All The Rivers: Terraform
On the road from Bethlehem to Nablus, occupied Palestine (© 2023/Rasha Al Jundi)

Donnerstag, 16 Mai, 2024 - 18:00

All The Rivers: Terraform

Aymara Llanque Zonta
Maricarmen Gutiérrez Castro
Rasha Al Jundi 
Raras Umaratih
Promona Sengupta

Below you will read the Artists´statement, followed by a disclaimer of the All The Rivers Team:

Artists’ Statement: On Withholding the Project Terraform from the Ausland All The Rivers Flash
Residency Showing, 17.05.2024
We, the undersigned cultural creators, and team of scheduled Flash Residency project "Terraform", have made the decision to withdraw from the foreseen format of the Ausland residency program, that was offered to us based on a proposal from May 12-16, because of an institutional lack of transparency, accountability and care, that has disrupted our collective process, and caused harm to our mental health. After initiating a conversation, we experienced deflection and defensiveness and no transformative intent to change extractivist malpractices. We cannot continue working artistically and politically under these conditions. Instead of preparing a showing,
we put our labour into drafting a public statement as the result of our disrupted collective process during this residency, in an effort to share with our communities and fellow artists our struggle for better working standards during times of Zionist settler-colonial continuity, extractivism and genocide. 

We were very happy to be accepted into the residency program. We were excited about the possibility of collaborating with each other, and to receive this space during the current climate of rising fascism and censorship in Germany. As feminized, racialized, precarious cultural workers, we face a great deal of structural exclusion and financial instability, and the residency was our chance to be supported for creative work and storytelling that went beyond the mandatory carework that is extracted from us by society. However, at the end of the residency's second day, it was our Palestinian team member who had to discover by herself, after doing her own work, that the Ausland team coordinating this residency was not being transparent with their positionality, not disclosing the fact that one of them identify as "Israeli", and was born in occupied Palestine.
Even though there were many opportunities to mention this in the many meetings and emails before, this was not done, and this introduced colonial power relations into the artistic process, which was explicitly positioned as an anticolonial project from the point of the application. Hence, our Palestinian team member made thedecision to withdraw her participation in this project. As a collective, we decided to stand in solidarity with our team member, as we felt that it was impossible to continue a collective process that we had already worked on for a while with this disruption. We asked the Ausland team for a meeting, to directly communicate our team member's decision transparently and our situation of disrupted collective work, and also point out that this was a consequence of curatorial untransperancy and lack of care. If the Ausland team had been transparent since our selection as residents, we could have made an informed decision whether we still wanted to work on this project or not at this venue, instead of having our process disrupted in the middle, and having to do this extra labour ofn communication, explanation, and care and teaching. 

During this meeting, in which three members of our collective, and two members from the Ausland team were present, we felt our request for accountability and care was dismissed. The Ausland team members refused to acknowledge that there was a problem in terms of lack of transparency and accountability, and did not take seriously our request for different working conditions or their responsibility in the disruption of our process. It is the bare minimum to disclose an “Israeli” positionality within a curatorial team to a Palestinian artist being offered a residency, to let them make their own decision of engagement, especially in the current context, which is almost 8 months into the most violent escalation of an at least 76-year settler project, with one's identity and privilege being directly tied to the oppression and displacement of the other. We do not expect to come to an agreement on the political stands of our collective and the Ausland team, however, we do expect professional transparency and empathy in a space where we are invited guests, given that we were completely transparent in positioning ourselves, our work, and our backgrounds. We also want to reiterate that not disclosing one's identity as a matter of choice is a privilege in this instance, and exercising this choice in order to make a space potentially unsafe for unsuspecting guests is harmful. It was especially crucial to address and acknowledge that within the institution that was selecting the participants and a team who would be directly working with our group, there was a person with an undisclosed positionality that was connected to grave asymmetries of power.

The instance of “finding out” the existence of this power asymmetry two days into the process has made us feel an absolute lack of care and responsibility on the part of the curatorial team. It has made us feel that our collective voices can be instrumentalized towards making a conversation or confrontation happen between two people with identities connected to an occupation and the occupied. Forcing of a co-existence of two fundamentally opposing positions, with wildly different claims on power, during a genocide, is a prime example of normalization of an unacceptable occupation. As a collective that works with voices and bodies from marginalized and colonially oppressed communities, we claim our right to disengage with institutionalized positionalities that are in any way connected to colonial projects around the world. Due to the institutional untransperancy none of us in the collective felt safe to exchange and share our own unique stories in the space. Our struggles are multilingual and deeply connected, and we will not allow anyone else to define what our processes are or should be. The fact that, instead of carrying out our creative work, we were forced to change the nature of our labour into care led us to feel tokenized, instrumentalized, deceived, and dismissed. The curatorial team mentioned that they are risking their own funding by platforming us, making it about themselves, and placing the burden on us as a collective to not only point out the issues, but also find the solutions, as well as practicing the care and doing the pedagogy, on top of protecting our teammates from harm. The institution can afford to ignore this fact, but we cannot ignore it. We will not gloss over discomfort. 

Instead, we want to clearly state that we withhold our labour of creating art and telling stories, as we have already been exploited for our care and teaching work. We refuse to engage with untransparent institutions and exploitative work conditions that expose us to colonial complicity and compromise.
 

Signed,
Maricarmen Gutiérrez Castro
Rasha Al Jundi
In solidarity,
Creative Team, Terraform
Berlin, 21 May, 2024

 

All The Rivers Team disclaimer:

We are deeply saddened and sorry that the artists left the space feeling unheard. That was not our intention, and we apologize for it. We stand firmly against the ongoing genocide and daily atrocities performed in Gaza and throughout Israel-Palestine, which have persisted for many years. We also oppose systemic efforts to silence and pursue those who speak against these injustices.

In the current cultural climate, we find it particularly important to provide a space for exchange and discussion, especially when the harsh realities experienced by so many make talking or listening feel impossible or intolerable. This does not mean we believe everyone is obliged to engage, but rather that everyone should have the opportunity to do so. We stand against all forms of racism, fascism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, queerphobia, ableism, and any form of bigotry and discrimination. We seek to inform and be informed, striving to do so in an honest and accountable manner.

We strongly believe in positioning and repositioning, and in individuals’ agency and ability to work both from and against their positionality. These values guide our constant process of making the space not only open but also flexible, allowing it to become what the people who work, visit, and create in it need and want it to be.

We respect everyone’s decisions and their right to choose their collaborators, collaborations, and alliances, as well as their forms and means. We do not believe in coercing or forcing cooperation or exchange. However, we believe in continuous growth and learning. We see this as a point in a conversation and an opportunity to further open the space to different positions that must be heard and addressed. We see dialog as one means of resistance against dehumanization and silencing. 

All The Rivers is about creating and opening spaces for debate and hopefully action. We have learned that when trying to meet from different backgrounds, we need to ask questions, choose our words carefully, and listen attentively. We will make mistakes repeatedly and must find ways to change things for the better. We extend and reiterate our invitation to the Terraform group.

This disclaimer is written during a process of thought and conversation with our bigger team and people involved in All the Rivers project.

Hilà Lahav, Ruth Waldeyer with All The Rivers team 

24.05.24
 

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As part of the series All The Rivers

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