4 days funtastic
by Robert Burghardt

I am confident to say that funtastic was a success.
How can I say that? Why was it a success?
Success is not really measurable, maybe in form of products; but funtastic did not produce any products (yet). Funtastic did not intend to create products. Instead funtastic was about situations and experiences, funtastic was about time, space and process. The form success took was very individual.
Everybody got something different out of the event, even if that was “only” four good days. It was irreversible positive experience. Maybe it was successful because there was no pressure to be successful. (a reason why there won’t be another funtastic, it would have to live up to the expectations the precedent created).
We had a discussion whether the structure of funtastic was to open or not. One participant thought that we could give the event more strength by defining a clear agenda. He felt that we know very well what we want, that therefore there is no need to keep it that open.
Defining time and space and a set of people is a very strong statement. It sets all the conditions of a situation: the accessibility, the possibilities, the structure, and therefore openness already defines the outcome. I believe that the structure in itself had a lot of strength, the structure was content. First of all the structure was un-hierarchical. Everybody that was invited was invited on the same grounds. Everybody was invited as speaker and listener as student and teacher.
The structure followed roughly a well-discussed principle, that of the rhizome, described by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. The rhizome is a metaphor to explain structures of un-hierarchical networks: “…unlike trees or their roots, the rhizome connects any point to any other point and its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature…”. Theory is not always practised consciously, but the described principle bears relations to real social phenomena. The urge for this event certainly did not just develop out of any theory but probably out of a personal urge for platform (and all the social and spatial desires that are inherent to a platform). But interestingly, theory can mirror your own experience, and give that more strength because it proves a wider relevance, so that you can speak of a phenomenon.

There was an overall feeling that the established art world works after very set traditional mechanisms. There is a lot self-exploitation and competition (survival of the fittest) that is still built on the genius myth and maintained by attributes like first, quickest, fastest, biggest. For many people this pressured environment provides not a good atmosphere for self-realization. Funtastic provided space (physical as mental) to play, and this seemed to us all somewhat of a relieve.
I believe it is important to create more of such places, playgrounds. Those spaces can open up new possibilities that have been lost through our socialization and disciplination. Within those spaces there is the freedom to look at problems from a different perspective, it extends the personal scope of possibilities. A pressured environment does not leave you a lot of space to experiment, maybe for gambling, but not for experiment. But experimentation is the key to development. We are currently living in an environment that constantly speaks of innovation but innovation is only measured against a latter of capital-increasement than experiencable social development. Places like funtastic (it was an event but on the same time it constituted a space) are fun, but they are not based on consumption but on exchange. The architecture of the event represents that principle. Participants were involved in the organizational level, which created a very personal atmosphere. Deepest conversations are possible while cutting the vegetables for dinner and sipping on a glass of wine.

Funtastic changed the architecture of the location, physical as well as the ambience. The space was changed on two levels: One was condensed, focused, instant, the other one sustainable: The church was inhabited and managed by a group of people where there was a lack of communication and vision for the place. It was used for occasional events and sparsely as working space. Many intentions that existed in the beginning of the present function, and that provided the energy for opening that space have faded away. For the users of the church funtastic confirmed the value of their space and demonstrated the number of possibilities that are intrinsic to it. Imagination had caught the occupants of the church and provided a perspective for a void. From being pressured by the responsibilities of a large space like that, a multiplication of possibilities (not of inherent possibilities but of imagined possibilities) started a new game on the playing-field. Leaks in the roof got fixed, the space is used more regularly and in regular events the space is opened up to the public.

We experienced funtastic very much as a learning process, I was surprised by the clear structure and character the event got in the end. Without much explanation participants quickly understood the situation and were able to join in. The space explained itself and gave possibility for connection of the individual with the environment.
The concept of the project started month before very diffuse and consisted out of bits and pieces, proposals here and there. We moved back and forward until we arrived in some sort of equilibrium, a set-up that felt right to us. I personally often had to fight against a feeling of being stuck with the event, it kept on floating in the air. I was sticking in a thick mass of ideas but I could not see them practiced yet. But a certainty that it was important to try kept me going through it.
Funtastic materialized very quickly as soon as we moved into the space, it was immediately possible to see the event there. All of a sudden imagination became real, and reality boosted imagination. There was a spot to focus, to practically work and build on. In the process sometimes it seemed difficult to get us all together in one place. After we moved into the church that changed as well, it became a spot, a cross-way. Another evidence to me that real space communication is non-replaceable.

While planning the event we had a lot of discussions about the role of the party within fantastic-, in the early phase it looked like the party had much more importance within the whole event, we thought more in terms of a festival as mean for exchange and communication. Later we realized that we preferred a much more intimate atmosphere that allowed more opportunity for informal exchange. The idea of the party was that people that would like to perform on high sonic levels will have the opportunity to do so as the church did not permit performances like this. The party took quite a lot of energy within the event, but it provided a very powerful climax.
Many people felt that the event should have gone longer because it was already over when it just really started and people got really familiar with each other. From an organizational perspective this would have only been practicable with less intensity in the event. We any way spend a lot of time on practical issues, so that we could not participate as much as the invitees.
People were interested in our motivation; one explanation of mine was that I felt the need to build on a perspective. A problem encountered by many of our generation is too much choice but no perspective. The choice is not real either, it is a choice between Mc Donalds and Burger King, a choice between Microsoft and Apple, a choice between Coke and Pepsi. Where is the adventure?
The big antithesis of real-existing socialism has faded, the idea of one truth, it has proven impractical and immobile. We need many antithesis’s. A variety of approaches will generate much stronger social organisms. Funtastic was a proposal for one approach.

I would like to state that I noted an interest in mail-art among quite a few participants; this is interesting as the principle of mail art corresponds well to the structure of funtastic. The mail art scene was an open platform. It produced little gifts that people exchanged amongst each other. Mail is a mean of communication, a personal and intensive one. Even if it is much quicker to use e-mail and telephones, a letter has a material quality. It transports very personal signs. Mail-art was not the key element of funtastic but I believe that the exchange of little gifts could sustain an artistic platform that is orientated in self-expression rather than the reproduction of real-art market values.