The first scene of this meditation starts on a boat. Not the overrepresented boat of the so-called refugee crisis in Europe, but a different one, named The Boat of History. It is part of Documenta 14’s public program. Anna Papaeti’s speaks about music, torture and exercises of military power within Greek prison camps, a later talk addresses the crucial dilemma on how certain histories of suffering and resilience becomes untold. And just there, somewhere in the Mediterranean sea, within the floating institutionality of the Documenta’s Boat, the following questions arose: how do we take into account the histories untold by the historical devices of power; how do we hear the voices that are placed under the audibility of historical investments? The answers to these questions depend upon a movement towards the limits of historicity, namely the limits of the writings of history. A movement that embraces other forms of narrating and archiving and political processes while disrupting hegemonic versions of power, life, freedom and violence.
I am writing this piece from Athens, the city where I came to live since I am part of a year-long residency that has started with Documenta’s “Learning from Athens” project and which will remain in the city as an after-effect of the institutional presence of this mega-event and its interventions in the local culture-making rhythms. So, that is precisely the context I want to confront with the precedent questions, giving the space of this text to an elaboration of and at the limits of narratives and archives, while losing myself in the surrounds of Documenta 14. By “the surrounds” I mean the artistic and political movements that are emerging in and passing by the city with, for, because and against the “intrusion” of this global investment of power.
The last scene of this meditation starts then in the venue of the AR Pavilion. Artists at Risk (AR) is a platform “at the intersection of human rights and art” that provides political help for artists who are experiencing risk in their home countries due to political persecution. The project provides assistance with visa issues and many other procedures, besides offering the space of Safe Haven Residencies across Europe for artistic investigation on topics connected with geo- and body-political tensions across the globe. Curated by Marita Muukkonen and Ivor Stodolsky, the AR Pavilion – a small venue located close to Omonia Square in the city center of Athens – is an exhibition with artworks of Pinar Öğrenci, Erkan Özgen and Issa Touma. It was inaugurated in the very same week of Documenta in Athens, as one of the many parallel events that took place in the city.
My intention here is not to oppose AR initiative to Documenta’s huge investment in the city of Athens, nor to affirm this space as a symmetrical alternative to this mega-event. I believe that AR Pavilion exists by itself and deserves to be considered in its own dimensions and position. Nevertheless, the aim of this text is to pursuit the questions that arose in The Boat of History and, for that reason, the exhibition organized by Artists at Risk appears as a possible framework for discussing the limits of archives and narrative in contemporary accounts on violence, pain and the history of necropolitics. In what concerns this conceptual aim, there are at least two works included in AR Pavilion that I want to consider as tools for thinking on these limits.