Continued from part 1, Vidisha-Fadescha and Shaunak Mahbubani, co-curators of Party Office at documenta fifteen, spotlight two more transformative moments over the 100 days.
Party Office, founded by Vidisha-Fadescha, is an anti-caste, antiracist, trans*feminist art and social space initiated in New Delhi, India, also manifesting at satellite locations and as conceptual architecture. Through publications, grants, radical archives, conversations of life lived, social gatherings, parties and more, Party Office is building transnational dialogues on empathetic futures, care communities and radical agency.
In the cellar of WH22 at documenta fifteen, Party Office created a multiform space featuring a reading room, dancefloor, and queer dungeon. Here, we hosted several ProBSDM* parties under the name HyperVigilant, that centered the joy of Trans*, BIPoC and people with disabilities. We know from direct experience that for the divergent, there is always additional work of managing effects of systemic violence and trauma, accounted for and held within the bodies of those most impacted. This does not dissolve at the door. Our party insists on acknowledging and minimizing the exhaustion that comes with negotiating dancefloor euphoria against aggressions by ableist cis-heteronormativity.
Entry #3: 15.08.2022
Queer Cuddle Kin
Safety is not an individual responsibility, it is a collective goal. Our team of vigilants, primarily composed of trans*/BPoc workers from the documenta ecosystem and organizers from the Kassel BPoC collective, put in the labour, every party night, to facilitate that. Two points of interaction at the door with two vigilants each. The first to voice our policy of radical exclusivity: This party is for Black, Brown, Trans* people and Women allies. If you don’t identify within these groups, a BIPoC or trans* person must vouch for your respectful behaviour during the party. The second team at the door asks you to read our Code of Conduct and explicitly consent to it. Mutual consent is key to collective pleasure. Then inside, awareness vigilants, in pairs, make rounds throughout the space every 20 minutes looking out for anyone who may be in a position of danger to themselves or others. These situations are dealt with by following a protocol emphasizing de-escalation, devised along with Max Folly. Our team of vigilants is led by a HyperVigilante who coordinates everyone’s roles, ensuring moments of rest for the team, and problem solving throughout. Our vigilant choreography is now in place, and continually evolving from our learnings after each party.
Care, too, cannot be an individual or bilateral responsibility. Care must be a collective function. In the abundant lumbung we found a circle of care in our queer compatriots. During our darkest moments of isolation, after the transphobic attack, we dearly remember Sami and Kenan coming to our apartment and dragging us out to get some fresh air. In those moments no one needed to explain or even discuss the complexity of the situation, the attacks from all sides. We felt such nourishment in the act of gathering. In holding each other we are surviving.
Some of our favourite parties so far have held this cacophonic joy of collective manifestation. During the second half of July, Nino Bulling and Samandal Comics invited the contributors of their upcoming CUTES anthology (edited by Nino Bulling, Nour Hifaoui, and Joseph Kai) for a residency in Kassel. A party was planned to celebrate the culmination of this residency. Together for two weeks, the group of trans* and queer illustrators had developed a beautiful kinship. They came over to our dungeon the night before the party, getting to know us and our space. Aki a.k.a soyf§g and Fadescha gave a brief introductory workshop on using the DJ console, setting up the opportunity for some artists to play their first ever sets. The energy was warm and fuzzy, inscribing the vibe for the party. The evening of the CUTES party started off with readings by invited artists, alongside a display of their books on our reading table. Graphic novels exploring the nuances of trans* life such as Firebugs by Nino Bulling and Nonbinaryhood by Aki Hassan became excellent companions for Party Office’s publications narrating lived experiences: Consent of the Governed vol I & II, Towards a Dalit Structure of Archiving, and Soil to Soil. The readings led into a powerful vocal performance by Nygel Panasco. Viewers sat cuddled up on floor cushions, benches, standing or dancing all around Nygel, creating an intimate space for the vulnerable music, all joining in to sing to crescendo at the end.
The rest of the night, with “sweaty DJ sets” by soyf§g and URSUS, is quite a blur (as a good party should be). Some impromptu art was made on the red PVC in the dungeon by the CUTES crew. The energy of the night made people comfortable enough to freely express non-conformist pleasure within the BDSM darkroom. T4T flogging, fervent making out and tender aftercare made the space electric. Now, flashes of the party blend into vignettes from other nights, like the Indo Queer Diaspora Clubnight, brought alive by Shasti and Insan. Driven and coordinated, they brought down a crew of indonesian-queer DJs, performers, and ravers from Rotterdam. The style, the beats, the cat ears and furry paws all slayed in sets by Animistic Beliefs, LARASATI, and derozan.
