The Body as an Indexical Reader

ONLINE: Screening Chapter #4,

She witnessed the pollution of history. Her body, a battlefield of depraved privacy, loneliness, and terror, succumbed to the inevitable.

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Seduction of a Cyborg, 1994

Against the backdrop of post-socialist transformation, this screening chapter looks at the body politic as a collective, a singular unit, a web of relations, or as part of a staged “social choreography.” In juxtaposition are images of bodies: as organless, cerebral networks in the cognitive-capitalist functional mode and as sites of textual, discursive, and technological inscription and ideological impression. In the selected works, the body travels through the history of the last four decades as a knowledge carrier and as (post-)human hardware.

From mass-choreographed Yugoslav state rituals (Marta Popivoda and Ana Vujanović) through complications around the democratic formation of political will in the moment of revolutionary change (Elske Rosenfeld) to the Berlin street interviews of Shelly Silver, the years before and after the temporal threshold of 1989 are full of dissonances and contradictions. This first part of the chapter is dedicated to the years of systems change, where the goals and agendas that the civil rights movements had lined up in 1989–1991 had to give way to the bitter truths of real capitalism.

The relational and affective aspects of personal and political youth experiences of this period stand at the center of Henrike Naumann’s work, which portrays the members of the right-wing terrorist organization NSU (National Socialist Underground) in their youth in Jena in 1992. Meanwhile, Lene Markusen renders atmospheric images of a morbid urban landscape marked by decay in the post-Soviet era.

The ideological flavor of “catching up on modernization,” as the liberal faction of 1990s transformation researchers defined sociopolitical developments, forms the background to Harun Farocki’s documentary film Die Umschulung (eng. Retraining, 1994). In the series, The Common Sense (2014) by Melanie Gilligan, total control overcomes the subject of the 21st century: a neurologically implanted program multiplies the cognitive capabilities of the protagonists. The interconnections between these works make clear how the techniques of manipulating the human psyche and optimizing work capacities have changed over the course of only two decades to meet the demands that growth paradigms require of so-called human capital’s cognitive resources. Reconditioning is part of an accelerated present where living beings are upgraded with ever novel technical applications.

Lynn Hershman Leeson’s Seduction of a Cyborg (1994) heralds this structural shift in productivity. As economist and philosopher Yann Moulier Boutang (2011) describes in his concept of cognitive capital, besides hardware acting as the physical component and software as the logical part, “wetware” and “netware” have taken on increasing importance as the cerebral, physical element and the networked, collective constituent of intelligence respectively. The belief that recombining new and old forms of knowledge shapes healing, progress, and empowerment informs the work of Tabita Rezaire, who supplies an idiosyncratic sci-fi approach to an epistemology of the future.

  • Signals From Roots To Leaves approaches the Botanical Garden in Olomouc as a site where post-socialist and post-colonial ecologies and cultures intersect. Here, Agave, Ceiba, Rubber tree, Reeds and Carnation who live in the palm house, the subtropical greenhouse and under the open sky in Olomouc are convened together with a group of artists and healers whose work and knowledge resonates with specific trans*species connections and ecological histories they carry.

    → See the screening dates in the Program

  • EVENT: Mocuments Screening at Kaunas Artists’ House (Oct. 7, 2020)

    Mocuments Screening

    Kaunas Artists’ House (KMN) continues the program Mocuments for the dissemination of video art and films analyzing the construction of different realities. On October 7th at 7 pm, Berlin-based curator Naomi Hennig will show a selected program of two video art films. Artist Shelly Silver’s “Former East / Former West” (1994, 62 min., German with English subtitles) and Anna Zett’s video art piece “Endarchiv” (2019, 18 min., German with English subtitles). The films will be followed by a discussion with curator Naomi Hennig and video artist and curator Gerda Paliušyte.

