"In light of this dual tendency - for novelty, but against the risks inherent in social transformation - the allure of political ideas celebrating spontaneous 'events' becomes clearer. The event (as revolutionary rupture) becomes an expression of rupture without responsibility. The messianic event promises to shatter our stagnant world and bring us to a new stage of history, conveniently voided of the difficult work that is politics. The hard task ahead is to build new worlds while aknowledging that they will create novel problems. The best utopias are always riven by discord." from Inventing the Future. Postcapitalism and a World Without Work by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams
During the beginning of February, 2017, alongside Andreea Peterfi and Stijn Pommée I have carried out an alternative residency, which set out to ask what stands behind an abstract number as 260,368, the announced number of people that live in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, according to a 2015 survey.
We did this by by means of setting up a simulated event for a day and deciding to invite the whole city to it. The event had a precise time (February 19th, 2017, 11:47AM), it was localized (it was meant to take place in Gelsenkirchen, in the city at large) and it had as a premise a lack of support from the cultural authorities of the city (upon proposition the project was outright rejected) and as a result a lack of material support.
“The Event” came at a time when there seem to be more and more calls to gather in support of causes which range across the entire political spectrum, be it in celebration or outrage, support, to tear down or build up. In such times it’s attention itself which becomes the main playing field.
The aim of the initiative was less to gather a crowd and more to engage with the mechanism of crowd gathering itself, applied strictly to the city of Gelsenkirchen in a very tight timeframe and also to setup interventions city-wide.
Taking the lack of a substantial budget into account, the chosen approach used social media as its platform, particularly Facebook.
It spawned two dedicated hashtags: #theevent, #260368people and propped itself up on a third: #gelsenkirchen
It had a main page: https://www.facebook.com/events/381614428885284/ and timed posting as well as a direct call to action:
“Are you one of 260,368?”
According to studies on online connectivity, the number of Facebook users in the area of Gelsenkirchen is high to very high, in relation to the overall population, city by city.
By using the tools put by Facebook at anyone’s disposal, Facebook Ads, a number of 71,000 users are revealed as available, statistic which counts everyone with an account and over the age of 13.
They can be all potentially reached with the appropriate budget, but also given enough time for the message to be distributed, since no 71,000 users are available daily and at all given times.
“The Event” unfolded over two days, using local footage and interventions setup across the city, as well as virtual ones, with a peak point at the announced date.
Signs pointing to “The event” were setup:
IF NOT NOW, WHEN?
AN EVENT WILL TAKE PLACE.
WILL IT HAPPEN?
WHERE ARE YOU WHEN IT HAPPENED?
I’M WAITING HERE.
IF YOU SEE IT ONCE IT’S ALREADY HAPPENING.
On February 19th, 2017, 11:47 AM, something happened.
This project was made WITHOUT the support of: