This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.
»Heimat«* is currently being projected in capital letters on every wall of the republic. But it's not being used in a sense of empathy and solidarity with the people who have had to flee their Heimat. On the contrary, Heimat is being used by right-wing and extreme right forces to exclude the dispossessed and disenfranchised. The fourth edition of the Berlin Autumn Salon is subtitled »De-heimatize it!« The term has been borrowed from the lecture »De-heimatize Belonging« by Bilgin Ayata, a professor of sociology, in which she criticises Heimat as a term made irredeemable through the colonial and fascist history of violence in Germany and calls for conceiving of other affiliations.
»De-heimatize it!« does not refer to the emotions and poetry attached to a homeland, which are private matters and reserved for each individual. It refers to the reactionary upswing in Heimat in the political discourse in Germany. In this sense »Heimat« is, and was always, »fatherland« as well and thus inseparably linked with the patriarchy as a concept. On an international level as well, it intertwines together the systems of patriarchy, capitalism and racism – currently represented by Trump, Bolsonaro, Putin, Xi Jinping, Erdoğan, Duterte and countless other rulers in the world – that produce exclusions and expropriations, questioning democracy and elemental human rights.
What can be of assistance in the struggle against the seemingly unstoppable triumph of male authoritarianism, nationalism and neo-liberal regimes? The answer can only be in solidarity. If art wants to oppose these practices of domination, it must acknowledge and address race, class, gender as criteria for exclusion all at the same time. Kimberlé Crenshaw already produced an analysis of this 30 years ago with her concept of intersectionality, analysing where various forms of oppression and structural violence cross. This thinking occupies us as both process and perspective in our critical artistic practice, and indeed in a self-critical sense. For while we have helped alleviate a painful lack by adding stories to the German-speaking canon over the past fifteen years, neither dual citizenship nor municipal suffrage, let alone an immigration law worthy of the name, have come to pass. On the contrary, the right of residence was restricted in an unprecedented form, killings made by right-wing terrorists were downplayed, and immigrants' right to both belong and exist have been subjected to negotiation again and again. In order to form theories and exchange practices for this situation, we have initiated an international conference and a temporary international academy for the first time in the fourth edition of the Berlin Autumn Salon.
But there is an exclamation mark behind the signature for the Fourth Berlin Autumn Salon! It's not about resigning oneself to closing a chapter, but opening a new - maybe more angry - one. The Autumn Salon is creating a space for this: in a retrospective of visual artists, with an extensive theatre and performance programme, a conference on theory and practice and, last but not least, the Young Curators Academy, a framework for politically engaged curators from all over the world to come together at the Gorki. In this we are opening up a space where artists, activists, theoreticians and theatre makers from all over the world can gather together to formulate an impetus for a language that's not nationalist and racist, not male dominated and sexist, not beholden to the arithmetic of the market and economic utilization. We are going about our work and welcome you to engage in encounters and exchanges with mostly free admission. Let’s de-heimatize it!
Your Shermin Langhoff
*Translator's note: the German word Heimat is roughly translated as »homeland« or »home
place« in English, but many have argued that it cannot be translated. It is also worth noting that the German Federal Ministry for the Interior, Building and Community has translated Heimat as “community” in its English-language title.