When you take the first step towards the unknown, you are engulfed by the darkness of uncertainty. Co-existence is possible only in the face of the unrecognised. The unknown language is a tangled mass through which you penetrate with despair. It is a structure of sense and nonsense, an architecture of traps and a source of endless uncertainty. The story you tell contains a record of fear and hope.

Aneta Szylak and Hiwa K., fragment taken from "The Darkness Wounded" published at www.przemo-wojciechowski.com

Estrangement shows itself precisely in the elimination of distance between people.
Theodor Adorno

But we are meaning in the sense that we are the element in which significations can be produced and circulate.
Jean-Luc Nancy

The concept of Estrangement developed through a series of discussions and collaborative projects between Iraqi artist Hiwa K. and Polish curator Aneta Szylak as an attempt to create a form for mutual translation and collaborative work that is not restricted to one cultural format.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Call for ceasing fire against protesting Kurds and countrywide peaceful negotiation

Open letter

Addressing the public of Kurdistan, first of all we would like to express our greatest respect, support and gratitude for the audacity and determination of the people in Slemani at this very moment of protest. We believe that it is a transformatory event that will give the basis for a stronger self-organisation and sense of citizenship in Kurdistan in the nearest future. When the people say “no” and expose themselves to risk in the protest in the public space, when they fill the streets with their presence and disagreement, we should not take it for granted but start working from this. Kurdistan, as we know it, is not only the “the other Iraq” – a safe and economically developing Northern region. It is a country of people, who by their own courage went a long way to escape from internal conflicts, genocide and the tyranny of Saddam. There is peace and growth but there is no satisfaction and feeling of justice among the citizens. And the people are determined to say “no” again and now this “no” is happening in the framework of a democratic independent region. They say “no” because they do not have a feeling of inclusion in the governance of their own country and disagree with the social and political unbalance.

We are writing propelled by the urgency of violent events that recently took place in Slemani, when armed regional forces began to shoot their own compatriots on the streets. And we do remember and observe the sudden violent deaths of protesters and journalists. We are concerned that major Kurdish intellectuals, journalists and activists are being persecuted or detained for the critique expressed within the democratic framework. These events are not fitting certainly either to the image of “the other Iraq” or to the history of struggle for independence.  It is the moment when the question that is set in the end of any revolution must be put: are we ready to accept that freedom is not only for “us” but also for everybody?

Economic processes in Kurdistan were rapid and had a strong impact on traditional social bonds, forms of living and values. As in any other country undergoing a transformatory phase, certain steps with regard to governance and economy are being introduced without looking at the social costs of those changes. And on top of all this, they lack transparency. Without including citizens themselves in the very process of change it cannot be achieved in a satisfactory manner. The chance that was given to the Kurds must be shared with everyone and not remain in the possession of political elites.
We believe that the basics in a properly functioning public sphere are:
  • Freedom of speech, protest, creativity and media.
  • Freedom from discrimination according to political affiliation, gender, age or sexual orientation.
  • Freedom to participate in transparent decision-making processes.
  • Freedom and equality in access to public funds, which includes funds for strengthening non-governmental organisations, innovation, culture, women and youth without servility to politicians. 

More than a year ago we brought to Kurdistan a book by the Polish-American writer Elżbieta Matynia, “Performative democracy”, with the intention of translating it into Kurdish, which we hope will happen soon. This special book that takes on direct democracy in Poland and South Africa through the round-table discussion of representatives of all groups of society is a very good example of how democracy can be performed by its actors – the citizens, bloodlessly, in peace and with the shared understanding that we are destined to talk to each other with respect and a clear understanding of the common good.

In fear that the violence against one’s own society will grow and that civil liberties will shrink even more, we are calling for the round table of Kurdistan that, besides those in power, includes the opposition and people working for non-governmental organisations. We are calling for a transparent discussion that is public and transmitted on TV. We are calling for a peaceful way of solving the problem through which people can live in the country with a feeling of dignity and shared responsibility for the common good. It is not about being ruled but self-governance.  Democracy cannot only be declared, it must be performed.

We are writing this letter because we do believe in the Kurdish people and the country we both love, work for and want to support with all possible means. But now it is a time of not just being a nation but also a society, where everyone has equal rights and access and to become a leader of such a position in the region. The overall atmosphere of the demand for social change that is spreading around in the Middle East is a sign that the momentum is now.

We all see clearly that Kurdish society needs this moment of directness, of argument, of diversity that is not a threat but a potential.

Hiwa K, Kurdish artist, Berlin, Germany
Aneta Szylak, curator, Director of Wyspa Institute of Art, Gdansk, Poland
Estrangement Project
February 25, 2011

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Join us for opening on April 20 @ The Showroom :)

21 April – 5 June 2010
Preview: 20 April 2010, 6 - 8pm,
Hiwa K’s performance at 8pm
Opening hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 12-6pm
63 Penfold Street, London

The Showroom presents Estrangement, part of an ongoing project initiated by Polish
curator and artistic director of Wyspa Institute of Art, Aneta Szylak, and Iraqi-Kurdish artist Hiwa K. The project seeks to capture tensions between European cultures and the various past and present constructions of the ‘Orient’.

