The most revealing instances of this complex intersection of post-communist, post-imperial and post-colonial discourses and imaginaries are to be found not in scholarly publications or official state policies, but rather in the arts, cinema, theater, and fiction.
–Madina Tlostanova, 2012
Active since 2016, D’EST is a feminist infrastructure, platform and archive for video art, experimental and documentary film nurtured by the art space and community center District Berlin in collaboration with numerous international curators, artists and cultural organizations. D’EST maps artistic forms of historiography at the intersection of post-socialist, feminist and decolonial narratives and imaginaries. In the course of the last five years, D’EST, in collaboration with 19 international curators, 57 predominantly feminist and queer artists and collectives, and other cultural experts, published a total of 8 screening chapters reflecting on the post-socialist transformation after 1989/91. The project title D’EST (“From the East”) is borrowed from the eponymous 1993 work of the deceased filmmaker Chantal Akerman (1950–2015). In From the East’s sensitive, cinematic travelog of transformation, the artist – the daughter of survivors of the Holocaust in Poland – captures emblematic images of women waiting in a moment of hiatus just after the end of the Cold War.
Questions about the significance of the phase of post-socialist transformation for today’s Pan-European or even global condition have met with unsatisfactory answers. D’EST was first launched in the fall of 2016 with the support of the AFCN (National Cultural Fund Administration, Romania) and a presentation of twelve artists, collectives and other cultural experts in the cinema hall of the Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin, and online. The screening D’EST Prolog: O’ Mystical East and West took a look at mutual stereotypes, clichés and myths surrounding the “East” and “West” and the video works are still accessible online. In 2017, D’EST was a guest at the WRO Media Art Biennial, and from spring to end of 2018, the next phase began: with the help of the multi-sector funding City Tax, six new screening chapters were created throughout the year in collaboration with 15 international curators who collaborated in teams and invited 31 artists and collectives. The screening chapters are an impressive compilation of thematic fields that illuminate post-socialism from post-geographical, horizontal and feminist perspectives, but above all emphasize the transcultural dialog between “Eastern” and “Western” positions and the dissolution of this bipolarity. Currently, eight diverse screening chapters are accessible on our online platform.
The thematic fields of these screening chapters are closely related to the post-socialist transformation and include conceptual paradigms such as temporality, language and semantics, body fictionality and urban cosmetics, indexical reading exercises, familial and non-genetic ties, futurological as well as botanical investigations, among others. As of 2019, the funding had expired and yet, due to its high-quality artists and selection of works, D’EST received numerous thematic invitations for screening events in the framework of international festivals and exhibitions from Toksi-Line Festival in Tallinn, Martovski Festival in Belgrade, Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art in Riga and District Berlin, Scriptings Berlin, the symposium Unstable Monuments in Plovdiv, Easterndaze Festival as well as the Befem Festival in Belgrade. For the majority of these hosts, screening evenings have been put together from the existing works on the platform and new additions. In 2020, D’EST was also invited by institutions such as Moderna Galerija in Ljubljana, etc. gallery in Prague, by a working group of the neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst Berlin, by the Kaunas Artists’ House and by the PAF Olomouc Festival in the Czech Republic. This constant demand for visibility of post-socialist video art can be reaffirmed, despite the pandemic, also in 2021 in view of the cooperation with Künstlerhaus Bremen, the etc. gallery in Prague and the Kaunas Artists’ House (both for the 2nd time). Since its founding, D’EST has remained active and continued to grow as a platform and network of post-socialist cultural practitioners.
Please visit our Program page to follow future screening destinations for our online platform. Programmed by Modem Studio, the platform serves as an artistic space, research tool, and information resource for art connoisseurs, institutionally based and freelance curators, artists, historians, journalists, and critics. To be able to see all content available on the website, visitors will first have to register with the site.
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D’EST: A Multi-Curatorial Online Platform for Video Art from the Former ‘East’ and ‘West’ is a project directed by Ulrike Gerhardt and Suza Husse with District Berlin. In 2018, D’EST was hosted in cooperation with the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (MMOMA); the Goethe Institute Moscow; the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf; Filmwerkstatt Düsseldorf; the Galeria Miejska Arsenał, Poznań; Pawilon, Poznań; and the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein Video-Forum. This project was made possible through the generous support of the Senate Chancellery Berlin – Department of Culture. Since 2019 D’EST has received project-related financial grants from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and the Goethe Institute, among others, as well as from all the inviting institutions. The successful 5-year history of D’EST proves that the project is ready to move on to the next funded phase.