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Notes on forecast festival at Radialsystem.

  • Review
  • Apr 05 2024
  • Theresa Zwerschke
    (*1993, Germany) works as an artist, organizer and educator with a specific interest in cultural practices striving for systemic change. Her practice is situated at the intersection of critical pedagogy, artistic research, and socio-political knowledge production. She holds a BA in Art Pedagogy (University of Leipzig), a Diploma in Fine Arts (HGB Leipzig), and an MA from the Dutch Art Institute.

Telling a story is never a self-contained matter. While narrating is, in itself, relational and involves listening as much as recounting, sharing a story from an individual perspective means acknowledging it as a fragment of a larger collective narrative practice in a constant process of expanding, reshaping, and linking with other versions. Recounting a story - be it your own, or one that you are passing on - comes with hints to so many other experiences, memories and truths. Walter Benjamin defines the storyteller as a crafter, as someone who leaves their traces on the story like the potter leaves their fingerprints on the bowl [1]. Mario Vargas Llosa understands the narrator as a messenger [2] and Ursula K. Le Guin as a collector, container, and carrier [3]

Regardless of how we define the ones who are narrating, understanding a story as a confrontation with the past and as a transmission of knowledge requires us to ask whose stories are being recounted, collected, and listened to. Because, following Donna Haraway: “It matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with [4].” In the face of the current public discourse in Germany which seems to dictate how taking accountability for one’s past determines whose experience to value, and whose to deny, this sentence seems to take on even greater weight. Against the claim of hegemonic history, which functionalized collective remembrance to reject a responsibility for the present, focusing on the multitude of stories being told beside each other evokes Trinh Minh-ha’s concept of Speaking Nearby (1992). In her critique of Western discourses that pretend to represent and speak for marginalized groups, Trinh Minh-ha advocates for a concept of speaking from one’s situated position while remaining open to the perspectives of others. Rather than claiming authoritative knowledge, or speaking on behalf of others, telling stories “in the nearness of” each other might enable us to engage with the recognition of differences and otherness [5]. To regard stories as alternating, coexisting, and intertwined versions of histories and truths thereby takes both the situatedness of storyteller and listener into consideration.

How to connect one’s own stories to an ecosystem of multiple struggles and truths?

How to deal with narrations that are not yours, but are living on through your existence?

How can shared experiences nourish our own stories?

And how can we contest the dominating narratives that keep us apart?

At this year’s Forecast Festival, these questions were raised in the works of multiple artists engaging with the role of storytellers as messengers, collectors, mediators, or disruptors who recount the complexity of stories, memories, and pasts entwined with their positions. During the two-day festival on March 15 and 16 at Radialsystem in Berlin five mentors, and their six mentees, shared their practice in conversations with each other and their audience. As happens every year, Forecast offers international practitioners the opportunity to develop interdisciplinary artistic projects in dialogue with a mentor, who supports them through the making of a new project. The program provides involved artists with a working stipend, a production fee, and facilitates a week-long stay for both the mentor and mentee in a location of their choice. Both then work closely together with a local institution and each other. As documented in multiple videos installed in the exhibition space of Radialsystem, these work-stays served participants to develop deeper connections with their mentors, to broaden their research through encounters, and to find collaborators and trace their own histories.




Under the title “Troubled Humor & Tainted Beauty” the Israeli-American filmmaker Roee Rosen and his mentee, Gustavo Gomes, explore humor’s capacity as a subversive force uncovering the workings of power, and its presumed psychological functions. During the days of the Festival, in the Halle of Radialsystem, a screening of both of their films was followed by a conversation with the art critic Hili Perlson. While Rosen approaches the comic as a strategy to reveal systemic violence hidden within hegemonic narratives, Gomes considers humor as a tool to turn the isolating experience of trauma into a collectivizing moment of sharing one’s pain. The German-Brazilian choreographer and filmmaker, Gomes experienced jokes and comical comments in conversations and interactions with other survivors of sexual abuse and rape as a unifying language that enabled the holding of those memories, otherwise almost unbearable to tell. Based on these encounters, Gomes developed several (auto-) fictional characters representing and reflecting on sexual violence experienced by gay men. His film “Manhandle” is a deeply personal narration that rejects a simplified victim-perpetrator narrative by investigating the multiplicity of psychological, physical, and interpersonal repercussions of these experiences. Introduced in different chapters, each of his characters leads deeper into a disturbing, though witty, confrontation with the traces that trauma leaves on the body. His exploration of somatic expressions to hold the complexities that words fail to contain reflects Gomes’ background in dance and choreography. By following the narrative switching between the performance of pop songs, drag characters, dance, and quasi-documentary sequences, the viewer is thrown between the painful and shameful experience of witnessing, and the powerful demonstration of desire, erotics and wilfulness beyond an ascribed victim role.




