Artists Without a Cause

Sweet and ephemeral souvenirs at the Kassel Hauptbahnhof, June 2017

I recently travelled to Kassel for a whirlwind weekend at Documenta 14, the massive festival of visual art, performance and cinema that happens every five years. In order to keep my mind occupied on the journey from Berlin, I had brought some reading with me. This included an essay by Zuzanna Dziuban, which ended up influencing my perspective on the function and effectiveness of the festival.

What particularly resonated with me was Dziuban’s discussion of how intention and meaning is constructed in art through interpretive frames. She writes that a frame functions “both as a horizon within which the meaning of analysed artworks is constituted and as a signifying device through which the art operates.” These words would rattle around my head for the weekend as I attempted to parse the sprawling festival and the motives inherent in the patterns underlying the curatorial choices that illustrate this year’s theme, “Learning from Athens.”

Back in April, artistic director Adam Szymczyk stated that, “There is a large untapped potential when visitors come together for an exhibition — a political potential.” This year’s Documenta is split between Athens, Greece and Kassel, exploring themes relevant to current and historical socio-political unrest and trauma. Szymczyk and the curatorial team have compiled a body of artworks that emphasise unlearning as a key component to their looming objectives of mobilisation and solidarity.

Over my short visit, I encountered plenty of interesting art. But when I was prompted to think and ‘unlearn’, I had difficulty separating the art itself from the institutional framework of Documenta. The aspirations of the festival seemed clear in the choice to display Hans Haacke’s Wir (alle) sind das Volk—We (all) are the people (2003/2017) in key public locations around the city. It’s an aspirational statement chosen as a repeated motif in a festival that is not as inclusive and active as it presents itself to be.

Hans Haacke’s Wir (alle) sind das Volk (2003/2017) in Kassel  Image credit: Wilhelm Ditzel, Kassel Live


Saturday: Wang Bing Retrospective

I wandered to Gloria-Kino after my visit to Documenta-Halle, for an afternoon in the dark with a film that promised respite from the crowds of the central venues. During the weekend, Gloria-Kino screens the entire catalogue of Chinese filmmaker Wang Bing, and I showed up to catch the beginning of Ku Qian (Bitter Money, 2016), a film that would hold me in my seat despite the disruption of other Documenta visitors entering and leaving the cinema.

Wang, one of China’s foremost documentary filmmakers, casts his eye onto transitional landscapes in his country, recording cinematic portraits of people and places embroiled in the tumult of historical flux. He is especially interested in the often disjointed but inevitable changes wrought by industry, choosing to follow workers in a number of his films including Ti Xi Qu (West of the Tracks, 2003) and Tong Dao (Coal Money, 2009).

Bitter Money brings us to a series of small clothing workshops in the city of Huzhou, home to over 18,000 such small factories and over 300,000 workers, mostly migrants from surrounding rural provinces. Wang follows three of these workers at their workplaces, revealing the intense monotony of the labor that is expected of them, also showing a glimpse of their individual aspirations and struggles in their everyday routines.

The act of following itself becomes one of Wang’s documentary frames. He forgoes the more didactic structure of the documentary in favor of visual narratives structured by his camera. We are brought into living quarters where workers unwind from arduous 12-hour workdays, illuminated by the cast of florescent light and the glow of their phones. We view cramped workspaces filled with coursing white threads from sewing machines, punctuated with repetitive industrial sounds, dustings of crackly radio music, and heated conversations.

I returned the next day to seek shelter from a cold rain that began around mid-morning and settled into the middle of Feng Ai (’Til Madness Do Us Part, 2013) and stayed for the beginning of Fang Xiu Ying (Mrs. Fang, 2017). In these three films, I was especially intrigued by the long shots following subjects as they move from one space to another. It is in these liminal moments that Wang’s unique documentary aesthetic flourishes most in the film, because the viewer is made very aware of a presence behind the lens. While the eye-level camera jostles with each step, we are reminded of the subjectivity of Wang’s gaze; where he chooses to take us and what could possibly be omitted.

Sunday: Neue Neue Galerie

Besides Gloria Kino, I spent most of my time on Sunday in Kassel’s former central post office, now known as the Neue Neue Galerie (Neue Hauptpost). A few works in this space caught my attention, including an installation by The Society of Friends of Halit with a particularly fascinating video piece titled 77sqm_9:26min, produced in collaboration with the London-based research firm Forensic Architecture. This piece is a multidisciplinary investigation of the 2006 murder of Halit Yozgat, who was killed by a member of the neo-Nazi group National Socialist Underground while working in his family’s internet cafe in Kassel.

Out of all of the pieces in the Neue Neue, this one perhaps interested me the most due to its direct confrontation of the definition of art and what purpose art should serve. It is a presentation of evidence that moves away from the aesthetic expectations of what ‘should’ fill exhibition space. It also deals heavily with witnessing, an action crucial in Szymczyk’s idea of unlearning. With this intrigue though, I once again arrived at the problem of the frame.

The artwork at Documenta, when convened in the institutionalised framework of the ‘art world’, inherit the problems enacted by that frame. Documenta prioritises looking as an active response to the highlighted issues. But looking, when hailed as an end, rather than one of many necessary means towards creating change is simply not enough. Athens-Based collective, Artists Against Eviction articulate this shortcoming in an open letter where they write, “Now is a time for carving out a space for all, not a time of culturally archiving crisis. Now is a time of action, not blind consumption.”

Racist Poster from the AfD

Racist Poster from the AfD

German Federal elections are just around the corner on Sunday, September 24th and we’ve planned a little campaign to target non-voters! We just saw this last March how high voter turn out of 82% in the Netherlands kept right wing fascists calling themselves populists from winning control of the Parliament. Germany-wide, non-voters make up the second largest group of eligible voters and in Berlin, they are the largest group overall. Help us get these folks to the voting booths on September 24th with a beautiful and fun poster campaign designed by you!

