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Assembly: Chronicles of Displacement

28 Nov 2020, Sat - 29 Nov 2020, Sun
Online

Convened online by the Museum for the Displaced 

The Assembly Chronicles of Displacement is an online gathering to address urgent issues of our time, explore alternative futures, and discuss and share knowledges and practices, facilitating international and transdisciplinary conversations on displacement and forced migration. Through a series of public talks and conversations alongside screenings, the Assembly will reflect on the outcomes of prior workshops (led by Jonas Staal and Bread and Puppet Theater) and further the discussion on the intersection of art discourses and socio-political activism.

Although entirely online, the Assembly’s base is in Singapore and Southeast Asia where many of the participants are from, and will focus on border politics, ethics of documentation in conflict zones and refugee camps, as well as the euphemisms and government rhetoric used around forced migration, which in the ASEAN region is referred to as “irregular migration.”

 

With contributions by:

Shahidul Alam (Bangladesh), Bodies of Power / Power for Bodies (Sanne Oorthuizen and Alec Steadman) with Mumtaz Khan Chopan (Indonesia), Bread and Puppet Theater (United States), Center for Political Beauty (Germany), Kin Chui (Singapore), Kirsten Han (Singapore), Nursyazwani Jamaludin (Singapore/United States), Stefan Kruse Jørgensen (Denmark), Raeesah Khan (Singapore), Dima Mabsout (Lebanon), Ayman Nahle (Lebanon), Erkan Özgen (Turkey), Alfian Sa’at (Singapore), and Jonas Staal (Netherlands).

 

Mf  D’s inaugural Assembly is hosted and supported by NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore.

 

About Mf D

The Museum for the Displaced is a cultural and social organisation addressing issues of forced migration, displacement, and statelessness. Its programme, unfolding over multiple geographies and contexts, aims to renew possibilities of solidarity and the demand of fundamental rights for disenfranchised groups of displaced people in situations of risk and distress. Through art, critical discourse, and action, we aim to address and bring attention to issues of forced migration, displacement, border politics, and intercultural identities, developing a trans-local network and community. Mf D was founded in 2019 and is collectively curated by Canan Batur, Mohammad Golabi, Leong Min Yu Samantha, and Ana Sophie Salazar.

 

Programme

 

Saturday, 28 November 2020 

7.00pm
Lecture: Aggressive Humanism by Thilda Rosenfeld, Center for Political Beauty
The Center for Political Beauty (ZPS), active since 2009, is an art collective based in Germany that combines performance and human rights activism. In this presentation, ZPS member Thilda Rosenfeld will convey the main ideas behind the Center’s initiatives and introduce three projects in detail. Their interventions focus mainly on genocides, migrant rights, and political apathy. Founder Philipp Ruch understands why some consider their work controversial: where people are expecting fiction, they encounter reality. 

8.00pm
Screening and Q&A: Wonderland, Erkan Özgen, 2016, 3 min 54 sec
A deaf-mute boy called Muhammed uses gestures and sounds to describe the experiences his family went through when escaping the war. Muhammed’s home city Kobanî in the Kurdish area of Syria at the border of Turkey became famous in 2015 when it was besieged by jihadist organisation Isis. After long battles, Kobanî managed to become liberated, but thousands of Kurds were forced to leave their homes. The wordless story by the 13-year-old Muhammed is a powerful statement against war, captured on video.

8.20pm
Lecture: Insurrection, Resurrection, Lamentation—the role of the arts in confronting our failed normality by Peter Schumann, Founder, Bread and Puppet Theatre

9.20pm
Roundtable: Kirsten Han, Nursyazwani Jamaludin, Dima Mabsout, moderated by Mohammad Golabi

10.00pm
Screening and Q&A: Now: End of the Season, Ayman Nahle, 2015, 20 min
Documentary détournement on the state of the Syrian crisis. The film pictures the everyday entanglement of refugees, tourists, and passersby in the Turkish seaport town of Izmir, where a sense of limbo and standstill looms as illegalised migrants await departure to the unknown. The soundtrack to the film is from a phone call by Hafez al-Assad to Ronald Reagan made some thirty years earlier. A caller on hold, an impatient translator… In Nahle’s words, “more confused than ever, the world is on the edge, showing the disoriented face of a smiling disaster.”

 

Sunday, 29 November 2020

7.00pm
Lecture: Stateless Assembly by Jonas Staal
Artist Jonas Staal founded his artistic and political organisation New World Summit in 2012. Ever since, he has developed alternative parliaments for stateless and blacklisted organisations, amongst others in collaboration with the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation UNPO (Brussels, 2014) and the Autonomous Administration of North and West Syria (Dêrik/Eindhoven, 2015-18). Can we understand statelessness not only a term that signifies a condition of exclusion, but also as a precondition for liberating democratic practices from the state? Building on the theories of revolutionary Abdullah Öcalan, Staal will discuss his own projects as well as that of artists that are part of stateless movements, in order to explore unstated practices of art and culture. He will expand this exploration also in the field of ecologies of non-human comradeship, through his recent Interplanetary Species Society (2019).

