Presentation & Discussion


December 5, 2016 | 7pm

On the occasion of Neo Muyanga's - singer, composer and researcher from South Africa - presence in Berlin, the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program and SAVVY Contemporary cordially invite you to an evening dedicated to the open exchange and questioning of African opera and transcultural aesthetic criteria in music theatre. The evening is planned in three parts, a presentation in words and sounds by Neo Muyanga on his research and artistic work, an open but moderated discourse of people with an interest in decolonization, black opera, contemporary music theatre, aesthetics, singing traditions and an informal get together. This evening is part of an ongoing questioning of normative aesthetics in the global context by the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program / Berliner Künstlerprogramm des DAAD.

Neo Muyanga: “south africa is such a musically self-assured country that many citizens consider themselves expert at reaching easily for a song to accompany any occasion: there are songs to sing at a birth as well as a death; songs of good cheer at feasts such a weddings and songs of lament and political protest; we have songs even for lampooning at times such as we are living now, when the president is often seen hitting the news headlines under the cloud of some egregious scandal other.

in my talk, i will present a brief survey of the songs that were instrumental in liberating a new african nation, first from colonialism and then later from apartheid. it will be a story that touches on the advent of four-part harmony among the black community in south africa, and it will be a tale that teases out some of how this liturgical hymnody began to infuse the musical theatre stage, the opera and even the revolutionary camps populated by fighters-in-exile in lusaka, morogoro and further afield. it is a story of a south africa of modernist pretensions during the 19th century and a south africa of our afro-futurist present of the 21st century.“

Neo Muyanga was born in Soweto, Johannesburg, into a family of musicians and makers of the Mozambican Timbila (precursor to the marimba). He studied the Italian Madrigal tradition with choral maestro, Piero Poclen, in Trieste, Italy. His knowledge of African musical forms, combined with his studies of the western classical tradition, have resulted in a range of compositions fusing those traditions and placing him at the forefront of the South African avant-garde.

In the mid 90’s he co-founded the acoustic pop duo, BLK Sonshine with Masauko Chipembere, garnering a following throughout Southern Africa and internationally. He continues to tour widely both as a solo performer and in various band guises. Neo co-curates the Pan African Space Station, which he co-founded in 2008 with Chimurenga’s publishing editor, Ntone Edjabe. The Station is a continually evolving host of cutting-edge pan African music and sound art, on the internet and across stages in Cape Town and other parts of the globe.

For two months in winter 2016 he is guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.

Reading & Talk


Abdourahman Waberi meets Bonaventure Ndikung

December 6, 2016 | 7pm

(c) Gilles Vidal

What if…

Africa would be the rising continent – its wealth and quietness only threatened by the flow of refugees coming from the impoverished regions of Europe and America?

… a cat would tell the fictitious biography of Gil Scott Heron or a man would return to his homeland Djibouti haunted by the ghosts of his family? The work of Abdourahman Waberi opens up to a multitude of perspectives and invites us to reconsider traditional ways of thinking and be open to new points of view.

The current Samuel Fischer Guest Professor Abdourahman Waberi will read some passages of his recent work and have a talk with Bonaventure Ndikung, founder and curator of SAVVY Contemporary.

A collaboration between Samuel Fischer Gastprofessur and SAVVY Contemporary.


Session N°11: The Mecca Clock Tower & Leaves Fall in All Seasons

Köken Ergun presents Taner Karaarslan/Bensalem Bouabdallah and Ahmed Mater

December 7, 2016 | 7pm

Free entrance - donations welcome

The Mecca Clock Tower by Taner Karaarslan/Bensalem Bouabdallah (2013, German, 48 minutes, German/English with English subtitles)

Leaves Fall in All Seasons by Ahmed Mater (2013, Saudi Arabia, 20 minutes)

Köken Ergun’s response to choose a film “that represents our time” is two films that look on the same subject from completely different perspectives. The focus for the evening will be the radical changes in Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. Ergun proposes a discussion to follow the screening of these two films.

