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Barbara LondonBarbara London Calling

“In my podcast series Barbara London Calling, I host conversations with pioneering and up-and-coming artists. Together we explore what motivates and inspires these artists, what technologies they use in their unusually varied practices, and how they see the world as artists working at the forefront of technology and creativity.  I want the twelve conversations in Barbara London Calling to show media art as the farthest-reaching, most innovative art of our time—a kind of art, and artist, that plays an essential role in the study and understanding of contemporary art in general.”

“When I first encountered of dice and men (2011-16), a panoramic installation by Turkish-British artist Didem Pekün (1978) that manages to be both lyrical and politicized, I thought back to the great American video maker, poet and gay rights activist Marlon T Briggs (1957-1994). His deeply personal and emotional work tested the conventions of the media essay, a form that attempts to unravel the conplexxities of current political events…. Pekün, like Riggs, has blurred the line between narrative essay and fact-based documentary. In her case, she crafted something both time-based and sculptural."

“Of Dice and Men is a testimony to the hope and optimism that the Occupy movement and Gezi protests brought to an entire generation. Among them, Pekün not only takes notes on history in the making, but also contributes to writing it. Primarily a documentarist, the artist emphasizes the use of a first-person lens, affirming the significance of subjectivity in reporting on public and collective events as a way to give them meaning and consistency. But Of Dice and Men is also a reminder of the value of small things: by putting images of her daily life on the same level as major political issues, Pekün asserts that this is what we fight for, as it is both proof and witness to our individual existences. As the film progresses, it intensifies, moments of rupture multiply and daily life is caught in a spiral of violence. Then, it ends, leaving us, almost ten years later, with the memory of what did not occur and wondering if this wave of history has passed or if we are riding its lowest point.”

Tue Steen Müller, Review of Araf

“Surprise me, give me something extraordinary, make the form important, challenge me, makeme learn something new. This Turkish film, 45 minutes long, fulfilled the wishes of this olddocumentary addict.”

“As the artist sees it, engagement equates to accepting collective responsibility. The screen’s potential for gathering audiences time after time and sharing this collective responsibility is epitomized in Pekün’s research. While the world is inclined to fast-forward humanitarian crimes and the misery they cause, Pekün’s black and white images use time to question time and make us all share the suffering as they shift deliberately between the river, the bridge, the road, the military headquarters, the burial ground and the city. As the graininess of the imagesintensifies and expands in this process of sharing, every movement of the bodies incorporatedin the camera frame evokes a both familiar and new grammar.”

Clara Dawson, Review of Araf (2018)

“The film’s delicacy lies in the tautness of the contradictory energies at work and the notion of‘araf’ (the Turkish word for limbo, or purgatory) is manifested throughout. Always alert to thesensory experiences of the viewer, its visual and sonic patterns are quietly perturbing, thesimplicity of the images belying a highly-crafted work. It is both gentle and jarring, serene andperplexing; the sinuous curves of roads and railways disrupted by sharp transitions in speed,sound and thematic mode. These oppositions are what wins the film a lyric intensity thatsustains its questing ethical imperative.”

Arie Akkermans, SFAQUnfinished Centuries, (2016)

“To live in the moment or to document the moment? A strange seamlessness foams up in between the truly cinematic and the more intimate descriptions of the everyday: a tram in London, or a window view from Istanbul. As cosmic background waves, the grandeur of the temporal ruptures; the intoxication of the future breaks through the sewn patches of the here-and-now. Passing through a number of different adopted positions, Pekün doubles and triples into persons and voices, into moments and eras, into histories and telltales. But Of Dice and Men is not a filmic essay about a protest movement somewhere, which sounds very ubiquitous today and not particularly incisive. The anxious loop between the everyday and the sublime and the artist’s question of whether we are able to move back and forth between them, and how, is not something specific to Gezi or Istanbul or Turkey but related to a profound moment of change and global transition of which Gezi is only a late symptom.”

Further Reading​​

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