Rather than representing the underlying politics and the subjects of discrimination in a known mediatic format, Self-as-Other-Trainings address the necessity of educating our own bodies through the active embodiment of the ‘other’ in choreographed storylines, in order to evoke critical self-reflection and eventually provoke behavioural change.
As such, the rejection of otherness is not only a rational choice that one makes to formulate hatred and intentional discrimination but one that also involves the subconscious – what can be called ‘silent exclusions’. These exclusions are internalised, affecting our bodies without us being aware of it due to the layers of enculturation that reinforce pre-dominant power relations.
Instead of focusing on preconceptions “Self-as-Other-Trainings” emphasise the importance of the body as a point of knowledge which includes how we feel about, and understand, who the ‘other’ is, or what their personal experiences may be. Through the de-contextualisation of these silent exclusions, the experiential exercises seek to demonstrate that empathy is not only a rational capability, but also a physical state of mind through which we can reshape our connections to people beyond our known scope.
the United Negotiation of Otherness explores, if performativity – depict as political process as well as artistic practice of role-play and embodied experience – can envisage a culture that appreciates both similarities and differences?
Where previously developmental assistance nearly exclusively concerned Western standards of living and economic reasoning in conflict regions of the Global South, Vivien Tauchmann established the United Negotiation of Otherness (UNO) in 2018 to support northern underdeveloped communities in their struggle with the chaotic and primitive neglect of otherness.
By approaching indirect communication strategies, the organisation seeks to challenge the pre- dominant conceptions of division and power relations between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ on multiple levels – from ‘North’ and ‘South’, ‘Left’ contra ‘Right’, ‘Good’ versus ‘Bad’. In times where xenophobic sentiments have moved back into the centre of civil life and a political discourse is increasingly characterized by polarisation, it seeks to illustrate that an understanding and accommodating of strangeness can not only shape dialogue but to can serve as equalizer between regional poles.
Instead of envisaging a unified world, the UNO embraces the idea of multiple spaces, where political and cultural persuasion can be confronted differently and are allowed to be played out in mutual respect. By considering conflicts not only as something that generates division, but in speculating on possible encounters, this might also trigger new forms of negotiated collaborations: new potentials.