About

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.

Exhibitions
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BITTER THINGS | Berlin

Narratives and Memories of Transnational Families

By Malve Lippmann and Can Sungu

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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 here. 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, Megan Black, Marthe Labes
Communication Coordinator: Selim Özadar
Graphic Design: Jan Grygoriew

A project by bi’bak in cooperation with Archive (Berlin), DEPO (Istanbul) and DOMiD (Cologne).

Funded by Berliner Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa, Goethe Institut Istanbul and Berliner Landeszentrale für politische Bildung.

To the events

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SILA YOLU | Istanbul

The Holiday Transit to Turkey and the Tales of the Highway

By Malve Lippmann and Can Sungu

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SILA YOLU | Berlin

The Holiday Transit to Turkey and the Tales of the Highway

By Malve Lippmann and Can Sungu

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Events
Archive Kabinett

Followed by a talk with Ayşe Akalın, Ok-Hee Jeong, Malve Lippmann and Maike Suhr

BITTER THINGS | OPENING AND BOOK LAUNCH

Worldwide, labor migration creates new models of family life, which is often organized transnationally. Despite geographical distances the family members strive to maintain contact. bi'bak's interdisciplinary research project BITTER THINGS - Narratives and Memories of Transnational Families retraces positions on the topic from the 1960s right up to present day perspectives.

Besides the exhibition a side program there is a side program with films, lectures and discussions is held. Moreover, a publication examines the topic from interdisciplinary perspectives with academic and literary contributions, interviews, songtexts and photographs.

Welcome Dr. Eva Högl (Deputy chair woman of SPD parliamentary group), Malve Lippmann and Can Sungu (bi’bak)
Book presentation Maike Suhr (bi'bak)
Snacks & Drinks

A project by bi’bak in cooperation with Archive (Berlin), DEPO Istanbul and DOMiD – Documentation Center and Museum about Migration in Germany (Cologne). Funded by the Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe. Kindly supported by Goethe Institute Istanbul.

Ayşe Akalın is associate professor of sociology at Istanbul Technical University. In her research she focuses on gender and migration. Her PhD is about foreign domestic workers in Turkey.

Ok-Hee Jeong works as a freelance writer, journalist and filmmaker in Berlin. Her recent articles have appeared in ZEIT Online, taz and bento. She writes about South Korea’s politics and society as well as South Korean migration to Germany. In 2016, her documentary film SEWOL about the parents of the victims of the Sewol boat disaster came to the cinemas in Germany.

Maike Suhr studied social and business communications at the Universität der Künste Berlin. Her research focuses on transnationalism and material culture. Since 2016, she works at bi'bak as an editor and writer.

Director Teodora Ana Mihai Romania, Belgium 2014

88 min., OV with English subs

Followed by a talk with Janka Vogel

WAITING FOR AUGUST

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 besides tries to find time for studying. In August the mother shall return.

Janka Vogel, born in 1988, is a social worker and a researcher in Romanian studies. She writes and researches on topics such as South-eastern Europe, Romanian migration and diaspora, as well as European and socio-political issues. She is currently working as a social worker with Romanian migrants in Berlin.

Director Renārs Vimba Latvia 2016

105 min., OV with English subs

Followed by a talk with Renārs Vimba

MELLOW MUD

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.

SOUNDS OF GURBET*

Turkish migrant workers expressed their troubles through music. Some took their saz and sang about their experiences, some wrote letters to their loved ones, some of them developed political visions for the future. This event is about the reflections of migrant workers, in and outside of Turkey, in the 1950s and early 60s.

* Turkish for “foreign land.” Gurbet not only designates a geographical location but also implies the emotional distance from home. Stemming from the Arabic garb, it means “west” as well as “sunset.” The verb garaba also has its root in the same word, meaning “to be removed; to be an alien.”

OV with English subs

Followed by a talk with Hilal Alkan Zeybek

MOTHERING FROM AFAR

Films:

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.

Hilal Alkan Zeybek received her MA in Sociology from Boğaziçi University, Istanbul and her PhD in Political Science from the Open University, UK. Since 2016 she is living in Berlin and working on her project titled The Dyad of Care and Discipline: Aiding Syrian Migrants in Turkey and Germany at the Leibniz Zentrum Moderner Orient, while teaching at Alice Salomon Hochschule. Alongside migration and welfare provision, her research interests include gendered spatial formations, women’s experiences of war, and care ethics.

