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Eva Egermann

Eva Egermann

Austrian artist, member of the Manoa Free University project and of the feminist artist group ‘A Room of Ones Own’, editor of the Viennese arts and society magazine Malmoe. Ex member of the electro-trash band Satellite Footprintshop. Lives and works in Vienna , Austria .



How and why did you start working in collaborative projects?  

Because I thought it was much more interesting to have somebody to discuss the topics with. I don’t believe in having an original idea, so I think it has more to do with different things that are discussed or situations or discourse or things that you experience in collaboration.

Have you ever had like fixed collaborations that were durable, or persistent for a longer time?

The collaboration with the band I had (Satellite Footprintshop), with four people for two years. And then a more lose collaboration with a larger group of people called Manoa Free University. We had a project W…WirWissen (Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna , 24. 03. 2005 - 23. 04. 2005) where you were invited, too, and since then we’ve been doing things together and also have a space on our own.

Can we speak about the feminist group you’re a member of?

“Room for our own” is a group or a platform in which only women artists are engaged, right now I think 16 of us. We did several actions in public space and also artworks, or what you would call them, with the attempt to politicize the art scene, mostly concentrating on gender issues. Now a strange situation has been formed where some members are questioning the role of the group, and how much political we want to be and how much an art group and now we have been discussing all that, reflecting on it – some of us even left the group. My idea was to open the group, to invite more women in, to make it a bigger group with different agendas, not only an art group that develops products. At the moment it is about being already a label somehow by having been invited in different shows, and right now the engagement in producing art for shows seems more relevant than political engagement. We have to change that because we do not want the group to be a carrier vehicle for women artists . I would be more up to engaging in the political feminist discourse rather then promoting our stuff in the art scene, even though we have done a lot of good projects and had important discussions.

The projects were collaborative projects or projects brought together under the umbrella of the group?

Now, everything was discussed, so they were collaborative projects, with all of us present and normally we decide together on everything and that’s becoming difficult as we have this bigger group now. So we were also speaking about having different interest groups within and study circles and reading circles where we could research more intensely about different topics.

For sixteen people it sounds to me almost impossible to make a creative kind of work in which everybody would have a more or less equal contribution…

Yes, that’s not possible, but everybody can stand behind the idea of what we are into. Of course it’s always a compromise, and I don’t like every single thing we did, really don’t like some of the projects where I haven’t been part of, but it’s also okay like that, I don’t mind; these things are clear if you are in a bigger group.

Do you think you’ll be able to handle the problems and the group will go forward?

Yes, I think so. There are some people that really want to continue. But we need to get some more enthusiasm about it. Because it’s also very tiring to have all these discussions and conflicts.

How do you think you can find enthusiasm?

With topics and projects that everybody is interested in, but first of all, the group, the organizational form, the role of it, has to be clear for everybody. Because otherwise there are these unspoken misunderstandings.

I’ve read a text by the Critical Art Ensemble where they affirmed that the ideal artist/activist group consists of maximum ten people, because if there are much more of them, a series of problems will emerge.

Maybe because people don’t feel so responsible for it anymore because there are so many others, so then they can lay back. And I think this is a part of the problems we have now.

And what about Malmoe?

Yes, there are around ten to fifteen people in the editorial group. It’s varying according to how many people actually take part. It’s a nice way of working, because people are engaged a lot for a time, and when they have some other kind of work, a diploma to make, they leave for some months then they can join again. It’s a kind of a smooth routine where everybody can find a place. We have meetings every week and we have this project, the newspaper to make, and this is the only thing why we meet, so it’s not like we are all friends or hanging out together, but it’s more like the project connects us. The people taking part are from totally different contexts so it’s also about getting to know other things and opinions and ways of thinking.

It would be like a continuation of an ideal school?

Maybe. It’s about a lot of things at the same time. It’s also like a discussion group where we would be discussing political issues to find a kind of standpoint as a magazine, a way of covering different things. These discussions of course sometimes are very harsh, lots of different opinions crashing, people are into different things and explaining a lot of it - so I get to know different things that I usually would not take so much attention to. The work with Malmoe functions really well, because this personal level isn’t much involved, some of us are also friends and meeting out and we all know each other well, but it’s not so closed like a friendship or a big clique.

Does it make it easier?

Yes, or more democratic in a way, everybody has the same saying; the discussions are on equal basis.

What about democracy in a small group like in a band?

