the Impossible Library: a temporary space full of independent magazines. The Impossible Library is a joint project by HEFT, Die Brueder Publishing and Annika Dorau in collaboration with Lady Liberty Press. Funded for two years by the Elbkulturfonds Hamburg.

TK: We will now play a wonderful song by multi-instrumentalist Bastien Keb entitled Rare Fit.

[Song: Rare Fit by Bastien Keb]

Some of our references were exhibited during our radio talk at Kunstverein in Hamburg.

AD: To begin with, a brief comment on the impatience of the external. There is this absurd idea that that which happens externally, i.e., publishing, is more essential for a space, a publication, than that which happens internally. Contrary to the expectations of the external, we only get closer to the niche character of the independent publication to a limited extent, if at all.

And I think that’s because the act of reading and writing is an act of solitude. The act of speaking is mostly not. As you can hear. It is a publishing act. Even though this is crucial for our social interaction, I would like to talk about the impossible gathering in solitude or, if you prefer, about the impossible library tool kit of gathering. I collected some tools for you that you may use in the library.

The first tool is the library itself.

A Library is noise. Like every collection is. It is intentional noise. Only the reader turns it into a soundscape where she wanders and wonders.

The second tool is the Besucher:in.

Here the German word "Besucher:in" makes more sense than the English term "visitor". Because the word Besucher:in includes Suche which means that you are searching for something. Maybe intentional, maybe not, but still the Besucher:in is looking for something in the library. How does she select a publication from the randomly filled shelves? By colour, by title, by language, by chance? That’s her choice. But let’s imagine she picks a publication from the first floor, second shelf on the left.

Now she holds an independent publication in her hand. And that’s our third tool. The independent publication.

Why independent and not only publication? Because most of our selection is published by very indie publishers. Sometimes printed at home with their own printers and glued together by the publisher herself. These publications are labours of love. And because they are published without expecting to become very rich, their intrinsic motives vary in widely. A huge gathering of ephemeral niches. And now our Besucher:in, she found a publication, she holds it in her hand.

And here is our fourth tool: reading.

She sits down. She picks up the publication. She opens it. Now she understands the language, interprets the signs, follows the words. Page by page. Sometimes she reads pictures, colours, shapes, paper haptics. But above all, she follows the thoughts, the foreign thoughts. Replacing them with her own and vice versa. Silent dialogue. Weaving together one's own thoughts and those of others. Putting the publication aside. Making a coffee. Letting the days pass.

The question. The question. The question presses and in all the texts only loose ends.

She sits down again. Picks up the book and reads.

As you could see, the tools I described were, in short: a room that a person enters, where she finds an independent publication and reads. That’s what I would like to call (impossible) gathering in solitude.

[Song: Groove Mix by Saint-Saens fade in – fade out]

TK: At the very back of the picture, the mountains block the horizon. In front, on a wide-open meadow and arranged in a U-shape, are several tables and benches. On white tablecloths, everything is prepared for a communal feast that has yet to begin: the plates are bare, the cutlery lies untouched, wrapped in napkins. The 160 people seated are waiting eagerly, looking at the short side of the U. Around the table, spread out on the grounds, other people are standing, watching the U with anticipation.

[Song: Groove Mix by Saint-Saens fade in – fade out]

Head to head, hundreds of vans face each other in rows. They form long, wide aisles between their open hatchbacks. Boxes are set up in front of each loading area, which, viewed from above, glow colourfully in contrast to the white and blue roofs of the vans: apples, tomatoes, pumpkins are visible. In between, several stray carts are still being pushed around, final preparations being made before the first buyers arrive.

[Song: Groove Mix by Saint-Saens fade in – fade out]

Several wooden stools are spread out in a small room. On each one, magazines are piled up seemingly at random. On the left, you can see a steep staircase that leads to a gallery. There, three empty shelves reach ceiling height. In front of one of the walls beneath, two long wooden boxes are set up, supported on narrow legs. They display a selection of seven and eleven magazines, respectively, and some notes about them, on pink paper. The door at the back of the room is open. City air and sounds seep in.

[Song: Groove Mix by Saint-Saens fade in – fade out]

When things gather, they come together geographically or virtually. This goes hand in hand with questions of accessibility and cohesiveness, whereby one is not per se better than the other. Honest exchange needs intimacy, a sense of community, safety. At the same time, a gathering that has become permanent always runs the risk of becoming encrusted, i.e., static, inaccessible, and exclusionary in a totalitarian manner. A gathering that has become permanent begins to mythologise itself. It creates pseudo-original commonalities, writes itself a founding epic, a family tree that leaves no room for doubt. It defines and establishes its territory in these stories. At some point, in the beautiful words of Joseph Vogl, "symbolic agglutinations" occur: the assembly which has become permanent rambles about a "state of nature", about "blood-ties", waves its flag, sings its hymn, imagines itself to form a unity.

