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Kerry James Marshall speaking at the American Academy in Berlin. (Credit: Photos by Annette Hornischer | Courtesy the American Academy in Berlin)

Our class, Curatorial Practice: Past and Present, filed into the American Academy — a mansion buried deep in the affluent Berlin neighborhood of Wannsee — on a beautiful sunny day. Any sense of intimidation we could have felt at the very formal invitation we received to the American Academy’s event, “The End Of Criticality”, a master class with Kerry James Marshall, quickly melted away once he began his talk. A sweet, friendly man whose warm laugh immediately puts one at ease, Marshall is one of the most important and influential painters today. Our curatorial practice class was joined by art students from the Universität der Künste and Freie Universität. During his talk, Marshall spoke with us about everything ranging from ways of approaching art institutions built on a foundation of exclusion and exploitation to how his own love of the image began.

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► Monday: Between Spaces – Art, Urbanism & Public Space

Space only ever exists with a context, charged with socio-political and socio-economic interests, shaped by power structures and defined by boundaries. The 15 artists featured in this exhibition explore issues in urban life from 1970s New York to 1980s East Berlin through the mediums of photography, sculpture, drawing and painting.

  • When: 10:00 – 18:00
  • Where: ZKR – Alt-Biesdorf 55, 12683
  • Admission: 5,50€
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Smolny Campus. (Credit: Smolny Student Conference Organizing Committee)

Two weeks ago, I attended the annual Smolny student conference. Five days I frolicked about and ate lots and lots of pierogies. Not a single dull moment was lived. This article is a reflection on my experience of the city:

I boarded at midnight. The experience was positively surreal. I had run across Riga airport to catch my connection — a process significantly slowed down by the immigration police’s diligence in checking my passport and visa. When I ultimately reached the gate, steadying my heart rate, I saw my flight there was a tiny jetplane. The plane was crowded with a peculiar mix of people: businesswomen and football fans sat side by side. Its odor was a combination of garlic and sweaty old person. Everywhere I looked I saw  babies with the potential to spark total mayhem. The plane shook and puffed and finally got us there in one piece. All the while in front of me, a girl calmly edited her selfie for the duration of the 40 min flight, nudging the brightness back and forth to reach perfection — which of course took a while, because of the shaking and all. But there’s no questioning her determination. I had to remind myself I wasn’t on a bus to a rural town; I was flying to St.Petersburg, the country’s former capital. She greeted me with snow. Welcome to Russia!

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► Monday: MyFest 2017

Join Berliners as they honour worker’s day by joining the Street festival and 1st of May parades. This year’s MyFest is against violence. It challenges previous violent clashes between the police and demonstrators by reclaiming the spaces around the Kiez in Kreuzberg and celebrates with peaceful festivity, culinary delights, performances, and live concerts.

  • When: 11:30
  • Where: Mariannenplatz, 10997 Kreuzberg
  • Admission: free
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On the beach in Alexandria, Egypt (Credit: Farah Khalaf)

On the beach in Alexandria, Egypt (Credit: Farah Khalaf)

Watching the sun’s last rays glisten on the waves of the Mediterranean as its burning flame anticipates being quenched by the Sea’s cool water, I listen to Yasmine Hamdan’s raspy Lebanese dialect as she sings of Sehnsucht and heartache (watch video here) . Whether it’s a blessing or a curse, these are things I have long since experienced.

As the tip of a bottle teases my lips and the icy drink fools around with my tongue and taste buds, I catch myself subconsciously trying to translate the song’s words and expressions into a language he would understand. Maybe I’ll have him listen to it one day. But its artistic and musical value wouldn’t be enough: he would want to understand the driving force behind the creation of this beauty.

The translation was a simple matter of finding the correct vocabulary, but that wasn’t what I was listening for. The soul of the song dimmed with the setting of the sun. The more I tried to find ways to convey it in his tongue, the more the song’s flame and passion became frail and shadow-like, until eventually the melody seemed only a ghost of what it was before I tried to capture it.

The song was lost and I brushed it off. Suddenly, I missed how he makes me feel like the goddess of that glistening golden sun embracing the Mediterranean. I remember this lurking uneasiness I had in the back of my head. A fear of loss. Loss of oneself, loss of language and identity in the process of merging cultures. But I’m starting to see now the malleability of one’s identity and how it’s constantly simply getting richer with the fusion of others’; it is all-consuming, like a sponge, or like the sea.

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► Monday: Gritty Glamour – a Queer Intervention 

This performance not only teleports the audience to Berlin’s nightlife and queer scene, but it also sheds light on the personal stories of queer and drag artists, who constantly negotiate their identity and explore their boundaries. The artists represent a wide range of Berlin’s nightlife figures, from electro queens to punk feminists and drag chanson. They share their perspectives on and understanding of community, sex, love, diaspora, family and their personal as well as stage identity. Moreover, the performance raises the issue of racism in the queer scene against the invisibility of queer post-migrant bodies.

  • When: 20:00
  • Where: Naunynstr. 27, 10997
  • Admission: 8
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► Monday: Populism, Politics & Propaganda 

This debate and panel talk questions the role of media and press in today’s rise of right-wing populism. On the one hand, the trend of “fake news” or alternative facts undermines the reliability of the media, especially in Trump’s America. On the other hand, journalists who want to uncover the truth face public threats and even arrests, like those in Turkey. In the face of all those challenges, who can uncover the truth? Who checks the facts?

  • When: 20:00 – 22:00
  • Where: Bar Jeder Vernunft – Schaperstr. 24, 10719
  • Admission: free
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Having been born and raised in Cairo by upper middle class Egyptian Muslim parents, gender issues and women’s rights weren’t topics typically dealt with in my family despite how “open-minded” my parents claim to be. A patriarchal culture filters through life’s many branches in Egypt, silencing the voices demanding the downfall of the patriarchy and the end of misogyny that has long infested the Egyptian culture. To try and understand such matters, one must avoid looking only at the similarities in the Arab countries’ attitudes towards gender and sexuality as they ultimately have defining differences in their historical contexts and the operation of their societies today. My intimate experience with Cairo compels me to make it the focus of my article.

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