Gesturing Refugees by Farah Saleh
Logo of the Hebbel am Ufer

Farah Saleh & Didem Pekün

Zwei Vorträge und ein Dialog

Moderation: Sandra Noeth

Part of "Violence of Inscriptions #3"

Farah Saleh
Gesturing Refugees (lecture)

The lecture will approach some of the questions that the dancer and choreographer Farah Saleh tackled in the interactive performance lecture “Gesturing Refugees” (work in progress). The performance intends to archive latent stories of refugeehood using the bodies of refugee artists and the audience as the main archive, while playing with other archive material, testimonies and imagination. The archives will include present, past and even future stories of refugeehood to try and interrogate collective responsibility and find bridges between the past and present of the West. The re-enactment, transformation and deformation of the alternative and personal memories of refugees by refugee artists will allow the re-appropriation of the narrative of refugeehood and develop a collective gestural identity that might challenge that of passive victimhood to which refugees are often subjected. The performance already faced many obstacles related to visa denial to artists and the impossibility of their physical encounter, which added up another formal layer to the performance.

Didem Pekün
A Soliloquy; 5 Thoughts on Inhabiting Purgatorium

This talk stems from a work in progress titled "Purgatorium". "Purgatorium" is an essayistic road movie and diary of a semi-fictional character, Nayia. It talks about a radical instability we all share in one form or another.

Nayia has been in exile since the war and returns after 22 years. The film is guided by her diary notes of this journey, which merge with the myth of Daedalus and Icarus – Icarus being the name given to the winner of a bridge diving competition in her home country. Nayia often thinks of Icarus in reference to the politics of civil war: Icarus as a human being perfecting his/her bodily skills but due to over-ambition and repeated hubristic gestures ending in inevitable failures and catastrophes. Thus the figure of Icarus also involves body politics and speaks of all the members of a nation.  When we think of a civil war, we can think of a decaying body, like the wings if not body of Icarus melting in their too-close proximity to the sun.

But although Icarus failed, his father, Daedalus, like Nayia, succeeded and settled in far-off lands. This success is that of exile and leaving violence behind. But exile is also separation from the collective body, both physically and psychically.

By travelling through choices and dilemmas that typically scar the life of an exilee who finds herself at a historical impasse, the talk sits on the unstable ground of at once being ripped off from the practices and cohesion of belonging, at the same time freed from the violence and within new possibilities. It is at this ground zero of a new life that the fragile nervous ramifications for a new collectivity can emerge, where one can produce new “infrastructures for troubling times.” (Berlant, 2016) It is by thinking through possible moments of world-creating with others within this historical glitch that Nayia reflects on how to inhabit "Purgatorium".