Map of Non-Voters in the 2016 local elections from Berliner Morgenpost:

Map of Non-Voters in the 2016 local elections from Berliner Morgenpost:

This is a rush job, so we are looking for designers to start ASAP, so we can get the posters printed by the end of the coming week!

We are looking for Graphic/Designers or Artists well versed in Print Media  who can do the following:

  • Super FAST turn-around – Do you have time in the next 48-96 Hours?
  • Create eye-catching, stunning posters – feel free to find your own inspiration or use the current German campaign posters as a starting point.
  • Export Designs into multiple formats for people to download and print on their own.

What we can offer you:

  • A minimum honorary of 50-100 Euros, potentially more depending on what remains after printing.
  • The joy of sticking it to right wing parties in Germany! #AFD&NPDabfucken
  • Original Posters from the print run.
  • Celebratory Drinks with the AWAC and campaign team.

We currently have a budget of about 500 Euros for the entire run including your fee and everyone else working for the campaign is volunteering. Help us make #WählenGegenRechts a success!

Send us a link or small portfolio or ideas to

Continuing our work with Politaoke and our previous collaboration with Room 4 Resistance, AWAC is excited to be hosting two events this week.

Politaoke Speech-a-Thon

August 10th, 2017, from 12PM to Midnight

Location: Skalitzer Str. 75, 10997 Berlin

Join AWAC Director and Politaoke founder Diana Arce for a an exciting day of political speech mining! With the German elections only two months away, we’ll be focusing our search on politicians making their run for the Bundestag! Don’t speak german? No worries! We are always looking to expand our program for international audiences.

Speech-a-Thons will be held every Thursday running up until the election, except on Show dates, August 24th and September 21st respectively. Join the fun by RSVPing at Can’t attend in Berlin? Join from afar by submitting speeches using our online form or send us an email to skype in and join the fun online!


Protest-banner-making workshop

August 12th, 2017, from 2PM to 5PM, as part of Room 4 Resistance
Location: about:blank garden
Entrance price for the Room 4 Resistance party:  7–10 euro

Stand up for what you believe in, make your voice heard (and seen), support the struggle(s) – Make a stand, make a banner!

At this protest-banner-making workshop, Nine Yamamoto-Masson will assist and guide you through the stages of making a protest sign, banner, or placard, size medium to large.

The workshop will begin with a discussion on practicalities of organised protest marches and rallies (what it means to carry our words, feelings, anger, demands, in the streets, to hang them in our windows, how different types of bodies have different experiences in protest situations and reactions to their political expression, things to consider when making and transporting the protest signs, etc…).

Together we will then brainstorm slogans that speak to current pressing issues that are important to us, and relevant to upcoming marches and rallies. We will settle on a few to put on the banners and signs. Participants can work in groups or alone. We will make large banners and smaller cardboard placards using a variety of styles and techniques.

We’ll have plenty of materials present (paint, glue, scissors, tape, paper…) but ask you to bring your own fabric for banners and cardboard, depending on which type of sign you want to make. We will have some fabric and cardboard, but not enough for everyone.

For the banners you can bring old sheets, curtains or *cough* stolen airline blankets *cough*, those work really well. For cardboard, the surfaces don’t have to be blank, we can cover up printed cardboard with the blank paper we will bring, so you can also bring any old cardboard box.
You can also use this opportunity to make DIY T-shirts with the protest & solidarity  slogans of your choice – for yourself of for friends who cannot come or who cannot participate in public protest events. Simply bring a T-shirt (we recommend finding a 2nd hand t-shirts or an old retired one of yours; if it has a print you can turn it inside out and customise it in other fun ways).

All of this will be set to the amazing music of the featured DJs!

Politaoke returns to Aquarium bei Südblock in Berlin tonight for the first in a series of three shows just in time for the general election. There will be some new speeches to choose from, as well as the usual selection of old favorites, so be sure to come check it out! Doors open at 7:30 and the show begins at 8:00. See you there!

If you can’t make it tonight, there are still plenty of ways to join in!

Two more shows are rapidly approaching, so mark your calendar for:

August 24th, Aquarium bei Südblock

September 21st, Aquarium bei Südblock

Want to submit a speech? Politaoke is always looking for new speeches, so you can submit here.

Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates!

2014 Open Knowledge Festival in Kulturbrauerei, Berlin Gregor Fischer,

2014 Open Knowledge Festival in Kulturbrauerei, Berlin Gregor Fischer,

Just in time for the upcoming German election and in the spirit of all of the recent political theatrics, Politaoke returns once again to Berlin for some nonpartisan fun. The first of a few rapidly approaching shows happens on Friday July 14th at Cafe Fincan, in partnership with Festival Offenes Neukölln and supported by AWAC and European Alternatives Berlin. Offenes Neukölln is organized by Bündis Neukölln, and Politaoke is one of around 100 events and actions during this weekend-long celebration of an open, unified, and diverse Neukölln. Politaoke has been hard at work in preparation for these upcoming events and hosted a 12 hour Speech-a-thon on June 30th where groups of dedicated volunteers found, transcribed, and prepared a large assortment of new material throughout the day. Thank you for all of the hard work!

We’ll also be supporting three shows at Aquarium bei Südblock spanning from the end of this month until September 21st, so there will be plenty of chances for you to deliver a speech just like some of the most important politicians, or just pull up a chair and laugh along for the evening!

You can check out individual links to the shows here:

July 14th at Cafe Fincan Neukölln

July 27th at Aquarium bei Südblock

August 24th at Aquarium bei Südblock

September 21st at Aquarium bei Südblock

Want to take part?

Passionate about Politaoke? Want to see Politaoke near you? Here are a few ways to get involved:

Grab the mic!