But the gathering does not have to become permanent!

Because when things gather, there is also movement and congress. The poet Édouard Glissant talks about an “unpredictable interplay.” The gathering without founding epic and pedigree, the gathering that has not become permanent, is never realised, always tries to maintain this unpredictable interplay. As an ephemeral arrangement, it can offer intimacy, a sense of community and safety. But it may not complete itself, may not fully locate itself. The connections or threads of such a de-totalised assembly — as we also imagine them in the Impossible Library — are fleeting, temporary, strategic. They are conceivable as temporary autonomous zones, as Hakim Bey calls them. They form associations to deal with an urgent question and then dissolve again to emerge once more in another place and in another shape. They remain potentially impossible: impossible to describe. Impossible to complete. Impossible to preserve. This is true for the individuals gathered as well as for the publications assembled.

[Song: Augen in der Großstadt by Gisela May]

Montez Press Radio Station at Kunstverein in Hamburg.

NP: Shout out to those listening in NYC.

Shout out to Wendy’s Subway, shout out to Interference Archive! And Just SEEDS! And Booklyn Inc.!

Shout out to Printed Matter Inc.!

When we speak of libraries — or any type of archive — I have to think of the notion that no archive is ever innocent in its system. I am always looking to learn, exchange, and unlearn strategies surrounding notions of the archive. In addition to blue-printing and activating visions of more productive and intersectional futures, I am particularly interested in how archives can be fashioned into safer spaces of care and healing.

The library is a community garden. The publishers. The readers. The stacks. The bound opinions and beliefs. The library card as public access to knowledge.

The noted scholar and teacher Bell Hook’s writes in “Teaching Community — a Pedagogy of Hope”: Dominator culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity. Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, revelling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community.

Sifting through the stacks, I revel, I gather, I learn.

Think fugitive libraries…

Think all the avant-garde authors that were lost to German speaking culture during World War II in book burnings or exile, deemed “degenerate” …

Think queer feminist libraries in shoe boxes…

Think Black Panther…

Independent libraries such as zine libraries or artist book archives emerge out of a need for representation apart from institutional systems or as an emancipatory act to found their own system of knowledge. The notion of the archive is potent. Its tensions and struggles are an infinite source for digging — pardon the gardening pun — on writing and rewriting narratives, making visible and invisible, exploring, and happening upon unexpected knowledge.

Ant last but not least, the library is SEXY and full of desire:

On that note: Shout out to the Open Zine Library, Fanzinest, and Transformer Distro in Vienna.

I would like to share a song first brought to my attention when I was still producing Paper & Tape on Radio Orange, by Vienna-based Transformer Music man and Vienna Subculture King Pin: Karl Knall by Boys Beach: “Mein Schöner Bibliothekar”

Which roughly translates to a loverletter: “my beautiful librarian” and the hook-line

translates to something like: “Will you catalogue me too? with your beautiful hands.”

[Song: Mein schöner Bibliothekar by Boys Beach]

Excited Impossible Library Team members Annika Dorau and Ina Römling during the live show.

IR: What is the purpose of your visit? (migrant zine)

To come together we need spaces

and a reason — what brings us together?

Maybe the promise of learning from others, finding or building a community. To be the niche in which others also save themselves.

For in Horizonte on the subject of "fear", Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge say, "one has to accept the fact that the state is in occupation of the public sphere and the rebel is not".

Creeping beneath such independent, alternative publications, collections, archives and spaces is the hope of mapping, accumulating, indexing and locating a diverse society. A utopia.

With a glance at the footnotes, the glimmer is dulled and immediately discarded. The same perennials quoted.

I quote the same perennials. Does utopia end there?

The shadows of strollers permeate the shop window.

Glances flit over soy-based pigments and baby-blue plastic tulle. There is only half a head, and the mouth says "o."

Lying on the red carpet, Emily Kutil quotes Italo Calvino in Horizonte no. 8 regarding "borders":

"whenever humanity seems condemned to heaviness, I think I should fly… into a different space. I don't mean escaping into dreams or into the irrational. I mean that I have to change my approach, look at the world from different perspective, with a different logic and fresh methods of cognition and verification. The images of lightness that I seek should not fade away like dreams dissolved by the realities of the present and future…" and Kutil adds, "Flight, for Calvino is not escapism, but about agility — about developing an imagination agile enough to re-conceive real boundaries. It is possible that, in order to truly change the structure of our environment, we must not flee, but rather stay — investing deeply in the barriers we have created for ourselves, understanding their logics, and playfully reinventing their meanings."

