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Chemnitz, Charleston, Clausnitz

20.02.16
9 min
Post

November 1989 erlebte ich von Istanbul aus, wie die Mauer fiel. Ich freute mich für dieses Land, in das meine Familie und ich aus dieser Stadt gekommen waren. Komisch, dachte ich noch, gerade bei so einem unfassbaren Ereignis bin ich, aufgewachsen in der BRD, nicht da, schaue von der Ferne aus zu. Ich saß fast ungläubig vor dem Fernseher und musste daran denken, wie mir meine Mutter davon erzählte, wie sie 1969 die Landung auf dem Mond in unserem Wohnzimmer im Taunus verfolgten. 

Als dann 1990, kurz nach der Wiedervereinigung, die Treuhand anfing, ostdeutsche Betriebe abzuwickeln, war ich Student an der Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Fakultät Erlangen-Nürnberg. Am Lehrstuhl für Volkswirtschaftslehre hing ein Zettel, dass die Treuhand Studenten im Hauptstudium suche, die während der Semesterferien dabei assistieren könnten, Umschulungsprogramme in ostdeutschen Betrieben abzuhalten. 

Wir wussten, dass die dortigen Unternehmen in keinem guten Zustand waren und dass das für viele Menschen bedeuten würde, dass sie ihren Arbeitsplatz verlieren. Ich wusste auch, wie es für meine Eltern war, als sie damals in Deutschland ankamen. Sich in ein neues Arbeitsumfeld einfügen, zwei Kinder einschulen, sich mit einer anderen Gesellschaft auseinandersetzen. Es ging uns gut, wenn auch nicht alle Erfahrungen positiv waren. 

Ich meldete mich. Ich dachte, ich kann nachempfinden, wie es den Menschen in Ostdeutschland geht, wenn sich plötzlich alles ändert, wenn man nicht weiß, ob das, worauf man bisher baute, in einem anderen System funktioniert. 

Nach vier Wochen Vorbereitung kam ich nach Chemnitz, ehemals Karl-Marx-Stadt, zu Robotron, einem Flagschiff der ostdeutschen Industrie. Ich hatte mich ein wenig eingelesen, 1989 arbeiteten in dem Kombinat fast 70.000 Menschen, am Standort Chemnitz waren es glaube ich 8.000. Weniger als 2.000 sollten dort übrig bleiben wurde gesagt. Ich war ich mir unsicher, was ich dort einbringen konnte, außer meinen Optimismus. 

Und so war es dann auch. Montagmorgen um acht stand ich in einer grauen Flanellhose und einem Wollcardigan vor etwa 30 Nochbeschäftigten Robotronmitarbeitern. Mein Vater hatte noch beim Abschied über den Cardigan gelächelt und milde gefragt, ob ich jetzt mit meinen paar Semestern Studium in Yale unterrichten würde. Es roch nach Braunkohle, als ich von meinem Wohnheim, wo noch einige Vietnamesen wohnten, zum Betriebsgelände des Ex-Kombinats lief, und ich hatte davon Kopfschmerzen. Das kannte ich aus Istanbul, als der Ruß von den Kohleöfen im Winter in der Luft hing und ich immer Tage brauchte, um mich an die schmierige, kalte Winterluft zu gewöhnen. Ich sagte: „Guten Morgen, mein Name ist Murat Suner. Ich bin hier, um mit Ihnen die nächsten vier Wochen das Modul Volkswirtschaftslehre und Soziale Marktwirtschaft druchzunehmen.“ Es klang wie ein Witz. Sie guckten mich alle an. Keiner sagte etwas. Ich war Anfang zwanzig, sie zwischen Ende dreißig und Anfang fünfzig. Ich war Student, sie Ingenieure, Physiker, Facharbeiter, Büroangestellte. Ich kam aus der BRD, sie aus der DDR. Wenigstens das hatten wir gemeinsam: Zwei Länder, die es irgendwie nicht mehr gab. Ich fragte mich, wie sie sich jetzt wohl vorkommen, mit so einem jungen Spund vor sich, der noch dazu gar nicht so aussah, wie sie sich vielleicht den Besserwessi vorstellten. Ich dachte, die haben Angst und die trauen mir nicht. Auch das kannte ich aus West-Deutschland. Es gab so endlos viele Begegnungen von klein auf, wo ich das Gefühl hatte, die haben Angst, die sind misstrauisch, ohne dass ich es erklären konnte. Dieses verdammte Gefühl, das mich endlos nervte, aber das ich nicht ablegen konnte, und nicht verstand warum. Ich verstehe es bis heute nicht. Es gibt Erklärungen, dass es mit dem Krieg zusammenängt, mit dem Faschismus, mit dem das Land sich und andere in den Abgrund riss, dass dieses Trauma sich über Generationen vererben kann, all das weiß man heute. Aber man weiß das nicht, wenn man als Kind in diesem Land aufwächst. Ich wusste nur von klein auf, dass die Angst und dieses Misstrauen absolut nichts mit mir zu tun haben. Dass das meinen Eltern gelungen ist, dafür bin ich endlos dankbar. 

Im Laufe der Wochen wurde die Stimmung immer gelassener, jeden Tag verbrachten wir acht Stunden zusammen. Keiner von uns wusste, ob das, was wir da machen würden, irgendjemand nützen würde, aber wir entwickelten eine Art Gemeinschaft in diesem Raum. Aus dem, was lächerlicherweise als Unterricht gedacht war, wurde ein Miteinander-Reden. Ich sollte Noten vergeben, aber schämte mich, gestandenen Physikern etwas über Pivottabellen zu erzählen. Ich glaubte, sie spürten das und ließen mich machen, und ich sie. Eine fand heraus, wann ich Geburtstag hatte, dann gab es morgens einen Kuchen und ein Ständchen von allen auf Sächsisch. Ich war wirklich froh, dass ich nach dem Zettel von der Treuhand gegriffen hatte. 

