Promotional image by coculture e.V.

Across Borders: Body & Self

coculture Space
Berlin, Germany

The exhibition Across Borders: Body & Self is a collaboration between Counterpoints Arts, London, and coculture, Berlin, inspired by Mojisola Adebayo’s performance Leaves from Family Tree commissioned by Counterpoints Arts and performed in the summer of 2021 at ZK/U Berlin. The six artists in the group exhibition were selected from an open call that invited artists to submit existing work exploring the themes of body & self in the context of migration and displacement.

Mojisola’s performance explored environmental justice and migration via the incredible story of Henrietta Lacks, an African American tobacco farmer descended from enslaved people. Henrietta had her body cells taken without her knowledge for medical research and seventy years later, even after her death, they are still multiplying and continue to be used in laboratories all over the world, without her permission. Millions of us benefit from it today, even though most of us have never heard her name. By talking about her story today, we place her body and her(self) on the map of contemporary Berlin.

Using a variety of media, the artists in this exhibition add their own personal and political discursive angles – be it feminist, migrant, queer or medical – to the exploration of memory and identity in the context of the body & self. Whether this happens via a relationship between the body and an object, by turning toward our inner skins and senses, by connecting historical events across the 20th and 21st centuries using the body, or by testing the limits of their own bodies through durational rituals or repetitive habitual acts – they ask us to question the logic of the subjectivity and materiality of crossing borders.

On Saturday 4th September at 1 – 6pm, there will be a symposium with artists Mojisola Adebayo, Maya Shurbaji, Rita Adib, Freddie Darke, Camila Rhomberg and Valeria Schwarz talking about their work and how they explore the issues around the body & self.

The exhibition is part of the three-year programme Across Borders by Counterpoints Arts in the UK, Germany and Greece, in collaboration with local partners, developing arts and pop culture projects that help normalise and diversify representations of migrants and people seeking refuge. The programme is supported by Comic Relief.

Counterpoints Arts works in the UK and internationally on the arts, migration and cultural change.

coculture is a Berlin-based non-profit cultural organisation founded as a response to the challenges faced by displaced cultural producers.

Image by Michael(a) Daoud ©

Artist biographies

Arin Ismail works with video, sound, performance and sculpture. She uses natural materials, such as clay and wood, as well as ready-mades like water, hoses and pieces of furniture. As a Kurdish emigrant, she explores the background of political restrictions and the persecution of Kurds, but she also finds herself involved in feminist Marxist discourses when questioning the role of artists in society and the differences between employment labour, housework and artistic creation. With a degree in design, she is currently continuing her studies in sculpture at the Universität der Künste Berlin.

Azadeh Kiankhah, born and working in Iran, makes paintings, sculptures and conceptual artworks. She holds a BA with honours in Fine Arts and has twelve years of experience running her own art studio. She has charished diverse experience in arts in general and specifically in painting through countless travels around Iran and interactions with established artists. She is dedicated to finding herself and her world through artistic experiences.

Isadora Canela is a Brazilian visual artist who embraces the undetermined, the ethereal. The artist's research takes the path of abundant possibility of creation via video media pieces, sculptures, poetry, music, speech – exploring themes related to society, political issues, time and the phenomenon of life. Votú is a Brazilian sound artist whose trajectory is marked by experimentations that mix the organic and the natural with the fertile word of the digital, beyond the limits of sounds seen as frequencies. His research and artistic production involves living beings and feelings that build up to a microcosmos meeting the earthly body.

Michael(a) Daoud is an interdisciplinary Queer ARTivist. They grew up in Egypt, studied Art and Architecture in Latakia, Syria, and have been based in Berlin since 2015. They work with the idea of 'Home' as a medium to conceptualise their artistic approach and make an open conversation with the audience to decolonise history and reclaim space by considering how people relate mnemonically and spatially to their situation and surroundings. Michael(a) has exhibited and performed in Berlin at the Schwules Museum, UdK Rundgang, Theater im Delphi, Lettrétage, THE EXPO FESTIVAL 2020 and PAF 2018-2021 among others.

Minna Etein is an artist living and working in Berlin. Having studied Fine Art at Central St Martins College of Art and Design (London), and Chelsea College of Art and Design (London), she has developed a unique and fluid methodology for working within a broad range of media, including painting, video, performance, and installation. Taking its roots in feminist and psychoanalytic theories, Etein's work is investigating concepts of the feminine, as well as alternative subjectivities. Her works have been exhibited in London, Paris, Berlin, and are held in private collections in the UK, Russia, USA, Germany, and Australia.

Paula Muhr is a Serbian-born Berlin-based visual artist and researcher. She studied visual arts with a focus on photography at the Academy of Fine Arts in Leipzig, Germany. In 2021, she completed her PhD at the Institute of Art and Visual History at Humboldt University in Berlin. Through her research-based artistic practice, Muhr examines socio-cultural strategies of constructing sexuality, gender, desire, and normality. Her work has been shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rijeka (Croatia), Fotogalerie Wien, Kunsthalle Leipzig, Fotogalleriet Format Malmö, Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes Tenerife, Centre national de l’audiovisuel Luxembourg, and Shenzhen Fine Art Institute (China).

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