And how does one remain and invest?

I find an approach in Magazine Automatique:

Julia Nitschke suggests on page 23: attack. But with care. And explains it like this:

"Basil must be caressed,
otherwise, it dies and can't regulate its growth.
Otherwise, there is no border perception
from the outside
and the basil grows unrestrained
but without developing a stable base —
thus, without an inner centre
also called — balance

In Austria the question is
may I pet the dog? —
May I attack the dog?
Ergo, the translation is
The basil must be attacked."

Each individual magazine is a gathering in itself. Words and names gather under one theme. They dock onto social discourses, like shells onto large stones, and change their surface. A structure is formed that is eroded or expanded over time.

I pull Urban Pamphleteer No. 5 on "Global Education for Urban Futures" from the shelf. Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani and Shana Agid reflect on the social communication process that needs to be worn away and reapplied as follows:

"Some of our most-used words in understanding city life are those that are least understood. In spaces where we think we agree, the most interesting differences and possibilities for dialogue arise. We listen for the overlaps and divergences in the language people use to say what we imagine to be true, or important, or impossible, or inevitable. People don't always mean the same thing when we talk about 'non-profit' or 'home', just as we don’t always mean the same thing when we say 'queer', 'community', 'power’ or 'racism'. 'Collaboration', 'the urban' and 'global' require actual conversations, rather than assumptions of shared reference points."

The urge remains to gather together what seems to be scattered. The utopias roll like marbles through time. And the mumbling grows louder and weaves itself into a single noise. I flee into many little utopias.

Awista Gardi wants to refurbish my hope and writes in Yallah Salon No. 1 on page 48:

"By designing utopias, the diverse knowledge archives of marginalised communities can be used as inspiration for future perspectives towards greater social justice. Utopias as political practices of complicity unfold their potential for resistance on a discursive and practical level by delegitimising given conditions, opening up counter-hegemonic spaces for speech and providing incentives for political action. At the same time, they can develop powerful effects both in terms of their emancipatory potential and their entanglement with discriminatory structures. Used reflexively, utopias form one of many answers to the question of possible ways of living complicity."

A red cat crosses the room, I follow it out.

TK: For a smooth transit we will now play Trip to Düsseldorf by Salmon Cat.

[Song: Trip to Düsseldorf by Salmon Cat]

TK: Next up we will play an interview pre-recorded with our last artist in residence, Aron Rossman-Kiss. He is a visual artist with a background in the social sciences. Using a variety of media and often based on fieldwork and collaboration, his practice focuses on issues related to the formation of collective memories, the intersection of art and politics, and the social construction of nature. He is currently based in Budapest.


[Song: Hayda by Derya Yildirim and Tellavision]

TK: This was our last song by Berlin based artists Derya Yildirim and Tellavision.

As mentioned before: in a couple of days, you can find the whole transcript in English on the websites of Montez Press and Impossible Library including all references used in our contribution.

Thank you for listening and goodbye.


Gemeinschaften: Positionen zu einer Philosophie des Politischen, Joseph Vogl, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1994.

Gemeinschaftsräume, Anarchitektur Nr. 10, 2003.

Horizonte No.6, „Angst”: Mass Protest & Mass Ornament, Scott Sørli, 2012.

Horizonte No. 8, „Grenzen”: Flying the Coop, Emily Kutil, 2013.

Kultur und Identität. Ansätze zu einer Poetik der Vielheit, Édouard Glissant, Beate Thill (Übersetzung), Heidelberg: Wunderhorn 2005 (2013).

Magazine Automatique: Angreifen, ein Übersetzungsprozess, Julia Nitschke, 2021.

Public Sphere and Experience: Toward an Analysis of the Bourgeois and Proletarian Public Sphere (1993), from Horizonte 'Angst'.

Tbilisi – Archive of Transition, Neuburg / Pranz / Soselia / Tsereteli / Vogler / Weiss (Hg.), niggli 2018.

Urban Pamphleteer No. 5 “Global Education for Urban Futures”: Finding community and other critical words, Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani / Shana Agid, 2015.

Yallah Salon No.1 „Kompliz:innenschaft”, Utopien als politische Praxen der Kompliz:innenschaft, Awista Gardi, 2020.

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