26 February–30 April 2022
Humam Alsalim, Marwa Arsanios, Tekla Aslanishvili, Khaled Barakeh, BoB, Eliane Esther Bots, Aylin Kuryel, Amina Maher, Birgit Auf der Lauer & Caspar Pauli, Pejvak, Adnan Softić, A.G.A Trio, Florian Wüst, Nadin Reschke & Seçil Yersel, Zacharias Zitouni
The Twister project takes place at both nGbK locations and consists of an exhibition and panel discussions at Oranienstraße as well as an installation and workshops at nGbK Hellersdorf, and a catalog. It explores both political whirlwinds and the absurdity of nationalistic claims to geography and nature. Finally, the project looks at how diasporic communities from different countries can interact and cooperate.
The window exhibition took place from 1–13 March 2022 at station urbaner kulturen/nGbK Hellersdorf.
Usually referring to a devastating storm, the term twister is applied figuratively here to a recent upswing in nationalistic aggression and authoritarian tendencies on and beyond Europe’s eastern margins. Protracted disputes over the control of borders, resources, and territories around the Mediterranean and the Black Sea are leading to a resurgence of nationalist discourse and to new alliances in the quest for regional predominance. One side effect of this political regression is the increasingly repressive treatment of domestic critics, leading in turn to an exodus of dissidents to major cities in Western Europe – including Berlin.
One of the themes expressed in the works selected for the exhibition is the arbitrary character of political representations of geography and nature. Christina Dimitriadis (1967, Thessaloniki/Greece) deals with the connotations of the Aegean Sea in her photographic work. The title of her project Island Hoping is a play on words in which a consonant is removed from hopping to become hoping. This title contradicts the common image and narrative of the Aegean as an ideal destination and alludes to the fact that it is a mostly unreachable and deadly destination for migrants trying to reach the European continent. With a similar view of the irrelevance of political borders in the face of a holistic nature, Ece Gökalp’s (1988, İstanbul/Turkey) photographic essay A Mountain As Many deals with the mythical Mount Ararat. With long-distance shots of the mountain from two adjacent countries (Turkey, and Armenia) Gökalp’s extensive work maps the cultural differences, commonalities and continuities of the various narrative viewpoints. The official designation of ‘’Latzia’‘, an endemic oak tree of Cyprus, as the national tree of the island sets a starting point for Eleni Mouzourou’s (1983, Lefkosia/Cyprus) research-based project exploring and problematising the construction of the concept of the ‘’native’‘. Searching for the ‘’national plant’‘ questions the ways in which nature is being appropriated by politics of cultural and national identity.
Twisters, in the sense of political whirlwinds and the destruction they leave behind, are another major theme of the show. In Silvina Der-Meguerditchian’s (1967, Buenos Aires/Argentina) installation, The Silence of Stones, long strands of red wool emerging from dark rocks and spilling across the floor of the exhibition space recall the never-ending bloodshed resulting from conflicts based on ethnic and religious hostilities and the destruction of cultural heritage. Last year’s tragic events in Nagorno-Karabakh are just one of many examples. The FUNKE Collective (Selda Asal, Emre Birişmen, Melih Sarıgöl and Seçil Yersel) concentrates on the ‘’uncontrollability’‘ of the dynamics of current politics. The ‘ventilator table’ placed in a fictional control room will refer to the ongoing geopolitical conflicts and present a fragmentary and fluid counter-narrative. Edona Kryeziu’s (1994, Saarlouis/Germany) video work Greetings from Elsewhere takes a diasporic approach, addressing physical distance and the ongoing mental and emotional attachment to home. The film features video recordings made and exchanged by the artist’s extended family members living in Germany and Kosovo during the trouble-filled years of major political tensions and the war in the 1990s. Mehtap Baydu’s (1972, Bingöl/Turkey) sculptural work Suitcase Bread addresses the economic conditions forcing people to leave their home country. It’s a recurring history of movement stretching from the labour migration to Western European countries with growing economies in the post-war era to the recent waves of ‘’brain drain’‘, the ongoing flight of human resources from peripheral geographies, as well as the desperate exodus from countries falling apart due to repressive regimes and civil war.
Viron Erol Vert’s (1975, Varel-Oldenburg/Germany) wall installation Ménage à Trois employs the folding travel mirrors which have been used most typically during long journeys by train or by sea. The three sides of the mirror and the words inscribed on them allude to the psychological split occurring within one’s subjectivity while traveling between two distant places, and in most cases moving from one place to another and subsequently continuing to live the in-betweenness as a state of mind.
Map of Neither, the animation film by Ceren Oykut (1978, İstanbul/Turkey), based on excerpts from her earlier drawing practice, mirrors the ambiguities in the artist’s life, as someone from Istanbul’s creative classes who ended up living in a foreign county, unsure of being allowed to stay but at same time who does not identify with any of the official categories or popular definitions that is attached to the people who are displaced. Mouna Assali’s (1988, Damascus/Syria) film Mnemonic traces the physiological, emotional, social and cognitive effects of the ongoing civil conflict in Syria, especially those inflicted on people by the auditory violence of warfare. This also raises the question of how these memories persist in the body, even after one has moved to distant places.
An exhibition project at both nGbK locations
The exhibition takes place mainly on Oranienstraße and, on a smaller scale, in Hellersdorf, where two monitors placed on the windows of station urbaner kulturen give glimpses of the exhibition at Oranienstraße. The first video is a composition of images from the exhibited works, while the second video displays excerpts from the contribution of FUNKE collective to the show. Many of the presented works offer poetic and minimalistic comments on nationalistic shortsightedness, displacement and the experience of being in exile, but the problems addressed call for a more in-depth engagement. The latter is provided through the program of accompanying events.
In this way, Twister also sees itself as an act of intervention through art: an attempt to highlight controversial issues of our time, and to bring about change.