bi'bak's research-based exhibitions focus on widely neglected narratives in (Western) Europe in order to generate new perspectives that are crucial to a complex understanding of socio-political and socio-economic contexts worldwide.
BITTER THINGS – Narratives and Memories of Transnational Families is a research-based exhibition project by bi’bak that explores the impact of labor migration on the notion of motherhood and family from the perspectives of women migrant workers and children left behind. The installation takes experiences of transnational families from both past and present as a point of departure and brings narratives together with objects, which play a central role within the families.
Labor migration is worldwide creating new models of the transnational family, which despite geographical distances strives to maintain contact between the separated family members. In the time of the recruitment agreements in the 1960s, many parents were forced to leave their children behind since working hours were too demanding to make childcare on the side possible. Today it is predominantly migrant workers from Eastern Europe, who have to leave their families to earn a living in wealthier countries. Turkey, as a former country of emigration, has in turn become a destination for many workers, especially in the care sector, from Eastern Europe, the Caucasus or the Central Asian region.
But, how is the relationship between parents and children to be redefined whenever gifts and material support take the place of shared experience? When physical closeness has to take second place to communication programs like Skype and WhatsApp? How does this changing family landscape impact children and their parents? BITTER THINGS retraces positions on this topic from the 1960s right up to present day perspectives.
Besides the exhibitions a side program with films, lectures and discussions has been curated by bi’bak. Moreover a publication with academic and literary contributions, interviews, songs and photos examining the topic from interdisciplinary perspectives has been released. Order your copy . A booklet with selected texts in German and photographs of the exhibition can be downloaded here.
Concept and Artistic Direction: Malve Lippmann, Can Sungu
Exhibition Design: Malve Lippmann
Editing, Research: Maike Suhr
Project Assistants: Zeynep Dişbudak, Esra Akkaya, Duygu Atçeken, Megan Black
Communication Coordinator: Selim Özadar
Graphic Design: Jan Grygoriew
A project by bi’bak in cooperation with kitev, presented in the frame of Ruhr Ding: Territorien von Urbane Künste Ruhr.
Funded by Stiftung Kultur und Bildung der Stadtsparkasse Oberhausen and Vonovia SE
Malve Lippmann studied at the State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart and at the Institute for Art in Context at the Berlin University of the Arts (MA). She worked internationally as a freelance stagedesigner and artist. Since 2010 she has also been active as a cultural manager in various cultural and community projects. She is co-founder and artistic director of bi'bak and Sinema Transtopia.
Can Sungu studied film and visual communication design in Istanbul and at the Institute for Art in Context at the Berlin University of the Arts. He has given workshops and seminars in the field of film and published texts on film and migration. As an artist, he participated in numerous exhibitions, including at MMSU Rijeka, Künstlerhaus Vienna and REDCAT Los Angeles. He is co-founder and artistic director of bi‘bak.
Loin du 16ème | Far from the 16th– Daniela Thomas (France, 2006, 5 min.)
Calea Dunării | The Course of the Danube – Sabin Dorohoi (Romania, 2013, 13 min.)
媽媽離家上班去 | Homecoming (Hong Kong, 2009, 30 min.)
Hasta Bakıcı | Abigail – Soner Sert (Turkey, 2017, 17 min.)
Kot Farkı | Ground Level – Ayris Alptekin (Turkey, 2016, 11 min.)
The short film program focuses on the living and working conditions of immigrant workers in very different countries, discussing the difficult circumstances of women who seek to gain a future for their children left behind. Loin du 16ème / Far from the 16th shows a Spanish immigrant in Paris who gives her own baby to a daycare early in the morning to look after the baby of a rich family in her job. A ten-year-old boy follows the Calea Dunării / The Course of the Danube from Romania to Vienna to find his parents. The nanny Charlie, after years of work in Hong Kong, is preparing for the long-awaited Homecoming to her son, but suddenly unexpected problems arise. Hasta Bakıcı / Abigail and Kot Farkı / Ground Level address the everyday work of care-givers in Istanbul.
Nobody shall know about the death of their grandmother. In order to escape the state’s care, the 17-year-old Raya and her little brother bury the woman they grew up with in the garden of the local apple orchard. Raya alone organizes the daily survival for herself and her brother and puts all hope in the mother who emigrated to England.
Renārs Vimba enrolled in the Latvian Academy of Culture in 2008, where he studied cinematography; later he went to study under Boris Frumin at the Baltic Film and Media School in Tallinn; in 2011, he received an MA in Film Direction from the Academy of Culture. His film Mellow Mud has received the Latvian National Film Award Lielais Kristaps for Best Fiction Film. Vimba is currently working on his second feature, Sanctus.
Georgiana will soon turn 15 and is taking care of her six younger siblings. The seven children are living together in Romania while their mother works in Italy. The oldest sister cooks, cleans and on the side tries to find time for studying. In August their mother shall return.
Nadja has worked for many years as a housekeeper for a wealthy family of the Greek upper class. With her work she finances the education and the social advancement of her own daughter. She is allowed to feel like a part of the family. When Nadja is diagnosed with a serious illness and the employer is facing financial difficulties in the wake of the economic crisis, the situation begins to collapse.
Athanasios Karanikolas studied photography at the New School for Social Research and at Parsons School of Design in New York. He then studied video and media art at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf, as well as film direction at the University of Film and Television “Konrad Wolf” in Potsdam. In 2007, he made his first feature-length film Elli Makra, 42277 Wuppertal. Alongside his work as a filmmaker, Karanikolas also teaches at various universities as well as directing for the theatre.
The 88-year-old Anne spends her life in Bochum stuck on the sofa. Recently, her husband has died. He had skilfully provided everything for her daily life, which means one thing is now terribly clear for the daughters: Anne can not live alone. Over in the Polish Lubin, Jowita's family has been living for years in the construction site of their house. Lacking money, Jowita desperately needs work. These two families appear to coincidentally bring about a seemingly perfect win-win situation. FAMILY BUSINESS juxtaposes these two families. Without simple attributions, the film follows the trail of economics that invades deep into the everyday lives of these families.