Everyone is welcome to join in at one of the upcoming shows, but what if you have never done karaoke? No fear! Just pick a speech from a selection of German and international politicians and topics and take the mic when your name is called. Don’t worry, you don’t have to sing, unless you want to of course!

Partner up!

Are you an artist, part of a collective, or part of an NGO?

Politaoke recently received a grant courtesy of the fine folks at Center for Artistic Activism to train one lucky partner anywhere in the EU who wants to bring Politaoke to their community! If you are interested, email Politaoke to learn more. Also, check out what happened in Austria  when Politaoke partnered up with Digital Spring Media Arts Festival last year: You too could have this much fun!

Submit Speeches!

Since we’re drawing closer to some important elections, and political shenanigans are never-ending, Politaoke is always welcoming suggestions for speeches to include in the program. If there’s an extra-spicy piece of rhetoric that you have your heart set upon appearing in the program, send full speeches to the Politaoke team here.

Can’t make it to the show?
Follow Politaoke on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see what they’re up to during the show and to stay tuned for updates about future shows.

You For Office!

We’ve joined forces again with Transgender Europe and the party crew Room 4 Resistance to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility with our second Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon! Come join us on March 31st at the TGEU Berlin Office at  5PM for dinner, drinks and editing fun. Send us an email to rsvp at, sign up on our Wikipedia dashboard or the facebook event!

AWAC, TGEU, R4R TDOV Wikipedia editathon

Why are we editing?

Not only are over 90% of wikipedia editors are men, but over 85% of all the english language biographies are white cisgender men as well. What a better way to celebrate Transgender visibility, than by adding them and their contributions to art and activism online! Our Edit-a-Thon will focus on trans, queer and poc people and participants are invited to bring names, research or editing ideas to the event!

Never done this before?

No worries! We will be providing periodic trainings for those who need it! We also have a few laptops for don’t have one and funds for babysitters. Look how much fun we had at our first event on March 11th. Our lovely group of Wikipedia novices managed to add 2 new articles, edit 2 others and contribute over 3,500 words to Wikipedia!

TGEU, AWAC, R4R Art+Feminism Edit-a-Thon on March 11th

TGEU, AWAC, R4R Art+Feminism Edit-a-Thon on March 11th

As an additional thank you for participating, Room 4 Resistance will provide free guest list to their next party taking place on May 13th in Berlin! Out of town, but still want to join in the fun? Sign up on our dashboard and edit during the same hours and follow us on twitter. We’ll be posting ways to digital connect to us directly so you can participate remotely.

You’ve got one more day to apply to Center for Artistic Activism’s (C4AA) Art Action Academy (AAA) which will take place in Dublin this December 13th until 17th. Last year we participated in C4AA’s School for

Creative Activism in Berlin, a school training and helping activists to think beyond their common practices to include creative and artistic methods into their work. We learned quite a bit from Directors Stephen Duncombe and Steve Lambert and all the the participants and became huge fans of C4AA’s training process. AAA is a similar workshop for artists and creative practitioners interested in and working with activism in their work. We highly recommend the Academy for all practitioners striving to combine their activism and artistic practices.

From Center for Artistic Activism, School for Creative Activism, Berlin, 2015

From Center for Artistic Activism, School for Creative Activism, Berlin, 2015

The Dublin workshop will focus on Sex Workers Rights and culminate in a collaborative creative action on the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers, December 17th. The application is very straight forward and travel, accommodation and meal costs for selected participants will be fully covered. All you have to be is based in Europe, comfortable with communicating in English and able to stay for the whole workshop. Apply today!

I will be at this year’s Open Engagement Conference, hosting the 2016 US Presidential Election Preview of Politaoke as well as attending the conference. I will be in the San Francisco Bay area until May 5th and at the conference everyday during it’s duration. Come check out the Politaoke Show on April 29th at 8PM in the Oakland Museum of California’s Blue Oak Cafe! Come give a speech, say hello and buy a T-Shirt to support the upcoming tour!

digital spring @ ARGEKultur copyright Wolfgang Leinbacher

digital spring @ ARGEKultur copyright Wolfgang Leinbacher

I’ll be posting a thoughts and notes about the conference on Facebook and tweeting from @ArtistsWAC for the duration of the Conference. Also keep an eye out on Politaoke’s social media for images about tomorrow’s performance! I’m looking forward to seeing what is new in arts and activism as well as learning new methodologies for expanding our work here at AWAC. With Suzanne Lacy and Angela Davis as this year’s keynotes, Open Engagement promises to be a very exciting and enlightening event. Whether you are attending the conference or not, if you are in the Bay area, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to meet up. I’m looking forward to an amazing conference.

The Institute of International Education (IIE) offers fellowship grants to persecuted or threatened artists from any field to place them in institutions and countries where they can practice safely.

At AWAC, we recognize that Activist Artists face potential prosecution throughout the world. They deal with censorship, loss of support, repression and sometimes punishment for their work in pointing out the injustice in the world. Sometimes by creating their art, their lives and the lives of those around them can become threatened. One of our main topics of research is to identify these dangers and help support artists in creating such work, while minimizing the risks.

owen maseko installation

Zimbabwean Artist Owen Maseko’s exhibition ‘Sibathontisele’ (Lets Drip on Them) was removed earlier this year by order of the Courts.

IIE’s Artist Protection Fund is currently open for applicants for it’s Feb 2016 cycle until January 6th, 2016.

Eligibility requirements are well documented in the FAQ and displaced artists have a priority due to limited funds. What qualifies as a threat is: “Any threat of persecution or violence due to an artist’s practice, identity, or beliefs would qualify. This includes intimidation, harassment, repression, censorship, unjust punishment and violence arising out of an artist’s work, and/or exercise of her/his fundamental human rights. APF may also make a limited number of awards to artists facing general insecurity, instability, or civil conflict that affects the whole population of a country or region.”