Im nächsten Jahr bin ich wieder hin, da waren, glaube ich, noch 1.600 da, die Stimmung war ernüchtert. Einige Zeit später brannte in Hoyerswerda ein Heim, in dem vietnamesische Arbeiter lebten – so eines wie das, in dem ich in Chemnitz gewohnt hatte. Es waren sogenannte Gastarbeiter, deren Veträge aus DDR-Zeiten abgelaufen waren. Sie sollten bald nach „Hause“ geschickt werden, viele mit Kindern. 30 Menschen wurden bei den Anschlägen verletzt. Die Menge applaudierte, während Rassisten Brandsätze schmissen. Das war im Herbst 1991. Dann kamen Solingen und Mölln, und Helmut Kohl ging nicht zur Trauerfeier. Später mordete die NSU quer durchs Land, auch in Nürnberg, wo ich studierte. Der Rassismus scheint überall zu sein, wo ich bin, doch eigentlich ist er überall, wo jeder ist. Aber es gibt keine Regierung, die von strukturellem Rassismus spricht.

Es geht nicht um Ost oder West. Dieses Land kann nicht ohne Einwanderung, es setzt sich in der Mitte des europäischen Kontinents ja aus Eingewanderten zusammen. Es gab auch nie irgendeine Gesellschaft ohne Ein- oder Auswanderung. Es geht gar nicht ohne den vermeintlich Fremden, die Konstruktion der fremden Kultur ist lächerlich, es gibt nur eine Kultur des Zusammenlebens oder es gibt keine. Wo Abschottung ist, ist Dunkelheit. Niemand will da leben. Selbst die Leute aus Clausnitz nicht, denn im Grunde vergehen sie vor Selbsthass. Der Mensch hat keine Wahl, er kann sich nur öffnen oder zu Grunde gehen. 

Als die Menschen 1989 „Wir sind das Volk“ schrien, meinten sie das „Wir“, jetzt aber geht es nicht um das „Wir“, es geht um das „Volk“, das die völkische Bewegung des 19. Jahrhunderts meinte, und die war rassistisch und antisemitisch. Dass dieses Geschrei heute auch anti-muslimisch ist, ist fast Nebensache, denn was sich gerade breit macht, ist vor allem anti-demokratisch. 

Ich bin enttäuscht, weil die Politik das nicht klar genug macht. Politik muss das Öffnen der Menschen, das Zusammenleben gestalten, wofür gibt es sonst Politik? 

Ich habe angefangen diesen Text zu schreiben, nachdem ich fassungslos und wütend das Video sah, in dem Geflüchtete in einem Bus mit der unglaublichen Aufschrift „Reisegenuss“ in Clausnitz ankamen und der hasserfüllte Mob die Menschen mit „Wir sind das Volk“-Gegröle bedrohte. Und dann dieser Polizist, der den völlig eingeschüchterten, angsterfüllten Jungen gewaltsam aus dem Bus zerrt, während der Mob dabei aufjohlt. Wer macht so was? Ich wollte mir die Erschütterung aus der Seele schreiben und ich dachte, es wird nicht gut enden. Aber ich erinnerte mich an die Leute, die ich in Chemnitz kennenlernte und die mich kennenlernten, die mich nach einigen Wochen zu sich nach Hause einluden und die am Ende traurig waren, dass ich wieder nach Hause fuhr. Und das beruhigte mich. 

Aber es geht nicht um mich. Da kommen traumatisierte Menschen aus Not und Elend, fliehen aus Verzweiflung und vor dem Tod. Um dann in die hässliche Fratze von entmenschlichten Wesen zu schauen, so dass sie noch einmal um ihr Leben fürchten müssen. Woher kommt diese Entmenschlichung? So was macht allenfalls der Krieg, aber hier ist kein Krieg. Hier stimmt etwas nicht. Auch mit der Politik nicht, mit der Polizei nicht. Dafür müssen wir keine US-amerikanischen Polizeivideos anschauen, in denen Afro-Amerikaner misshandelt oder gleich abgeknallt werden. Was Obama nach dem Attentat von Charleston über die klaffende Rassismus-Wunde, in die dort keiner hineinsehen will, sagte, können wir uns ruhig auch hier eingestehen: Deutschland hat ein gewaltiges Rassimusproblem. Wenn wir es aussprechen, wird es besser, nicht schlechter. Viele Facebook-Kommentare sprechen von Scham und Betroffenheit über Clausnitz, aber das reicht nicht. Das sind keine Einzelfälle, das ist ein wiederkehrendes, also strukturelles Problem. 

Ich, der als Einwanderungskind mit nationalsozialistischer Vergangenheitsbewältigung bis zum Erbrechen aufwuchs, muss es mir selber sagen. Weil ich es nicht fassen kann. Weil ich dachte, als jemand meinen Eltern einen Karton voll mit noch dampfender Scheiße vor die Tür legte, mit einem Zettel, auf dem mit armseliger Handschrift „Geh nach Anatolien, Hunde kurieren“ stand, das sei ein Spinner, wie das halt jeder so denkt. Aber das ist falsch. Ein Rassist denkt nie, dass er alleine steht. Überall. In Hoyerswerda nicht, nicht in Charleston und auch nicht in Clausnitz. Er denkt immer, dass er für andere mithandelt. Andere, die sich nicht trauen, die nicht erkennen, was er vermeintlich erkennt. Er denkt in seinem kranken Wahn, wie der norwegische Massenmörder Breivik, dass er irgendwas beschützt, was schützenswert ist. Aber da ist nichts. Nichts außer Selbsthass. Wir können diese Leute nicht alle auf die Couch legen, wo man sie eigentlich behandeln müsste. Nicht den Mob auf der Straße, nicht die gestörten AfD-Leute, auch nicht die aus der sogenannten bürgerliche Mitte, von denen offenbar viele immer noch denken, Rassimus ist nur, wenn das in der Gaskammer endet, und das sei ja vorbei. Ist es nicht. 

