Gerald Raunig: Demonstrate! Mass, Power and a Radical-Individual Resistance (2000)

„We put on our sunglasses, a whistle around our neck and – everyone with a sign mounted on their T-shirts. Inside the Volkstheater we traced him in thefirst row. We stood in front of him, opened our jackets – the signs said „resist normality“ – then we sat on the floor in,front of him and silently stared at him the whole time with our dark – until he fled.“ (1)

These and other situations, up to the throwing of cakes, might have become part of the everyday for Andreas Khol and his friends during the year 2000. And their insistence to realize their form of „normality “ became even stronger.

The defamation of resistance is a constant positional fight for the hegemony in all areas of public life by the politicians of the ruling parties. Again and again and with increased demands, we are made believe by the chancellor and his followers that the confrontation should take place in the parliament, not outside in the streets with demonstrations and blockades. Complementary to this state-bearing request, there is the great clod of the Freedom party, the men of words, who form language as they like, and at the same time sue for everything which dares to hint at their right-extremist dispositions between honor and fidelity. On the other side, and in perfect mimicry of this division of roles among the parties is the medial reception of this subject by the Austrian mainstream media, a negative linking point for Martin Krenn`s project “Demonstrate!” about the Viennese Thursday demonstrations. Krenn invited individual demonstrators to decide how they want to represent themselves and their position in the context of the demonstrations via photo and statement. Through this small cooperation, a counter-hegemony mini project should be installed within the art context, opposing the permanent media propaganda.

In the newspaper, “Salzburger Nachrichten”, Adolf Holl thought that the Thursday demonstrations are no political protest, but a „playful rite ofpassage,“ „like the transition from childhood to adulthood. In this case, we deal with a marginalized group searching for a new role in an altered society.“

However, this strategy of marginalization and trivialization is nothing really new. It strongly reminds of Wolfgang Schüssel’s statements, who had sent the „Internet ~° ~` generation,“ accompanied by the „68ers“ as a heterotopy of the collective after- – school trip to the Heldenplatz, from which they were meant to return home as adults, ready to delve into the non-contradictory, resistance-free continuum of a free life under the black-blue government.

It wasn ‚t as simple as that, but the wheels of normalization keep turning.

The same way trivialization, marginalization and patriarchal attribution had found their medial place in the mainstream media, the Kronenzeitung paper, as so ‚often, had proved to be a reliable, floor leader and mouthpiece of the freedom party’s verbal hooligans: The range of defaming and criminalizing terminology goes from „leftist troublemakers“ to „riot tourists “ and “police-recorded professional demonstrators,“ drawing a more and more artificially constructed picture of an atrocious agitating mass.

The „nonconformist mass“ of Thursday demonstrators is exactly the opposite. Martin Krenn succeeds in conceiving this reality in contrast to the medial constructions, also beyond the current situation of the Thursday demonstrations: the picture of a mass, which is definitely not ruled by Cannetti `s criteria of growth, equality, direction and especially density, but by fluctuation, the difference of the individual, non-conformist in a double sense: The self-representing demonstrators don’t conform with the government; apart from this negative link, they have nothing else in common. The nonconformist mass is not a unity, not dense, not identical. Hence the reception of Martin Krenn `s prints does not trigger the imagination of mass as a demon, and all effects of identification lack.

“Demonstrate!” represents less the demonstration itself than an abstract model of the dialectics between mass and individual, which has found its successful manifestation in certain moments of the Thursday demonstrations.

1 Sangam, student, age 22, Daniela, student, age 22, excerpt from the text accompanying one of the Demonstrate! prints from the series Demonstrate!, digiprint, 2000

in: rotor- Jahrbuch 2001, 46-49. 2000.