Ines Schaber / Avery F. Gordon: The Workhouse (Breitenau Room), 2014

Launch of publication

Ines Schaber / Avery F. Gordon: The Workhouse (Breitenau Room)
Gedenkstätte, Breitenau Guxhagen
July 10, 18.00, 2014

The Workhouse ( Breitenau Room), a collaboration between artist Ines Schaber and writer Avery F. Gordon, was first installed at dOCUMENTA (13) in the Handwerkskammer Kassel. Parts of it now permanently reside at the Gedenkstaette Breitenau.

How to tell the story of a very old place of confinement and punishment? What happens if all the pictures are wrong or missing and the people long gone? What traces and messages might they have left for us to find? After such terrible treatment, it is possible now to offer those confined in the prison a more hospitable welcome? This is the hope.

THE WORKHOUSE (BREITENAU ROOM) is a collaboration between artist Ines Schaber and writer Avery F. Gordon produced for dOCUMENTA (13), which engages with the history of the former monastery, workhouse, concentration camp, Gestapo camp, and girls’ reformatory. Over time, Breitenau has confined many persons considered extraneous and disposable, subjecting them to a regime of punishment and correction.

Consisting of photographs, curtain, text, and audio files, THE WORKHOUSE (BREITENAU ROOM) presents glimpses of fugitive knowledge that emerges in and around Breitenau. This knowledge carries a feeling for justice and embodies a principle – “what exists cannot be true“- that brings to life what Ernst Bloch called the “not-yet“, thereby conjuring historical alternatives that could have been taken but were not.
(excerpt from the cover)

Text: Avery F. Gordon, Ines Schaber
Photography: Ines Schaber
Translation into German: Stefan Pente, Ines Schaber, Nikolai Franke
Translation into English: William Wheeler
Editor: Ines Schaber
Design: form und sinn
Litography and Print: DZA – Druckerei zu Altenburg, Altenburg
Published by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walter König, Köln, 2014


Photo: Ines Schaber / Avery F. Gordon: The Workhouse (Breitenau Room) (2012). Installation (photographs, curtain, text, audio). Courtesy the authors and dOCUMENTA (13)

The Workhouse is the name for a series of activities and projects called rooms organized by Avery Gordon and Ines Schaber. Overall, The Workhouse’s activities are broadly concerned with the cultivation of ways of living and working independently/autonomously of, or outside of, or in opposition to, or as an alternative to, or alongside of but not entirely inside of the dominant terms of social order. The traditional workhouses, first developed in the late 16th century and reaching their peak in the 19th century, were prisons where people, mostly poor, who refused to work or stay put or behave like “good” workers and obedient social subjects were confined, punished, and corrected. By contrast, the Schaber/Gordon Workhouse activities are designed to provide a hospitable space for the critical and imaginative thinking/practices of “bad” workers, idlers, strikers, collaborators, runaways, and other individuals who do not want and need conventional “correction” and “re-education.”
The Workhouse is a member of The Hawthorne Archive and some of its materials are held there.


Photo: Courtesy the authors and dOCUMENTA (13)

Ines Schaber is an artist and writer from Berlin. Her artistic work addresses the complexity of image-making by investigating the hidden layers of historical evidence. Since 2005 she has been engaged in the working archive, a series of case studies, texts, and artistic works through which she examines and tests notions of the archive. Usually triggered by a photographic record, her often collaborative projects explore the construction of memory and how new readings are generated over time. Often constructed as mixed-media environments, her installations are designed to offer different positions from which an image can be viewed and analyzed as visual and social documents. Among her recent projects are unnamed series, in collaboration with the artist Stefan Pente (2008–ongoing), where if not us—participatory design and its radical approaches, in collaboration with the architect Mathias Heyden (2013), and keywording, in collaboration with the filmmaker Madhusree Dutta (2013).

Avery F. Gordon is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. During the making of this project, she was the Anna Maria Kellen Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. She is the author of notes for the breitenau room of the workhouse; keeping good time: reflections on knowledge, power and people; ghostly matters: haunting and the sociological imagination; mapping multiculturalism, among other publications. Her writing and teaching focus on radical thought and practice and over the last several years, she has been writing about imprisonment, war and other forms of dispossession and how to eliminate them. She is the co-host of No Alibis, a weekly public affairs radio program, and the keeper of the Hawthorne Archive.

Ines Schaber / Avery F. Gordon: The Workhouse (Breitenau Room), 2014


The book was made with the support of the Gedenkstätte Breitenau, the documenta GmbH, and of BAC–Baltic Art Center, Visby.



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