The first is a documentary produced by the German architectural company SL Rasch on their large scale construction project in Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. 35 times larger than Big Ben and adorned in over 98 million glass mosaic tiles with 24-carat gold leaf, the Mecca Clock tower is the world’s largest. It sits on top of the controversial Abraj Al-Bait building, a government owned complex of seven skyscrapers built after the demolition of a 18th century Ottoman citadel. Built by the Bin Ladin Group, this luxury complex shadows the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site, which for centuries used to be the tallest structure in the city. The building is one of many that have been built on top of historical Islamic sites in Mecca. Up to 95% of Mecca's millennium-old buildings have been destroyed only recently, to be replaced with luxury hotels, apartments and shopping malls. There is even plans for bulldozing the site of prophet Muhammed’s birthplace to build a new presidential palace. While The Mecca Clock Tower documentary focuses on the engineering and architectural efforts behind the development, fabrication and installation of the clock tower it offers a glimpse on rapid and irrecoverable change in Mecca from the perspective of the developer.

The second film of the evening offers a totally different perspective. Saudi Arabian artist Ahmed Mater’s Leaves Fall in All Seasons (2013) is a compilation of mobile phone footage from foreign workers employed at the clock tower and other constructions in Mecca. The film looks at the booming development in Mecca from the point of view of the construction workers, who are largely migrant laborers from elsewhere in the Middle East as well as from South Asia. Their cellphone videos capture the city from the perspective of an outsider granted a momentary peek in, focusing not on the loss of local neighborhoods but on the spectacle of demolition, the crowning of new towers and the quotidian moments of the workday.

Köken Ergun (born 1976, Istanbul) is a Turkish artist working in film and installation. His films often deal with communities that are not known to a greater public and the importance of ritual in such groups. Ergun usually spends long time with his subjects before starting to shoot and engages in a long research period for his projects. He also collaborates with ethnographers, historians and sociologists for publications and lecture series as extensions to his artistic practice.

Having studied acting at the ?stanbul University, Ergun completed his postgraduate diploma degree in Ancient Greek Literature at King's College London, followed by an MA degree on Art History at the Bilgi University. After working with American theatre director Robert Wilson, Ergun became involved with video and film. His multi-channel video installations have been exhibited internationally at institutions including Palais de Tokyo, SALT, Garage MCA, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, Protocinema, KIASMA, Digital ArtLab Tel Aviv, Casino Luxembourg, Para-Site and Kunsthalle Winterthur. His films received several awards at film festivals including the “Tiger Award for Short Film” at the 2007 Rotterdam Film Festival and the “Special Mention Prize” at the 2013 Berlinale. Ergun’s works are included in public collections such as the Centre Pompidou, Stadtmuseum Berlin and Kadist Foundation.

how does the world breathe now? is a 52 week film series at SAVVY Contemporary inviting artists, thinkers, activists, poets, scientists, curators and other practitioners to select movies of our nows. READ MORE HERE.



OBSERVATORIUM LABORATORIUM #1 - Curated by Juan Blanco, Ana María Millán and Esteban Rivera

December 11, 2016 – January 15, 2017 (Thur – Sun 2-7)

Opening: December 10, 2016 | 7pm

Lecture performance by Kristof Trakal: tbc

Free entry: Donations welcome

SAVVY Contemporary | Plantagenstraße 31 | 13347 Berlin-Wedding

With Tom Bogaert, Juan Blanco, Jan-Peter Gieseking, Kinga Kielczynska, Kristof Trakal, Ana María Millán, Paula Niño, Lydia Paasche, Esteban Rivera, Rizki Resa Utama.

IMMORTALITY FOR ALL is an exhibition that addresses the notion of death as well as concepts of immortality and their forms of management – death as capital and economy, the representation and celebration of death in architectures, sculptures, images. The artworks featured here speak of death not as the end process of life, but as a perpetuation of life through symbols.

