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on the Bard College Berlin Student Blog

“If desire [in a society] is repressed, it is because every position of desire…is capable of calling into question the established order of society…it is revolutionary in its essence…It is therefore of vital importance for a society to repress desire, and even to find something more efficient than repression, so that repression, hierarchy, exploitation, and servitude are themselves desired…that does not at all mean that desire is something other than sexuality, but that sexuality and love do not live in the bedroom of Oedipus, they dream instead of wide-open spaces, and…do not let themselves be stocked within an established order.”

— Gilles Deleuze, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

Stencil graffiti depicting Elmahdy, in the form of the nude blog photo of herself. Its text also refers to the case of Samira Ibrahim. (Credit: Women in the Revolution)

In his essay Arab Porn (2017), the Egyptian author and journalist Youssef Rakha deconstructs an aspect of Egypt’s cultural history of the new millennium. He makes a case for how and why amateur Arab pornography acts as a political tool against the sexually repressive status quo. He attempts to account for the failures of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 by connecting the activists’ shortcomings and ultimately frustration to the nature of Arab porn, which is reflective of the Egyptian society’s approach to sexuality, culture, politics and change. Sharing Rakha’s views, I see the Egyptian Revolution as a failed one: It replaced a military dictator with a misogynistic Islamic fundamentalist one, turning the country into a theocracy that was later overthrown in a military coup to have Egypt return once more to military dictatorship.

While Egypt does not have an official porn industry, if one searches for Arab Porn, plenty of home-made, low-quality videos can be found. Through a voyeuristic gaze, Rakha analyses various porn videos (links to which are included in his book), and draws what I perceive as far-fetched connections between the amateur porn industry, the Arab Spring in general, and Egypt specifically.

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L&T performances (Credit: Andrea Riba)

Students from all corners of the globe arrived in Pankow this past August to participate in a two-and-a-half week writing intensive called the Language and Thinking program. These academic exercises were at times trying, new, or unusual, but certainly left an impression on students and teachers alike. Over dinner in the cafeteria, we chatted about the nature of the program and student’s reactions. A special thanks to Ido Nahari, Hanna Bargheer, Hans Stauffacher, and (of course) the graduates of this year’s L&T program.


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The Clouds in chorus (Credit: Tamar Maare)

The Clouds in chorus (Credit: Tamar Maare)

Maria Khan is a BA 2015 alumna originally from Pakistan.

Bard College Berlin has a special place in my heart. I love it. I adore it. I am shamelessly and unabashedly its biggest fan. I have loved all its transformations and will continue to do so. I spent my formative years at BCB, and my experience was enriched by the people I met, the friendships I formed, and the lessons I learned there.

Currently, I’m enrolled in a PhD program at Cambridge University, specializing in arts education. My PhD examines the use of drama for the purposes of cultural integration. I plan to work with Turkish immigrants in Germany and use Goethe’s Faust to instigate a conversation about interfaith dialogue, Western versus Islamic values, and how Muslim immigrants perceive themselves in a host community.

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A scene from Berlin Diary (Credit: Jerun Vahle on NPR Berlin)

A scene from Berlin Diary (Credit: Jerun Vahle on NPR Berlin)

Backless chairs are a bold choice for a theater, I thought as I sat on a stiff ledge at English Theater Berlin, the city’s international performing arts center. Backless chairs say, “You will be so riveted by this play that you won’t even consider leaning back.” Backless chairs also say, “Comfort is not the point of this experience. As such, the expectations were high for Berlin Diary, which premiered this past October.

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Detail of Mike Kelley's Educational Complex, 1995 (Credit: Artspace)

Detail of Mike Kelley’s Educational Complex, 1995 (Credit: Artspace)

It was 19 hours in Pankow, Berlin. The cold was eating away at my extremities. But I was on a mission. My plan was to arrive at my dorm to freshen up fast enough to get to Laura López Paniagua’s lecture on the work of Mike Kelley only a modest 5 minutes late. Being an Arts and Society student here at BCB, this lecture was to be a sacred right of passage. I arrived in my dorm and applied my aromas and silks. Just steps away from my door, I realized I did not know where this lecture was being held. I looked through my email history with ferocity. I found the location: the lecture hall, naturally. But what is this “lecture hall”? I have had lectures in many rooms here at Bard Berlin. I racked my memory. This was as hard as any question on a test. I deduced it must be the structure across from the admin building. I realized I do not know the numbers of any of these buildings. They all seem to be 24, whether it be Platanenstr.,  Kuckhoffstr., the list goes on. 24, 24, 24. I arrived and ascended the staircase. I got into the building and, to my relief, there were middle aged men and women milling around, empty wine glasses, and some nice bottled water ready to fill them. I was not late after all.

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Susan Nieman on Why Grow Up (credit: BCB promotional poster)

Susan Neiman gives a presentation on her book Why Grow Up? at BCB (credit: BCB promotional poster)

In an audience consisting mostly of 20-something-year-olds, the question “why grow up?” awakens both curiosity and a deep mistrust. This mixed reaction comes as a result of wanting to know how to do it while harboring a suspicious attitude towards anyone who might try to make us do it too quickly. “Why grow up?” is the inquiry that Susan Neiman, the acclaimed moral philosopher and director of Potsdam’s Einstein Forum, delved into from behind the podium in Bard College Berlin’s lecture hall. Her book of the same name was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2015 and deals with our society’s idea of adulthood.

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Artwork at the Biennale: “A GIANT, QUESTIONABLE ARTWORK OF RIHANNA’S HEADLESS BODY” (credit: papermag.com)

A former Nazi bunker, a boat on the Spree, an established art school, the former site of the GDR National Council– all of these Berlin locations became sites for the Berlin Biennale that ran this past June through September. The Biennale is a contemporary art exhibit that is held every two years and began in 1998. Organized by the New York-based curatorial collective DIS, this year’s Biennale was subject to mixed reviews from many critics. I became interested in the Berlin Biennale this past fall after a friend excitedly texted me a picture next to the giant, headless Rihanna sculpture featured at the KW Institute. Such a collection promised cultural references and a sense of humor in an age where contemporary art can be stern, removed, and serious. Over the course of the next month, I attended every Biennale site except for the boat tour.  

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Democracy (Demokratie) by Michael Frayn - Full Review

Photo: Deutsches Theater Berlin

Willy Brandt, Germany’s first – malicious tongues might say only – left wing post-war chancellor was born in 1913. One hundred years later, the Deutsches Theater in Berlin showed the play “Democracy,” in which Michael Frayn tells of the rise and fall of one of Germany’s most important political figures of the 20th century. The news of this event eventually reached the ECLA microcosm and Ewa Atanassow’s class on ‘Democracy – Ancient and Modern’ deliberated whether to attend a showing or not. Following due legal process, a vote was held and it was the unanimous decision of the class to enrich the seminar experience through a visit to the theatre on March 22nd 2013.

Quite opposed to such consensus, “Democracy” depicted a tangle of conflicting parties and interests that makes the very thought of unanimity appear an idealistic illusion. Socialists, liberals and conservatives were lurking, waiting only for the other to make a misstep, all against the backdrop of constant tensions between the East and the West during the Cold War. At the heart of these sometimes subtly fought, sometimes almost violent, but always intense power games we found two characters who, at first glance, could not be more opposed. On the one hand Willy Brandt, a charismatic leader, the ever rising star of his party, a womanizer, a German Kennedy, chancellor of West Germany. On the other hand, the young socialist Günther Guillaume, inconspicuous, zealous, working hard for the party yet remaining humble in his personal life – and an agent of the Stasi, East Germany’s infamous secret service.

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