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Community of Parting traces an approach to borders and aesthetic mediation, by invoking the ancient myth of the Abandoned Princess Bari, engaging female Korean shamanism, as an ethics and aesthetics of memory and mutual recognition across time and space. Community of Parting derives from Kaisen’s extensive research into Korean shamanism since 2011, and her long-term engagement with communities effected by war and division. The work is composed of imagery filmed in locations such as Jeju Island, the DMZ, South Korea, North Korea, Kazakhstan, Japan, China, the United States, and Germany. Combining shamanic ritual performances, nature and cityscapes, archival material, aerial imagery, poetry, voiceover, and soundscapes, the film is configured as a multi-scalar, non-linear, and layered montage, loosely framed around Bari’s multiple deaths.
The Woman, The Orphan, and The Tiger, by Jane Jin Kaisen & Guston Sondin-Kung, begins with the sound of women’s voices speaking of histories of violence, of things repressed and silenced. Gradually, their voices accrue as a cacophony of pure sonic intensity against an extreme slow-motion image of a woman survivor of Japan’s military sexual slavery who, in the absence of words to accurately account for her suffering, gets up and walks into the center of a war crimes tribunal court room and gestures wildly before she faints. A genealogy is created by relating the stories of three generations of women: the former ‘comfort’ women who were subjected to military sexual slavery by the Japanese military between World War I and World War II—women who have worked as sex-workers around US military bases in South Korea since the 1950s to the present, and transnational adopted women from South Korea living in the West since the Korean War.
Strange Meetings testifies to the impossibility of maintaining clear boundaries by tracing entangled bilateral policies against the spread of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) among US soldiers stationed in South Korea in the 1970s. One video in Strange Meetings documents a former STD treatment facility, which served to isolate bodies presumed to be contaminated from those deemed clean. A host of strange meetings at the site today, however, materially bears witness to the entangled relations behind its establishment and the impossibility of creating neat separations. The decomposing building is being encroached upon by rubbish and the surrounding vegetation. Knotted together, they feed on each other, breaking down distinctions between inside and outside, architecture and debris. Beyond being an abandoned site in decay, it now serves as a backdrop for another strange meeting: a performance takes place behind the building each weekend, inadvertently complicating the relationship between past and present and diffusing the reading of the site by overriding, but potentially also purging its history.
The public artwork Namibia Today hung as a temporary installation at the Schillingstraße Underground Station for ten months. Before it was taken down, Laura Horelli produced a film on the location. The eponymous film dug deeper into the topic by introducing narratives of protagonists living in Berlin, both Namibians with a past in the GDR and former East Germans with relations to SWAPO. We see seven people waiting in the underground station below Karl-Marx-Allee in former East Berlin. Billboards line the walls, each combining a front page of Namibia Today with associative material. Rushing underground trains pick up the slow-moving shot between the billboards and the protagonists, between fragments of image and speech. The participants stand still amongst the movement with their memories and diverse ways of storytelling. The underground station with one platform serving two tracks in different directions and opposite entrances / exits is a liminal, transient space.
Newstime is a found footage film, which discusses cultural differences, being an outsider, the Namibian independence struggle, and Finland’s long-term ties with the Southern African country. The film consists entirely of archival material from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. TV programmes showing everyday life are set against a voice-over by Ellen Ndeshi Namhila reading from her autobiography The Price of Freedom. Namhila spent seven years in Tampere as a refugee on a scholarship, studying library science. She recounts her experiences, ranging from single parenthood to observations on missionaries in Namibia and the church in Finland. Everyday scenes manifest how Namhila possibly saw the fairly homogeneous Finnish society she lived in. News clips about the Namibian independence struggle frame the narrative. They feature SWAPO students, visiting politicians, and representatives of the United Nations and NGOs. Since Namibia was under the apartheid regime until 1990, archival material about the history of SWAPO can be found in countries where members of the liberation movement were in exile.
The public artwork Namibia Today at the Schillingstraße Underground Station in Berlin became a starting point for an ongoing project on the history of the journal. In May 2017, Horelli travelled to Windhoek to nd out more about the magazine from a Namibian perspective. She was able to meet some of the persons she had come across in the archival material found in Germany. At the National Archives of Namibia she was advised to continue her research through oral history, as in the African context the archive is often in the community.