    → See the screening dates in the Program

  • EVENT: D’EST Video Screening at Haus der Statistik, Berlin (Aug. 15, 2020)

    Space Ideologies

    “Who owns the city?” and “Who is allowed to live and who has to die?”: these existential questions reverberate in urban infrastructures, architectures, and not least in people’s bodies in post-socialist cities. Space Ideologies investigates the asymmetrical effects of privatisation and neoliberal economisation in post-1990 Almaty, Belgrade, Berlin, Moscow, and Tallinn, from Moscow’s disenfranchised delivery and taxi workers to cultural-activist squatters in Belgrade. Participating artists: Anna Engelhardt, A.S.S. Collective (Mizu Sugai & Jonathan Jung), Senka Domanović, Ruthia Jenrbekova & Morris Getman and Flo Kasearu

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  • ONLINE COLLABORATION: Video Screening with etc. gallery (May 27, 2020)

    Imagined Community I: The Moving Image Friends Association

    The online exhibition project entitled The Moving Image Friends Association presents both historical and contemporary models of collectives, established for the sake of supporting the production, presentation and research of film and video art. By comparing those collectives, the project explores how the shared interest in the moving image medium, present-day political contexts and prevailing social conditions form the ways in which the art collectives functioned. Screenings of films on the gallery’s website, accompanying texts and artist’s research display the work of the Anthology Film Archives, Czechoslovak group Obor Video, and D’EST platform. Participating D’EST contributors: Anna Bitkina & Gluklya, curators: Markéta Jonášová and Tomáš Kajánek

    → See the screening dates in the Program

  • ONLINE COLLABORATION: Online Exhibition at Moderna galerija & Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova (May 15-Dec. 31, 2020)

    Viral Self-Portraits

    Everything we produce at home during the corona time will soon add “extra value” to tourism, fashion, machines and vehicles, and will subsequently transform us as well. In the end, every crisis generates profit for someone. Viral Self-Portraits is an online exhibition around digital self-portraits understood as contemporary and individual subjectivity markers and phenomenologies co-defining our lives during the global lockdown. Participating D’EST artists: Anna Daučíková and Milica Tomić, participating D’EST curator: Jelena Vesić, concept: Zdenka Badovinac

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  • EVENT: D’EST Video Screening at BeFem Festival in Belgrade, Serbia (Dec. 8, 2019)

    Postcosmetic META-morphoses

    At this year’s BeFem Festival, D’EST will present Postcosmetic META-morphoses, a video screening event about beauty and gender norms and their global toxic bonds. Filmmaker and D’EST collaborator Lene Markusen will introduce an excerpt of her film “Sankt – Female Identities in the Post-Utopian” (2017) in correspondance with “Trùng Mù (Endless, Sightless)” (2018) by the artist Phuong Linh Nguyen. In the course of this video screening program two vastly different beauty salon scenes from differing parts of the world become the focus of attention.

    → See the screening dates in the Program

  • EVENT: D’EST and Kajet at Easterndaze x Berlin (Nov. 30, 2019)

    D’EST and Kajet at Easterndaze x Berlin

    On November 30, 2019, from 5-9pm, D’EST will install a temporary viewing station at ZÖNOTÉKA for the music festival Easterndaze x Berlin. Easterndaze x Berlin is a festival for DIY electronic music collectives from Minsk, Tallinn, Bucharest and Berlin. After a panel discussion entitled “Subcultural Peripheries: Remapping the East,” curated by the Kajet Journal, a D’EST Viewing Station will be accessible. On this occasion, musically inspired video works by Vukica Đilas, Gery Georgieva, Ivana Mladenović, Henrike Naumann, Tabita Rezaire and others can be seen.

