A collective rests on the satisfaction you get from it yourself
When the responsibilities of a collective land on the shoulders of a single person, something changes. Although outside perception may remain unchanged, the transformed organization of a collective has practical pros and cons. Otis Dehaes, the founder of Slagwerk, talks about this collective turnaround in a conversation about slow compromises, intimate friendships and collective finitude.
Can you describe Slagwerk?
Slagwerk consists of three components: the organization and curation of events, a label and the agency of artists. The collective is currently the most tangible through this third component. Artists who are linked to Slagwerk receive support through this. For two years now, I have taken on the overall coordination of Slagwerk, which may mean that the collective idea is slowly fading away. Despite this change, I continue to speak in the we-form.
What does this overall coordination entail?
The events Slagwerk organizes are often linked to different places. Partly due to the lack of space, Slagwerk became nomadic. In consultation with venues, an event is organized and curated. Communication with booking offices is something I did at the beginning of Slagwerk and continue to do now. The big difference now is that plans no longer have to go through several people in order to be approved, which ensures that arrangements are faster and more efficient. There is no longer the need to reach a collective compromise. On the other hand, the collective moment of reflection is sometimes a loss; by working individually one and the same pattern may be formed.
A collective is a delicate concept, especially when you work side by side with your closest friends
What is the story behind the evolution of Slagwerk?
Slagwerk was founded about ten years ago by a group of young friends, some of whom left the collective nest sooner than others, and new friends joined along the way as well. In order to preserve and protect the artistic practice of many members of the collective, it was decided that I would take on the practical and productional side of Slagwerk. That seemed more balanced to me. A collective is a delicate concept, especially when you work side by side with your closest friends. Many friendships have been broken this way and I definitely didn't want to risk that.
Slagwerk can still be seen as a collective by the outside world, but the shoulders that carry it are no longer collective
What does a collective mean to you?
To me, a collective is an initiative where all members have equal input. A collective rests on the satisfaction you get from it yourself. When that satisfaction is not the same for everyone, there is an imbalance. Slagwerk can still be seen as a collective by the outside world, but the shoulders that carry it are no longer collective. However, we are still involved in each other's projects and support one another as much as possible. I notice that with the label this is starting to happen more and more, without any concrete expectations towards each other.
Where is the individual practice located within Slagwerk?
In the first place, I am a DJ, so the parties we organize with Slagwerk come out of this practice, in order to give ourselves a platform. Over time, there was so much focus drawn to the organizational aspect that the sets I played suffered the consequences. At the moment there is renewed attention to a qualitative balance.
Where does the utopian ideal differ from the practical reality of a collective?
Maintaining consistency within a collective is very difficult. Once a collective is defined as such, there is almost a certainty that it is finite. It can go well for a number of years but because collective functioning slows down the process, frustrations often accumulate. Perhaps it is inherent in collectives to come and go, maybe that is the way it should be. Nevertheless, I have always seen Slagwerk as something long-lasting, maybe something I would pass on one day. Seeing it bleed to death would be very painful.
What role did Subbacultcha play in the story of Slagwerk over the past 10 years?
In the early years of Slagwerk, Subbacultcha was very present. Members could come to our events for free, which ensured a wider audience. After a few years, we were selling out without promotion and free entrance for members. This was the moment to detach ourselves from this cooperation. This is what I find great about the idea behind Subbacultcha: the possibility to support new initiatives in their early years and to let them loose at the right time.