Editing Room

November 30 – December 3, 2017, ifa-Galerie Berlin

Three intense days of editing—of cutting, assembling, juxtaposing, of rearranging ideas, images, concerns, misunderstandings, fragments of storytelling and histories—lead to dedicated discussions, included lectures, presentations, conversations. For the first iteration we had on board Fatoumata Diabaté (Montpellier), Ndidi Dike (Lagos), Jihan El-Tahri (Paris), Kodwo Eshun (London), Shahira Issa (Berlin), Brigitta Kuster (Berlin), Uche Okpa- Iroha (Lagos), Iheanyichukwu Onwuegbucha (Lagos), Emily Pethick (London), Lisl Ponger (Wien), Nadine Siegert (Bayreuth), Cara Snyman (Johannesburg), Emma Wolukau- Wanambwa (London).


What follows on the next pages can only give a glimpse of what has been in the air. But it offers an entry point to a methodology that unfolds in duration, through interlacing shades within an interval, and between the lines. In a not yet defined transition, between one image and another, disappearance and appearance. To speak of her presence and contribution. Her. She. Undefined. The sheer presence requires a translation, not to speak for her, but to claim the value of practices that go without saying. And a contribution to what? Women who joined a struggle, risked their lives, left their families, went on strike, carried bombs, organized a military unit to achieve a liberation, an independence for a people to come. In the moment after, with the shift towards nation building, she already lost her independence.

Every definition is of course also an exclusion and creates hierarchies, which is ok, but we should be very specific what we are talking about. There are different ways of editing, not only film narrative. Are we talking about film? Are we talking about reality? Are we talking about mediated reality? Are we talking about documented reality? Or are we talking about something totally different? (lp)

Can I say something? As a documentary filmmaker, the process of editing, be it feature, be it fiction, short, whatever, with a conscious decision of combining, you still exclude. So the exclusion is part of that decision no matter what—if it’s because you decided to exclude it or because the connection meant by definition excluding it. So, when you are cutting a piece, to make the connection you want to get to, that one image that you really like, if you keep it in, it could confuse the connection you are making. So you are excluding it by definition. I guess what I’m saying is, what you just said, I understand, but I don’t think it’s in opposition to what she said yesterday. And also, that’s my reaction, by being so strictly defining what exactly we are doing, it puts us on a trail that doesn’t allow us to think out of the box. (jet)

I have to react to this. What I wanted to do is exactly the opposite. By including more things and not limiting ourselves by defining, but by including more defined things. I come from experimental film and editing has a different function for me. And I think we should include as many possibilities and be aware that we can’t include everything, but not create invisible standards by not defining things. (lp)

I was mentioning the Motion Picture Editors Guild in the US yesterday and I mentioned it not with this kind of precision I could have made it, and it’s of course not the only way to start talking about film editing, but it was a start for me to look for women editors in that business and figuring out that it is an option. And what we do – what we all do, goes in a multitude of directions. It was just a door opener and not defining the method of the project. Not at all. (mhg)

The writing of history and the writing of feminist history, part of Jean Allman’s point is that feminist history could also develop a methodology for the active forgetting, the work of forgetting, that’s what she means by Agnotology, the active production of forgetting. Not forgetting that just happened because the years go by and the archives get lost but because many people put a lot of work into the act of forgetting. (ke)

The term I use a lot these days is the interscalar. When you talk about the sieve, the sieve that operates at different levels, the big sieve with the big holes, that’s an interscalar vehicle. The very idea of a filter is interscalar. Something that allows us to move between scales. The scale of the big, the scale of the small, the scale of the individual artist, the scale of the detail within the artwork and then the scale of the network of artists. The scale of within Colette Omogbai works, within her painting and then the scale of the manifesto that she writes and then the scale of the Mbari club that she belongs to. Those scales – what we want is an interscalar thinking. What we want is concepts which can act as interscalar vehicles that can allow us to move between scales of thought. Between the scale of the painting, the scale of the artist and the scale of the net- work she belongs to. (ke)

Let me say something: as an artist in Nigeria, I always find, that when the narrative of an artist or a woman artist is being spoken about, it’s never about the women and her work, it’s always about: oh, she was married to a big man. These are the narratives that we need to straighten out, seriously, a woman’s success does not always have to be attributed to somebody else, it can be herself. And I noticed that in Nigeria, they do this constantly, you can never be a good, productive female artist – there is always a comma or a full stop to how you got the way you are. So be careful about those assumptions. (nd)

Photo: Victoria Tomaschko


At the time I was an artist, in the 1980s, I was the only female in my class, I had decided to be a sculptor, which was considered as not normal. Female artists should have been textile designers or a graphic artist, but you work with what you feel comfortable with. And not only that, in Nigeria, it’s a very patriarchal society, so, to a certain extend I was considered as a taboo, because I was dealing with tools and professional elements that were meant to be exclusively the domain of the men. It was a very challenging time, but the interesting thing I felt, I was so determined to be an artist, that I wasn’t really bothered about all the background noise – oh, you shouldn’t be a sculptor, I think it’s not a good idea to be an artist – because at that time, also most of my friends were either studying economics, medicine or law, you know, those kind of topics. Looking back to that era and comparing it to now, you can do anything you want and nobody questions your decisions about which medium you want to work with. (nd)

My interest in the Women on Aeroplanes project is actually: how do we edit in the absence and erasure of women in the Nigerian narrative when it comes to contemporary Nigerian art? We have a lot of pioneering women that came well before I started. People like Clara Etso, she actually taught the famous Uche Okeke what was then known for the Uli School, but when they are talking about history, they never mention the fact, that she actually taught Uche. (nd)

Again, it’s this idea of the necessity of the role of constantly trying to show what is invisible and not what is already present. [...] In a way the insistence is on the position that you are not trying to show what’s known, but trying to show what is missing – we are not here to simply gather all these histories that are missing and to narrate them, but to show the process of invisibility. [...] Perhaps it’s this dilemma of trying to think of – when you bring things into light, are you just expanding the center and incorporating such histories into it? Is it that things are getting appropriated by the center, everything falling under its light, or are you actually perforating it? (si)

So in a way I haven’t thought them all through yet, but I would say, just the fact that we’re displacing art history or art histories and the fact we’re displacing partly histories and the fact that we’re trying to think through the relation of nation, nationality and nationalism and then of course what Homi Bhabha called the narration of all of those, so the fact that we’re trying to think through the narration of nation, the narration of nationality and the narration of nationalism outside of the precinct of national history, nationality history and nationalisms histories, the very fact that we’re doing that, means that in a way we can narrate otherwise. And I take it that that is part of what brings us all here. To try to gather a vocabulary of narration which extracts from nation, nationalism and nationality but does not belong to any of those but is precisely a mobile vocabulary. (ke)

Photo: Victoria Tomaschko