For displaced or persecuted artists either already in the United States or at risk in their home countries seeking temporary, permanent residence or Asylum in the US can also look into the Artistic Freedom Initiative for assistance and support.

Handing out European Crosses of Merit to citizens who have helped refugees cross borders.

Things have been pretty busy over the last few weeks and we are preparing for a few major projects that are coming up in the next few months. So far this summer, we’ve lent our support to a great action from our friends at Peng! and I participated in a performance workshop in Podum, Croatia sponsored by Mikub e.V. where we looked the scars resulting from the Croatian Wars in the 1990s. You can find some documentation on the Mikub Facebook page and hopefully there will be more to come. Here are just some of the places you can find me either representing AWAC or MCing our project Politaoke.


September 1st & 2nd: Radical interventions: re-imagining border and migration struggles within academia and activism. 2nd Conference in Critical Border and Migration Studies @ Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom.

September 24- 27th: Social Innovators Connected  in Rome, Italy.

November 6th: Politaoke @ Dortmund Theater to celebrate the opening of Peng! Collective‘s new project, Die Populisten.

November 27th: Politaoke @ Academie der Kunst der Welt in collaboration with Desearch Repartment‘s Morefair Democracy in Cologne, Germany.

Feel free to come by and say hello! I will also be have some time around the dates to meet with interested parties, potential collaborators and fellow artists. Drop me a line at diana[at] to schedule a meeting.

Recently the poetry duo, DarkMatter, graced Berlin with their presence. DarkMatter is a South Asian, Trans poetry duo made up of Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian. They perform works about decolonization, queerness, empire, anti-capitalism, microflora, resistance, love, polyamory and so much more.


They have just finished up a European tour, titled #AntiPride in resistance to June as being the designated Gay Pride month. Through their tour (in the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Belgium and Denmark) they are spreading knowledge about how little there really is to celebrate about “gay rights” (read: assimilation into heteronormative imperialist white supremacist patriarchy) when the “gains” made by middle and upper class gays and lesbians feeds violence on queer, trans and gender non-conforming people especially people of color and poor people.

Anti Pride is not new. Gay Pride was built on racist, classist, and transphobic ideals. Gay Pride started as a result of the Stonewall Uprising in NYC in 1969. Typically remembered as an uprising started by white gay men, it was actually trans* women of color who were the first people to fight back on the night of Stonewall.

The recent press conference held by US President Barack Obama for the support of gay marriage shows the literal silencing and hatred put onto working class/undocumented trans* women’s bodies. Activist Gutiérrez created a moment of reality within the press conference by speaking out: “There is no pride in how LGBTQ and transgender immigrants are treated in this country. If the President wants to celebrate with us, he should release the LGBTQ immigrants locked up in detention centers immediately.”.

Obama’s response was to say: “Listen, you’re in my house….Shame on you, you shouldn’t be doing this.” Followed by people in the room chanting “Obama”. This outrageously awful moment of silencing completely exemplifies how gay marriage and pride is used as a means to further devalue, silence and kill gender non-conforming/queer/trans* people, especially People of Color.

I was extremely excited to get to see DarkMatter after following their writing and performances online for the past few years. The event that I went to created a perfect integration of poets coming from the community and DarkMatter’s performance. The first hour and a half 4 poets from Berlin performed their own work followed by a break and DarkMatter’s performance. The money from donations from the event are going towards the Cutie B PoC Festival, a festival for and by queer trans* and inter* Black and People of Color happening in Berlin July 24th – 26th. You can still support this festival! Check out their crowdfunding page here.

Their poems use a mixture of comedy and beautiful poetry as a way to drive home realities of police violence, the privilege and hypocrisy of gay marriage, the need for decolonization, growing up in homophobic, transphobic and racist environments, and being with and loving family as a revolutionary act.

Have a listen to some of their poems: about dating on OkCupid, about a fetish for white people, and about the Boston Marathon.

Check out this interview that recently came out with Alok about daily acts of resistance, aesthetics, identities and politics.

During the middle of May Coven Berlin organized a two week queer, feminist visual and performance art festival: “I’d Rather Be a Cyborg Than a Goddess”. The festival, based in a small gallery space in Berlin, featured interactive installations, performances, film screenings and workshops. All of the work revolved around ideas of what feminist politics, bodies and sex can look like within our technological age.

I went to a handful of screenings but the film I keep thinking about is Shu Lea Cheang’s Japanese Sci-Fi porn, “I.K.U: This is Not Love This is Sex”. The film was released in 2000 and shown at Sundance that year (with much objection because of the sex scenes). It has only recently been gaining recognition, Cheung said that she has been traveling showing the film.

jpeg copy

The loose narrative of the film follows Reike, a female cyborg who goes around Tokyo to collect the orgasmic data of citizens by having sex with them. The film explores power relations within sex, many scenes Reike seems to be a fairly passive receiver but, as the audience knows, she is actually mining the people she’s having sex with for their orgasmic data. Fisting becomes an important element of the film, at many points Reike’s hand becomes a penis and is used to penetrate sexual partners. Both of these elements invert gender roles often shown in mainstream porn. The graphics in the film are to die for, “I.K.U. starts where Blade Runner ends… A wildly imaginative vision of the future that is headed straight for your libido… An experimental extravaganza of sight, sound, and sex that fiercely stretches the genre of explicit erotic filmmaking” Shari Frilot (Sundance Film Festival)


I think this film creates an important bridge between porn and mainstream films through redefining what desire, power, and narratives can look like within porn films. This bridge gives space for alternative conversations about sexuality, gender and how we talk about and view sex work. It is not overtly activist in its intentions but through creating this sci-fi world Cheang brings to light how we think about about, document and react to (take the example of the uproar at Sundance) to non-normative sexualities, genders and power relations. Not to mention, Cheung was way ahead of their time in terms of politics of surveillance and mining of personal data which affect all of our lives today.

