To what extent are these questions also connected to theories of Blackness, to which you often refer in your works and texts?
It's very closely related. Our modern idea of a relation to space is absolutely intertwined with the question of what a human being can be and what we are and are not. Since the beginning of plantations and the slavery associated with them, there was the idea that there were people who could make land productive, cultivate it. The rise of the plantation marked the birth of monoculture, which was opposed to the "wild" or "unfit" land. On this wild land, in turn, many slaves and indigenous people practiced their freedom. "Maroonage" is a word to describe these societies. Blackness, then, discusses this refusal to limit what life can be. Blackness goes beyond any limitation, it is an invitation to always keep asking and thinking, to stay with the unknown, the unthought. It is like a "hack", to quote Tony Cokes, who contradicts in a world that constantly tries to get everything under control, to make everything productive. Blackness cannot be reduced to discourses of monoculture or biodiversity as its derivative. Both are based on an anti-Black world. Black Lives Matter, as well as being Black, is also a critique of the rules of the game in this world. It is about questioning the definitions of life and existence that lead to destruction.
How do terms like Black and Blackness relate to diversity for you, as a term that has become more common in this country?
The problem with diversity as a term is that it can very easily be used to displace anti-Blackness. Noémi Michel's academic work, for example on the SVP's "Black Sheep Poster" from 2007, shows this quite clearly. The poster shows three white sheep pushing a black sheep out of Switzerland. As a counter-critique, a poster with 23 different-looking sheep was created to celebrate the diversity of Switzerland. The rhetoric aimed at displaying the diversity of the country, since Switzerland was created by different languages and cantons. This played into the SVP's rhetoric—that the color of the sheep was not important. This means that a first step sees the black color of the sheep as a racialization, which is why the criticism of this poster is necessary. In a second step, however, not only the racialization but also Blackness is erased and dismissed as not valid. As Claire Jean Kim explains: "The detachment from the problem that affirmative action was supposed to combat—namely anti-Blackness—was made possible by colorblind discourses such as diversity and allowed for the renewed negation of affirmative action." At the same time, however, I hear an undercurrent in diversity—the fight against anti-Blackness in a world where this cannot even be named. In German, we don't even have a word for anti-Blackness. And the discourses about anti-Blackness are only slowly coming into the larger attention; of course because anti-Blackness is structural. In the absence of discourses and terms to address something, one has to go through language, even understanding itself. This is what has always been discussed in Black Studies. The term "Afro-German" cannot be detached from the Black women who organized themselves, and, through their attention to Black people in Germany and their stories, wrote down this word, and at the same time set in motion a lot of discourses and structural shifts. Blackness thus discusses the radical refusal of an anti-Black world through the affirmation of Blackness and Black lives.
Your teacher George E. Lewis has called for a "creolization" of the contemporary music scene. What is your position on the concept of creolité as coined by Édouard Glissant?
Creolité is very important to me because it is a kind of resistance to the discourse of multiculturalism, diversity, and hybridity. Creolité must be understood as a concept that is inseparable from Blackness. At the same time, the concept must be problematized because it can also be drawn into colorblind discourses. Glissant's theory of creolité, however, needs the unpredictable and unknown, which for him is exemplified in the situation in which Black people found themselves during the time of slavery. Glissant also writes about maroonage and creole gardens. These small gardens were sometimes part of the plantations, but could also be found in areas that were more difficult to cultivate and that the Maroons could win for themselves. A lot of different—today one would say biodiverse—food was planted there on little space for the slaves and their own maintenance. For Glissant, this is a fundamental metaphor for his concept of creolité. There is knowledge that we need to recognize in order to live on this planet at all; specifically, a life that contains us again. Glissant's concept of opacity is also incredibly important to me.
Can you briefly describe what opacity means?
Glissant has said that everyone has a right to opacity. Opacity is opposed to transparency and control, so he means that we have a right not to be profiled and thereby be categorized and colonized. In the 16th and 17th centuries, transparency and control became the principle of the nation-state and thus the definition of a citizen. In short, what is not known cannot exist. That which is wild may be conquered. Like "wild Africa" or the "wild West". The insistence on opacity as a fundamental right opposes this.
Do you also find opacity fruitful as a concept for your compositions? For example, in the sense that we start categorizing less essentialistically and eschew the idea that "everything I don't see or see through is worth nothing"?
Yes! That's a very nice approach. For me as a composer, opacity is also not only related to creating, but also to listening to music and the position I adopt as a listener. The common idea is that you can listen to music in two ways: in a stream or in a concert. Often you then know what kinds of music you can expect. Confirming your own expectations has very little to do with music for me. Maybe we should explain less, maybe it's the listener's job to create a relationship with the music. Music is a network of relationships; we listen and build categories and leave them behind again. We always have to find new words when we speak. A lot of things are allowed to sort themselves out anew when we listen. That is the beauty of it!