In each blurred recollection we are left with the fuzzy memories of trans* joy, of creating an atmosphere out of the love for collaboration, of knowing our freedom is inextricably bound to that of one another.
Entry #4: 25.09.2022
Coming into Vulner-Ablility
Of gestures tying and untying, bending, stretching, breaking lines of patriarchal-caste hierarchy; of mourning those part of ourselves that die in order for us to survive; of recognizing the value of knowledges that move through our bodies, dismissed by academia: The penultimate night at the Party Office dungeon was electric, and we’re still recovering. Live performance nights had been an important component of our program’s schedule. However, after the transphobic-racist violence of the first few weeks, we could not hold the kind of space required by the deeply vulnerable nature of live performance.
Alongside our friends, regulars, door- bar- and awareness-teams, we’ve slowly built up the capacity to feel confident in this space. Recognising the incapability of the institutions, and the manner in which they had abandoned us, we had built up our system to be self-sufficient. It has been a process of almost 10 weeks, and a key learning that we carry onwards with us. Juca Fiis, artist and pedagog, joined us as a HyperVigilante, coordinating our teams on the frontlines. Team workers have always been paid for their time, and our door and bar sales are now efficiently calibrated to cover these costs. Over the last month we’ve hosted iconic DJs such as Deena Abdelwahed, Nasasi of Anti-Mass, and Syrian diaspora collective c1.
With our renewed hosting abilities, we knew we had to experience the charge of a performance night in the space. We hopped on the chance to invite artists whose work we admire immensely, who resonate with the ethos of Party Office in creating anti-caste, anti-racist, trans*feminist critical future publics.
Jyotsna Siddharth — actor, writer, anti-caste activist from New Delhi — premiered new work “Janeu Prompts,” deconstructing a ceremonial thread called janeu, an artifact of Brahminical-partiarchy in South Asia worn by upper caste men as a symbol of caste pride. In the space, the janeu became the web of caste power, accumulating body and possessions, ruptured by Jyotsna’s annihilatory gestures.
Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi a.k.a. crazinisT artisT, international performance artist, trans* rights activist, and director of perfocraZe International Artists Residency in Kumasi, Ghana entered the space next with Ata-Ku. Singing an Ewe song of lamentation translated as “they have eaten alligator pepper on us so that we cannot speak out,” while holding the form of their shadow or previous self — “Ata (a twin) + ku (is dead)” — Va-Bene gripped the very insides of our bodies in demanding justice for all that we have lost, and continue to lose, while assimilating into the violence of a binary world.
Pêdra Costa — Brazilian visual & urban anthropologist, performer and tarot reader based in Berlin — offered a pathway for new epistemologies to emerge. The performance “de_colon_isation part III: Bum-bum cream” used post-porn techniques through a live dildo camera and the text from Costa’s “The Southern Butthole Manifesto” to overturn the categories of pleasure, aesthetics, and queer politics. “We are Sorceresses and Healers. Our dance and our Ginga is our fight, our way of Loving, playing, being in connection with our community,” writes Pêdra.
On the 100th day of the exhibition, we’re overflowing with the ecstasy of collective emancipatory power, with new kinships and ways of relating, yet simultaneously looking forward to pause and heal from the trauma of social and institutional assault. Tonight we celebrate this bittersweet moment in the only way we know how to, together, through a HyperVigilant MASS.
Vidisha-Fadescha is an artist-curator, they are building conceptual architectures holding lived experiences as a norm-critical pedagogy to Queer hegemonies. Through video, text, sound, and performance, Fadescha’s work focuses on body movement as an archive of multi-generational trauma, the body as the site to center one’s desire, and Party as a site of resilience and affirmative kinships. Party Office b2b Fadescha was a lumbung artist at documenta fifteen, 2022.
Shaunak Mahbubani is a nomadic curator-writer currently working in Berlin and in multiple sites in India. They primarily curate projects under the exhibition series ‘Allies for the Uncertain Futures,’ focused on exploring possibilities of co-visioning futures grounded in the pursuit of non-duality. The fourth iteration in this series, AUTOPOIESIS (2022-23) has manifestations and cross-pollinations across Mexico City, Guatemala City, New Delhi, Kassel and Berlin. Shaunak is also co-organizer of After Party Collective with Vidisha-Fadescha, and was invited to co-curate the Party Office space at documenta fifteen. See more of their work at www.shaunak.co
What did you learn at documenta 15? is an open-ended issue edited by Dóra Hegyi, editor of Mezosfera, curator, and project leader of tranzit.hu Budapest and Gyula Muskovics, independent curator and artist based in Budapest. If you would like to contribute, please submit your proposal, including a 200-word abstract and your short bio in English at email@example.com.