A Video Series on Performance and Communities
"A Video Series on Performance and Communities" brings together eleven 15-minute presentations by international artists, scholars and curators, investigating how performative practices embody histories, transfer embodied knowledge, and establish communities in acts of collecting, archiving and presenting performance art in exhibitions and outreach programs. The lectures offer insights into the processes of appropriation and transformation that inform ideas, attitudes and objects, but also discuss how (constructs of) communities are created in the first place.
Alongside individual case studies from their own practice or research, speakers Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro, Irene Campolmi, Stephanie Comilang, Anna Ehrenstein, Rosalia Namsai Engchuan, Christian Falsnaes, Anna-Catharina Gebbers, Ho Tzu Nyen, Tuan Andrew Nguyen, Grace Samboh and Stefanie Wuschitz address a wide range of subjects, including investigations into communities of pleasure within peripheral networks (Ehrenstein), into issues of solidarity and invisibility among displaced communities of refugees (Nguyen), into oppressed feminist maker cultures (Wuschitz), and into the legacy of colonial and dictatorship architectures today (Comilang). Other presentations highlight the necessity for critical radical mutation and ecologies of darkness in preparing visions for working with communities (Mba Bikoro), critically address the rituals of power dynamics and collective actions (Falsnaes), or meditate on the delusion of objectivity and propose collective practices rooted in a radical recognition of togetherness (Engchuan), or ask whether it is possible to embody other people’s struggles (Samboh). In a reflection on the global pandemic, the lectures also include case studies on how local lockdowns have imprisoned communities (Nyen) and share reflections on performances as open-ended rituals and as durational gestures (Campolmi). In her introduction to the collaboration between Hamburger Bahnhof and the Cluster of Excellence, Gebbers’ video lecture addresses the regulatory and spectacle power of discursive performance.
"A Video Series on Performance and Communities" is part of the Transfer Project "Circulating Narratives – Entangling Communities: Case Studies in Global Performance Art", which explores how diverse histories inform performative practices and shape communities as embodied knowledge. In collaboration with Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin, the project accompanies the museum's exhibition "Collecting Entanglements and Embodied Histories" (curated by Gridthiya Gaweewong, Anna-Catharina Gebbers, Grace Samboh, June Yap, initiated by the Goethe-Institut), which will open in 2021. The project primarily focuses on the intersections between Southeast Asian and so-called 'Western' performative practices, while addressing the blind spots in traditional historiography in 'the West', as well as the consequences of colonialism and relationships capable of advancing the deconstruction of the 'Western' canon. Conceiving the global cultural institutions of the future involves addressing the questions of how traces of history – embodied both in actual bodies and in artifacts in museum collections and archives – can be made visible, and how forms of memory can be both preserved and treated respectfully.
Organisation: Dr. Anna-Lena Werner
Program: Anna-Catharina Gebbers & Dr. Anna-Lena Werner
Assistance: Lieselotte Schinzing
EXC 2020 Temporal Communities, Freie Universität Berlin
Research Area 2: Travelling Matters
Project: "Circulating Narratives – Entangling Communities: Case Studies in Global Performance Art"
Project Lead: Prof. Dr. Annette-Jael Lehmann
Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro
Nobody Knows The Troubles I've Seen: Performing Disobedience, Resilience and Black Empowerment
The presentation responds to some of the key questions the "Circulating Narratives" project proposes on the role of entangled historiographical narratives of embodied performance practice and the fragility of solidarity. Mba Bikoro proposes that an effective decolonial position means that the relation between privilege and fiction, oppression and monoculture narratives frame the canon of white fragility and its institution. She observes the danger of embodying performance works in these contexts, reflecting on the conditions and limitations of ‘situated knowledge’. Through her performance practice, she shares the challenges of working as a queer woman of color, the necessity for critical radical mutation and the ecologies of darkness in preparing visions for work with communities.
Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro is a visual artist, analyzing processes of power and science fictions in historical archives. She critically engages in migrational struggles and colonial memory focusing on queer indigenous and feminist biopolitics. She is lecturer in Curating Black Visual Cultures and Philosophy at TransArt Institute New York, and in Fine Arts Practice at the University of Liverpool. She is artistic and curatorial supervisor of the Artists in Training Programme at the UdK in Berlin and the University of Bergen, Norway. Her work has been featured in international exhibitions such as the Havana Biennale (2019), Dak'art Biennale (2012; 2018) and the Venice Biennale (2016).