Roe Roosen’s “The Dust Channel” sets a Russian operetta about a Dyson vacuum cleaner in an Israeli home, confronting the perversion of comfortable domestic space with national border policies. His film, which was co-produced by documenta 14, troubles the distinction between the micro and macro scales of the private and the political, revealing analogies between concepts of domesticity and national defense. In a couple’s ode to their cleaning device, the Dyson becomes a signifier for the symbolic and political implications of sanitization as well as being a sexualized fetish object. While the couple get increasingly obsessed with eliminating the dirt in their home, the accompanying musicians are forcefully detained from the house by the police. The narration intersects with zapping between news and TV channels showing seemingly unrelated clips of housewives masturbating with domestic tools, news about a detention center called Holot, and wider Israeli immigration politics. In the light of a present where social media feeds obscure the content of political dissent under furniture ads, and where videos of dead bodies, bombed homes, and wounded civilians are followed by pictures of someone’s dinner table, Roosen’s film cuts deep into the current state of psychological disconnection. The arbitrariness of thinking about how to furnish your new flat somewhere in a central European metropole, as elsewhere thousands of homes are being raided and destroyed is not a disproportional simultaneity, but a systematic continuation between the micro and macro politics of the individual and the state. With its provocative eroticization of household tools “The Dust Channel” militates against a numbness resulting from the merging of seemingly trivial images of consumerism with those that depict concurrent war crimes. If the juxtaposition of home and displacement cannot be regarded as disconnected, then this is because the forces of ruling powers are always invested in the notions of the domestic space.




Gabeba Baderoon and Marcela Huertas developed their mentorship relation under the title “Voluptuous Silence and Sociality in Poetry”. Both poets share a deep commitment to the transformative capacities of poetry for relating stories and lives beyond the limitations of language. Witnessing their artist talk in the grand Saal of Radialsystem I saw how much their bond is not only created through both artists’ sensitivity for carrying the weight of stories with their words, but also from their deep appreciation for each other’s work.

When the South African poet Gabeba Baderoon starts reading passages from her books, which lie neatly arranged on a stand beside her microphone on stage of the Halle, her precise and warm voice seems to hold the attention of the space effortlessly. The intentionality in her tone makes me think of the voice as a muscle, both in a metaphorical and material sense; a muscle shaped through the words it speaks, the chants it attunes to, the silences it breaks, and the truths it can express. A voice can bridge the singular with plurality, and shapes itself differently if it’s used for, against, or with others. 

Baderoon’s voice carries images, those she creates in the imaginations of her listeners and those that she encounters as constituting her reality. One of her poems dissects the bureaucratic machinery of visual proof in the requirement of manifesting an identity in photographs by migrating to another country. Another is based on a portrait of her mother she carries in her purse, and the act of looking back at her every time Baderoon opens it. Based on Baderoon’s experience with the traces of the South African Apartheid regime and narratives of migration, her writing intertwines the deeply intimate with the structural, and expresses a compassionate intersectionality among struggles and interpersonal meaning-making. In doing so, the story about love, like the one about war, traces back to the very concept of poetry itself and its ability to take risks. Her poems raise questions about the many ways language and voice can be used to challenge divisions made by words, signs, and images: “I am in a world sensuously alive with the intuitions, whispers, and hesitancies of language, which I press beyond the small circle of the ‘I’ toward intimacy with history, theory, and politics [6].

Set in the same space of the Halle, the audience turns away from the stage towards a table where the Chilean-Canadian writer Marcela Huertas and her mother Yolanda are sitting together kitting. They invite attendees to join them. While her mother continues knitting and drawing what could be both a sewing pattern and a map, Marcela’s reading recounts experiences of displacement, migration, and intergenerational trauma under the Chilean dictatorship. “If one doesn’t have a home I wonder if the best place to be is between the pages of a book [7],” she writes. 