Deutsche sind doch so ehrgeizig. Warum ist die Politik dann nicht so progressiv und erkennt, dass ein Einwanderungsland seit Jahren nicht einfach so stehen bleiben kann. Es reicht nicht, einen einmaligen humanitären Akt zu vollziehen, damit wir uns dann wieder in tumben Das-Boot-ist-voll-Debatten aus den neunziger Jahren verheddern. Da waren wir doch schon. Wir sollten uns der Zukunft zuwenden und konsequent den Weg zu einer echten Einwanderungsgesellschaft bestreiten. Es gibt keinen Weg zurück, wir können nicht stehenbleiben oder abbiegen, es geht nur dorthin. Das muss Politik aber auch sagen.

Sniper Abu Abdul accompanied by Carsten Stormer, Aleppo 2013, © Courtesy of Carsten Stormer
Aleppo - A City Engulfed In Civil War, Aleppo 2013, © Courtesy of Carsten Stormer

The Syrian Tragedy

by
Carsten Stormer
17.02.16
60 min
Longread
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Our Task

Igor Levit about meeting a guy with a clear vision of politics, life, love – and music
10.02.16
4 min
Post

My driver, a black man of about 25 years, picks me up from the hotel and greets me with a super loud “Hi brother, how are ya?”
“Good. And you?”
“I’m fine, thanks! I’m always fine, I’m always good, I’m fighting for a better world, daily, ya know? We all need to fight, and we need to feel good about it, that’s our task!”
A few minutes later, driving to Kalamazoo, we are deep into a wonderful conversation on intellectualism in politics, on presidents (“Obama is the best president we’ve ever had!”), on the media (“Sure, Fox News is crazy, but hey, I like MSNBC, but I would like MSNBC even more if they wouldn’t try to act like Fox News. Sometimes I think, we’re all surrounded by crazy people. Why can’t they all just THINK before they act?! Why not?!”)
“You know, my family and I, we came from Ethiopia to the United States, we lived in Virginia. But I didn’t like it. You know why? Too white, too republican (big laugh), too happy, too unpolitical. Not enough trouble! (big laugh). Luckily my friend called me from Ann Arbor, asked me if I’d like to move here, so I did. And it’s great! I love it! We all fight. We all do ! And each day we fight more, and each day we love the United States more. These nazis, Cruz, Trump, they’ll never take over our country. We won’t let them. It’s our land. It belongs to all of us! Bernie Sanders, he is my man. I love him. But I wouldn’t elect him. It’s sad, but the country isn’t ready yet. I support Hillary. Yes, I do. We all do. Sure, Bernie is closer to my heart, but the country isn’t ready yet. But he did so much for us already. So much! He’s our voice. Our media calls him “Socialist Trump”. They’re nuts!!!! Populist? He’s a populist? He’s a good man! He cares for us, he cares for culture, he cares for young people, and they call him Socialist Trump??? That’s insane! He’s like the only guy who speaks about culture. Yeah brother, I love culture, I love music. I think music helps us fighting. Detroit is like so so close from here. Hip Hop, Eminem, they’re fighters. But here, today I was listening to Schubert. You know Schubert? Listen to this! (He switches on the radio, puts a CD inside, Schubert E flat major Mass.) Listen to this great stuff! Ah, yeah, ah … these harmonies! That drive! He must have been in trouble, man! You can tell! Such amazing stuff! I’ve been listening to this all day long! Trump is a nazi, Cruz is a nazi, maybe even more dangerous than Trump. We shouldn’t underestimate these guys. Never! Look, you see these places over here? (He points to the left and to the right side.) So many crazy people live here. They’re crazy about their guns. Guns, everywhere guns. They’re insane. And churches everywhere. Baptist churches, all kind of churches. But sure, yeah, more guns than churches! (big laugh) They trust guys like Trump and Cruz. And you know why? Cause they hate us. They hate blacks, they hate Mexicans, they hate gays, they hate progressives, they hate culture. It’s pure hate. And it’s fear. They’re afraid of us. That’s why they hate us. Where are you from? Germany? Europe is a mess these days, right? I read it in the news. Everywhere crazy people. France, England, Poland, crazy stuff, man … Germany too? Oh shit. But is the young generation fighting? They should fight! You guys must fight! It’s your country! It’s a problem to say “my country”? Why? You should care for your country and for your people. Always! Hey, you know, I think the key is: love. I love all people. Even people, who hate me, I love them. If they’d kill someone I love, I’d still love them. I’d never hate them. Never! That’s why they’ll always loose. I think I drove too far, wait. No, just one block. I want you to be safe and to be on time. That’s important! Hey, good luck with your concert brother! You play Schubert? Wow! He’s my guy!! (big laugh) Give them hell!”
He dropped me at my hotel and drove away. Three hours later I performed Bach, Beethoven, Schubert and Prokofiev at the hall down the street.

The three in a Nietzschean pose; and look who has the whip

Listen, We Have a Jingle!

with
Ari Benjamin Meyers
Marie-France Rafael
Armen Avanessian
10.02.16
60 min
60hertz

Armen Avanessian visited Ari Benjamin Meyers together with Marie-France Rafael in his studio in Kreuzberg for 60Hz. At the end of 60 minutes 60Hz finally has the only thing that was still missing for such an amazing radio show: a jingle, or rather one out of 60 jingles. You’ll hear about Marie’s and Ari’s new book ‘Music on Display’ and his work as a composer, (post)contemporary artist, his upcoming shows, the book launch on February 19th at Spike Berlin, his childhood discovery of Satie and Vexation’s 840 repetitions, his discovery now of our hidden singing talents, and basically everything you ever wanted to know about the history of radio (jingles) and why its frequency should be measured not in hertz but in hurts: Ari explains it all while sitting and playing at his piano. And all this you get if you make it beyond the first 10 minutes of us recording a jingle for 60Hertz (or hurts) totally out of tune.

Please, Don't Tell Me I Look Prettier!