Archive Kabinett

Readings and Panel Discussion

Followed by a talk with David Fischer, Liliana Corobca, Ok-Hee Jeong, Bengü Kocatürk-Schuster and Maike Suhr

SO FAR APART

Labour migration is a worldwide phenomenon that challenges traditional family structures and creates transnational family patterns. The topic of separated families has been addressed in novels and other literary texts all over the world, both from the perspectives of women migrant workers and their children. The publication BITTER THINGS collects a range of these stories from the 1960s until today. In this reading event, the Moldovan writer Liliana Corobca will read an excerpt from her novel Kinderland. A chapter of the novel Milk in Paper by Stefano Polis will be read by the actor David Fischer.

Order your copy of BITTER THINGS

Kinderland: Reading with Liliana Corobca

The Moldovan writer Liliana Corobca describes the fate of twelve-year-old Cristina, who takes care of her little brothers, while the parents are working abroad. Their father is in Russia and their mother is looking after the children of a wealthy family in Italy.

Liliana Corobca, born in Saseni-Calarasi in Moldova, is a literary scholar and writer living in Bucharest. She has published six novels, a play, and several books on censorship of literature in communist Romania. Her novel Kinderland was published in the autumn of 2013.

Milk in Paper: Reading with David Fischer

In his autobiographical story Milk in Paper the author Stefano Polis reflects on his childhood, toing and froing between Greece and Germany in the 1970s. Like many other children of migrant workers, Polis grew up with an aunt after his parents had emigrated.

Stefano Polis, born in 1965 in Kozani, Greece, spent his childhood and adolescent years as a so-called suitcase child commuting between Greece and Germany, where his parents were working. Polis currently runs a hairdresser’s salon in Jülich near Düren. Milk in Paper is his first novel.

David Fischer got his acting education in Munich. He worked in public stages, ensembles and for festivals, while being an esteemed member of the fringe ensemble and the French choreographer Jérôme Bel’s company.

The readings are followed by a panel discussion with Liliana Corobca (Author), Ok-Hee Jeong (Autor) and Bengü Kocatürk-Schuster (Researcher, DOMiD) moderated by Maike Suhr (Editor of the book BITTER THINGS).

David Fischer got his acting education in Munich. He worked in public stages, ensembles and for festivals, while being an esteemed member of the fringe ensemble and the French choreographer Jérôme Bel’s company.

Liliana Corobca, born in Saseni-Calarasi in Moldova, is a literary scholar and writer living in Bucharest. She has published six novels, a play, and several books on censorship of literature in communist Romania. Her novel Kinderland was published in the autumn of 2013.

Ok-Hee Jeong works as a freelance writer, journalist and filmmaker in Berlin. Her recent articles have appeared in ZEIT Online, taz and bento. She writes about South Korea’s politics and society as well as South Korean migration to Germany. In 2016, her documentary film SEWOL about the parents of the victims of the Sewol boat disaster came to the cinemas in Germany.

Bengü Kocatürk-Schuster studied Anglism, English, German and Cultural studies in Essen and Sunderland (UK). She works as a researcher at DOMiD (Documentary Centre and Museum about the Migration in Germany).

Maike Suhr studied social and business communications at the Universität der Künste Berlin. Her research focuses on transnationalism and material culture. Since 2016, she works at bi'bak as an editor and writer.

Director Athanasios Karanikolas Greece 2014

103 min., OV with English subs

Followed by a talk with Athanasios Karanikolas

STO SPITI

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 Voice of Torn Families

THE SORROW OF GURBET*

Workers who had to leave behind their families in Turkey to find employment in Germany met each other in songs. This is the story of the generations who have spent their lives in the in-between; those living between foreign lands and home, and the families live apart. 

* Turkish for “foreign land.” Gurbet not only designates a geographical location but also implies the emotional distance from home. Stemming from the Arabic garb, it means “west” as well as “sunset.” The verb garaba also has its root in the same word, meaning “to be removed; to be an alien.”

Director Baby Ruth Villarama Hong Kong, Philippines 2016

95 min., OV with English subs

SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN

Without the Filipino domestic workers the daily lives of many families in Hong Kong would break down. But the living conditions of these women are precarious: working all around the clock, bad treatment and the arbitrariness of employers are commonplace. On the free Sundays, the women organize beauty contests. The meetings are not just fun, they are networking. Sunday Beauty Queen shows surprising strategies of self-empowerment in the face of the impositions of modern slavery.