IMMORTALITY FOR ALL has been developed as an associative dialogue on death and monumentality between the artists and curators Juan Blanco, Ana María Millán and Esteban Rivera with a selected number of peers, mostly based in Berlin. Their exchange was inspired by SAVVY Contemporary’s location in Wedding´s former crematorium (the first of its kind in Berlin): a protected building, a historical sign of the changing cultural measures around death management in the early XX century.

IMMORTALITY FOR ALL marks the first in the laboratory format OBSERVATORIUM LABORATORIUM, in which emerging curators or artists propose exhibitions inspired by SAVVY Contemporary‘s concepts and visions, as well as its forms of sociopolitical reflections and speech.

Curatorial statement

In 2015, Diego Alejandro Botero López, a young Colombian student, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his left leg. After the doctors had cut off his leg, he went to court to claim the right to keep his amputated member and avoid its incineration. His plan was to be buried together with this leg after his death. He won the cause, but unfortunately the leg was already incinerated. This story is just one of plenty examples of how taking care of a body or a part of it has political, social and cultural implications, how it involves the State and the law.

Meanwhile, the funerary industry continues to expand in different directions, towards new and imaginative ways of profiting from death. Bios Urn for instance, is a „biodegradable urn, that takes your ashes and turns them into a tree.“ It is is one of the many companies that promise a new kind of bio-reintegration of a corpse in the environment. For $145 you can even decide what tree you will become out of 6 available on their website. Biodegradable processes, cryonics, embalming, or any other procedure that promises a way out of death via a compensatory eternal life, are not just ideological projects, they are also business ideas.

IMMORTALITY FOR ALL is an exhibition and temporal lab-space that encourages us to reflect about death and immortality from multiple artistic perspectives: what does it mean to be denied the right to decide over our own death? How can we, should we, will we determine the future of our own bodies? The artists will reflect on the notion of preservation, and look at monuments as a patriarchal way of deciding what is worth to be remembered. IMMORTALITY FOR ALL is an opportunity to invent new ways to look at death and to gather artists whose works stand as forms of empowerment to our right to perform, visualize or materialize death.

Sun Ra’s legendary visit to Egypt and the Pyramids of Giza in 1971 is addressed in “Pepsi, cola, water?” (2015) a short experimental documentary by Tom Bogaert. Here, the multicoloured lights game played against the facade of the pyramids and the sphinx since 1961 is put in relation to the music of Sun Ra and archive footage of his visit to Egypt. “Die Versteinerten” (2015) by Esteban Rivera is a film where an interview with David Stodolsky, a member of the Cryonics Institute, guides us through Walter Gropius’ former house in Dessau which was renovated by Bruno Fioretti Marquez Architects. The reflection on this building-monument becomes a metaphor for what is fossilized, where Modernism is in a fossil state, and survives as a trace of what once was. Paula Niño moves from buildings to the human scale, brutally reminding us of the spatial relation our bodies have with architecture. “Reecuentro” (2012-2015) is a series of minimal cement sculptures that present pillows of people that died alone in their homes in Germany.

The works of Juan Blanco and Jan-Peter Gieseking address the relationship between the mind and the body in a technologically accelerated society. In their works captchas and digital interfaces are pretexts to question human existence in the digital age, and what parameters are used to define what is real.

The Occult Acting Group (OAG) of Kristof Trakal is a research endeavor of acting techniques as a means of resistance. His video-installation and lecture-performance “Theme Park of Death” (2016) proposes performative ways of inhabiting a cemetery. Its possible inhabitants appear as ghostly bodies in the images of Kinga Kielczynska who reminds us of early photographic experiments through a new age iconography in “Digital Enlightenments” (2013).

“Hielo Negro” (Black Ice) (2015) by Ana María Millán is a video in which images of Black Metal in two different countries are juxtaposed and associated, those of the Norwegian and Colombian scene. The artist underlines the artificiality implied in the concepts of death and nature, while Lydia Paasche and Rizki Resa Utama instead reflect and offer new visions on the concept of the body. Bodies or their absences are depicted as a reflection on narcissism, considered as a consequence of hypercapitalism.