Enas El Masry about the veil she wore and the veil she does not wear anymore; and the time in between
08.02.16
8 min
Post

As much as I dislike passing generalized judgments, one feature that seems to prevail in Egypt’s social life is meddling in one another’s lives, one time through criticism, the other time through subtle or blatant commentary. Being the free spirit that I am, not only have I come to learn how to shun people’s unsolicited opinions but I have also come to find pleasure in defying society in pursuit of stretching my limits and growing.
However, despite my thickened skin towards societal blabber, I could never escape all sorts of judgments that accompanied both putting on and taking off my hijab (Islamic headscarf). In contrast to what both schools of supporters and opposers may think, neither step actually left a significant impact on the path I walked. With or without the veil, I was – and still am – pretty much the same person.
In September of 2007, I wore the hijab out of complete conviction, backed with a set of unwavering logical arguments. Despite my parents thinking that I was too young and that further on I may find it a burden, I still did what I thought was the right thing to do. It was a step I felt at the time was much needed.
In November of 2015, I took off my hijab with a pretty much similar mindset to when I put it on: complete conviction, unwavering logical argument and a deep belief that I needed to take this step. No doubts, no remorse.
However, what was also common between the two instances of decision making was the subtle peer and societal pressure which played a core part in shaping my beliefs and feelings, even if I was made to believe that they were intrinsic and genuine. It was upon realizing so that it became a necessity to revisit why I wore the hijab at all.
In the years prior to 2007, I saw many girls my age wear the hijab. In parallel, I often heard teachers talk about how big of a responsibility wearing it is and that once you put it on, you can never take it off. Along the same lines, one teacher once told us about the time she decided to take off her veil, which was only followed by a series of unfortunate events. Taking this as a sign from God that she shouldn’t have taken it off, she put it back on.
Filled with fear that every single waking day without wearing my veil only meant more sin, I decided it was high time I wore it. I mean, who in their proper mind would want to fry in hell?
It wasn’t until five years later in 2012 that I started realizing how influenced I was with society’s perception on wearing the veil. Consequently, I started questioning whether I wore the headscarf out of piety or out of following the societal and religious consensus on the path a girl should walk down. Seeing as how I still struggle with the basic practices of Islam, I felt that I portrayed a false image that didn’t exactly reflect my stance.
Opposed by my family at the time, I didn’t take it off. Although I never hated it, I just grew indifferent about it. Hoping to feel natural and at ease in my own skin and in my veil, I started to tweak how I wore it until it eventually looked more like a fashionable rendition of this societal dress code, void of any religious or pious purpose.
This indifference carried on, until I felt like I was doing myself and this religious practice – which I have all the respect for – wrong.
“You know, mom, between myself and God, I don’t consider myself veiled anymore. Let’s be honest, what I wear, the way I wear it, that isn’t real hijab.
“If that’s the case, why do I still wear it? Society? Why should I cover my hair for society? And what’s so obscene in this bulk of hair over my head? I no longer want to play by the rules of this sick society. You and I know very well that putting on or taking off my hair covering won’t attribute to healing or worsening this sickness.”
As though uttering out my thoughts gave them life and gave me purpose, I ventured for a second round of discussions with my family and, this time trusting that I was taking this step based on sound logic and not an impulsive whim, I took it off.
However, in all honesty, I strongly believe that the prevailing trend of women and girls taking off their veil in the past few years had a rather similar impact to the time when I put it on. As certain as I am of the logic which led to me to either step, I will always be a bit doubtful about how much of my logic was purely mine and how much was based on societal influence. Nevertheless, I don’t regret either decision.
Although confident of the step I was taking, what left my heart a bit heavy was worrying I would face harsh judgments. As a matter of fact, almost everyone I met was quite accepting of my decision, sparing me any condescending comments or unwanted religious sermons.
Strangely though, what made me feel rather uncomfortable was the praise I received. Varying between “You look gorgeous!” and “This suits your lifestyle more,” I knew people were trying to show their support, but they were boiling down the value of the journey to mere external looks.
For me, it was a journey of reestablishing my relationship with God, and trying to find Him is what led me to taking off my headscarf – which is only one step among many along the way.
Tired of constructing my spiritual life on the fear of punishment, I vowed to only do things out of love for God and the true desire to do what makes Him happy – similar to how anyone would act towards a person they love. But in doing so, I had to take a step back and reevaluate how I practiced the things which we allegedly do for God. I am not against wearing the headscarf but I am against wearing it for the wrong reasons. Having once bet on God’s punishment when I put it on, I was this time betting on His mercy as I took it off.
Looking back on the doubts, insecurities and beliefs that I dwelled on, it irritated me that to those who tried to show support, it was more or less a matter of looks. With or without the scarf, I have my good days when I’m all shiny and pretty and I have my days when I’m an utter mess. But guess what, that’s how all people are!
In the years following 2011 and in the wake of this aggressive and mutated face of feminism that has swept the country, many movements and public figures called on women to take off their headscarves, those chains that restricted women and kept them from reaching their full potential.
Looking at myself and my friends who have worn it for many years and who also happen to be very successful and aspiring young ladies, it was quite entertaining how people generalized their personal experiences and traumas, boiling them down to the hijab and how it’s one means of limiting women – kind of sounds like when feminists wanted to burn bras!
But let me tell you what I have achieved during the years when I wore my headscarf. I have graduated both school and college with honors. I started cycling in Cairo at a time when I was called insane for doing so. I traveled to new places in Egypt that I had never seen before and I traveled for the first time on my own to Europe – twice. I took my first steps along the professional career path. I left an impact wherever I worked. I succeeded at some things and failed at others. Fell in and out of love. I grew and the horizons of my capabilities grew farther, always inviting me to go the extra mile. I made new friends, cherished old ones, went through uncountable precious experiences – all of which contributed to my continued growth.
If there is one thing I shall miss about wearing my headscarf, it is proving the absurdity of linking the hijab to limited freedom or aspiration. My eight veiled years were exceptionally rich eight years that I don’t regret a single day of.