Cheang is a Taiwanese highly regarded media artist. She came out with her first film, Fresh Kill in 1994 and has been working on a variety of installation, performances and film-based works since. Most of her work centers around how bodies interact with desire and one another within a world where our technology becomes a part of us. She lived in New York City during the 1980s and 1990s and now travels between North America, Asia and Europe.

Crowd funding was unsucessful for Cheang’s newest film, Fluid. It is set to start filming in Berlin this year.

A million events are always happening in Berlin, as soon as you’re somewhere you’re missing something else. That’s why here at AWAC we want to help you find wonderful events happening over the next two weeks!

Art of Protest Lecture Series happens pretty much every Thursday until mid July. Artists and Theorists are invited to talk about the cross section of Art and Activism.


Ariella Azoulay will speak tonight at 6PM about Revolutionary Language and The Movement of Violence

When: Thursday, June 18th, 18:00

Where: Freie Universität Berlin – Seminarzentrum Silberlaube – Raum L 116, Habelschwerdter Allee 45 14195 Berlin-Dahlem


DarkMatter is a South Asian trans poetry duo made up of Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian. They are based out of New York City and are currently having a tour around western Europe, titled #AntiPride. They will be stopping in Berlin this weekend and holding three events.

To see some of their work, click here or here or here!


1) Cutie B PoC Festival presents DarkMatter: a spoken word event

When: Friday, June 19th, 18:30

Where: Familiengarten e.V. Oranienstr. 34

2) Protect Me From What I Want! (a closed space for Black/PoC/Sinti/Roma + Migrant queers and LGBT*I*As)

When: Sunday, June 20th, 12pm – 15pm

Where:  Lesbenberatung Berlin e.V./ LesMigraS, Kulmer Str. 20a, 10783

3) Poetry Meets Hip Hop

When: Sunday, June 20th, 19pm – 23pm

Where: Villa Neukölln, Hermannstraße 233 Biebricherstraße 15, 12049

*note: this event has over 1,000 people who have said they are going and the space only holds 200 people, so if you want to see DarkMatter, go on Friday or show up a couple hours early to wait in line for this show!


Teju Cole

Teju Cole, source:

Teju Cole is Nigerian-American writer, photographer and art historian. He will be in Berlin next week to present his most recent work, the novel Open City.

facebook event

When: Tuesday, June 23rd, 20:oo

Where: Backfabrik, Saarbrückerstr. 38, 10405



Schwules Museum* and Deutsches Historisches Museum are pairing up to create an exhibition on Homosexuality in Germany!

I’ll be going to giving it a visit once it’s open next week so I can give you a run down of how it is and let you know if you should get your hopes up or not!

When: June 26th – December 1st, 2015

Where: Deutsches Historisches Museum


Pride Parades

After seeing DarkMatter you may not be so sure about how much there is to be proud of in the current way non-heterosexual sexualities are talked about and dealt with today in the public sphere. The Dyke March is set to have a new path this year, beginning outside the Deutsches Historisches Museum on the day of the opening of the exhibition to demonstrate for increased lesbian visibility.

Dyke March

Dyke March 2014. Source:

When: June 26th, 19:00

Where: Deutsches Historisches Museum (end: Südblock, Kotti 21:00)

Christopher Street Day 

When: June 27th, 12:30 – 17:00

Where: Meet at Kurfürstendamm, 10719, Charlottenburg


Submit now! The deadline for The Center for the Study of Migration Studies  “Radical Interventions: Re-Imagining Border and Migration Struggles Within Academia and Activism” Conference, is fast approaching.

Applications are due June 19th, and the conference will be held on September 1-2 at Queen Mary University of London.

The aim of the event is to create a laboratory of anti-racist, intersectional, no border politics, inciting action and furthering collective knowledge and powers.

A New Project by AWAC Director and Founder, Diana Arce.

A New Project about race, discrimination and culture by AWAC Director and Founder, Diana Arce.

AWAC is very excited to promote this conference, because of the way they are bringing together artists, academics, and activists to collaborate and intervene together. We fully support the how The Center is working to bring together activists, academics and artists to address and approach issues about and surrounding migration.

They are looking for applicants to submit interventions and proposals in the form of workshops, art, papers, or activist experience somehow relating to the following three topics:

1) Printing or burning passports? For or against citizenship?

2) Power and privilege: decolonizing migration struggles

3) How to critique today’s border regimes?

To find out more details, check out this document.

Applications from people without formal academic backgrounds are encouraged. There are travel grants available.

Fall 2014, I made a month long trip to Bangalore, India to meet with non profits, NGOs, curators and artists to discuss building bridges between artists and organizations nationally and internationally. I spent one week visiting Hackergram, a bottom up sustainability project, currently located 70 kilometers Northwest of Banglore.  Devrayanadurga is a small village of about 200 families. The agricultural community face many challenges that Deepta and Arjun, co-founders of Hackergram, facilitate addressing. I previously met Deepta at Tactical Tech’s info-activism camp in 2013 where we quickly became friends. Deepta’s interest in working with and incorporating artistic and creative methods into Hackergram’s work lead to my visit and the upcoming collaboration between Hackergram and AWAC.

The next series of blog posts are summaries and clips from several interviews I conducted with Deepta and Arjun. This post is about Deepta and Arjun, Hackergram and the work they are doing. The next posts will be about the process and ideas that have lead to our upcoming collaboration.

— Diana Arce

Hackergram is a community-based organization building its second space at the Janastu base camp in Durgadahalli, Devrayanadurga. Founded in 2012 and based first in Bhopal, Hackergram is created out of the desire to create a communal space where people could be themselves, pursue their goals, and work holistically to creative innovative and sustainable solutions for the community.

