Apotheke: A Digital Third Place

in a whimsical illustration against a yellow background, people on flowers engage in communal activities like reading and talking © Colleen Tighe

In 21st century American culture, the lines between work and private life are increasingly blurred. The concurrent influences of mobile technology and post-recession workplace culture have us working longer and harder, while stagnating wages and the increasing pressures of modern life leave little time or opportunity for relaxation. In this climate of overwork, neoliberal concepts of wellness have taken hold in our culture; rather than rest and relaxation, wellness tends to emphasize self-optimization and consumption. “Self-care” has transformed from a political practice into a consumer practice, in which one can purchase a bath soak, massage, or boutique fitness class in order to cope with their stressful lives and ultimately keep them fit for work. 

Apotheke was originally conceived as a project to create a physical third place at the Goethe-Institut New York – a decommodified space that is neither work nor home that nurtures community life, socialization, and creative interaction. With the global spread of COVID-19, we find ourselves isolated in our homes and asking the question: how can we carve out a third space when all of our spaces have suddenly collapsed into one? 

We're hoping to find the answer in the digital world. We believe that it is possible to expand and enrich our worlds while in self-isolation. Through free cultural programming including workshops and reading groups, we seek to share knowledge and foster connection and community.

Apotheke was inspired by German attitudes towards holistic wellness and balance, along with American theories of self-care and wellness outside of capitalism. The goal is to free the visitor from purposefulness, to interrogate the modern capitalist work ethic and the compulsion to work, and to allow for relaxation and pleasure as well as learning and exchange in a communal, non-commercial space.