Enas El Masry
People

The first time I met Enas was one year after we physically met. We were at a cafe, exchanging words and magic about God and the world, as she descriptively narrated her first solo trip to Europe. Suddenly, I saw a glimmer in her eyes; a glimmer of someone who’s hungry for life; a glimmer of someone who truly knows how to live by the codes of passion.
The second time I met her was when she decided to follow her heart and shift careers. I knew that she has a heart that encompasses the world, and following that heart would never lead her astray. I knew she would put her unicorn heart and soul into whatever she sets her mind on, and that’s exactly what happened.
The third time I met her was when she shared a collaged picture of herself alongside Marge from the Simpsons. She had the eyes of a child. The way she saw the world anew everyday has inspired me to write: “May you grow up enough to become a child”. That was when I envied her for having the soul of an artist and the mind of a world conqueror who grabs the world by the neck – a formidable combination if you don’t know.
The fourth time I met her was when she she decided to give it all up and chase what she loves, when her detachment of all things seemed courageous and thrilling, exactly like her soul.
You will meet Enas on one level or the other, whether she brings you to your knees by singing, melting your heart by casually playing Chopin,  or flipping through her thoughts like an eloquent book, and never hesitating to tell it like it is. But if you’re really damn lucky, you’ll meet Enas on a personal level where her existence strips you off the masks you think you need to wear. 
She is magic. Not the representation of it, she is it. You only need to meet her once to know that, but one time, mark my words, is the furthest from enough.
She is art, one that cannot be unseen.

The beginning of a revolution
The anger, the rage, the people: Tahrir Square in January 2011
Tahrir Square on Feb. 11: Hosni Mubarak had resigned after 30 years in power.

I Like to Think of Tahrir Square As a Woman

with
Nora Amin
Georg Diez
31.01.16
60 min
60hertz

It was the day of the fifth anniversary of the beginning of what would become the Tahrir revolution, one of the first episodes of what would become the Arab Spring, one of the most promising events, a series of days really, 18 say the people who were there. And Nora Amin was one of them. There are still sparkles in her eyes when she talks about these first 18 days, and her voice changes when she talks about what happened then. 
She has written about all of that, a very moving, a very important text, especially today in the context of all the hysteria, the wrong information, the lack of knowledge of what really happened and what it meant.
“Migrating the Feminine“ is a fearless attempt to find an answer to what it means to be a woman in a society full of prejudice, contempt, anger and transgression against the female, in all ages, in all forms, from the way a young girl is treated to the violent and traumatic events of Tahrir.
Nora Amin`s text is personal, passionate and political, her voice is strong in a time full of confusion, her vision is clear, her language as vibrant and as poetic as it can be. This is an important text not only for the Egyptian society, it is part of larger discussion among writers, thinkers, feminists around the world. 
Amin’s essay “Migrating the Feminine“ is the first book published from the exceptional and experimental collaboration between 60pages and some of the most important journalists, activists and writers in Egypt today.
In her interview for 60Hz we discussed the legacy and the sadness involved in the memory of this day, five years on.

On Refugees

27.01.16
8 min
Conversation

Dear Aman,
 
This may sound a bit emotional, but I’m happy you exist. I am anyways, but especially am right now. When I write to you, it’s like I can beam myself out of all the insanity that I’m surrounded by on a daily basis. And I, like so many others, am suffering from it. People are talking about emigrating. For some people it’s just party talk. Others mean it seriously.
 
On the other hand, this letter beams me back into the middle of everything that’s happened in the weeks since I last wrote you. Is it still the same country? I don’t recognize the politics; I don’t recognize my colleagues. I can’t remember  ignorance, meanness and resentment ever being bound together into such a hysteric, roaring bundle as quickly as they were after January 1st, 2016.
 
At the same time, I always have the feeling that I have to tell you something: Aman, be patient with me, I’m a European. We enslaved the world, but those were either my ancestors or, to a much larger extent, the British, the Spanish and the French. And we Europeans of today, we Easyjet-setters, are a strangely spoiled brood — we only know the stories of war and a life of affluence.
 
And a certain inexperience of the world is indeed actually one of the reasons for the excitement, for the political smear campaign, for the anti-constitutional suggestions, for the sheer opportunism that many are escaping into as if a new regime is already visible on the horizon and it’s about to be payday. Another reason may just be racism.
 
Refugees and “people with immigrant backgrounds” are no longer allowed to enter public swimming pools?! Refugees have to forfeit a significant portion of their money?! Mali is a safe third world country? Refugees have to wear a red armband, otherwise they won’t receive any money? The fact is, the people talking about the compulsion to integrate are the ones doing everything to make this integration difficult — mistrust, measures saying families cannot follow, and then lamenting that only “young men traveling alone” are coming to Germany. 
 
It really is insane. 2015 was stressful. 2016 is insane. And the panic is growing, especially among the so-called people’s parties. The radical right-wing AfD (Alternative for Germany) party could supposedly receive 10 percent of the vote nationally. There are elections in March in some German states. And since one of the promises of salvation of the old Federal Republic of Germany was a stabil ‘party landscape,’ as the saying goes – Landschaft (landscape) is a very German word – that’s why this shift, which is a pretty unsettling shift among the old constellations, is almost a cultural breach for many.
 
They seem to really fear the pitchforks that an AfD spokeswoman wants to drive them out of office with. She recently said so at a demonstration. Political violence is suddenly on the table. On the other hand, there were 1,000 attacks on refugees or refugee shelters or generally-speaking anti-immigrant attacks last year. And this should be classified as terrorism, if you wouldn’t just rather – as many still would – talk about the “concerned citizens,” whose concerns need to be “taken seriously.”
 