Interviews presents a selection of the sound recordings made in Windhoek – more precisely those with Peter Katjavivi, Tshoombe Ndadi and Tarah Shinavene. In 2018, the artist glued the transcribed interview texts on the outside, corridor and balcony walls of the building she was staying in close to Lisbon. The lmed texts were synchronized with the audio interviews. That same year the artist showed the resulting videos to the interviewees in Windhoek and further, small adjustments were made.
Through Interviews the artist learned more about the many entanglements between Namibia, East Germany and the Nordic countries. Several of the people she interviewed in Windhoek had studied at the International Institute of Journalism (IIJB) Werner Lamberz in Berlin-Friedrichshagen.
Something Hurts is a film between genres. On the one hand the highly subjective research into the past, on the other hand the reverse side of that subjectivity: the fall into the worst objectivity. One can say: a filmed letter, but also: a fragment on the political behaviour of those who co-dictated the letter. A regional study and at the same time a very intimate research. Recha Jungmann brings up the history that hurts her in images. A self-questioning about home, past, saved present, which do not belong to her. She has to reconstruct them from the ruins of the broken house of her childhood.Welkers, a village in the Rhön. The house fell apart after the war. But it was destroyed by fascism, which took the father for the war and stamped the grandfather, who voted No in 1933, as an outsider. With him the village lost its spiritual center, against him it completed its connection to the „Greater German Reich“.
A young girl of perhaps seven years tiptoes and hops through the abandoned house, tarried at open doors, roams through bushes to the brook. A teenager of perhaps seventeen inspects, with curious steps that tread cautiously, objects in the house whose use is now useless. Old magazines, postcards, photographs from which to blow the dust until the faded happiness of better times appears. A woman in her thirties walks goal-orientated through the streets of the village towards the exit, as if she were running after the mail bus that will take her back to the city. Reflections, traces of the past on one’s own body in three body-stages, never cut developmentally, but running crisscross.Something Hurtsis a film that gently and persistently stimulates the five senses to politically comprehend the history inscribed in the body.(Karsten Witte)
Based on August Sander’s series of Westerwald farmers, Berlin artist Sandra Schäfer tackles the transformation of the rural region, in which she grew up in, in her video installation Westerwald – Eine Heimsuchung (Westerwald – A Visitation). Schäfer juxtaposes August Sander’s perspective with her own contemporary view. For it is also about how a region, its landscape and agricultural use have changed over the course of time.
In her artistic work, Schäfer is interested in the various contemporary forms of witnessing and their entanglements: How do the relatives/portrait subjects speak about the (artistic/documentary) pictures by August Sander? What does it mean to hear the dialect that also marks a class difference? What knowledges exist about the photographer and his approach? How does this differ from that of photo curators in the museum context? And what does it mean for the artist, who was born and raised in this region, to return to create an artistic work?
The confrontation with the concrete landscape raises the question of what the depiction from different perspectives and the reaction it evokes means and causes. Consequentially, it is also about how landscape, with all its political implications, sediments as a “visitation”.
Deep in the earth beneath the Arctic permafrost, seeds from all over the world are stored in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault to provide a backup should disaster strike. Wild Relatives starts from an event that has sparked media interest worldwide: in 2012 an international agricultural research center was forced to relocate from Aleppo to Lebanon due to the Syrian Revolution turned war and began a laborious process of planting their seed collection from the Svalbard backups. Following the path of this transaction of seeds between the Arctic and Lebanon, a series of encounters unfold a matrix of human and non-human lives between these two distant spots of the earth. It captures the articulation between this large-scale international initiative and its local implementation in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, carried out primarily by young migrant women. The meditative pace patiently teases out tensions between state and individual, industrial and organic approaches to seed saving, climate change and biodiversity, witnessed through the journey of these seeds.
A letter inside a letter examines the issues of inheritance, ownership, property and value by focusing on a specific area in Northern Lebanon that has gone through a history of dispossession, land struggles and reorganization.
What happens to land amidst financial collapse? How is the living object affected? How does it resist?