To want to be SATT (have a full stomach, be contented, satiated) is a basic human instinct. The word evokes associations like contentment and prosperity and refers to the desired yet fragile moment between being in need and hungry on the one hand and, as the other pole, plenitude. It is no small achievement to balance these extremes, to strike the right balance; this can only be achieved when one has a certain degree of existential security.
It seems like we long for more than we really need, but are confronted with a gamut of products that we buy although we know that they're not necessary. Most of our possessions are not only superfluous but only exist because we gave in to the all-abounding urge to consume.
We experience an overwhelming quantity of excess in all realms of life as we are bombarded with thoughts and opinions, all sorts information including images, events and impressions, requests to be our friends, to like something (e.g. on Facebook), or to take notice of someone's attempt to market themselves – all part and parcel of a never-ending tidal wave of special offers and insights. Quite a few people have simply had enough!
Our festival theme for 2016 is also an invitation to contemplate basic human needs and to ponder whether answers can be found beyond common strategies for satisfying desires for what people crave. We are supersaturated and hungry at the same time, yet the positive aspects the term SATT, of being contented, appear to be out of reach. Everyday life is chockfull of situations in which the constant feeling of always needing something abounds. Consumption can not fulfil all basic human needs in the long term, yet it is a constant in our capitalist system. We live in a part of the world that can only be classified as a contented continent, meeting its basic needs, but at the same time, we are also an inherent part of global struggles to re-allocate resources. The sense of security that has made European prosperity possible is not only based on principles of democracy, human rights and freedom, but were made possible through oppression, plundering colonialism.
As a theme, SATT is all the more interesting because of the ambivalence it suggests. Most languages don't seem to have a word that can mean as many different things as the German one does. The term has as many positive as negative connotations. Stating that “you have had more than enough” can be, for example, pronounced in a hurtful way, especially when directed at an artist.
When talking about art, the word also poses the question of whether art can, metaphorically-speaking, induce an appetite for more. If so, then how? Does our over-saturation make helping other parts of the world develop further more difficult?
Artists often find themselves in the paradoxical situation of being both consumers, familiar with the feeling of being overwhelmed by the choices on offer, while also constantly having to fight for potential audiences' attentions.
Another anomaly is how over-saturated consumers of art constantly demand new experiences, to behold new things. This search for a new climax is nearly impossible to satisfy. There is simply to much of an appetite for what is new. The results are, all too often, so overwhelming that they make it difficult for real artistic concerns to attain the attention they deserve, those that artists pursue in preference for innovation. Sensations often overtake sustainable, long-term explorations of what an artist might perceive as more relevant to their pursuits, grabbing audiences' attention.
More, newer – these are adjectives that are common to both the cultural subsidy-sector and part and parcel of the capitalist system. The carrousel of supposedly new sensations in art rotate more and more quickly, manifesting themselves in absurd ways.
Abstinence and a refusal to participate in all sorts of nonsense are often a reaction to such phenomena. In Neukölln, one hears Bartleby's famous mantra “I would prefer not” evermore often.
All of these factors contributed to the idea of using SATT as a starting point for 48 Stunden Neukölln:
1. In light of the glut of activity on offer in the cultural metropolis of Berlin, it's easy to believe that art can just go under. How can we, as Berlin's largest grassroots festival of the arts, make it possible to experience diverse aesthetic dimensions of a variety of art forms?
2. Many artists attempt to deal with the plethora of information and impressions that abound in their work. They often react to this bombardment by realising art that goes beyond the boundaries of categories. Alternatively, some artists react by creating minimalist works. What insights could be provided by dynamically juxtaposing hybrid artistic experiments with works which clearly fit into an established category?
3. In the context of over-saturation, might the best response be to create fleeting experiences? What forms might temporary installations, structures, theatrical or performative works in public spaces take to provide a few moments in which viewers can take in ambiguous elements of a work of art, thereby also taking note of situations and spaces that they might not have been previously aware of?
4. The over-use of terms such as “participatory” have had an affect on artistic projects; spectacular, pompous, or didactic approaches strive to have an impact on audiences, but this is more and more difficult. What approaches to relaying ideas behind works of art, to making works that strike a chord with those who behold them, exist that would be appropriate to the theme of SATT?
5. The gamut of products for sale constantly adapts to provide more and more convenience and comfort. How can individuals working in the arts relay complicated, mixed reactions to this consumer-focussed perspective, providing a forum for that which is unpleasant and beyond mainstream perspectives which excessively, incessantly overwhelm us with a multitude of stimuli?
6. Over-saturation usually refers to what goes beyond a balanced situation. How can we explore the possibility of such a state in which there is an equilibrium of all senses?