This is the climate post-Cologne. Hardly anybody is talking anymore about the reasons people leave their homes and become refugees. The vast majority will only discuss the need to close borders, right now, unconditionally. They don’t talk about how to do that. They don’t talk about whether refugees, who still want to come, should be shot. They don’t talk about how Europe wouldn’t exist anymore, because Europe, this Europe, the one that wanted to put war in its past, is based on the free flow of people and dissolution of borders.
 
That seems to be all the same to you. You would rather talk about the return of the nation state, because you see what happened in Cologne as a failure of government. But a lot of people are quite gladly discussing the state now, which on the one hand is typical for this country, a country that has sought its fortune or better said misfortune in submission to authority; and on the other hand it’s cynical, because this call for the state, a strong state, often comes from those that wanted nothing, more each and every neoliberal day, than to get rid of the state wholesale.
 
But how does one come up with the idea of the nation state being a solution for an  epochal phenomenon, like global migration? It’s obvious that they want to export weapons but that they don’t want to import the people that are fleeing the wars being wages with these weapons. But that won’t succeed. Because then they’d have to sacrifice everything that makes Europe what it is, at least constitutionally: freedom, equality, fraternity. And yes, you probably see things differently, they way my friend, Pankaj Mishra, does. In his book, From the Ruins of Empire, he analyses the West’s lies and crimes during the colonial period, drawing a connection between the democratic aspirations of countries like Iran, Turkey and China and interventions by the West. His conclusion is that Europe created an unjust world, which is now fleeing back to the origin of this evil by a devious refugee route.
 
So what, to put it differently, is a century? What is a century and a half? Circles eventually close but that’s not how people are thinking in these über-hectic times, and this is unique heckling. And the worst people are the ones that want nothing more than to drive Angela Merkel out, the crowds on the streets carrying gallows and signs that say “traitor” on them. But there are also the professors in the more reactionary sections of the daily papers, who say the same thing differently: Merkel betrayed “us” because her basic task is to prevent “harm to the German people.”
 
This is the sentiment behind what you quoted from the Zizek text. It’s one of the must unpleasant thought patterns, because it really is so reactionary, that’s currently making the rounds: Accordingly, egoism is the essential nationalistic kit, ethics are just for the good days, responsibility is for dreamers and humanitarianism is accordingly an episode in the European monotony. They’re riding with their backs to the sun. They’re reversing the course of history — this is their hope. However this plan won’t work, because in doing so, they’re taking away the breathing room. This is the danger. They detach Europe from the rest of the world. By trying to protect Europe with walls, with border fences, with boats in the Mediterranean and with arrangements with dictators like Recep Erdogan, they’re actually destroying it themselves.
 
Because the 21st century is the century of diversity. The culture warriors here don’t want to accept that. They rather spread the image of a murderous Islam, which automatically turns men into rapists. They rather fuel prejudice and hate, producing contempt for the democratic system. They’re acting like liberals, feminists and progressives, of all people, are to be blamed for what happened in Cologne. They’re truly ignorant. And sometimes I really can’t believe my eyes when I read some of the things they’re writing. And sometimes I have to question everything I thought about certain people.
 
Or about people in general. And this, to say something positive, has something thoroughly good to it. It’s a real reality check. And this is what you’re talking about. It’s what’s happening in the world. It’s the “agonistic intimacy,” which is what so many countries and cultures are made of. And yet, Europe has a strange phantasm, that of national homogeneity, something that’s hard to comprehend on a continent that’s been plowed through over and over by mass migrations. But maybe that’s exactly the fear that resurfaces in moments like these.
 
A historian just compared the current situation to the fall of Rome. Comparisons are dumb for the most part. This one was too. If the Romans had voted on it, would it have changed anything? If they had debated it? In the current situation, and this is what your question is getting at, it would certainly be difficult to hold a referendum for one thing. And I also don’t think that’s necessary. The essence of representative systems is what the people express by voting. I’m not an absolute advocate of this system. But it has its advantages. It currently guarantees a modicum of stability. Does Angela Merkel need to communicate differently, speak differently? Could she? Yes, with certainty. Parliament is the place for such a debate and it’s symptomatic and incorrect that this place is no longer being used.
 
The problem with the entire discussion is that it’s being held in such a defensive and fearful manner. But a few days ago, I saw how Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, casually and self-evidently explained why he took Syrian refugees into his country and why diversity is the future. And in Europe? There are politicians, from Poland in this case, that are seriously saying that vegetarians and bicyclists can not be allowed to be in power.
 
Aman, beam me up. Sometimes I really don’t know what I’ve lost on this continent.
 
All best,
Georg
 

Migrating the Feminine

by
Nora Amin
25.01.16
180 min
Longread
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Co-Workers, installation view. Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Photo: © Pierre Antoine
Co-Workers, installation view. Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Photo: © Pierre Antoine
DIS, The Island (KEN), 2015, Created in collaboration with Dornbracht and co-designed by Mike Meiré, Co-Workers, installation view. Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Photo: © Pierre Antoine

The art of the contemporary 5

Marie-France Rafael about "the artist as prosumer"
24.01.16
14 min
Post

INT. DAY. MUSEE D’ART MODERNE DE LA VILLE DE PARIS – FIRST FLOOR

Huge sliding doors dominate the entrance to the exhibition CO-WORKERS – NETWORK AS ARTIST, like the doors we are used to see at department stores. Toke Lykkeberg is standing in front of the moving glass planes. He is one of the curators of the show, waiting to be interviewed by M, an art historian.

M

Lets start to talk about the sliding doors. It’s a pretty uncommon opening for an art exhibition

– can you tell me more about it?