It depends on what you intend to do. In a very structure-less or informal level there are also a lot of difficulties – like finding a space for everybody, where everybody can speak. If you look at different organization-forms, the way how you would discuss, or how a meeting would be run, is it moderated or not etc., are very crucial points for how democratic they are. If a personal element becomes overwhelming and everything becomes very informal, things can be outspoken but remain unspoken somehow, in the same time.

For me it would sound very strange to have a small-scale group that had been working together for a long time – a band or an artist group, or whatever – where you would introduce this kind of formal democratic rules.

Of course, but then in a larger group where there are more people, you need them.

Sure. I would like to speak a bit smaller groups, about your strategies in a smaller, less formal group. Are you more tending to dominate or going more for compromises?

It depends, but I think mine is more like a mediator kind of role, I wouldn’t be the dominating part. But it depends on what kind of situation it is, or what kind of people there are in. And it only works if we’re at an equal level of engagement.

Have you ever been frustrated in a collaborative situation?

I remember this exhibition in Vienna Exnergasse, where a lot of different groups were present and for a longer period as well, for all the six weeks, and we were discussing a lot like how the space should look like, how things should be done. That was a frustrating process because discussions happened on a very informal verbal level but at the end you were like repeating yourself and had the feeling that you talked it over again and again and people negotiated things you thought had been already decided.

What would have been helpful in that situation in order to solve it?

I’m favoring more formal ways of organisation. I was a lot involved in different political discussion environments like student movement or student council and also in the organization of the Austrian Social Forum for some time – and that was the way how I experienced these super-strict organizational forms whereby you would have different working groups and things like that. All these different conditions under which people do collaborative work, all there different structures of how people come together and what positions they take – it’s an important topic to make visible or talk about a lot.

What would be the point when you decide to quite the collaboration?

If I fell that my contribution would not be acknowledged as something worthy for the project.

Do you do individual works besides collaborations?

Not so much. I made a bigger project this summer, this was almost my first larger individual work, a newspaper project that involved a lot research and interviews, but even there I had a lot of help. I had the money for it, so I could also hire people to work – this was a very funny situation. It was also ok to be able to give some job to friends for transcribing texts or helping me with filming or stuff like this. So it was not that kind of collaboration that I used to be involved in, where you would be discussing things collectively and have collective authorship, but I was the producer of a play where I would hire different people to help me.

How did it feel? Was in encouraging to have this different decision making process where you were the boss practically?

I mean, I also had a lot of people I talked to and they helped me in deciding things, in private conversations, and of course I felt very insecure with all these different decisions but at the end I liked it and it was a good experience, because now I am much more relaxed with doing something on my own which also of course will be part of a collaboration always.

So you will go on doing this kind of individual projects?

No. For the project I am planning now I did a lot of research and have some ideas but I’m asking friends to collaborate. I like to discuss ideas together with people, because I think it gets better. As many people work on a text or a small piece of work – it just benefits, and I am not a dogmatic person, I am not super fixed on my own idea. I think it has a lot to do with vanity, and I am not so much into that.

Can’t you imagine that you would grow more fixed about your own ideas if you worked alone? Or you just simply don’t want to be more fixed on that?

No, it’s not the goal, because I think it’s boring as well. Sure, I write a text or do interviews on my own, I do little things that aren’t taking so much time, but if there was a long term project, with months of research needed, I would be really bored without exchange or discussions.

What do you think of the situation of creativity, is it any different the creativity, which is applied or generated by a collaborative situation from creativity, which is inherent in traditional individual artistic practices?

I haven’t so much thought about it, but I would say that the process isn’t so much different. It’s another approach if you work together with people, and have a different kind of cosmos where things come together, and new things come out of it what you would not think about on your own. But of course that can happen also in individual work.

What kinds of traps do you perceive in individual proceedings that collective work can be a solution to? And there is the opposite: What kind of danger collectivity can bring about that individual art making can be a solution to?

Maybe it’s what you talked about, that if I’ve ever felt abused by something in a collaboration. It’s a very good topic to have those things clear, always – the different positions and roles and the representations of a collective work, who is representing what, who is the name behind it, because there’s always a trap behind it that you would have some kind of speaker for the group, who is of course more exposed…

And the other? The dangers of individual work?

It is to get stuck, to have the feeling that it’s not leading anywhere. I do smaller individual works but I do like to think in long term projects where you can easily be blocked by your own capability of doing things… it isn’t about productivity, rather abut getting stuck with some ideas if you don’t get some impulse from outside that would take your work somewhere.

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