Janastu Base Camp, the home of Hackergram #2

Janastu Base Camp, the Home of Hackergram #2

Meet Arjun and Deepta

Arjun used to in the US selling software to Wall Street, but after moving back to India, he started working with non-profits. He worked mostly on projects that get information out of media dark areas and conflict regions. He decided to co-found Hackergram to make a self-sustainable, community model for these practices. He is a 2014 Ashoka Fellow and a founder of the Mojolab Foundation.

Deepta and Arjun, Founders of Hackergram

Deepta and Arjun, Founders of Hackergram

Deepta spent the first ten years of her career training people for corporations such as American Express, IBM and Wipro before co-founding Hackergram to work on issues of bottom up sustainable living and development. In 2013, she met Diana at the Tactical Technology’s Infoactivism Camp in Italy and was inspired by the idea of AWAC.

In 2014, Deepta is working on a multicultural education program  eventually to be aimed at children, adolescents and young adults in the communities that host Hackergrams. The program uses the diversity of a Hackergram community to sensitive people to different cultures through direct interaction. At the same time, it also gives people an incentive to pick up language and articulation skills to improve social interaction.

What does Hackergram do? 

The technology boom over the last few decades has helped improve social and cultural connectivity throughout the world. However, it has also led to the creation of media dark areas, areas companies deem too rural or unprofitable to install internet or fiber-optic lines. As a result, technology has led to a widening of inequality between technology haves and have-nots.

This is not a problem of having trouble accessing Instagram or Twitter. For communities around Hackergram, a lack of digital connectivity has led to an inability for local producers to access accurate wholesale market prices. This, combined with a language barrier, has led to many community members getting scammed at local markets when selling to wholesale buyers.

In collaboration with local partners, Deepta and Arjun conducted a needs assessment, to find out which services community members were both useful and wanted. Hackergram along with their partners, seeks to integrate some of the benefits of technology and connectivity into the existing practices of town members, rather than disrupting or changing their behavior.

What they found is that many people in the community wanted to learn English and Hindi.The predominant language in the town is Kannada, a local dialect, and there are few opportunities for people not born into the right social standing to learn English and Hindi.

As a result, Deepta and Arjun began a multicultural course at the local school where they not only teach English and Hindi, but also participated in the local culture and arts of the village to understand their behavioral patterns. They have many ideas about possible new projects, such as running movie screenings which use Bluetooth headsets to deliver the sound as to not disturb the local environment and spirit.

AWAC is excited to be beginning a collaboration with Hackergram. Stay tuned for updates!

Earlier this month our friends over at Peng! Collective released the magnificent project, Zero Trollerance, to reform sexist internet trolls. If you’re like me, you’ve long ago retired from reading comment sections and avoid the dark corners of the internet where misogynists feel comfortable releasing their poorly thought out views through the protection of their computer screens. But sometimes there is just no way to get away from these attacks. Luckily, there is now some help to keep misogynist trollers at bay!

Since we last worked with Peng!, they’ve been busy developing more elaborate and hilarious projects. including No Christmas for Angela Merkel, helping the Yes Men “Kanye West” Natalie Portman at Cinema for Peace and Vattenfall’s Responsiblity Campaign. The project  Zero Trollerance is made up of 6 videos which guide misogynist twitter trolls through a reform project so they can emerge less offensive. They’ve once again captured their audience with humor while sending a serious and important political message.

Yes Men and Gitz Crazyboy & Peng! Collective's intervention at the 2015 Cinema for Peace Award gala

Yes Men and Gitz Crazyboy & Peng! Collective’s intervention at the 2015 Cinema for Peace Award gala.

Zero Trollerance works by targeting Twitter users through bots Peng! Collective has set up which search for a multitude of key terms such as “die stupid bitch” and “#feministsareugly”. Once these key terms are spotted, a swarm of other bots descends on the Twitter users with the six self help guides to help the users eliminate their inner troll. Twitter bans trolling bots but Peng! was able to get around this impediment by creating bots which send thousands of misogynist trolls messages and then disappear.

The six videos feature a creepy (but fun) old British man speaking calmly and knowingly to the misogynists in front of peaceful backgrounds such as clouds, waves and fields. He offers useful tips such as GBT (grunt before typing), a trick to help trollers find an outlet for their frustration.

The funny videos bring a lighter side to the severity of online harassment. Last year Pew Research Center revealed that 1/4 of female internet users between ages 18-24 have been stalked or sexually harassed online. Ada Stolz, the lead programer behind Zero Trollerance told The Telegraph that she was inspired to create the program because of conversations she’s had with transgender and feminists activists and journalists who told her about the non-stop attacks they receive from trolls online.

Zero Trollerance has gotten great reviews from the likes of the Telegraph and IT Pro. It seems to be unanimous that these misogynist trollers must be stopped, and if it can be done with a bit of humor, that’s even better.

If you want to support Zero Trollerance, become a coach! By creating twitter accounts Peng! can use as bots to find misogynists, you can help them keep Zero Trollerance going.

Usually when I think about the core of straight white masculinity in the US my mind comes up with things close to football bros and violent pumpkin riots. As someone who identifies as queer and actively seeks queer communities, I seldom come in contact with straight white men, apart from my one token SWM (single white male) friend (shout out to Carlo!). This meant that when I went to see Young Jean Lee’s play, Straight White Men at Hebbel Am Ufer this weekend in Berlin, I felt like I had traveled to an alternative universe.

The play is set in the family room of a house in a generic college town in the United States. It focuses on the inner-workings of a Christmas holiday with a father and his three sons. It has been touring around the USA and Europe for a few years now. It is currently on at the HAU in Berlin for HAU’s festival, Männlich Weiß Hetero: eine Festival über Privliegen (Straight White Men: a Festival about the Privileged).