TOKE LYKKEBERG

The show starts with doors sliding open. There are a couple of other sliding doors in the show. This is part of the mise en scène or scenography that DIS has been in charge of. The many transparent and reflective surfaces lend the show a certain lightness so visitors sort of float through the space. It’s like a space of flows of images, of data in a networked world. But it also reflects life in airports, malls, Apple stores and Starbucks. I know this mise en scène might recall ethnologist Marc Augé’s non-places. In the 1990s, in the wake of the introduction of TGV or Trains à Grande Vitesse, he was interested in a new kind of solitary passenger who left places behind at high speed. But DIS has been more interested in the connected and social individuals who linger, meet up, chill or work in environments with good wifi that has a ubiquitous rather than transitory quality. Places are not negated but rather mixed. So it’s a world in which many divides seem to disappear like the barriers between work and leisure, private and public, commercial and non-commercial space and what is inside and outside, for instance of a museum. The show discusses the divides between what we once called ‘the virtual’ and ‘the real’, between nature and society, the biosphere and the technosphere, East and West, and many other such binaries that no longer work as opposites.

Toke and M pass through the sliding doors, that produce a muted but peculiar sound each time they open and close. The couple walk into the first room of the exhibition. The large and elongated space is lit through a skylight in the ceiling. A range of artworks unfolds. Each of them represents a discrete artistic position, but their arrangement spurs a dialogue between the works, and configures a heterogeneous unity of different media and materials.

M

The display of CO-WORKERS makes me think of Dan Graham and his work.

Is it a kind of Dan Graham 2.0?

TOKE LYKKEBERG

If 2.0, then I would say: yes. Dan Graham’s work is a reflection on and of the ‘modern’ world and its modernist architecture, but Co-Workers is not discussing the concept of the ‘modern’ world in general.

M

So CO-WORKERS is about the contemporary world? What would you say – in what kind of world do we live right now?

TOKE LYKKEBERG

Of course we wanted to create a show that reflects what is around us. While working on the show we realised that our surroundings were changing while we – and many others – were studying them. The problem with art called contemporary is that it is more fleeting than ever. When things accelerate around you, it is very difficult to be contemporary or ‘with time.’ We’re rather out of time.

M looks around at the different works of art. She focuses on a cubic construction in the middle of the room. It is made of glass and steel, forming a space within the larger space of the exhibition hall. Inside the cube there are three flat screens, a work by Cécile B. Evans, accompanied by a fish tank by Aude Pariset and Juliette Bonneviot and a workplace curated by Felix Burrichter.

M

If I look at this display…

The art historian points at the cubic construction in the middle of the room.

M (CONT’D)

… which seems to be open and closed at the same time – a space floating inside another space. It reminds me of an aquarium, can you please say something about that?

TOKE LYKKEBERG

The glass box traversing the space mimics an open office space. It is a transparent barrier. While it divides the space, it also emphasizes the flow from one space to another. We wanted to give each individual artist, group or collective his, her or their own space, but we did not want to cut it off from the rest of the show. 

Today an artist stands out as an individual, but at the same time as part of a network. They are ‘networked individuals.’ Sometimes you cannot tell one work from the other. The works are shaped by overlapping yet personalized networks. It is almost impossible to separate the part from the whole, the individual from society, they constitute each other. Bruno Latour explains this idea in the following way: If you want to check out a person, you google his name, for example ‘Bruno Latour’. The more links you find about Latour spread out across the Internet, the more he comes together as a person. You might feel you loose yourself in the network, but it might also be where you resurface.

M

Do you think this is an aspect of our contemporary world – gaining something by losing parts of our individuality?

TOKE LYKKEBERG

Douglas Coupland says somewhere in his recent writings: „At the moment we don’t know which will triumph: the individual or the mob. It might be the biggest question of this century.“ My answer to the question would be: both.  

The individual might only reinvent itself, if it gives in to or adapts to its surroundings. You can only shape an environment that you are a part of. By resisting today’s world or simply keeping it at a distance, you don’t change its course. To a certain extent, you might rather have to lose a bit of control in order to regain influence. At least, many artists in the show work along these lines. Parker Ito, for example, creates images that are meant to be photographed by others.

Toke turns to a series of large format pictures. Each part of the series seems to be composed out of different images, drawings and written texts superimposed on each other, in a somewhat raw manner akin to graffiti. Yet, the pictures are framed with a silky and highly brilliant material that lends them the touch of a glossy magazine illustration.

TOKE LYKKEBERG (CONT’D)

The reflector fabric on which he has printed the images are hypersensitive to the faintest change in the light. So depending on the light, the angle, your camera, every photo of his work will be somewhat unique. Parker wanted to make an ‘undocumentable’ work that triggers a multiplication of images the moment it is documented. The work taps into and prolongs a network of images.

Toke takes his mobile phone out of his pocket and points it towards the pictures. He turns flash on and pushes the release button. And indeed, the colourful pictures on the wall suddenly turn black and white, as if they are loosing all their colours when hit by a bit of light.

M

These pictures seem to have lives of their own, changing and never being the same again. The whole exhibition in general somehow reminds me of a living organism, which can be likened to a network, doesn’t it?

TOKE LYKKEBERG

Yes, it might be troubling that something has a life of its own. An oft-heard critique of contemporary network theory is that the individual, the human subject is without power. By reflecting on these networks we might however empower that disempowered individual to impose itself in the networks.

M

Following your definition of network, one could think of an organism?

TOKE LYKKEBERG

If you want things to circulate in a network you need mediation from one node to another. This mediation might be undertaken by an intermediary or a mediator. In the case of the intermediary, there is no transformation of content from one point to another. However, when an image travels from an exhibition space to a camera, to a computer, to Photoshop, to Facebook, to Instagram and ends up as a bad quality print, there’s transformation. There are mediators translating the image so information is both lost and added. Artists work with such mediators in the same way they now work with bacteria, animals, plants and so on. So I’m also interested in networks at the intersection of bio- and technosphere.

Toke and M step into the cubic construction and sit down around the workplace layout.

M

Keeping this gain of loss of information in mind, can you tell me something about the rematerialisation of the art object?

TOKE LYKKEBERG

It goes back to Lucy Lippard’s idea that conceptual art of the sixties and seventies was a dematerialisation….

M

… in favour of the information, becoming the immaterial?

