Discursive Program

Bénédicte Savoy and Felwine Sarr’s 2018 report on The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage has sparked a broader conversation in Europe about colonialism. Institutions have started to engage with their colonial heritage and the looted objects in their collections, and governments are committing themselves to restitution. These are first steps towards a reappropriation of cultural heritage and decolonization. But how can this willingness to face the colonial past be used to intervene into a present that is firmly in the grips of what Cedric J. Robinson has called racial capitalism, describing capitalism as a system based on the exploitation of a racially constructed Other?

Taking the restitution debate as a point of departure, the workshops and conferences of the 12th Berlin Biennale’s discursive program convene scholars, activists, and artists to explore how colonialism and imperialism continue to operate in the present. Participants address the impact of Europe’s imperial expansion on the earth’s ecosystems. They discuss contemporary struggles and strategies around feminisms from the South. They examine how racism is backed by the cultural technologies and universalist ideals of the Enlightenment. They take up the issues of BIPoC who are living in the Global North and engage with antiracist practices as well as structures of solidarity. They ask how restitution can go beyond the material gesture of giving back cultural artifacts, and how action-oriented research can transform practices through “objects” contained in colonial collections. Finally, they illuminate how algorithmic governance (re)produces the same processes of racial ascription, immiseration, and exclusion that the digital revolution was meant to solve.

The discursive program draws on the concept of repair as developed by curator Kader Attia in his artistic practice—first of objects and physical injuries, and then of individual and societal traumas. Throughout his practice, repair has emerged as a mode of cultural resistance, a form of agency that finds expression in diverse practices and fields of knowledge. Making this form of agency the starting point, the program involves contributors and audiences in a critical conversation, in order to find ways together to care for the now.

9.-11.6. and every Sunday from 12.6.2022 (except 3.7.; 17.7.; 7.8.; 21.8.; 4.9.; 11.9.)
Performance: Uriel Orlow: Reading Wood

10.6. and every Thursday from 16.6.2022 (except 21.7.)
Performance: Myriam El Haïk: Please Patterns

Conference: Imperial Ecologies

Panel: Afrofeminisms. Bridging the Gap

Workshop: The Laboratory of Restitution, Reinventing the Locus of the Return

Conference: Whose Universal?

2.7.; 6.8.; 3.9.; 16.9.; 17.9. and 18.9.2022
Performance: Zuzanna Hertzberg: Individual and Collective Resistance of Women During the Shoah

10.8.; 17.8.; 24.8.; 31.8.; 7.9. and 14.9.2022
Workshop: The Self and the Other – Culture on Bodies, Places, and Times 

Workshop and Performance: Building Refuges and Sanctuaries: A Decolonial Feminist Antiracist Practice

Workshop: How to Turn the Immaterial Tangible 

Workshop and Presentation: Recovering Features. Necessità dei volti – 5th Extension

Workshop: Trust

Workshop: Embodied Knowledges, Pickled Perceptions 

Presentations: Re-connecting “Objects”

Conference: From Restitution to Repair

Performance: Zuzanna Hertzberg: Jewish Anarchist Women against Hegemony

Conference: The Digital Divide

Videos of the conferences are available here.

Curator: Kader Attia

Advisors: Ana Teixeira Pinto, Felwine Sarr, Rasha Salti, Françoise Vergès, Irit Rogoff, Jean Lassègue, Katrin Becker, Lukas Fuchsgruber, Paola Bacchetta, Ramak Molavi, Rolando Vázquez, Stefania Pandolfo, Tarek El-Ariss, Thomas Oberender, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson

The discursive program is realized in cooperation with several institutions and organizations: Afrolution Festival, Berlin; Dekoloniale Memory Culture in the City, Berlin; Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin; La Colonie Nomade, Paris; Technische Universität Berlin