BERLIN. CITY OF ERASED PAST AND PRESENT
THE PALESTINIAN CASE
The seminar explores the figure of the Palestinian in Germany's past and present. Looking at a variety of spaces, disciplines and legal cases, the figure of the Palestinian emerges as one that irritates Germany's master narrative of how it has overcome its genocidal past and has invested in a liberal order, in which memory is first negated and then globally marketed. The seminar investigates how Palestinians archive, narrate and make visible their presence despite Germany's discomfort with their existence as a community demanding rights.
A seminar by Dr. Nahed Samour and Pary El-Qalqili
Part of "Mapping Memory: Territories of memory culture in the Global North and South, Institute Art in Context, University Arts of Berlin / Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies, Western Washington University)
In Helke Sander's short film "From Reports of the Guard and Patrol Services" (1984/85), the character of the single mother is staged as a resistant subject: she climbs up a construction crane with her two children and threatens to jump down if she hasn’t found an affordable home by the evening. Not only on the housing market, but also in the art world, single mothers are affected by exclusion. In addition to the structural discrimination of artists based on gender, race and/or class and the gender pay gap, there is also marginalization due to unpaid care and reproduction work.
While canonical processes in art history limited the representation of femininity to figures such as “virgin/whore” or “mother”, the entanglement of capitalist production relations, colonial and patriarchal structures produced and regulated femininity. Feminist artists, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, deconstructed the social, sexual, and psychological construction of femininity and motherhood. They not only designed counter-images and narratives, but also imaginations of sexual liberation and upheavals in social power relations.
In the seminar we examine both traditional iconographies of femininity. as well as black feminist visuality, anti- and decolonial (non-)motherhood, as well as queer artistic productions on parenthood. The seminar focuses on artistic productions in the fields of performance art, video art and film. Literary and theoretical texts that focus on capitalist production relations, colonial and patriarchal structures, feminist criticism of unpaid care work, and manifestos are read and discussed. Contemporary feminist artistic collectives are examined in terms of their strategies, methods and conditions of production.
A weekly seminar taught at University of Arts Berlin, Summer 2023
DECOLONISING BERLIN WITH EDWARD SAID"
THE ARTS AND THE CITY
It is high time to decolonize Berlin. Monuments that celebrate colonial history decorate its public spaces, while its streets still carry the names of German conquerors. Looted artifacts, human remains, and spiritual objects still fill the archives of some of the city’s museums and universities, a subject that has stirred decolonial discussions and the need for restitution and reparation. This semester, we will examine the traces of colonialism in Berlin and discuss how to decolonize this city – with the “help” of Edward Said.
The principal questions that will guide us throughout the semester are: Who has „the permission to narrate“ (Edward Said 1984)? What role can the arts play in decolonizing our imagination as well as our own gaze? Said’s writings are crucial to understand how knowledge and power are intertwined, and they will provide the basis for our observations and discussions. We will read excerpts from his groundbreaking studies „Orientalism“ and „Culture and Imperialism“ as well as some of his essays and interviews. We will complement Said with the writings of Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and May Ayim.
The seminar will also examine the works by artists and filmmakers who provide decolonial narratives and imaginings. We will go see the exhibition „TROTZ ALLEM: Migration in die Kolonialmetropole Berlin“ at FHXB Museum, attend a decolonial city tour with Berlin Postkoloniale e.V. and have a look at the collection of historical photography in Palestine at the Humboldt University. and we will discuss the works of Elia Suleiman, Kamal Al Jafari, Alexandra Sophia Handal, Oraib Toukan, Larissa Sansour, Raeda Saadeh, Walid Raad and Emily Jacir.
A weekly seminar taught at the Barenboim Said Academy Berlin, Summer 2023
LISTENING, STAGING, TALKING
FEMINIST DECOLONIAL CINEMATIC PRACTICE
The set of a film comes with a set of power relations. There is certain violence embedded in the axis between infront and behind the camera: Who is the one to be looked at? And who is the one looking through the eye of the camera? What is the dynamic between the one who is supposed to speak and perform and the one who is listening and gazing? How can we create a cinematic space that is not reproducing structures of violence and enforcing silences?
The two-day workshop will allow the participants to decipher, name and question hierarchic, exploiting and dehumanizing cinematic situations. In a second step the participants will have the opportunity to explore cinematic strategies of listening, staging and talking that make an alternative cinematic encounter possible. More than that, the workshop enables the participants to examine their own cinematic practice and to envision new working methods.
The course consists of three parts that combine theory, film and cinematic practice: reading (Black) feminist and decolonial texts, critical texts on ethnographic filmmaking and the violence of different forms of gazing (the male gaze, the white gaze, the genocidal gaze). Watching, analyzing and discussing cinematic strategies that intend to subvert power relations. Practical exercises that enable the participants to reflect on their own approach to a) „active listening“ b) staging a safe cinematic space, c) explore techniques that allow the other to speak freely.
