'Tell me what matter was the ground' – Repair beyond redemption, part 2

Free entrance,
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Detailed Program:

Saturday 29 June 2019 – silent green, Kubus 1

10 am - Welcome

10.15  - Opening remarks with short readings  (Nicole Wolf)

10.45 – 12.15 - Along the Silver Road (Mareike Bernien and Alex Gerbaulet) and Venus Mission (Anne Quirynen)

Along the Silver Road

Mareike Bernien and Alex Gerbaulet are researching the map of former uranium mining areas of the Soviet-German stock corporation (SDAG) Wismut in Saxony and Thuringia towards a history of radiant landscapes. Between 1946 and 1990, Wismut became the third largest uranium mining company in the world. Since at least Chernobyl, radioactivity and its consequences have also come into the focus of the environmental movements of the GDR. 1989 becomes a political landslide within a precarious socialism, the landscapes formed by uranium mining remain however. The film project connects the motif of a series of radioactive decay from uranium to lead metaphorically and geopolitically with the end of the GDR, with attempts to ecologically revive contaminated areas and with powerful radiance of a re-strengthened Right. The filmmakers undertake deep drillings through time and space while their artistic research explores links between radioactivity and image production.

Venus Mission

In my video installations Venus Mission (2012) and mars analog (2014) I researched terrestrial Mars analogue sites used for space exploration to either study geological or biological processes observed on other planets, or to prepare astronauts for surface extra vehicular activity. The scarred landscape of Rio Tinto near Sevilla became an outdoor laboratory for the MARTE project (Mars Analog Research and Technology Experiment), for the Austrian Space Forum and the aerospace company Boeing. Thinking together time and space of the industrialization in the 19th century and electronic data collection in the 20th/21st centuries, I want to discuss how the ravaged landscapes of the Minas de Rio Tinto and Mars mark an era in which expert skills provide(d) the sole means of access.

12.15 – 12.30 - Collective Reading

12.30 – 13.30 - Lunch break

13.30 – 15.00  - This land is our country. These camps are yours (Sinthujan Varatharajah) and Walking on Bones: soil, weather and history in the Namib desert  (Henriette Gunkel)

This land is our country. These camps are yours.

How do stateless people relate to the soil that has been snatched from under their feet? How does exile challenge and renegotiate the relationship to past memories of land and soil of refugees? And what potential role does soil play in neo-colonialism? Based on the example of Sri Lanka's colonisation policies of Tamil land and the resulting exodus of Tamil people, I will explore the multiple meanings of land and soil to the haves and have nots of this region.

Walking on Bones: soil, weather and history in the Namib desert

Ever since I visited the coastal town of Swakopmund I have had this strange sense of walking on bones when in Namibia. This was initially triggered by the site of a large unmarked graveyard at the liminal space between the town and the Namib desert, which holds the remains of hundreds of Herero prisoners of war that were buried there from 1904 onwards. This site has been demarcated in recent years after plans to build on that site were stopped. But this is just one site that brings the desert into focus to think through the history of the German genocide of the Herero  and Nama people. The heaps of soil that the graveyard holds resemble the heaps of sand and stones of early diamond mining sites; mass graves have been found near Lüderitz along the railway line in close proximity to the former concentration camp on Shark Island; remains of workers resurfaced near an old diamond mine at Conception Bay, and so on. All these sites add to an understanding of the desert as an archive – that on the one hand is often considered as a space of deep geological time that buries histories and preserves time (H.G. Ballard in The Drought, for example, conceptualizes the beach that became a desert as being timeless) while at the same time allows for that history to resurface. Drawing on art works, geomorphology and the weather, this paper poses the question of what are the conditions for this history of the genocide to resurface and how can this relationship between soil, weather and time inform politics of decolonization today.

15.00 - 15.15 - Collective Reading

15.15 – 15-45 - Break

15.45 – 17.15 - Lok Sath / People's Tribunal (Ali Nobil Ahmad) and Cultivating a planetary cosmopolitics through art-making (Ros Gray)

Lok Sath / People's Tribunal 

The second in a trilogy of short films about climate change in Pakistan, Lok Sath documents a rural community's resistance to the building of a coal power plant in Pakistani Punjab. An experimental film featuring stills, video footage, artwork and animations, it captures a rare victory for South Asian farmers against the combined forces of state power, international financial institutions and Chinese imperialism. Inspired by Rob Nixon's 'Slow Violence', Lok Sath is a dramatic tale of resistance, offering rare insights into political activism in the global South. Set against the backdrop of the Paris COP23 agreement, it tackles social and environmental justice from the perspective of marginalized and displaced populations of the global South. 