Involving artists from both regions through international residencies, research and projects, Estrangement seeks ways to rethink cultures of representation and postcolonial relationships as well as create a space for intimate and individual encounters. In London, Estrangement presents works and contextual material gathered from its earlier incarnations, alongside two new commissions by Hiwa K and Polish artist Joanna Rajkowska following their residencies in the Church Street neighbourhood and Edgware Road areas, together with an exhibition and events programme.

Hiwa K is collaborating with Jim White, a former American soldier and now a caretaker at a German art academy, on a live performance of Ennio Morricone’s score for the final duel scene from Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Western Once Upon A Time In The West. The work is an enquiry into the redistribution of dominant cultural representations and competences. Hiwa K and Jim White – who was taught to play country guitar music by the artist - will perform the work with a live brass band accompaniment at the Cockpit Theatre on 20 April 2010. The performance takes place against the screening of the actual film scene and will take 10 minutes. Rajkowska’s project refers to the history of Edgware Road as an ancient thoroughfare. Her proposal is an object – a chariot, partly made in collaboration with the Edgware Road community. Chariots originate from Central Asia but were in use longest in Britain. The piece explores the Middle Eastern origins of this vehicle whilst considering ideas of destination, arrival and circulation of cultural forms.

Estrangement does not intend to represent cultures or make them visible. Instead, the focus is on the potential of the works of art produced and the possibilities it may present in terms of discussion and making. In keeping with this idea, the resource room at The Showroom will include materials from projects in Kurdistan, dialogues with artists residing in Europe, documentation of workshops, texts and notes as well as videos and photographs by artists Rozhgar Mahmud Mustafa, Sherko Abbas, Shirwan Fatih, Shirwan Can, Diary Muhammad Osman, Poshya Kakil, Horen Gharib, Hemin Hamid, Gaylan Amin, Bitwen Ali, Mattias Olofsson, Knutte Wester, Anton Katz, Maryam Jafri, Azer Othman Mahmud, Zeria Adnan, Nehro Shawki, Soran Rafat and Hardi Kurda. A single issue publication with contributions by all the artists, the curators and Irit Rogoff, Francesca Recchia, Cihat Arinc and Janna Graham will further develop the themes.

For further information please contact Natasha Tebbs on 020 7724 4300 or natasha@theshowroom.org.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Estrangement on Edgware Road starts April 20

More information about Estrangement Project at The Showroom and on Edgware Road coming soon....

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Friday, April 3, 2009

Estrangement Team goes to CASCO

photo: Estrangement

Casco, Office for Art, Design and Theory, Utrecht

Discussion on Estrangement with curator Aneta Szylak (director of Wyspa Institute of Art, Gdansk) and artist Hiwa K. on their collaborative initiative 'Estrangement'.
Thursday 9 April at 20.00 at Casco, Utrecht
In the framework of Antagonistic Link curated by Binna Choi

The Antagonistic Link is an experimental setting for drawing transnational links in the form of an agonistic process that assumes the opposing parties to be in a state of conflicting coexistence. The Antagonistic Link uses 'Bye Bye Kipling', a historical satellite event conceived by Nam June Paik in 1986, as a point of departure. The exhibition combines this piece with three other projects initiated by artists and designers from South Korea, as well as other related activities. All these works explore the constructive possibilities of overcoming the sense of distance and antagonism that is the paradoxical product of advancing globalization.

"East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet", the first line of The Ballad of East and West, a poem by Rudyard Kipling, opens up Paik's live satellite link-up of Japan, Korea and the United States – a broadcast featuring different sorts of cultural events and performances. Paik designed and coordinated the event with the intention of countering this poetic declaration (which, to be fair, is also undermined in the rest of Kipling's poem as he suggests that individuals are capable of this after all). The video is a shorter edit of the original broadcast and reveals various ironic and fractious moments in such a linkage. This may be a starting point for questioning the complexities and contradictions inherent in today's communication channels and global links — an inquiry that neither denies nor blithely celebrates the possibilities of transnational connection.
[source: CASCO press materials]

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Emily Pethick is the new Estrangement partner

Emily Pethick is the director of The Showroom, London. From 2005-2008 she was the director of Casco, Office for Art, Design and Theory, in Utrecht, The Netherlands. From 2003-2004 she was curator at Cubitt, London. She has contributed to numerous catalogues and magazines, including Frieze, dot dot dot, GAS, texte zur kunst, Artforum and Untitled, edited books, such as Casco Issues X: The Great Method, with Peio Aguirre, and Casco Issues XI with Marina Vishmidt and Tanja Widmann.