Matylda Krzykowski (Depot Basel), in conversation with Raeuber & Stehler, who have appropriated Depot Basel’s shop window as the second edition of the Display exhibition format. Initiated in 2014 as an open identity in Basel, Raeuber & Stehler is a platform for collectively organised projects.
“We take what we need
and give what we can!
We are Raeuber & Stehler.”
MK: You call yourselves Raeuber & Stehler [Robbers & Stealers] and your brief manifest announces that you take what you need and you give what you can. When reading this passage, I needed to think about the legend of Robin Hood. He was always described as a skilled person of many talents and he was said to be robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. Is there an analogy to your practice?
R&S: We do not particularly like manifests. “We take what we need and give what we can!” is our slogan. It is connected to the idea that within cultural production we always make use of the established and the existing things – we “steal” them, we appropriate, change or reassemble them. It is not a secret that ideas aren’t just falling into one’s lap and that they are extremely dependent on their social context – in that sense, everyone acts as robbers and stealers. In practice, however, hardly anyone speaks about the source of his or her inspiration. Thus, since our beginning, the handling of resources and authorship has been an important and much discussed subject to us. Raeuber & Stehler is a collective face that allows us to act as a group and in various constellations. We have entirely different backgrounds. “A skilled person of many talents” is, in that sense, perhaps a good way of describing us as a team. But we do have difficulties with the comparison to Robin Hood. Our name is rather a playful reference to common names of agencies and studios.
MK: Your project is the second edition of our “Display” format, which we initiated to make the exhibitions in the shop window accessible 24/7. For your installation you decided to do something interactive and to invite to a “Makerspace” twice. Why?
R&S: Initially we did not want interactivity to be a part of the exhibition, in the sense of an interface, because we believe that it could evoke an asymmetrical relation between user – machine – author. In this constellation the possibilities are determined by the tolerance of the automated counterpart’s roles and spaces. A playful interaction, however, can dissolve the shop window’s border that marks the threshold between inside and outside to a certain extend. From the outside visitors can leave their traces inside the space – they become co-authors of the exhibition. Moreover – we learned that on site – the installation helps reducing the fear of contact, because people have a common ground that facilitates communication. This is what we want when we invite for “Markerspace” or when we share the installation’s constructional drawings in the Internet: we want to have a conversation.
MK:There are several projects of yours at Depot Basel, both inside and in the shop window. When it gets dark, it glows from all sides in different colours. Passers-by are gluing to the windows – a great image to look at. Could you outline these various projects and describe their reference to “Technopoetry”?
R&S: Playing with light is a fascinating method to catch attention. The entire city glows in the evening. TV and computer screens flash, flats are brightly lit, and cars blink, while shop windows and billboards compete for our attention with advertising slogans. In a flood of lights the effect of a single message or a format literally disappears; even when advertisers and marketing specialists make an effort to make them short and crisp.
We try to join this concert of lights, while at the same time distorting the dictum of advertising: The installation comprises an arrangement of displays. They are cryptic, demanding spectators who are willing to listen and to watch in order to understand. We want to provide the possibility of a pause, creating a moment in which passers-by stop and realise that these lights are not competing for their spending power, but instead that someone made an effort to write down a poem, an observation or a message for them. This is the effect of “Technopoetry”, as we understand it. Pairing technology with poetry suggests itself. Like poetry, technology is a medium that can be used for expressions.
MK: Think about Open Source, the sharing of knowledge, accessible for everyone in ten years. Think about 2025 and describe where you see yourselves. You just started; but do you think that Raeuber & Stehler will still exist by then? And if so: How and where?
R&S: Robbers and stealers will always exist. We don’t know, if we will still call ourselves like that. Maybe Raeuber & Stehler will be an open label that may be used, changed, distorted by everyone? We like the idea of growing to be a larger and self-organised on- and offline community.