ABSENCE is a performance art exhibition in which the machines represent the six artists living in different geographical locations.
As the second lockdown was imposed in Germany, and with living in lockdown being the new normal across the world, the artists decided to document their lives on hundreds of office papers using drawings, texts, sketches, collages, photographs, and many other types of media. To give free rein to the artists’ freedom of expression and psychological depth, the papers will remain anonymous and not bear any signatures, only showing the date and time of creation.
With the lack of the opportunity for the artists to be personally present in the gallery, each artist will present her works from her specific geographical location by connecting to a printer via the internet and print her papers continuously over a period of six minutes every day for six consecutive days. All of this is going to happen in a space where the audience cannot be present; they can only experience the exhibition through a live stream that will display the flow of the papers and their arrival to the space through the printers, the presentation itself being part of the performance and installation as well.
This exhibition is offering an artistic space in a time of uncertainty and is an attempt to explore what has happened to the world during these past few months. The shown works serve as a unique kind of anonymous diary of the artists’ reactions to their situation, a stream of documentation examining the concepts of absence and presence during a global pandemic.
After the exhibition, the paper works will be collected and organized after date and time of creation and bound together in a book to be presented later.
As a group of artists, we tried to find a way to define absence. To understand what it means to us collectively and individually, we started with one basic question: What is absence? After the first one, more and more questions appeared and flowed: Is it when we miss someone or something? Is it missing or losing? Can we capture the absence of someone and something while it’s happening? What is absence made of? Materials? Emotions? Actions? Can we create presence out of absence? What is the meaning of absence, and what is it in art? How can we express the absence of us as artists while being involved in the art process?
Somehow, we agreed that absence is a condition of nonexistence—it’s a haunting thought that keeps reminding us of its nonexistence. Perhaps it does exist in one’s own head or maybe it’s simply the feeling of missing that makes the heart ache! Then the questions appear: Can absence be positive? Can we be happily absent?! Can we create presence out of absence? Does absence actually exist due to the existence of presence? Like black and white, light and dark, life and death, maybe it’s a presence that creates absence. So, is the opposite of absence presence? Yes and no: The beginning of the absence state is present by its absence (no), and with time, absence becomes zero, nothing (YES). “This does not apply for all absence cases.”
ABSENCE pushed us towards a real state of presence while working on absence, forcing us to think more in-depth on how this year brought absence to the center of our lives, personally and collectively. It is the year of absence, yet more interestingly through this absence, we had to deal with a lot of other presences. We realized that if no one is absent, then we were never present. We have dealt with absence all of our lives under various circumstances and differing intensity but dealing with absence for this exhibition offers a new perspective. It’s a chance to observe the space inside and outside, the heart and the room: How was it before and how is it after?
The diary we are making reflects the situation we are living in: It's isolated from everything else, yet it’s representing everything we have been through in the entire process. It’s us together and everyone alone! How we survived the struggles that appeared in our process of absence? With humor. It’s a true irony, isn't it?
Hana El-Sagini is a visual artist born in Egypt. She was taught and mentored by her father who, when he suddenly passed away, left her with a wealth of questions about loss, remembrance, and love that she is trying answer through her work. She is equally fascinated with painting and sculpting, playing around with and combining both in her practice, while engaging the spectator to be part of her work. El-Sagini has won several awards, including The Dean collection award in 2018. She currently lives in Dusseldorf, Germany, and works between Cairo and Dusseldorf.
Hend Elbalouty is an Egyptian production designer, choreographer, performer, and writer. She works across mediums, combining and mixing them in accordance with the project at hand. Her work primarily reflects on taboos surrounding the female body, race, and the forgery of history. Currently, Elbalouty is an MA student at the Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln, where she is researching the relation between art and social class, creating a performance based on local Egyptian dance and music (Mahraganat).
Marian Aazer, artist name Lina Aazer, is an Egyptian artist born in Cairo in 1986. She graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo with a Bachelor's degree and with a Master's degree from the Institute of Artistic Ceramics and Glass (IKKG), Höhr-Grenzhausen. Her work reflects her personal vision of others and the surrounding world, as well as the impact of creation and the environment on consciousness raising.
Razan Sabbagh is a Syrian artist based in Hamburg whose artwork frequently revolves around exploring the relationship between art, activism, and power. Her work mostly consists of performance pieces that use a direct physical confrontation with the audience to make a political point. She is interested in the intersection of politics, space, sound, and human rights violations and in the sonic domain as a political power in Syria. Sabbagh is Currently an MA student at the Kunsthochschule für Bildende Künst Saarbrücken.
Rozeen Bisharat is a Berlin-based filmmaker, artist, and activist born in Nazareth in 1986. She studied film at Tel Aviv University and has worked on many different award-winning productions. Bisharat’s feature documentary Terez and I, produced by Trabelsi Productions and scheduled to be released late 2021, investigates the changes in methods of resistance across generations and the role of women within it. Her experimental documentary project Quarantine a manual, launched soon after Covid-19 lockdowns, explores the spatial and emotional transition of our relation to home.
Ruba Salameh is a visual artist born in Nazareth. She obtained both her BFA and MFA from the Bezalel Academy for Arts and Design in Jerusalem and currently lives and works in Berlin. In her work she uses different mediums including painting, video, photography, and mixed media installations. Salameh’s work deals with notions of land, geographies, displacement, and nationalism.
Artist Training is a qualification program offered by the Universität der Künste Berlin Career College aimed at the qualification, consulting, and networking of artists in exile.
coculture is a Berlin-based non-profit cultural organisation working at the intersection of art, activism, and community-building and dedicated to addressing the challenges faced by displaced cultural producers.