FOR THE PHOENIX TO FIND ITS FORM IN US. On Restitution, Rehabilitation, and Reparation

A SAVVY Contemporary research, exhibition, performance and publication project in collaboration with Jameel Arts Center (Dubai), and ifa Gallery Berlin  


ifa Gallery Berlin

OPENING: 23.06.2021  16:00–22:00 

ON VIEW: 24.06.–29.08.2021  Tuesday–Sunday  14:00–18:00, Thursday until 20:00 

ARTISTS: Pio Abad, Samia Henni, Jumana Manna, Oumar Mbengue Atakosso, Bhavisha Panchia, Michael Rakowitz

SAVVY Contemporary 

OPENING: 23.06.2021  16:00–22:00

ON VIEW: 24.06.–22.08.2021    Thursday–Sunday 14:00–19:00

ARTISTS: Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Rand Abdul Jabbar, Tanya Aguiñiga, Nora Al-Badri, Daniela Zambrano Almidón & Pablo Santacana López, Memory Biwa, Benji Boyadgian, Hamze Bytyçi, Nora Chipaumire, Julien Creuzet, Ndidi Dike, Gladys Kalichini, Maurice Mboa, Senzeni Mthwakazi Marasela, Noara Quintana, Michael Rakowitz, Gabriel Rossell Santillán, Akram Zaatari and Saitabao Kaiyare & Elena Schilling (SAVVY.doc)

How does one complicate the current discourse on restitution, which seems to have manoeuvred itself into a cul de sac?

The debates centre the notion of return, thereby limiting the rather expansive and layered subject of restitution. The notion of return, as colloquially used, means going back to a particular geo-spatial space. But to return, one must have a sense of a space and time of departure. Which is to say we cannot think of restitution without thinking of the wounds that were inflicted upon dispossession at any given time, as well as the violences that accompany epistemic, material or human deprivation and destruction, as we see in Anglophone Cameroon, in Palestine, in Myanmar or in Colombia. We cannot reduce restitution to the return of objects while the people who are to receive these objects neither have the luxury of breathing, nor the lands on which to plant their seeds, or are deprived of the abode in which they shelter. So, how can we deliberate restitution in a context wherein time and space have not only changed but have become more precarious and the savagery of coloniality has assumed other forms? 

With the project FOR THE PHOENIX TO FIND ITS FORM IN US. On Restitution, Rehabilitation, and Reparation, SAVVY Contemporary is dedicating a series of laboratories, Invocations, publications, and exhibitions on the entanglements of the three key subjects restitution, rehabilitation, and reparation as a possibility of going beyond the notion of just return. Together with artists, writers, and other intellectuals and activists we intend to reflect on notions of restoration – not only of the subjects/objects taken away from peoples and particular places, but also to think of a restoration of the peoples and places that have had to exist in a state of cultural and psychological deprivation. This demands of us to think of any form of restoration as a possibility of re-integration, and rehabilitation. Which is to say the possibility of re-accommodating beings once taken away into systems that have experienced both time and spatial shifts.  

With this project, we intend to address the restitution debate from a different positionality within the German context and beyond, advocating for more inclusion of different perspectives and voices. Critically questioning and contemplating the role of European institutions and ethnological museums – examining precisely the political, economic and institutional contexts in which these organisations situate themselves – we wish to ponder the power structures, the asymmetries and the colonial continuities within the discourse. Confronting ourselves with possibilities of complicating the current discourse with situated reflections around issues of rehabilitation and reparation, we strive to entangle the perspective of artists, activists, and engaged communities with the ones of scholars, researchers, and institutions: to offer a platform for a decentralised discussion able to include voices and positions across geographies and disciplinary perspectives.

Listen to Things 

More often than Beings, 

Hear the voice of fire, 

Hear the voice of water. 

Listen in the wind, 

To the bush that is sobbing: 

This is the ancestors, breathing. 

 –– Birago Diop, “Spirits” 

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung (SAVVY Contemporary)

CURATORS: Elena Agudio, Arlette-Louise Ndakoze (SAVVY Contemporary), Nora Razian and Rahul Gudipudi (Jameel Arts Centre), Alya Sebti (ifa Gallery Berlin)  

FUNDING: The project is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation (Kulturstiftung des Bundes), Art Jameel and ifa Gallery Berlin. The installation “The invisible enemy should not exist” by Michael Rakowitz is made possible by courtesy of Galerie Barbara Wien. 

Notes of a Seeress. Andrea Acosta, Joseph Beuys, Anne Duk Hee Jordan, Sara Ouhaddou

Andrea Acosta, Assisted Forest, 2020, found objects, brass rods and clamps, variable dimensions

30 April – 13 June 2021

Opening: 29 April 2021

To mark the 100th anniversary of his birth, ifa Gallery Berlin is presenting drawings by Joseph Beuys from the ifa art collection in a dialogue with the artistic positions of Andrea Acosta, Anne Duk Hee Jordan and Sara Ouhaddou. Both Beuys and the featured artists address overlooked, disregarded, handed-down forms of – often collective – knowledge. Based on the relationship to found materials, they use humorous, poetic and social gestures to examine economic and ecological issues, initiating processes that have the potential to effect lasting societal change.

Curated by Susanne Weiß & Inka Gressel

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"Oriental Silk 鄉 綢" - Threads, Texture, Translation, Tactility

​Xiaowen Zhu ‘Oriental Silk 鄉綢’, 2020, Hatje Cantz, English, Chinese Graphic design by Studio Cheval

19 May 2021, 19:00

Digital Book Launch

Speakers: Xiaowen Zhu (Artist and Author), Nicky Harman (Translator), Michael Mason (Designer)

Contributor: Yon Natalie Mik (Performance Artist)

Moderated by Inka Gressel 

Published by Hatje Cantz in 2020, Xiaowen Zhu’s English-Chinese bilingual artist book “Oriental Silk 鄉綢” is a memoir, a biography, a company history, and a visual elegy . The Oriental Silk emporium, founded by Kenneth Wong’s family in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, has become a productive place to reflect on the astonishing histories of Asian migration and to critique the idea of the American Dream. Through her multi-sensory works, Zhu opens up a multifaceted view of a firm that is distinguished, like its silk products, through its own haptics, style, colors, and values. The people, places, and stories that make up the phenomenon of Oriental Silk form a fascinating, vivid tapestry in which the past and present, art and life, are closely interwoven.
The digital book launch will embody four conceptual elements, derived from “Oriental Silk” – threads, texture, translation, and tactility. Each of these elements corresponds to the non-linear narrative structure, design and aesthetic exploration, language and translation, as well as a new collaborative performance artwork  associated with the project. Through conversations and exchange, the story of “Oriental Silk” and its rich context are meant to stimulate wider engagements and open discussions that link people and places – and provide purpose – across time and borders.  

Wie verlerne ich, was mir beigebracht wurde?

Platz für Diversität!? Festival für diskriminierungskritische Allianzen zwischen Kunst und Bildung

29 May 2021, 10:00-12:30

Online Workshop with Each One Teach One (EOTO) e.V. and Moshtari Hilal as part of "Platz für Diversität!? – Festival für diskriminierungskritische Allianzen zwischen Kunst und Bildung" (27.-29.05.2021)

The workshop will be held in German.