TOKE LYKKEBERG

Yes, you might call it the ‘Helvetica ideology’, following the idea that you can create a form – in this case the Helvetica font – that is so transparent you only get the content. In the course of the democratisation of telecommunication in the sixties and seventies people started to communicate across long distances with ease. They were preoccupied by the feeling of talking with a person without being in his or her presence. So this development was experienced as a disembodiment, a dematerialisation. Some artists got into telepathy, thinking about how they could make thoughts travel from one mind to another without taking on a material shape. Materiality was secondary to the content and ideally you could have pure content. That continued with the way the Internet developed in the nineties. However, with Web 2.0 it became social and now with the ‘Internet of Things’ the virtual and immaterial is evidently embedded in the real and material. So both can make us understand how things rematerialise rather than dematerialise while circulating in the network, but also how the network works and how it is constituted. In a way, we’re not only looking at who is walking around the house, but also looking at the house itself.

M

That is an interesting metaphor. Is this exhibition the housing hosting what is in that larger house?

TOKE LYKKEBERG

We are trying to present images, objects and information that recall the images, objects and information that are around us, but also their surroundings. We both want to present the artworks and the environment in which these artworks make sense.

Toke and M continue walking through the exhibition. They pass by the work of Timur Si-Qin, The Struggle (2012), an installation made of four apparently excessively designed pedestals on which Nike gym bags are hanging. Each of the bags is filled with stones and water bottles. Finally the couple stops in front of a gleaming installation, a cubic box lit by neon lights. On its backside is an image of a boy, which is reflected by a glass surface installed behind the cubic box.

M

Please tell me about this work.

TOKE LYKKEBERG

It is a work by the French artist David Douard, called The reason we no longer s’speack. Slipper of snow (2015). It is an image of a boy that Douard has reworked. His eyes have been erased, the boy’s hand is almost inside his mouth. In a way, right now, I can’t help thinking of The Thinker by Rodin. Rodin got the motif of the thinker from the Last Judgement fresco of Michelangelo, in which one man sits bent over, encircled by the flames of hell. Rodin isolated the figure in his sculpture from any surroundings: The individual suddenly is left alone with his or her troubled mind. This is the modern man. Douard’s contemporary speechless version is a reflection in glass in two ways: A boy is reflected in the glass in the midst of reflecting on himself, withdrawn into his own world. Maybe Douard presents an image of someone in the Internet age who has the possibility to reach out for information anywhere, but ends up trapped by what he’s already into. Today, any new search query is biased by an older one and, as a consequence, one might get caught up in a so-called filter bubble. So a network culture also creates certain disconnects.

M

Would you say that this work is framing a critique of the Internet based society?

TOKE LYKKEBERG

I would personally not use the word critique. It implies looking at looking at the world from the outside. But an artist is always more engaged in the world through his or her work than the critique teaches us. I’d rather say that Douard’s work evokes the pains rather than the pleasures of network culture.

M

So it is more a reflection on the state of things?

TOKE LYKKEBERG

It is an attempt to understand an aspect of a networked world. If you do not feel a certain pain looking at the work, I am not sure you’re on the right track. I am against dividing works into categories such as affirmative or critical. Most works are both.

As they continue, Toke and M find themselves in a room whit a video work by Rachel Rose – Sitting Feeding Sleeping (2013). This visual collage shows images of animals that the artist took in different US-American zoos, as well as computer screenshots and iconic paintings from art history. The saccade rhythm of the video is alternating with more contemplative sequences, conveying a strange feeling of detachment, which is even more accentuated by the alienating computer voiceover commenting the images.

M

For a few years, there’s been a discussion concerning the question whether we should slow down our lives or adjust to the speed of information technology developing faster and faster. What do you say? Is the exhibition a comment on or even a contribution to that discussion?

TOKE LYKKEBERG

About ten or fifteen years ago the French artist Pierre Joseph said: In order to understand how a car works, you have to take it apart. But artists today rather get inside the car and drive it. If we understand the world as networked then there is no outside anymore. Artists are less interested in utopias and more in the potential of the world we inhabit. We should accelerate some things, others we might slow down. But I don’t believe in history given in advance, i.e. that there is a certain goal to reach at the end of the journey, therefore I am not sure what it might mean to speed up the process we are in the midst of.

M

So taking up your metaphor of the artist as a car driver, you understand an artist today as what you call a prosumer: a producer and consumer at the same time.

TOKE LYKKEBERG

Yes, that’s another dichotomy that I would like to mention as example of the end of the great divides, namely production and consumption. What characterises the artist today is that he is a prosumer to a certain extent, part of a network where production and consumption are difficult to tell from each other. So today I see artists more as mediators or prosumers.

Toke and M reach the last room of the exhibition and stop in front of a work by the collective DIS. The Island (KEN) (2015) resembles at first glance an ordinary, white coloured kitchen in IKEA design. One notices water coming down from time to time from an object that might be mistaken for an exhaust hood. Close inspection reveals it works as a shower. The Island combines the social space of the kitchen with the private space of the bathroom – thus creating a scene in which anything can happen, production and consumption becoming one, and the spectator an activated mediator himself.

Chemnitz, Charleston, Clausnitz

20.02.16
9 min

The Syrian Tragedy

by
Carsten Stormer
17.02.16
60 min

Our Task

Igor Levit about meeting a guy with a clear vision of politics, life, love – and music
10.02.16
4 min

Listen, We Have a Jingle!

with
Ari Benjamin Meyers
Marie-France Rafael
Armen Avanessian
10.02.16
60 min

Please, Don't Tell Me I Look Prettier!

Enas El Masry about the veil she wore and the veil she does not wear anymore; and the time in between
08.02.16
8 min

I Like to Think of Tahrir Square As a Woman

with
Nora Amin
Georg Diez
31.01.16
60 min

On Refugees

27.01.16
8 min

Migrating the Feminine

by
Nora Amin
25.01.16
180 min

The art of the contemporary 5

Marie-France Rafael about "the artist as prosumer"
24.01.16
14 min