    → See the screening dates in the Program

  • EVENT: D’EST Video Screening in Plovdiv, Bulgaria (Nov. 1, 2019)

    Alyosha and the Rose Queen – Gestures of De-Monumentality

    On the occasion of the transdisciplinary symposium “Unstable Monuments. Remnants from Times of Ideology” hosted by visual artists Katharina Swoboda and Kamen Stoyanov in Plovdiv on November 1st, 2019, D’EST presents a video program entitled “Alyosha and the Rose Queen – Gestures of De-Monumentality.” The selected works, drawn from the platform and elsewere, are dedicated to an expanded, critical and performative perspective on monuments and showcase an artistic as well as civic reappropriation of the public sphere. Participating artists: Tal Alperstein and Julia Turbahn, Gery Georgieva, Szabolcs KissPál, Ilona Németh, Eglė Rakauskaitė / Rakė and Adnan Softić

    → See the screening dates in the Program

  • EVENT: D’EST Screening and discussion at Scriptings Berlin (July 3, 2019)

    Sisters Alike: Female Identities in the Post-Utopian (book launch)

    On the basis of selected scenes, the filmmaker Lene Markusen will provide brief insights into the variety of images and themes that form her new artist book “Sisters Alike. Female Identities in the Post-Utopian.” Her everyday ethnological and cinematographic view of female subjectivities and lifestyles has been roaming through the last three decades since her first trip to St. Petersburg in 1993. Screening and discussion with: Lene Markusen (filmmaker), Anne König (publisher Spector Books), Alexandra Köhring (art historian) and Ulrike Gerhardt (initiator of D’EST). Moderated by Achim Lengerer (Scriptings).

    → See the screening dates in the Program

  • EXHIBITION: D’EST Viewing Station at Portable Landscapes: Unweaving the Iron Curtain (June 21-July 25, 2019)

    Portable Landscapes: Unweaving the Iron Curtain

    D’EST will participate in the exhibition Portable Landscapes: Unweaving the Iron Curtain at District Berlin. De-centring, contaminating, and queering dominant historical narratives, the project is part of the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art project Portable Landscapes which examines stories of exiled and emigree Latvian artists locating them within the broader context of 20th century art history, and wider processes of migration and globalization. D’EST’s temporarily installed viewing station makes our archive of the histories of post-/socialist transformation accessible in the exhibition. With contributions by Valdis Āboliņš, Decolonizing 1968, D’EST, Inga Erdmane, Leonards Laganovskis, Elske Rosenfeld, Margo Zālīte, Nguyen Phuong Linh, Tuan Mami, and Revolt She Said. Curators: Andrea Caroline Keppler, Suza Husse, Antra Priede, Elske Rosenfeld and Andra Silapētere.

    → See the screening dates in the Program

  • EVENT: D’EST Video Screening in Belgrade, Serbia (March 30, 2019)

    Martovski Festival, REZ* na D’EST (CUT to D’EST)

    Martovski Festival REZ* na D’EST (CUT to D’EST): A selection of (feminist) video art with Marwa Arsanios, Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz, Maha Maamoun, Elske Rosenfeld, Sanja Iveković, and The Bureau of Melodramatic Research, curated by Marta Popivoda. *REZ is a festival of contemporary experimental film in Belgrade

    → See the screening dates in the Program

  • EVENT: D’EST Video Screening in Tallinn, Estonia (Jan. 26-27, 2019)

    D’EST at TOKSI-LINE: feminism ­– environment – geopolitics festival

    Toxic masculinity, toxic ignorance, toxic anger… But can feminism also be toxic? Toxic to whom and in what circumstances? At the end of January, D’EST will travel to Tallinn and bring together the themes of feminism, the environment and Eastern Europe in order to discuss toxicity in our increasingly polluted world. Estonia has one of the lowest levels of environmental awareness in Europe (Eurobarameeter 2017). What roles do gender, the communication context, and geopolitics play in this? D’EST video screening with Marwa Arsanios, Ioana Cojocariu, Factory of Found Clothes, Elske Rosenfeld and The Bureau of Melodramatic Research, introduced by Ulrike Gerhardt.

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  • The screening chapter ReTopia acknowledges “post-socialism” not only as a continental but also as a global phenomenon, though with palpable regional specificity and intensity. It looks at transitional shifts and modes of remembrance of historical processes that evoke forms – rejected, outmoded, disposed from power, gender political, architectural, and even full of potential. Without being afraid of utopian ideology, it looks back and forth and sideways in search of radically different futures. Both curators, Bettina Knaup and Katja Kobolt ask these questions against the backdrop of their individual and collective endeavors to create “temporary archives”: re.act.feminism (2009-2013), a travelling performing archive Bettina Knaup initiated with Beatrice E. Stammer; and Perpetuum Mobile. The Artotheque, a collection of videos and other digitized works initiated by feminist curatorial collective Red Mined within the Living Archive (2011-2015) through the simple act of giving.

