Karin Michalski, The Alphabet of Feeling Bad (Filmstill), 2012
With contributions by Sara Ahmed, Sabian Baumann, Lauren Berlant,
Dafne Boggeri, Ann Cvetkovich, Feel Tank Chicago, Elizabeth Freeman,
Heather Love, José Muñoz, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, et al.
Compiled by Sabian Baumann, Karin Michalski and Andrea Thal
Exhibition design: Sabian Baumann
The exhibition in the Kunstverein’s Atrium presents Karin Michalski’s video film The Alphabet of Feeling Bad and also An Unhappy Archive, which Michalski compiled in collaboration with Sabian Baumann and Andrea Thal. Both video and archive thematically explore the potential of personal “bad” feelings that can be experienced collectively, depathologized, and thus politicized.
The Alphabet of Feeling Bad (2012) shows an experimental interview with theorist and activist Ann Cvetkovich. Sitting on a rumpled bed, Cvetkovich talks about everyday negative feelings – such as the impression of feeling stuck at an impasse, feeling numb, being overwhelmed by demands, or not being adequate – and associates them with different meanings. The performance is based on conversations with the filmmaker Michalski. It follows the tradition of activist initiatives like the Socialist Patients’ Collective Heidelberg (SPK) of the 1970s, and the more recent Public Feelings groups in various American cities. Here, negative emotions like depression, passivity, or shame are not considered personal failure or sickness; they are rather politicized in the context of neoliberal working conditions, but also homophobia and racism. The Alphabet of Feeling Bad is based on the idea that terms might be understood as tools for enabling collectivity, thereby renegotiating the meaning of these once negatively connoted feelings through a queer-feminist approach.
An Unhappy Archive assembles texts, books, posters, drawings, and other materials that call into question the social norm of “happiness.” The name refers to theorist Sara Ahmed, who describes the “unhappy archive” as a collective, feminist-queer, and antiracist project. It not only sets out to impel criticism and resistance within society but also intends to forward the states of pleasure and utopia that are facilitated by supposed anti-figures like the feminist killjoy. The archive was initiated in 2013 by Andrea Thal at Les Complices in Zurich and is now being reactivated and expanded in a new spatial context.
Karin Michalski works as filmmaker, artist and film- and videoart curator and lecturer in Berlin. She studied Film Directing and Production (creative producing) at the German Film- and Telefvision Academy Berlin (dffb) as well as Journalism, Political and Educational Science at the Universities of Mainz and Berlin.
With her films and videos such as The Alphabet of Feeling Bad (13 min., 2012), working on it (50 min., 2008, Co-Director: Sabina Baumann), Monika M. (15 min., 2004), Pashke and Sofia (30 min., 2003) and women videoletters – a second text on war and globalization (80 min., 2004, International group video project) she has been invited to numerous festivals and exhibitions. She works as Film and Video Art Curator, creating programs for art institutions, festivals and conferences. In 2011 she edited the art fanzine FEELING BAD – queer pleasures, art & politics.