Cultivating a planetary cosmopolitics through art-making 

Drawing on my recent collaborative research and experience with Goldsmiths Allotment, I will discuss expanded artistic practices involving cultivation, production of food and other plant-based goods as an intervention into different fields, including urban community gardens, farms, and scientific and agricultural institutions. These sites and practices, which bring together methodologies from contemporary art, expert and citizen-science, agriculture and other fields, emerge as testing grounds for experiments aimed at improving 'planetary health', through artistic interventions and critical inquiry into the inter-dependence of human and non-human beings, infrastructures and ecological systems, as well as the development and sharing of practices of care.

17.15 – 17.30 - Collective Reading

17.45 – 18.30 - Closing ideas, conversations, discussions, proposals



Ali Nobil Ahmad is a Fellow at the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin. His research focuses on migration, media and political ecology in South Asia and its diaspora. Previous appointments include Visiting Professor of South Asian studies at Brandeis University, and Assistant Professor of History at the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan. He was curator of the anthropoSCENE film festival in Berlin (2017), Jamil Dehlavi: Sacred and the Profane' at the BFI (2018), and 'Cinema in Muslim Societies' at the ICA (2011).

Mareike Bernien works as an artist between performative film, sound and text, based in Berlin. Her works take a media-archaeological approach to scrutinise the material conditions, effects and ideological sedimentations of visual politics. Her films are a.o. DEPTH OF FIELD (2017, together with Alex Gerbaulet) and RAINBOW`S GRAVITY (2014, together with Kerstin Schroedinger). She currently teaches at the department of Intermedia at the University of Cologne. Since 2018 she is part of the film production platform pong film in Berlin. 

Alex Gerbaulet is an artist and filmmaker, based in Berlin. Her works oscillate between essayistic and documentary style, activist impulses and fictionalized reflection. They investigate the representability of reality and memory, revealing that which has been individually or collectively repressed. Her films are a.o. SHIFT (2015), DEPTH OF FIELD (2017, together with Mareike Bernien) and THE SLEEPER (2018). She has a record of many years of practice-based and theoretical teaching at different German art schools and has worked as a curator for film festivals. Since 2014 she works as an author and producer at pong film Berlin. 

Ros Gray is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art, Critical Studies, in the Department of Art at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research on the trajectories of militant filmmaking in contexts of anti-colonial and revolutionary struggles has involved exploring the use of film and video in rural development, the setting up of cooperatives, and the denunciation of colonial exploitation of natural resources, as well as the representation of radical social change. She is currently finalising a monograph entitled Cinemas of the Mozambican Revolution (Boydell and Brewer, 2020). Her research interests in environmental violence and the politics of the soil were recently explored through a special issue of Third Text, co-edited with Shela Sheikh, titled The Wretched Earth: Botanical Conflicts and Artistic Interventions (January 2018). Her writing has also analysed the ecological and planetary resonances of work by artists including Renée Green, Antonio Ole and Kiluanji Kia Henda. Ros is the Coordinator of the Goldsmiths Allotment, which, as well as providing a space for plant cultivation for staff and students, is a platform for various seasonal cultural events, workshops on aspects of sustainable gardening and plant breeding, and a space for meditation and developing thinking around forms of 'care' in the context of an educational institution.

Henriette Gunkel is lecturer at the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her work focuses on the politics of time from a queer-feminist perspective. She is currently working on a monograph on Alien Time that addresses Africanist science-fictional interventions and the materiality of time in the context of deep geological time and the history of extraction. She is the author of The Cultural Politics of Female Sexuality in South Africa (Routledge, 2010) and co-editor of What Can a Body Do? (Campus, 2012), Undutiful Daughters. New Directions in Feminist Thought and Practice (Palgrave McMillan, 2012), Futures & Fictions (Repeater, 2017) andWe Travel the Space Ways: Black Imaginations, Fragments, and Diffractions (Transcript, 2019).

Anne Quirynen is an artist and filmmaker working at the intersection of the digital moving image, installation, music and dance, focusing on the medialization of the body, space fiction, ecology and feminist & queer theory. In 1994 she belonged to the founders of the independent production company for digital art "De Filmfabriek." At present she is professor for moving image at the European Media Studies, a co-operation between the University of Potsdam and the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam. Her films and installations have been awarded and exhibited in many international festivals and museums.

Sinthujan Varatharajah is an essayist, researcher and political geographer. They are currently an Open City Fellow (Open Society Foundation) and their work focuses on geographies of power, spatial marginalities and statelessness. 



Stoffwechsel is a project by Film Feld Forschung, organized within the framework of Archive außer sich, a project of Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art,  part of a cooperation with Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Staatliche Kunstsammlung Dresden and Pina Bausch Foundation, part of The New Alphabet, a HKW project, supported by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media due to a ruling of the German Bundestag.