Archive of Disobedience

Exhibition at Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach, October 25 – November 30, 2022

Academy in Exile inaugurated an Artist-in-Residence Program in 2022, with a grant from Allianz Kulturstiftung, on the theme of Fixing What’s Broken. Artists were selected in three categories—filmmaker/videographer, sound artist, and visual artist—and one of these artists, Diren Demir, is represented in this exhibition, Archive of Disobedience.

The four performance artworks presented here were produced prior to and during Demir’s artist residence in Berlin. Relating to the topics of archive and exile, the performance pieces mirror Demir’s own lived experience, experience that is carried within their body as a collection of stories about life and society. Demir aims to create new models of resistance in their work by drawing on transformational activist practices. In this respect, the works in Archive of Disobedience may be seen as performative acts of civil disobedience. Demir believes that performance lends new meaning to the objects that are left behind. Communication is fostered between the immaterial and the material, between the performance works and their physical remains, and audiences glean impressions from these remnants.

Based on the artist’s relationship with their father, Service critiques the kind of patriarchal culture that permeates the family, the smallest unit of society. The performance may be seen as a response to the Turkish government, which takes an avowedly anti-LGBTIQ+ stance and sees LGBTIQ+ identities as an attack on the “family” as such. With Service, the queer artist exposes toxic elements within the Turkish family structure.

Stage Dust Archive draws attention to the reality of cultural workers, bankrupt theater institutions, and collectives during the Covid-19 pandemic. The artist visits these institutions one by one and cleans up the dust that has accumulated on the theater stages where no one has entered for a long time. The performance turns into an archive of precarity at a time of social transformation and stress.

Based on the artist’s relationship with Prayer evolved as a reaction to the growing prevalence of radical Islam in Turkey. The artist performs a ritual of their own unburdening and transformation by cutting their hair. This performance tests the limits of Demir’s body and raises new political and spiritual questions. 

Demir constantly deals with the concept of “disclosure” in their art. For Demir, Speak to the Water is one of the most immediate forms of disclosing. Since 2012, Demir has archived their dreams as a daily routine: to date, more than 400 dreams have been recorded. While their dreams sometimes contain discrete images derived from the subconscious, they also contain nightmares about the current political issues that forced Demir to flee their country. With this performance, Demir investigates the possibility of new experimental archival techniques. Audience members are invited to come and drink the labeled dreams, archived in the form of wine glasses. With the one and only copy of “Speak to the Water,” Demir presents their own subconscious as an open-source resource. 

Diren Demir

Diren Demir is an interdisciplinary artist and independent curator from Istanbul, Turkey. Demir’s work seeks transformative solutions to the challenges posed by toxic masculine culture. Demir’s installations and performances frequently deal with revelation and the body-power relationship as a site of conflict. Demir focuses on transformational activism, participatory practices, and developing new models of resistance in their artworks. In addition to queer-themed works, in which the “pure existence” of their own body is used to break down stereotypical gender positions, Demir also aims to de-gender memories of place and the city by referring to LGBTIQ+ history in their articles, seminars, and workshops. In 2018, they translated the compilation S.T.A.R. into Turkish. In 2019, their volume A Night in June: A Biographical Analysis of the Stonewall Revolution was published by Kaos Çocuk Parkı Press. In August 2022, their new book of poetry, Hail to the Fallen, was launched in bookstores. Demir has curated more than 30 guerrilla exhibitions in public places and rural areas, foregrounding the accessibility of art, and has also exhibited in places such as the Akbank Art and Gazhane Museum. Their performances and projects have appeared in Estonia, Turkey, Serbia, the Netherlands, Germany, and India. Demir is an Academy in Exile artist in residence in the 2022 Fixing What’s Broken program.