Andreas Siekmann


For his project, Wir fahren für Bakunin (We’re traveling for Bakunin), Andreas Siekmann plans to travel to a total of 250 cities. The first stop was Frankfurt, the second Hamburg, and recently he came to Vienna. The cities were selected in order toretrace Mikhail Bakunin’s travels (read flight). The Russian revolutionary, one of the most important theoreticians of Anarchism, was banished to Siberia in 1857. Four years later he fled across Japan and the USA to London. According to the project proposal, the cities-tour will go as far as Yokohama and San Francisco.

The project is not just a series of exhibitions but a means of collecting information and of constructing a fictive history. In 68 sketches, Siekmann depicts the truck that drives off to more than 200 cities, filled with information—a kind of traveling archive of Bakunin’s life and theories. These drawings also serve as the outline of the project because they trace where and how everything has been imagined—from the projected trip through various exhibition spaces, to specific situations in each city, to the audience’s reaction. For the Viennese exhibition, this book of drawings was available for perusal along with documents from the previous stops. In each city people who look like or are sympathetic to Bakunin are sought via public advertisements. During the exhibition they are photographed and invited to a communal dinner. The portraits remain as a gift in the city under the slogan “Wir fahren für Bakunin”; so far they have been presented in Frankfurt’s Office for Organizational Issues, in Hamburg’s Institute for Slavic Studies, and in Vienna’s Literaturhaus.

Siekmann conceived of his Bakunin project as a response to the various discussions that arose in the course of displaying his own work in public spaces. Primarily, Siekmann was interested in the degree to which one can work with a passive or a participatory audience—an issue that (especially since the Situationist International) has been much discussed in relation to Bakunin’s writings. Bakunin is also one of the most important points of reference in contemporary debates about statehood, autonomy, self-organization, and decentralization—debates that Siekmann addresses in this current project. Thus, it follows that the previous stops have taken place in independent, nonprofit spaces such as the one in Vienna.

In this exhibition, in addition to the Bakunin material, Siekmann presented a photoessay on the history of the Anarchist movement. Siekmann’s exploration of Bakunin never degenerates into didactic directions or pseudotheoretical digressions; rather the artist uses his sketches to communicate his own notion of utopia and his thoughts about a viable anarchistic society—a society of participants. In his sketches, as well as in the other elements in his presentation, Siekmann succeeds in both asserting and altering Bakunin’s challenges and demands. But above all, each exhibition functions not so much as an interim report on the status of the work but more as a meeting point or a forum for discussion.

Sabine Vogel

Translated from the German by Franz Peter Hugdahl.