Portable PolisWorking Group

Portable PolisWorking Group


// Led by Fred Dewey, 13.05. – 29.07.2017, Every Saturday 13:00 – 16:00 //

On Saturday 27th of May Archive Kabinett hosted a Portable Polis reading session by the mobile Hannah Arendt Working Group.

Portable Polis is a Berlin-wide public-participation project based on oral, close reading of texts by German-American thinker Hannah Arendt. One of Arendt’s singular goals was to place serious thinking in the world where it is most needed. As such, readings will occur at sites around Berlin from texts related to the activities and focus of the site where each session occurs.

The aim of Portable Polis is to experience the city’s activities and places by examining, as Arendt does, the language, history, and distinctions in our condition. Like a treasure hunt, the goal is to practice, once a week, a kind of proto-polis, a gathering of people to consider a shared thing or concern, in public, around the city, and so to discover and recover a treasure Arendt considered “lost.” Thinking the separation and relation of sites and their activities, while being in them, is part of the work.

Following the theme of ZK/U’s Hacking Urban Furniture project, participants will read aloud from a short piece or excerpt from Arendt around a table or a similar shared type of urban furniture. No prior experience with Arendt or any advance or concurrent reading is required. All sessions are free and open to the public. The ZK/U website will post the site, theme, location, and a map.

People are encouraged to join at any point, or best of all, to experience the investigation in its entireity. The first six sessions will be dedicated to The Human Condition and its chapter on “the public and the private,” including the crucial section on “the rise of the social.” The next two sessions will be on the refugee question, drawing on Arendt’s extraordinary text from the early 1940s, “We Refugees.” We will then turn to the subject of the difference between work and labor, so crucial to her work from Marx, and end, at the end of July, with her essay on Gotthold Lessing, concerned with what “humanity” might be for us in potentially dark times.

Sessions will be on Saturdays 1-4pm. Paper copies of the texts read will be provided at each site (listed below), though obtaining a copy of the book The Human Condition is suggested. Use of electronic devices is heavily discouraged. Sessions are in English, and where necessary foreign and German language versions can serve as accompaniment.

Portable Polis is a project devised and led by Fred Dewey, teacher, activist, independent scholar, and author of The School of Public Life (errant bodies/doormats, 2015). He is based in Los Angeles, and in Berlin since 2010. Dewey began The Hannah Arendt Working Group in Los Angeles in the ’90s and has since conducted it around Berlin, in a squat in London, a university in Oslo (and Berlin), and a self-organized space in Amsterdam.

For more information also take a look on the Hacking-Urban-Furniture Webpage: www.hackingurbanfurniture.net