A Space of Intimacy – Reflections on Performance and Duration Post-Pandemic
Irene Campolmi’s presentation reflects on the essence of performance as a durational gesture that stretches and suspends time from its conventional understandings. Duration can, in fact, refer to gestures that happen in a fraction of a second. By presenting her personal experience in curating a ‘durational performance’, Campolmi reflects on changes to this time-based medium, in which bodies become intimate through close contact in time and space. Campolmi also investigates how performance is also a testing ground for experimentation, thought and feeling other ways of existing, by being present and still. Stillness is integral to ‘durational performance’, in which gestures extend beyond the conventional chrono-normative understanding of time. Yet, being still is the advice for, or even imperative of, lockdown. Is there something we could test and thus learn from the medium that, by definition, subverts, manipulates and reinterprets conventional notions of time as something that passes and not something that we, as humans, pass through? Campolmi shares reflections on performance as an open-ended ritual with no beginning or end, a durational gesture that stages what is unceasingly being done.
Irene Campolmi is an independent curator and researcher based in Copenhagen, currently researching postcolonial, queer and feminist theories through performance and hybrid artistic ecologies. She is director of the International Program at Copenhagen Art Week and head of the Art Program for Enter Art Fair in Copenhagen. Recently, she curated exhibitions by Basim Magdy (MAAT, Lisbon); Jesper Just (MAAT, Lisbon and Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen); Wu Tsang (Copenhagen Contemporary) and co-curated the Estonian Pavilion Birth V. Hi, & Bye by Kris Lemsalu at the 58th Venice Biennial. She was previously a PhD Fellow at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen and researcher at the Max Planck Institute.
Paradise Lives in the Ruins of Colonial and Dictatorship Architecture
In her lecture, Stephanie Comilang talks about her research and work into feminizing and decolonizing spaces of Colonial and Imperial architecture by way of a drone.
Stephanie Comilang is an artist living and working between Toronto and Berlin. Her documentary-based works create narratives that look at how our understandings of mobility, capital and labor on a global scale are shaped through various cultural and social factors. She was awarded the 2019 Sobey Art Award, Canada’s most prestigious art prize for artists 40 years and younger.
Big Glitch Energy
Big Glitch Energy looks at the current Albanian phenomenon of painting bunkers with emojis. The architectural military remnants of a fifty-year-long dictatorship are an example of a physical manifestation of the posthuman oppressed glitching entertainment. Using this analogy, I speak about my artistic research process, which for much of my practice forms and expands communities of pleasure within peripheral networks. The construction of modernity and the sciences of the Industrial Revolution have been inseparable from colonial imperialism and its technologies of race and power. The historical data gaps produced by hegemonic discourse further threaten the existence of the humanoid subaltern. After touching upon two previous collective artistic research projects that centralize joy as a cheat code, I give some insight into recent work with Colombian performance collective House of Tupamaras to examine various physical and virtual ecologies.
Anna Ehrenstein’s transdisciplinary artistic practice focuses on collaborative, off-center research and mediation. She uses print, video, installation, social moments and sculpture to reverberate the intersections and divergences of high and low cultures and their socio-economic and bio-political constitutions. Raised between Albania and Germany, realities and reflections around migration-related visual culture, diasporic narrations, networked images and the class hierarchy of pixels form main foci due to her own experiences of displacement.
Rosalia Namsai Engchuan
On the Genesis of Community
Rosalia Namsai Engchuan envisions this video lecture as a conceptual space to valorize and explore the potentialities of community-based cinematic practices as alternative modes of collective knowledge production and dissemination—other ways of knowing, making and being in the world. It is based on her research with film communities in Indonesia between 2017 and 2020. Contemplating the question of how communities come together in the first place, she argues that collective practices are rooted in a radical recognition of togetherness, a mindset of always already being part. Weaving visual glimpses from her fieldwork together with auto-ethnographic reflections on the production of knowledges in times of ongoing coloniality, this is less an attempt at representing or documenting Indonesian film communities, but more a meditation on the delusion of objectivity. Putting herself into the frame becomes a performative allegory for the obscuring and silencing of the presences and voices of others. Merging the temporalities of fieldwork and analysis as two nodes in an ongoing process that is punctuated, but not defined, by these moments, the gap makes explicit the constructed-ness of her argument: an argument that is presented as a speculative response, emerging from encounters and conversations, created in relation.