A two-day workshop taught at Filmarche Berlin, Spring 2023
Cinematic canonizations shorten and transmit knowledge in a naturalizing and authoritarian way. In the seminar „Decolonial Cinema“ we will question omissions and gaps in such a hegemonic understanding from the perspective of Third World Cinema, L.A. Rebellion and (Black) queer feminist cinema. The development of a decolonial film history and theory is linked to a critical questioning of power relations behind one’s own film practice (narratives, dramaturgies, aesthetics, etc.). One of the central questions of the seminar would be how to decolonize one’s own gaze and desire.
In addition to viewing films, we will deal with concepts such as the „male gaze“ (Laura Mulvey), „white gaze“ (Frantz Fanon), „oppositional gaze“ (bell hooks), „genocidal gaze“ (Elizabeth R. Baer) in order to decipher and name degrading as well as dehumanizing gaze regimes. The re-perspectivization of film history is accompanied by the reading of manifestos such as „Toward a Third Cinema“ (1969), „For an Imperfect Cinema“ (1969) and „The Aesthetics of Hunger“ (1965) or texts by Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Saidiya Hartman, Grada Kilomba, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Gloría Anzaldúa, Kaja Silverman, Teresa de Lauretis, and Julia Kristeva.
A weekly seminar taught at Filmarche Berlin, Summer 2022.
FEMINIST DECOLONIAL GESTURES AND AESTHETICS
"Life is not a (Western) drama of four or five acts. Sometimes it just drifts along; it may go on year after year without development, without climax, without definite beginning or endings." (Trinh T.Minh ha-1989:143)
"The island is turning," says Fatima Youssouf in response to the interviewer's last question for the "Archive of Flight", which collects interviews with people who have fled at the HKW. In doing so, she eludes the usual heroic story, denies the climax, beginning, middle, and end, and undermines the "killer story" that would rob her of her humanity (Ursula K. Le Guin 1988).
If we take a closer look at the interview situation, several questions arise: What is the balance of power between the interviewer and the respondent? Does the interviewer hear the other person? How is the picture designed? How is the assembly compacted? And to what extent does this archive remain trapped in a “colonial matrix” (AnÍbal Quijano 2000) and produce “epistemic violence” (Gayatri Spivak 1988)? Postcolonial writers have shown that trying to speak to the marginalized subject is often impossible (ibid. 1996). At the same time, “representation as a practice that wants to read silence (…) is constantly in danger of producing silence itself” (Maria do Mar Castro Varela/Nikita Dhawan 2007/2006; Dhawan 2005).
This ambivalence not only raises the question of who speaks, writes and produces? But also: How do we listen? And what aesthetic form do we develop to give space to the silence of our counterpart and to tell the untold stories? Walter Mignolo proposes the instrument of the "decolonial gesture" to thwart colonial knowledge production (ibid. 2014). Rita Laura Segato calls for a contemporary feminism that intertwines decolonial thinking and a critique of patriarchy (ibid. 2021).
Finally, in the seminar we ask: To what extent can feminist decolonial gestures be fruitful for our own artistic work and research? Which aesthetic forms, auditory, visual and narrative strategies can we develop to thwart, irritate or abandon canonical narrative styles?
The seminar combines a visit to the archive of the flight, practical exercises in active listening (e.g. Haytham El-Wadarny "How to disappear"), reading and discussing feminist decolonial texts (Rita Laura Segato, Maria Lugones, Donna Haraway, bell hooks, Gloria Anzaldùa, Toni Morrison, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Gayatri Spivak, Grada Kilomba) and viewing films that reveal patriarchal and colonial structures, as well as fixative gaze regimes (Fanon 1952).
A weekly seminar taught at University of Arts Berlin, Winter 2021/2022.
SEEING OURSELVES CLEARLY. TO DECOLONISE OUR GAZE AND RETHINK OUR PRACTICE
"The story persists because it is not complete," says the narrator off-screen in "The Notes of Anna Azzori / A Mirror that Travels through Time" (Constanze Ruhm, 2020). With these words in mind, if we look at the canon of white feminist filmmaking, we suspect that even this film history is characterized by gaps and omissions.
The feminist film theory of the 1970s primarily focused the “male gaze” on white women and their representation as objects (Laura Mulvey, 1976). The editors of the first issue of "Frau und Film" (1/1974) also focused exclusively on white female figures who were "observed, used, directed by men". It was only bell hooks (Black Looks, 1994) that questioned the hegemonic perspectives and suggested race and class as analysis categories in addition to gender.
In the seminar we watch films of feminist film practice together and ask about the (un)visibility of marginalized, queer, black, post-migrant bodies. What images, cinematic narratives, attributions and stereotypes do our own gaze occupy? How can we decolonize our gaze and make an “oppositional gaze” (bell hooks) productive? What does it mean to "see ourselves clearly" (Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Decolonizing the Mind, 1981)?
What narrative forms can we develop to speak nearby (Trinh T. Minh-Ha, Ressemblage, 1982)? How can we transform the fractures we have experienced into narrative strategies that operate beyond linearity and classic dramaturgy? How can we rethink our own artistic practice?
A weekly seminar taught at University of Arts Berlin, Winter 2020/2021.