Harun Farocki Retrospective

Savvy Contemporary

El Usman Faroqhi Here and a Yonder – On Finding Poise in Disorientation

With Candice Breitz, Ariani Darmawan, Fehras Publishing Practices, Shilpa Gupta, Ho Tzu Nyen, Samson Kambalu, Olaf Nicolai, and Michael Zheng


Curated by: Antonia Alampi and Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung


September 14 – Oktober 21, 2017

Opening: September 13, 2017, 6pm, with a performance by Michael Zheng in collaboration with Johanna Thompson

Opening hours: Thursday – Sunday, 2 – 7pm

Free admission

> Savvy Contemporary, Plantagenstraße 31, 13347 Berlin



“Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety. And at such a moment, unable to see and not daring to imagine what the future will now bring forth, one clings to what one knew; to what one possessed or dreamed that one possessed. Yet, it is only when a man is able, without bitterness or self-pity, to surrender a dream he has long cherished or a privilege he has long possessed that he is set free - he has set himself free - for higher dreams, for greater privileges.”

– James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name, 1961


It is said that there is much in a name.

That there is much in naming.


If we were to leave the historical and religious etymologies and connotations aside, names still tend to carry their weight in gold, as they open and close doors within certain societies. In recent years, there has been much outcry about selectivity for example for job interviews and otherwise, based rather on the names applicants bear, than their competencies. In her 2015 NY Times article “Appreciate the History of Names to Root out Stigma,” Morgan Jerkins elaborates on the discrimination tendencies in hiring in the USA, whereby résumés with names that sounded African-American were 50 percent less likely to be invited for job interviews than identical résumés carrying names that sound like ‘white names.’ Essentially, it is a narrative about racialization through naming, whereby ‘unusually’ sounding names lead to bias.


Interestingly, it seems as if names do not only reveal race, but also betray class, and of course gender. This phenomenon is everything but new, as people have always been profiled as ‘the other’ whenever they bore the names Mohammed, Shaniq, Shimon, or otherwise.


It is said that there is much in a name.

That there is much in naming.


Harun Farocki (1944 - 2014) is indisputably until this date one of Germany’s most important filmmakers and artists. Is because while he passed on and his body is no longer with us, his spirit and his works are still very much alive and preoccupy us in thought and doing. Thank heavens one can’t reduce ‘Sein/being’ to the presence or absence of bodies.


At some point in his remarkable being and career as an artist, writer, scholar, and intellectual, Harun Farocki, who was born in Neutitschein (German-annexed Czechoslovakia) and grew up in India, Indonesia and Germany, did a slight surgical operation in an effort to simplify his name. Born Harun El Usman Faroqhi, he dropped off the middle names and modified his last name in what might be considered a germanization of the name using a ‘ck’ instead of a ‘qh’ common in the German language.


The reasons for this change might have been manifold, including just making appellation easier or an effort to adapt, integrate and conform. Maybe he changed the name to avoid being classified the ‘other’ within a society in which ‘othering’ is cultivated. Maybe he changed the name to avoid being exoticized or to avoid that his person and work are seen only through a certain prism. Maybe to enjoy certain political and social amenities, while avoiding other restraints. Maybe just for aesthetic reasons. Whatever the particular reason was seems irrelevant at the moment… of importance is to deliberate on names, naming and re-naming as philosophical, as well as socio-political tools and acts.


The project El Usman Faroqhi Here and a Yonder: On Finding Poise in Disorientation is a research exhibition by Savvy Contemporary in the framework of the Harun Farocki Retrospective in 2017. The project zooms into a detail in Farocki’s life and practice, one that may be considered a minor aspect but that plays a crucial philosophical, social and political role. One that, inspired by Harun’s own work, leads towards unexpected new relevant narratives.


The project takes Farocki as a point of departure to reflect on wider issues of nomenclature that go beyond geographical and temporal frames. For it, artists, filmmakers and intellectuals from here and from a yonder ruminate on naming as philosophy, mnemonic tool, as disorientation, on re-naming and its political and social implications. They address the performativity of language, naming and its role in warfare and in pornography. They revisit, question or challenge Farocki's positions and offer new ways of seeing, and experiencing, his oeuvre.



Savvy Contemporary | The laboratory of form-ideas is an art space, discursive platform, place for good talks, foods and drinks – a space for conviviality. Savvy Contemporary situates itself at the threshold of notions of the West and non-West, to understand and deconstruct them. Savvy Contemporary has realized a kaleidoscope of art exhibitions, performances, film screenings, lectures, concerts, readings, talks, dances. Savvy Contemporary has established a participatory archive on German colonial history, a performance arts documentation centre, a library, a residency program, as well as educational projects with schools. The art space engages in its neighborhood’s history and socio-political realities which are entangled with the reflections and discourses of the project



Savvy Contemporary

Ebtrance exhibition space

Plantagenstraße 31

13347 Berlin



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Gerichtstraße 35

13347 Berlin