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coculture Space

Berlin, Germany


ABSENCE is a performance art exhibition in which the machines represent the six artists living in different geographical locations.

Artists: Hana El-Sagini, Hend Elbalouty, Marian Aazer, Razan Sabbagh, Rozeen Bisharat, Ruba Salameh.

Curator: Khaled Barakeh

Cooperative project by coculture & Artist Training, UdK Berlin Career College

As the second lockdown was imposed in Germany, and with living in lockdown being the new normal across the world, the artists decided to document their lives on hundreds of office papers using drawings, texts, sketches, collages, photographs, and many other types of media. To give free rein to the artists’ freedom of expression and psychological depth, the papers will remain anonymous and not bear any signatures, only showing the date and time of creation.

With the lack of the opportunity for the artists to be personally present in the gallery, each artist will present her works from her specific geographical location by connecting to a printer via the internet and print her papers continuously over a period of six minutes every day for six consecutive days. All of this is going to happen in a space where the audience cannot be present; they can only experience the exhibition through a live stream that will display the flow of the papers and their arrival to the space through the printers, the presentation itself being part of the performance and installation as well.

This exhibition is offering an artistic space in a time of uncertainty and is an attempt to explore what has happened to the world during these past few months. The shown works serve as a unique kind of anonymous diary of the artists’ reactions to their situation, a stream of documentation examining the concepts of absence and presence during a global pandemic.

Artists' Text

As a group of artists, we tried to find a way to define absence. To understand what it means to us collectively and individually, we started with one basic question: What is absence? After the first one, more and more questions appeared and flowed: Is it when we miss someone or something? Is it missing or losing? Can we capture the absence of someone and something while it’s happening? What is absence made of? Materials? Emotions? Actions? Can we create presence out of absence? What is the meaning of absence, and what is it in art? How can we express the absence of us as artists while being involved in the art process?

Somehow, we agreed that absence is a condition of nonexistence—it’s a haunting thought that keeps reminding us of its nonexistence. Perhaps it does exist in one’s own head or maybe it’s simply the feeling of missing that makes the heart ache! Then the questions appear: Can absence be positive? Can we be happily absent?! Can we create presence out of absence? Does absence actually exist due to the existence of presence? Like black and white, light and dark, life and death, maybe it’s a presence that creates absence. So, is the opposite of absence presence? Yes and no: The beginning of the absence state is present by its absence (no), and with time, absence becomes zero, nothing (YES). “This does not apply for all absence cases.”

ABSENCE pushed us towards a real state of presence while working on absence, forcing us to think more in-depth on how this year brought absence to the center of our lives, personally and collectively. It is the year of absence, yet more interestingly through this absence, we had to deal with a lot of other presences. We realized that if no one is absent, then we were never present. We have dealt with absence all of our lives under various circumstances and differing intensity but dealing with absence for this exhibition offers a new perspective. It’s a chance to observe the space inside and outside, the heart and the room: How was it before and how is it after?

The diary we are making reflects the situation we are living in: It's isolated from everything else, yet it’s representing everything we have been through in the entire process. It’s us together and everyone alone! How we survived the struggles that appeared in our process of absence? With humor. It’s a true irony, isn't it?

razan sabbagh
Razan Sabbagh
Razan Sabbagh

After the exhibition, the paper works were collected and organized after date and time of creation and bound together in a book and was presented later in an exhibition titled "PRESENCE IS NOT THE OPPOSITE OF ABSENCE"as part of UDK Berlin Rundgang.

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