fig. 4


The project “White Horses Always Run Home” documents the intimacy of a shared research project by mother and daughter into Yolanda’s forced migration from Chile to Canada. After their work stay in Santiago de Chile, Yolanda and Marcela Huerta traced the stations of Yolanda’s refuge history: “Maipú, the neighborhood where she lived before being abducted; Mendoza, the city where she spent her solitary time in hiding; and Winnipeg the place where she painstakingly built a new life [8].” Engaging with the memories, evidence, grief and connections these places hold as - what Marcela calls - “a geography” of Yolanda’s trauma not only enables a co-narration between mother and daughter, but also opens their story to the multitude of experiences of displacement located proximally to their own. Marcela’s poems point towards how an individual story of migration is always embedded in many other versions of it, “because everyone is involved in everyone’s fights [9].” Asking how to care about those stories that are not yours, but are still living on through your existence, Huertas’ use of translation expands far beyond its language-based function. As a tool to bridge the in-betweens of somatics and words, embodied memories, inherited knowledge, and disparate struggles, translation forms a base to establish how this deeply personal project connects to a wider engagement with diasporic writing and relationality in poetry. Taking inspiration from the symbolism of folk tales, Huertas translates memories that are too intimate, and too personal, in tales. The hands of mother and daughter, knitting their story into cloth and tenderly holding each other on stage frame the eponymous publication I am gifted to take home. When Marcela shares with me the moment of intimacy when getting their nails done by the artist Fatim Yassine Sirois Sanoussi for the cover picture, I tell her about my own mother who used to say that you can read a person’s work from their hands. She responds to me that probably only those whose work requires getting their hands dirty would pay attention to other people’s hands.


fig. 5


Leaving the second day of Forecast Festival with this accumulation of stories prompts me to reflect on how the artists’ commitment to assemble, collect, and recount those narratives not only enables the acknowledgment of intertwined histories, but also to contest the artistic position as that of an isolated, singular identity. Against the commercial framing of individualized representation, the involved artists presented the many ways in which artistic processes are shaped by all the other stories that surround them. Whether that may be in opposition to the dominant narrative, as a gathering of the painful experiences that remain unheard, or in connecting one’s struggle with those of others. In using the platform of the Forecast Festival to shed light on such stories, these presentations make it apparent that recounting (different) versions of (different) pasts near each other, at the intersections between the intimate and the structural, the personal and the political  find writers  forging practices of solidarity rather than keeping us apart. “I do the bare minimum i.e.: tell a story, get rewarded,“ writes Marcela Huertas, and I wonder if it’s the multiplication of numerous bare minimums that enables us to move beyond the blind spots of selective remembrance.





COVER:  Roee Rosen, “The Dust Channel”. Forecast Festival. March 2024, Radialsystem Berlin © Forecast Photo: Camille Blake.

Fig. 1: Gustavo Gomes, Manhandle. Forecast Festival. March 2024, Radialsystem Berlin © Forecast Photo: Camille Blake

Fig. 2: From left: Gustavo Gomes and Roee Rosen. Forecast Festival. March 2024, Radialsystem Berlin © Forecast Photo: Camille Blake

Fig. 3: Gabeba Baderoon, Forecast Festival. March 2024, Radialsystem Berlin © Forecast Photo: Camille Blake.

Fig. 4: Marcela Huertas, White Horses Always Run Home. Forecast Festival. March 2024, Radialsystem Berlin © Forecast Photo: Camille Blake.

Fig. 5: Marcela Huertas, White Horses Always Run Home. Forecast Festival. March 2024, Radialsystem Berlin © Forecast Photo: Camille Blake.


  • Footnotes

    [1] Walter Benjamin, “Der Erzähler. Betrachtungen zum Werk Nikolai Lesskows”, in: Erzählen. Schriften zur der Narration und Theorie zur literarischen Prosa, (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2007). 

    [2] Mario Vargas Llosa, Der Geschichtenerzähler, (Frankfurt am Main:Suhrkamp Verlag, 1990). 

    [3] Ursula K. Le Guin, A Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, in: Dancing at the Edge of the World, (New York: Grove Press,1989).

    [4] Donna J. Harraway, Staying with the Trouble. Making Kin in the Chthulucene, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016), p. 12. 

    [5] Nancy N. Chen, “Speaking Nearby: A conversation with Trinh Minh-ha”, (Visual Anthropology Review, Volume 8, Issue 1, 1992).

    [6] Gabeba Baderoon, Voluptuous Silence and Sociality in Poetry, in: Forecast 8: Mentorships for Audacious Minds, (Berlin: Forecast, 2024) 27.

    [7]Quoted from Marcela Huertas’ Reading at Forecast Festival, Radialsystem Berlin, 16.04.2024.

    [8]Marcela Huertas, White Horses Always Run Home , in: Forecast 8: Mentorships for Audacious Minds, (Berlin: Forecast, 2024) 25.

    [9]Quoted from Marcela Huertas’ Reading at Forecast Festival, Radialsystem Berlin, 16.04.2024.



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