Rosalia Namsai Engchuan is a social anthropologist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Southeast Asia. She is currently pursuing her PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany, on practices of community filmmaking in Indonesia as collective modes of worldmaking, investigating how cinematic epistemologies produce and socialize knowledges. She curates screenings and dialogical encounters with a focus on independent and experimental works from locales of the ‘epistemological’ South, often in collaboration with the Berlin based collective un.thai.tled.
Performance, participation and power
Through performance, video and multi-media installation, Christian Falsnaes’ work deals with power dynamics and social constructions. He employs different strategies to engage with the viewer: ranging from instruction-based works to performances that disrupt the rules of given social situations and rituals. To this effect, he examines and stimulates group dynamics, implicating participants in ritual acts while confronting the individual with their own emotions, reflexes and instincts. He is interested in the ways in which individuals interpret and negotiate within a given framework, and how their reactions and decisions form collective action. By delegating his work to the viewer, their performance reflects the socio-economic, ethnic and cultural circumstances it operates in. As a result, through the years it has connected with a diverse and international audience, and has subsequently become about this multiplicity of audiences.
Christian Falsnaes (born 1980, Copenhagen) studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and is currently based in Berlin. His works have recently been shown at Copenhagen Contemporary, Copenhagen; Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Krefeld; Kiasma Museum for Contemporary Art, Helsinki; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim.
The ‘Performative Magic’ (Pierre Bourdieu) of linguistic and curatorial settings is the topic of Anna-Catharina Gebbers’ presentation. The curator takes the viewers with her through the Hamburger Bahnhof exhibition Magical Soup, which she curated and is currently closed due to the pandemic-related precautions. The exhibition focuses on the performative speech act and the performative production of reality through the interplay of image, sound and language, especially in time-based media art works. Gebbers reflects on curatorial settings as a language game, with certain rules of use, conventions of language and the institutional and social context shared by persons within a specific way of life. According to Wittgenstein, one person alone is not capable of establishing a language game. Rather, communities are the prerequisites for the language games’ establishment. Gebbers thus addresses the regulatory and spectacular power of the discursive performance of Western-influenced art canon, as well as scientific, classifying categorizations, which are to be questioned through collaborative projects, elective affinities and self-chosen alliances and communities.
Anna-Catharina Gebbers is a curator of the Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin. There she is responsible for international media and performance art collections, and has staged solo exhibitions by Anne Imhof or Julian Rosefeldt, as well as group exhibitions, such as the currently running Magical Soup: Media Art from the Collection of the Nationalgalerie, the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection im Hamburger Bahnhof and Loans. Essential to her curatorial practice are international collaborative projects like those seen in the exhibition chapter Making Paradise: Places of Longing from Paul Gauguin to Tita Salina (in collaboration with Grace Samboh and Enin Supriyanto) for Hello World: Revising a Collection (2018), or upcoming the research and exhibition project Collecting Entanglements and Embodied Histories (curated with Gridthiya Gaweewong, Grace Samboh, June Yap, at MAIIAM/Chiang Mai, Galeri Nasional Indonesia/Jakarta, National Gallery Singapore, Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin, 2017–2022).
Ho Tzu Nyen
Tigers, Workers, Prisoners
In this presentation, Ho Tzu Nyen speaks about two different works made with very different processes, at very different moments in time: The first work is titled Waiting, a video made in collaboration with Ripon Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi poet and migrant worker from Singapore, made during the partial lockdown in Singapore in April 2020. A poem about time and dreams was commissioned from Ripon, who was confined to his dormitory, where he also shot an accompanying video. The second work shown, One or Several Tigers (2017) is a work that takes as its starting point a 1965 print by German artist George Dromgoole Coleman. It depicts an 1835 confrontation between a Malayan tiger and a British colonial road surveyor in Singapore. In the print, the Malayan Tiger leaps into the frame from the right, as Coleman recoils to the left. In the center is a theodolite (an instrument used for survey) which is caught in mid-air, as it topples. Around them is a scattering of other nameless figures—Coleman’s entourage—made up of convict-laborers from India.
