CONVERSION THROUGH COLLABORATION
How an anti-gentrification model in the center of the city is opening up forms of mutual aid, global connection and self-revolutionary consciousness.
There is a lot of work to be done against gentrification and crowding-out processes in Frankfurt am Main’s central station district. The city's young project space Synnika invites artists, activists and scientists to initiate collaborative contributions and engage in the building of relationships and critical thought that has been overshadowed by the accelerating crises of the present. One thing is certain: art and urbanism are inextricably linked and that collective action is the only way to tackle such issues.
In urban planning conversion means the transformation of buildings and areas, in IT: the change of a data format, in the armaments industry: the shift towards civilian production. In March 2020, employees of General Electric walked out against their company, demanding to switch its aircraft engine facilities to the production of medical fans, instead of firing the employees as planned. Similar developments were visible around the globe in the following weeks and months. Demands for conversion are increasing in all areas of life. The future of »Remote Working«, beyond the current pandemic crisis, renders significant amounts of work and office space superfluous. Companies plan to balance stagnating and shrinking margins of profit by saving costs for wages and work space. At the same time, residential rents continue to rise. In this context the conversion of office space beyond the traditional housing typologies is a realist option for the creation of urgently needed living space in urban and peri-urban areas. Synnika has evolved from the direct engagement with the drastic urban developments of recent years. The space is located in the ground-floor of the NIKA.haus, a former office and store building at the intersection of Niddastrasse and Karlstraße in Frankfurt. Through the initiative of its residents the building was collectivized and integrated into the trans-regional Syndicate of Tenements.
To Launch a Soeng Joeng Toi in Frankfurt
Synnika has recently become the host of the exchange project Soeng Joeng Toi (SJT) that was initiated in 2016 and officially launched in 2017 in a residential community in Guangzhou, China. Its initiators and participants are a group of people from different fields with different identities, such as artists, writers, curators, chefs, video makers and so on. They are neither willing to accept the constraints from the society and state institutions, nor to live like an isolated atom. In SJT, these atoms are freely organizing into different forms of molecules (practice projects). Through participatory democracy with equal consultation between molecules, the group is maintaining and expending this collaboration and connection, co-organizing and developing the possibility of SJT. There are already thirteen such projects in SJT. Therefore, in the first place, SJT is based on a practical and ethical approach. Its consciousness can be described as merely trying to continually resist and question the occurrence and intrusion of any power relationship in different areas, or at least trying to maintain the consistency between means and purpose. For example, SJT emphasizes the everyday life of individuals／collectives and the construction of a (non-capitalist) economic life and the imagination of the future culture and society, which may not be elucidated intentionally but is not difficult to be perceived, or the attempt to restore the socially engaged function of art in the Chinese context.
In terms of its production and creation mode it is a decentralized space and collaborative network that make mutual perception, provocation and collaboration part of everyday life. At the same time, the network is also providing space and media for the discussion and realization of various exploratory and critical ideas. In this way, talents from different backgrounds can resonate together and bring self-educational and self-revolutionary consciousness to the practical here and now. Collaboration and connection make SJT an organism that creates and releases energy continually. This energy is not only face toward the local region. The production mold of SJT is a combination of cross-language, cross-regional exchanges and collectives in multiple contexts. The urgency of promoting it is emerging everywhere today. This mold differentiates and responds to everyday life and political experience based on local regions, but it cannot be achieved within a region, a country or a nation. Moreover, this does not mean that responses (projects) from different areas can be linked naturally to each other without being cut off.
The motivation of meeting directly brings us to Frankfurt. At the same time, we believe this meeting can help us to discern the particularity and universality of our experience and find our references and comparisons. Only living, chatting, touching and reflecting together face to face can establish a broader collaboration and connection. We folded the time of SJT and opened it into this ‘small area.’ We invited current and former practice projects to present what they have done in SJT, including not only connections of individuals and groups but also a series of texts, meeting records and discussions that form the minimum consensus of SJT. More than 1,200 years ago, the poet Li Bai and his friend visited the Joeng Toi Temple in the mountain to learn the Taoist method of self-liberation. The poem he wrote for this experience became the inspiration of the name of SJT. At this SJT in Frankfurt, we are not aiming or motivated by the transcendent approach to the world or life, but we still look forward to something mysterious and happy that you will bring here.
- Junhua Fung