Gary Wilmes, Pete Simpson, James Stanley, and Austin Pendleton in Straight White Men, a co-production with Young Jean Lee's Theater Company, written and directed by Young Jean Lee. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg

Gary Wilmes, Pete Simpson, James Stanley, and Austin Pendleton in Straight White Men, a co-production with Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company, written and directed by Young Jean Lee. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg

This is the first narrative play Young Jean Lee has written. She is known for her experimental and critical theater productions centering on identity politics. When starting a project, she usually identifies a question to explore and organically writes the script in collaboration with cast members through a series of workshops, as opposed to writing a script and casting members who fit characters she has created by herself.

Straight White Men is actually a very depressing and dry play. The men discuss their position in the world and how they (kind of) wish to change structures of power which benefit them (mostly just so they wouldn’t have to feel guilty). The not-so-typical narrative arc of the play focuses on the eldest brother, Matt. He has a temporary job at a social justice organization and has run himself into a depression trying to be the “nice white savior guy”. To me, the ending message of the play seemed to be a sad dead end —  basically saying that anything straight white men do is problematic and coming from a place of guilt or greed.

The context of the piece being presented as a work of theater and art allowed more space to be given to deconstructing this typically unquestionable identity. Watching the play felt very similar to watching any other TV show/life experience where straight white men are taking up a lot of space. However, because it was a work of art I felt I was able to step back and have space to understand the characters with more complexity than in other situations. This lead to lots of interesting discussions with friends, especially my token SWM friend, Carlo! I appreciated the critical space and platform the play presented for personal conversations.

Ultimately, the part of the show which was most interesting and informative for me was the talk back with the four actors and Lee after the show. An audience member asked the actors, after their three years of developing and performing the play, how their understandings of their own identities as straight white men had changed and what they planned to do with this self-reflection.

………….. crickets …………..

Insecurity, silence, and uncomfortable laughter filled the stage as the men halfheartedly attempted to say something (anything!) about what it felt like to be a straight white male. Each ultimately gave up, saying they’d rather not speak at all for fear that they’d say the wrong thing. One actor, Gary Wilmes, who played a banker, the most “macho” of all the brothers, informed the audience that he was now more aware of the world outside of his own experience. As an example, he told us that he now understands why, when ordering a coffee from a Person of Color, they aren’t always happy to serve him. “But I’m not racist!” he quickly clarified after sharing this example….

As a white person I understand this difficulty in critical self-reflection and taking responsibility for your positionality in the world. But it is so essential and something which needs to be a constant process, especially if you’re working to break down historical power structures.

These actors inability to speak about their own identities spoke much more to me than the play itself. After working for three years on helping Lee create this production you’d think they would have at least a staple response to such a question.

I really value Lee’s attempt at tackling a subject which is usually met with silence. Most reviews have just commented on how the play creates sympathy for the protagonists or swayed away at any comment at all and just recounted what happened. However, I wish there had been some injection of the outside world during the play. It felt like it stayed very contained and once it was over and we tried to talk about what next (?!) is possible in the world outside of the theater, there was nothing.

A recent protest in Spain used the eerie feeling of holograms to their advantage in a new and interesting political move which caught worldwide attention. Using holograms usually seems bizarre and a little scary to me, like when Tupac was brought back to life or Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, delivered a speech through a 10 foot tall hologram projection of himself. Having the body seem so tangible when it’s really not freaks me out.

Despite this, the use of holograms in this situation worked well for the political cause because of the dramatic message it sent to people across the globe. Protests in Spain have been common since the fall of the country’s economy. As a way to contain the dissidence, a new law, ironically named the Citizen Safety law, was passed in March 2015.

photo of the holograms protesting via @nosomosdelito

photo of the holograms protesting via @nosomosdelito

No Somos Delitos (We Are Not A Crime) has been organizing against the Citizen Safety Law.  The law makes not registering protests, assembling in protest, videotaping and taking photographs of or insulting the police illegal, resulting in arrest or extreme fines up to €600,000. A smaller group inside of No Somos Delitos, called Holograms for Freedom organized the hologram protest. The Citizen Safety Law was passed in March and will go into effect in July if the European Union does not intervene. It is being called the “gag law” because of the constraints it is putting on citizens. The law does not make holographic protest illegal, which left this as the last option for those seeking resistance.

Protesters left videos or audio on the organizations website over the two week before the protest. The result was 18,000 visual people who were then converted into holograms and protested outside of the Spanish parliament building in Madrid, allowing people from all over the world to take part in the protest.

Carlos Escaño, the spokesperson for No Somos Delito, said that “It’s about art, about going to a place beyond discourse. It’s about touching emotion,”. Although this new form of protesting is interesting and exciting on one hand, Escaño has said that he hopes it will be the first and last, because of the terrifying constraints which resulted in the need for this type of protest.

I think the use of art for political purposes is extremely powerful and can more clearly get a message across because it shows the creative and innovative side of resistance. Protests against this law have been happening for months now, but this new tactic caught the attention of mass media around the world and gave activists the needed attention. The innovative use of art helped push the message of the activists forward into the spotlight. Some have claimed it shows defeat and that other options of protest should be further explored. I don’t think exploring this new form of protest shows defeat at all. Those organizing it were balancing how to get the most attention while working with the real implication if this law is passed in July. They were able to (kind of) bring together people from all over the world.

Continually re-examining the past helps us imagine alternative possibilities for the present and future. SAVVY Contemporary‘s art exhibition,“Wir Sind Alle Berliner 1884-2014” curated by Simon Njami did just this. The show was open from November 2014 to February 2015, in commemoration of the 130 years since the Berlin-Congo Conference. By bringing together artists from many different locations all working with topics of colonialism, the exhibition showed it is necessary to re-visit our colonial histories through different narratives to understand modern day issues and activism.

