“Revolution”, this year’s theme of the “Ortstermin” festival of Berlin-Moabit lends itself to a multitude of readings. Revolutions have taken place in societies, the art world, science, design, etc. In recent years, radical political practice, aimed at achieving substantial social change has returned to the international arena and fuelled a new consciousness in societies and groups hitherto considered “apolitical”. The enthusiasm of the first months of the uprisings in the Arab world, where suddenly the impossible seemed so close, appeared to turn the self-perception of Arab societies upside down and also called for a revision of Western prejudices. And while the hopes of that early period have since suffered a severe setback, the revolts have changed these societies for good. However, it has also become clear that the revolutionary process will be long and one that demands enormous sacrifices. The example of Syria makes this terribly clear.
The exhibition I Am the Shadow Who Walks on Water will look at the theme of “revolution” from the perspective of individual participants in society. Leaving political slogans aside, it will turn its attention towards the necessary basis of radical movements. What is needed in a society to make a revolutionary movement succeed? How can long held beliefs be challenged to achieve true social change? Whose voices have hitherto been overlooked or silenced?
The concept of revolution here signifies individual notions of “being in the world”, and a personal commitment to re-think ways of human interaction. The exhibition draws its title from a poem by Mahmoud Darwich, the Palestinian poet who so poignantly spoke out for justice in society and between societies. Here, it refers to those who are not seen and whose voices are not heard, but who are ready to venture onto new terrain, and to apparently contradictory conditions as a starting point for new processes.
The exhibition presents the work of two women artists: Katia Kameli and Soudade Kaadan. Katia Kameli’s video Untitled was filmed in Algiers during the so-called “Arab Spring” and is a subtle interrogation of the concept of “revolution”. A procession of women walks silently through the streets, carrying empty signs. They represent a haunting presence of demands still to be fulfilled, too numerous to list; a silent presence, yet steadfast and persevering.
Soudade Kaadan’s film Two Cities and a Prison follows an experimental theatre project on its tour through Syria and during their work in a prison for young delinquents. Through interactive plays with audiences in rural towns and among disadvantaged youth, Omar Abu Saada sought to re-stage social role models and achieve a re-thinking of old customs and traditions. Filmed under highly difficult circumstances, often with a hidden camera, the film is a remarkable testimony of Syrian artists’ commitment to social change, before the beginning of the current uprising.