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berlinerförderp rogramm künstle rischeforschung


Didem Pekün

Elemental Lab

Neurotic-oedipalising capitalism responsibilises, harshly blaming us, whilein its therapeutic modetelling us that we have the power as individuals to change anything and everything: if we’re unhappy, it’s up to us to fix it. consciousness raising, meanwhile, is about positive depersonalisation: it’s not your fault, it’s capitalism. no individuals can change anything, not even themselves; but collective activation is already, immanently, overcoming individualised immiseration.”
Mark Fisher, abandon hope (summer is coming), 2015

We are at a moment of history in which we are seemingly paralysed as to what we can do to avert the looming catastrophes, from climate to wars to pandemics. Just as the species are disappearing at an alarming speed, so whole areas of human thought, feeling and sensibility are becoming extinct through neoliberal expansion. Extending the definition of ecology to encompass social relations and human subjectivity as well as environmental concerns, like Guattari, we argue that the ecological crises that threaten our planet are the direct result of the expansion of capitalism and that a new eco-sophical approach must be found which respects the differences as well as connections between all living systems. Poor land, poor people, poor climate, social distress; we are getting sicker as the planet gets sick. This cycle might or might not be reversible, but together, we keep on insisting, trying, and unlearning together towards molecular revolutions against a pessimistic prognosis. But it will require a multi-layered unlearning and action through relearning the basics (the elements) of interdependent planetary life. 

Elemental lab is a platform designed so we can think together forms, practices and ways to respond to existential challenges. This pedagogic lab seeks to offer modes of staying with ongoing troubles, tackling them, resisting to fix what is broken but rather offer ways to stay together in brokenness. And thus we institute ephemerally in innovative spaces, not bound by the constraints of academic bureaucracy and lethargy, artistic institutionalisation, and financial funding limitations. To that end, this platform will merge activism, education, and art into a roaming lab that straddles geographies and ricochets between varieties of people, opens out into exhibitions, zooms in through, incubates microscopic schools, focuses and steps back, one group disperses, another one forms. In an ongoing self-organised mode, it is a school of art and living which looks forward by learning from the consciousness-raising platforms of the 70s feminists, other common studies and curriculums that are too radical for university context. 

Thus, this project seeks to bring utopian orientations and explore specific practices both historical and contemporary of organising, living and doing otherwise and put them in dialogue with  aesthetic experiments in music and performance and visual arts.  For it is the illusion of separation that makes the human so idle, so lazy, so confused as to what to do. But a remembering, a rethinking, an awareness of interconnectedness, of us being so dependent on each that will perhaps create the right ecology for the human to act.

To summarise, and to emphasise the notion of creating “infrastructures” for gathering and the invisible traces that form practices, my dear friend and member of this collective, Gigi Argyropoluou writes, referring to Lauren Berlant:

There are many encounters and events that haunt us and form what we do, many of which take space and time and a visible form, and even ephemerally mark the city, a space, some work. And then again there are other processes of invisible instituting that seem lost in time and space and yet institute us otherwise, forming invisible trails of practice and actions of a practiced otherwise. Repeated moments that make new formations and give ephemerally new meanings. Embracing the “impermanence of form”; the impossibility of rules; modes of “monstrous complicity”; deformed intimacies. Incomplete indebted encounters that somehow repeatedly lead us to doing, and doing again, and doing otherwise, as ways that perhaps can induce possibilities for a “new repetition”, that as Berlant argues is “a transformational infrastructure” (Lauren Berlant, 2017).

  1. Fisher, Mark (2015), Abandon hope (summer is coming). Available from: Accessed 26 February 2022.
  2. Argyropoulou, Gigi (2021), Instituting: instead of an editorial. Available from: Accessed 26 February 2022.
  3. Berlant, Lauren (2016), “The commons: Infrastructures for troubling times.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. Vol. 34 (3): 393-419.

In her work, Didem Pekün (b. 1978, Istanbul) combines research and practice. Previously in her films, she addressed how violence and displacement define and destroy life. She is currently researching a roaming art education platform titled Elemental Lab. Her documentaries and video installations have been shown internationally and received different awards. She is a founding member of Center for Spatial Justice (MAD). She holds a BA in Music from SOAS, an MA in Documentary from Goldsmiths, and a practice-based PhD in Visual Cultures from Goldsmiths, University of London. She is currently a visiting lecturer at Kadir Has University, Istanbul (on leave 2022-23). She loves cats, very dark chocolate, and Istanbul.