Based in Singapore, Ho Tzu Nyen makes films, installations and theatrical performances. Most of his works begin as an encounter with a historical event, text or figure.
Tuan Andrew Nguyen
The Resonance of Invisible Communities
We often speak of voice, of giving voice back to the voiceless. But who are the voiceless? Who has the power to give them voice? And what is the voice without the body? Nguyen speaks about two recent projects made in collaboration with two communities that have dealt with migration and are still dealing with the difficulties of invisibility and erasure. One community comes from the Vietnamese women and children who migrated to West Africa following the defeat of the French in Indochina in 1954. The other community is made up of refugees and asylum seekers who were tenants of Marseille’s largest squat, called Squat Saint-Just, that was recently burned down. The artist sees the community of refugees as one that spans time and uses this as a way of standing in solidarity with the multiple communities presently displaced. Connecting multiple strategies of memory and resistance through voice, writing and storytelling, the artist and collaborators experiment with various and multiple embodiments of the voice, playing with forms of ventriloquism.
Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s practice explores strategies of political resistance enacted through counter-memory and post-memory. Extracting and re-working narratives via history and supernaturalisms is an essential part of Nguyen’s video works and sculptures, where fact and fiction are both held accountable. Nguyen founded The Propeller Group in 2006, a platform for collectivity that situates itself between an art collective and an advertising company.
On allegiances, and forms of solidarities
A conversation about Julio Garcia Espinosa’s Tercer Mundo, Tercera Guerra Mundial (Third World, Third World War, 1970) between Grace Samboh, Ary "Jimged" Sendy, and Lisabona Rahman
For whom is art made? Why does art matter? What would it take to be conscious of every move that one does in terms of artmaking? Would it be possible to embody other people’s struggle? How would allegiance towards humanity be exercised? Can these kinds of solidarities manifest in forms of art? Written in 1969, Julio Garcia Espinosa’s manifesto, For an imperfect cinema, convinced us that this trajectory of questions are indeed pressing: “Those who struggle do not struggle on the edge of life, but in the midst of it. Struggle is life and vice versa. One does not struggle in order to live ‘later on’. The struggle requires organization—the organization of life. Even in the most extreme phase, that of total and direct war, the organization of life is equivalent to the organization of the struggle. And in life, as in the struggle, there is everything, including enjoyment.” (translated by Julianne Burton, published in Jump Cut, no. 20, 1979, pp. 24-26).
Grace Samboh (b. Jakarta, 1984) cannot stay put, so she works in Yogyakarta, Jakarta, Jatiwangi or Medan. Due to questioning too many things at once, she does curatorial work as well as groundwork research. She is interested in unravelling how social realities, relationships and the past formulate in various contemporary practices.
CODED FEMINISMS IN INDONESIA
Indonesia's vibrant feminist maker culture has deep roots in a million-strong feminist movement that emerged in the 1950s. The first women permitted to attend university joined forces with female farmers, educators and artists. Together, they set up grassroots groups to provide mutual self-help, culture activities and literacy workshops, steadily building up a collective infrastructure that enabled individual persons to stand up against discrimination. The most outspoken of these organizations was Gerwani, all of whose ideas, activities and knowledge-sharing platforms were banned in 1965. In the subsequent months, thousands of its members were killed. Those surviving this terrible persecution are still stigmatized and oppressed today. Yet, young Indonesian artists are following in their fading footsteps, digging out near-lost documents and interviewing witnesses from the time to restore their dignity. This research project involved collecting interviews with survivors and the young feminist Indonesians who continue their struggle. Their aim is to avoid similar persecution through applying new digital tools. In a ubiquitously digitalized Indonesia, many of them address the international community primarily to continue the long struggle for social change.
Stefanie Wuschitz works in arts-based research with particular focus on gender and technology and initiated the feminist art collective and hackerspace Mz* Baltazar's Laboratory. She is currently working as a postdoc at the TU Berlin and is conducting art-based research at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.