8.00pm
Roundtable: Bodies of Power/ Power for Bodies, Mumtaz Khan Chopan, Kin Chui, moderated by Ana Sophie Salazar

8.40pm
Screening and Q&A: The Migrating Image, Stefan Kruse Jørgensen, 2018, 28 min 
By following a fictional group of refugees across Europe, the film questions the production of images surrounding real-life tragedies. Each segment of the film takes its cue from the destination of the refugees, from FRONTEX depicting the refugees on the Mediterranean Sea, to a photojournalistic reportage from a warehouse in Belgrade. Where do all these images about refugees come from? How do they reshape the geography of Europe?

9.20pm
Roundtable: Shahidul Alam, Raeesah Khan, Alfian Sa’at, moderated by Canan Batur

 

BIOGRAPHIES

Shahidul Alam (Bangladesh) is a photographer, writer, curator, and activist. He founded the Drik Picture Library, Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, and Chobi Mela photo festival in Dhaka as well as the Majority World photo agency in London. His work has been shown in The Rubin Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Royal Albert Hall, Tate Modern, London; and Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. A guest curator of Whitechapel Gallery, London; Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland; National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur; Musée du Quai Branly, Paris; Brussels Biennial and the Auckland Festival of Photography, Alam has received numerous awards, including the Shilpakala Padak, the highest state honour given to Bangladeshi artists; the 2018 Lucie Foundation Humanitarian Award; and the 2019 ICP Special Presentation Award. He was nominated one of Time Magazine’s Persons of the Year in 2018.

Bread and Puppet Theater (United States) is a politically radical theatre company founded in 1963 by Peter Schumann on New York City’s Lower East Side, currently based in Glover, Vermont. Besides rod-puppet and hand puppet shows for children, the concerns of the first productions were rents, rats, police, and other neighbourhood problems, also participating in protests and demonstrations against the Vietnam War with giant puppets. More complex theatre pieces followed, in which sculpture, music, dance and language were equal partners. The puppets grew bigger and bigger, and in 1974 Bread and Puppet moved to a farm in Glover. The 140-year old hay barn was transformed into a museum for veteran puppets. Today, Bread and Puppet continues to be one of the oldest, nonprofit, self-supporting theatrical companies in the country.

Bodies of Power / Power for Bodies (Indonesia) is an independent curatorial platform exploring the social role and political agency of art practice, initiated by Sanne Oorthuizen and Alec Steadman. Current projects include Struggles for Sovereignty: Land, Water, Farming, Food, a one-year program on social and ecological justice, co-curated with Bakudapan Food Study Group; A Pond is the Reverse of an Island, a project acting together and thinking together with refugee communities and informal kampungs in Jakarta; and Publishing Solidarity, a children’s colouring book, developed with Anang Saptoto and Mumtaz Khan Chopan to share the story of refugees in Kalideres and raise funds to support them during COVID-19. Previously, Sanne and Alec were Co-Chief Curator’s at Cemeti – Institute for Art and Society.

Mumtaz Khan Chopan (Indonesia) is an artist whose painting and photography practice is strongly informed by his personal experiences. In 2013, Mumtaz was forced to flee his home country of Afghanistan due to war and discrimination. He has been living in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, ever since. He co-initiated the Publishing Solidarity platform (together with Anang Saptoto, Alec Steadman, and Sanne Oorthuizen), developing a children’s colouring book to share the situation of refugees in Indonesia and to raise funds to support one particular refugee community in Jakarta during the Covid-19 pandemic. In collaboration with Bodies of Power / Power for Bodies, Mumtaz is currently developing a podcast series about refugees in Indonesia, including personal stories and research into the legal and structural frameworks that dictate their lives.    

The Center for Political Beauty (Germany) is an assault team that establishes moral beauty, political poetry and human greatness while aiming to preserve humanitarianism. The group’s basic understanding is that the legacy of the Holocaust is rendered void by political apathy, the rejection of refugees, and cowardice. The Centre for Political Beauty engages in the most innovative forms of political performance art- an expanded approach to theatre: art must hurt provoke and rise in revolt. In one basic alliance of terms: aggressive humanism. The Centre’s exhibitions and plays were shown at Gorki Theatre, the 7th Berlin Biennale, ZKM Karlsruhe, Steirischer Herbst, NGBK, and HMKV, amongst others.

Originally trained in film, artist Kin Chui (Singapore) inflects collaborative projects and performative interventions in his ill-disciplinary artistic practice, with a sustained interest in emancipatory struggles and notions of spirit. He is currently on a voyage researching on piracy, both digital and seafaring, drifting within the histories and contemporaneities of Southeast Asia as a framework for decolonial praxis. He is an Artist-in-Residence at NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, and recently finished a fellowship under Eyebeam’s Rapid Response for a Better Digital Future (New York) with soft/WALL/studs. Kin has participated in group exhibitions at Cemeti Institute for Art and Society (Indonesia) and the National Gallery Singapore, alongside solo exhibitions at Grey Projects and The Substation (both Singapore). 