    → See the screening dates in the Program

  • Entwining autobiographical, historical, and fictional narratives, this screening program examines generational, personal, and political frictions, breaks and entanglements, taking place in the dystopian context of post-1989. The tension bears down on the sphere of the personal and the political maintained through the relationship of the four figures: the figure of Neighbor, the figure of Mother, the figure of Lover and the figure of Other.

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  • The chapter examines the body as a collective, as a singular entity, as a social choreography of an alliance of states, as an organless, cognitive-capitalist, cerebral network, as a corporeal reading instrument of past, former socialist indices, as a place of textual and discursive inscription, but also as a genuine place of affective encounters and material practices. The curators focus on video works and films that flare up the affective, somaesthetic, relational and transformative potentials of the body after 1989 / 1991.

    → See the screening dates in the Program

  • Political protocol tends to dispossess, overwrite, and refurbish unwanted narratives. Parallel to this, there are new agencies that enhance the intersections, reciprocities, and movements between bodies, spaces, objects, and memories. The video art and experimental film works of COSMOS COSMETICS: Unresting Memoryscapes and Corpofictions are concerned with architectural, corporeal, and phantasmatic materializations of internalized mnemonic, and bio-political regimes. Meanwhile they address surface porosities and subcutaneous layers of post-socialist cities. Hence this chapter of screenings in D’EST brings together artistic strategies and methods for unsettling, decontaminating, and queering artificial mono-histories, which stem from the urge to untag and distance the subject from the constraints of conformity, imposed belonging to a certain ethnic group or community, and identitarian politics in general.

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  • The changing role and function of language before and after the “transition” cannot be discussed without considering the dimension of authoritarian speech acts in the last phase of socialism. Anthropologist Alexei Yurchak shares the observation that during the authoritarian speech act, sign and reference, language and gesture, word and action merge into each other. This thesis is the foundation for an understanding of the variety of linguistic and performative experiments in post-socialist video art. The curators will focus on video works that reflect upon shifts in language and meaning and employ diverse silent, verbal, performative, activist, and other strategies to discuss collective and personal memory, identity, power relations, gender roles, and socio-political change.

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  • The curatorial selection The Suspension and Excess of Time explores the role of time within a period of radical political, social, and economical change. The selected video works focus on the changes different societies were going through during the Perestroika era, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of the soviet empire. Paying tribute to speculative temporalities, curators Becker and Seehusen will trace people’s everyday experiences in the former “East” and “West” before and after 1989 / 1991.

    → See the screening dates in the Program

  • EVENT: Screening Chapter #1 Preview

    D’EST: The Suspension and Excess of Time at WRO Media Art Biennale 2017

    At the WRO Media Art Biennale 2017, D’EST’s first line of inquiry The Suspension and Excess of Time, a collaboration with the Video-Forum at Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.) will be introduced by its curators Kathrin Becker and Jana Seehusen by way of two selected video works. Screening and discussing Sanja Iveković’s INSTRUCTIONS No. 2 from 2015 and Ulrike Rosenbach’s 1976 video Glauben Sie nicht, dass ich eine Amazone bin. (eng.: Do not believe I am an Amazon.), visitors gain insight into the politics of living as a woman and how they manifested in (Post-)Yugoslavia and West Germany.

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  • In 1957, Roland Barthes stated that in “Western” mythology the USSR would be a world halfway between the Earth and Mars to exemplify that the communist world was considered as foreign as another planet. Similar to Barthes’ literary method in his Mythologies book, curator, filmmaker and artist Xandra Popescu scripted three semi-fictional short stories to introduce major paradigms of her screening program O’ Mystical East and West.

    → See the screening dates in the Program