Bonaventure Soh Benjeng Ndikung © Claudia Peppel – ICI Berlin 2015

There is very little institutional support going towards telling colonial histories which, I found out through SAVVY Co-founder Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, made it difficult to fund the exhibition. Despite this, thousands of people came through the space over the months it was open, showing that there is great public interest in examining colonial past and presents even if institutions aren’t ready to accept this.

Each weekend members of SAVVY offered tours to the public to explain who the artists were and some history behind the work being shown. These tours were key in bridging a conversation to the public, they were accessible and informative. The variety of art shown gave multiple visual interpretations of breaking down colonial histories and having a guide through this was very helpful. The art provided questions without needing immediate answers or understanding. This made it possible for people coming from any background to take part in the tours, ask questions and learn.

Filipa César, The Embassy (2011), courtesy Christina Guerra Contemporary

Filipa César, The Embassy (2011), courtesy Christina Guerra Contemporary

One of my favorite pieces was Filipa César’s video piece, The Embassy (2011), because of it’s simple camera shot mixed with a layered narrative. The film shows a pair of hands flipping through a photo album filled with black and white images from the 1940s – 1950s in Guinea-Bissau. The hands belong to Armando Lona, a Guinean journalist and activist. This piece is especially gripping because we hear Lona’s perspective on these images which represent direct debris of colonialism. Having grown up in Guinea-Bissau, he carefully explains the photographs, and his experience of them. The images show the effects of colonization through monuments, sites and buildings. Lona makes a point to show that what is not documented in the photo album is art from the Guinean culture. What is not represented in the photo album shows how colonialisms erasure of art affects understandings of history today.

At points it seemed the choice of who to include in the show became too wide. Cyrill Lachauer’s piece, Horses, Manillas and the Smallpox Blankets, caught my attention because of the connection to the history and present experiences of colonialism in the United States. The piece referenced the history of Lord Jeffrey Amherst, who gave out blankets with smallpox to Native Americans to kill them. The piece was a woolen blanket set on the ground with some branding marks of horseshoes, it is one in a series of work he has about Native American history and ritual.

I was confused about why this German man is making work about the history and experience of Native Americans. After researching him, his only connection to Native Americans seems to be through ethnographic research. There are certainly Native American artists grappling with their history in their work so it seems strange that they chose to show Lachauer. It seemed like they wanted to include a symbol of colonialism from the United States in the show but this choice fell short.

At the end of February a series of lectures was held at the ICI Berlin, bringing together scholars and artists to talk about work around colonialism happening in academia. The weekend of lectures was very important because the tour and time at the exhibition didn’t provide the space to get into in-depth discussions. For example, why it was very odd to have a white German man represent the genocide of Native Americans.

However, multiple times throughout the weekend the artists on the panels were placed last to speak and barely got a chance to say much. This created a disconnected between the exhibition and the lectures. The pieces included in the show could have been focused on a bit more in the lectures to bridge these two worlds of academia and art.  At times the panel felt exclusive because of the vocabulary used. Despite this, the conference was very powerful because of the many different geographic locations and ideas which were brought together.

Simon Njami © Claudia Peppel - ICI Berlin 2015

Simon Njami © Claudia Peppel – ICI Berlin 2015

It seems important to appreciate the two spaces for the different opportunities they provided. The art was accessible and informative to a wide range of people. The lecture series was more exclusive but equally important as it brought together scholars and creators from very disparate geographic locations and gave time to dive very deeply into how people across disciplines are thinking about colonial past and presents.

Artists Without A Cause is researching and looking at artistic representations of political and social issues. I recently visited Eine Einsellung Zur Arbeit (Labor in a Single Shot), on exhibition at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt until 6 April 2015, which uses video to look at how labor differs throughout the world.

Coming into the gallery for the show, visitors see dozens of people, sitting comfortably or lying on the ground in a dark room,  staring up at fifteen scattered screens, each facing a different direction, and each showing different looped two minute clips of uninterrupted labor for one country.


The project was created by Antje Ehmann and Harun Farocki, who held workshops in 15 cities around the world where they gave participants strict guidelines for making the shorts.

One short follows a man in Jerusalem, Israel kneading bread. Another shows a girl in Boston, USA typing an essay about Square-Dancing on her computer. Another depicts a German man biking through the city. Some have sound, most do not. The people in the room roam around from screen to screen or sit patiently watching each two minute clip from each respective country.


The form of video gives us the rare opportunity to watch these different forms of labor and compare and contrast them. When standing up in the room a viewer can watch several screens at a time, allowing visitors to quickly see that labor means different things in different places.

The clips don’t last long enough to get a sense of knowing any of the people very well, but watching a moment of their daily lives so close up becomes very personal, almost voyeuristic. The difference between what is being shown on the screens as well as the comfort of hanging out, lying down, and relaxing as we watch people in the videos perform all types of labor is an ironic part of the show.

The piece was inspired by The Lumiére Brother’s film, “Workers Leaving the Lumiére Factory” (1895), which portrays women and men leaving their separate doors at the end of their day. Floods of people exit, some running, as if too much time has already been lost. However, there are stark contrasts in the takeaway viewers get in Labor in a Single Shot and the Lumiére Brother’s film.

The Lumiére Brother’s depict workers as more than just their jobs. Workers are humanized by showing their urgency of leaving the work place and the transition into their real lives. Labor in a Single Shot implies that work and production has become so varied and consuming today that in many ways we are almost constantly working. Perhaps this is an element of intentional irony.

In the end, the viewer is left with many questions: What can labor be? Where does labor stop? And how do our understandings and standards for labor vary from context to context. The format of close shot, short films was essential to creating an artificially personal connection to the people on the screens.