Kirsten Han (Singapore) is a journalist and activist whose work often revolves around the themes of social justice, human rights, politics and democracy. She curates We, The Citizens, a newsletter covering Singaporean politics, civil society, and social justice, and was formerly Editor-in-Chief of New Naratif. As an activist, Kirsten has advocated for an end to the death penalty in Singapore, and is a founding member of abolitionist group We Believe in Second Chances.

Nursyazwani Jamaludin (Singapore/United States) is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. She has been working with Rohingya refugees in Malaysia for a few years now where her research revolves around the notions of legibility, political subjectivity, migration, and borders. She was formerly the Research Coordinator of Advocates for Refugees–Singapore where she coordinated research efforts to advocate for the softening of Singapore’s stance toward refugees and asylum-seekers. Wani also volunteers her time with Geutanyoe-Foundation to support educational, research and livelihood programmes for refugees in Malaysia. Currently, she’s working on a project in collaboration with a Rohingya youth in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, together with Geutanyoe Foundation to centre the voices of Rohingya refugees in their narratives.

Stefan Kruse Jørgensen (Denmark) is a filmmaker and visual artist with a background in graphic design. In July 2017 he received a Master’s Degree in Visual Culture & Identity from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Design. In his work he investigates the relationship between humankind and their images. His first film, The Migrating Image, has been presented at major film events in Europe and won The Audience Award at 25FPS in Zagreb and an Edward Snowden award at Signed Du Nuit.

Raeesah Khan (Singapore), Founder and CEO, Reyna Movement, is an activist, humanitarian, women’s rights advocate and a young mother. In 2016, she founded the Reyna Movement, an organisation that aims to empower women through upskilling programmes and community engagement. The Reyna Movement also seeks to raise awareness on issues and struggles faced by women, and get the public involved in helping them cope with their struggles. In 2020, Raeesah was elected as a Member of Parliament for Sengkang Group Representation Constituency.

Dima Mabsout (Lebanon) is an artist whose creative practice traverses educational, social, and political realms. She is interested in how the arts can bridge between experiences, disciplines, and across social structures. In 2014, she created the Naked Wagon, a mobile platform that creates context for art and exchange on the streets, whose journey contributed to symposia, lectures, and collaborations with artists and organisations in Lebanon, London, and Scotland. Dima began working with Catalytic Action shortly after, as the art and education programmes director, developing methods in group participation that explore relationships between art and built environments. Today, she is working at a forest school in Lebanon and actively exploring collective art making, theatre, and street performances. She holds a BA in Fine Arts from Central Saint Martins, London, and an MA in Arts in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education. 

Ayman Nahle (Lebanon) is a filmmaker based in Beirut, where he studied film and theatre at the Lebanese University. Since 2007, he has worked as a director, film editor, and director of photography in several feature films, short films, documentaries, and experimental films. Combining his experience in filmmaking with his interest in electronic and experimental music, his work often draws from archival images, found images, glitch art, generative art, audio-reactivity, and abstraction, between the analogue and the digital. Fundamental to his practice is the belief in art as a means of political intervention and social change. His experimental documentary Now: End of Season premiered in 2016 at the Berlin Film Festival forum expanded and was awarded the Think Film Award. 

Erkan Özgen (Turkey), artist, lives and works in Diyarbakır. He graduated from the Painting Department at Çukurova University in 2000. Erkan works on video-based installations, having participated in numerous exhibitions in Turkey and abroad. His works deal with the complex questions of war, trauma, migration, and human rights.

Alfian Sa’at (Singapore) is a writer, poet, and the Resident Playwright of theatre company W!LD RICE. His published works include three collections of poetry, One Fierce Hour, A History of Amnesia and The Invisible Manuscript; a collection of short stories, Corridor; a collection of flash fiction, Malay Sketches; three collections of plays and the published play Cooling-Off Day.

Peter Schumann, founder and director of Bread and Puppet Theater, the 57-year-old political theater company based in Glover, Vermont, United States, will give a three-part presentation. The first part will be a “fiddle lecture” on current political themes in the US and the role of the arts in addressing them. The second part will be a dialogue between Schumann and Bread and Puppet company member, Joshua Krugman, about Schumann’s history as a displaced person, and how this experience has influenced his politics and methodology as an artist. Finally, Schumann will take questions from the audience around these themes. 

Jonas Staal (Netherlands) is a visual artist whose work deals with the relation between art, propaganda, and democracy. He is the founder of the artistic and political organisation New World Summit (2012–ongoing) and the campaign New Unions (2016–ongoing). With BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, he co-founded the New World Academy (2013–16), with Florian Malzacher he is directing the utopian camp Training for the Future (2018–ongoing) and with Laure Prouvost he is co-administrator of the Obscure Union (2017–ongoing). Exhibition-projects include Museum as Parliament (with the Democratic Federation of North Syria, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2018–ongoing), The Scottish-European Parliament (CCA, Glasgow, 2018), and After Europe (State of Concept, Athens, 2016). Staal completed his PhD on propaganda art at Leiden University, the Netherlands. His most recent book is Propaganda Art in the 21st Century (The MIT Press, 2019).

 

Supported by

 

Image: Stefan Kruse Jørgensen, The Migrating Image, 2018, still. Courtesy the artist.