Remembering the documenta 14: Athens

In the Surrounds of History

Jota Mombaça observed for C& the multiple events surrounding the documenta 14 (2017). One of them was an exhibition by the initiative “Artists at Risk”.

The first one is Wonderland (2016), by Erkan Özgen, a short video of a 13 year old deaf kid called Muhammed talking about the necropolitical scenes of the Syrian civil war he has witnessed in Kobanî, the small village in northern Syria where he used to live with his family. Without the ability to hear or talk, Muhammed’s narration of the horrors he has seen breaks the politics of voice that define the dominant historical regime. Since the situated history of violence, in this case, is told through a performative language that brings the entire body of the child to this scene of historical writing, the work goes to the very limit of expressiveness in order to acknowledge Muhammed’s mediation of history as an archiving procedure that challenges radically the notion of archive itself.

The second work is Issa Touma’s 9 Days From My Window in Aleppo (2012). One of the first sentences pronounced by Touma’s voice in the film is: “Today is the first day of the war in my street.” And then from day one to day nine, with his camera, the artist testifys the events of a war from his window, catching the movement of the armed forces of resistance, the processes of construction and deconstruction of an improvised checking point, the fugitive movement of some neighbors, the resilient staying of others… The film presents itself as a very literal and raw visual statement on how the war inscribes its violence in the daily life of a certain community or group of people, but at the same time it incorporates its own limits, as it is illustrates in the last sentences said by Touma: “This will go on for a long time.” And then: “I don’t want to film the war any longer.”


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Issa Touma – 9 Days from My Window in Aleppo. Production: Paradox

Issa Touma’s refusal “to film the war any longer” meets – through the curatorial articulation of the exhibition – Muhammed’s partial re-enactment of his memories of violence, creating thus a shared space of opacity in which the writing of history becomes something always already implicated in its own shadows; some sort of broken movement that consists in the creation of gaps wherein it is possible to proliferate non-hegemonic accounts on history. That way the AR Pavilion insinuates one of the many feasible answers to the emergent questions of Documenta’s History Boat, although it offers no promise of an all-encompassing historicity: For joining this risky movement, it is crucial to jump the boat of history to swim among the sea of narratives that flows in its surrounds.

* This picture was taken during one of the presentations, when Nelli Kambouri was talking about the relations between the containers in the Piraeus port and the reorganization of neoliberal projects in the global capitalism.

Jota Mombaça is a non-binary bicha, born and raised in the northeast of Brazil, who writes, performs and academically studies on the relations between monstruosity and humanity, kuir studies, de-colonial turns, political intersectionality, anti-colonial justice, redistribution of violence, visionary fictions, the end of the world and tensions among ethics, aesthetics, art and politics in the knowledge productions of the global south-of-the-south. Current works are the collaboration with Oficina de Imaginação Política (São Paulo) and the artistic residency along with Capacete’s 2017 at Documenta (Athens/Kassel).