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Lynhan Balatbat-Helbock: Hundred thirty and one bodies in a garden full of ghosts – On absence in contemporary archives

Conference: Counter-Monuments and Para-Monuments(WiSe 21/22)

In a room of its own we are commemorating death, poorly. Barkcloth textiles, metal deities, jewelry, and writings pile up in toxic containers, uncontextualized in arranged institutions. The accumulated treasures hidden in dark places that mark the aftermath of a global plundering of artefacts and bodies alike are testimonies of absence and incapability of commemorating death. The competitive drive to accumulate fetishized objects en masse has not only profoundly disrupted the relationship with how one can and is remembered but also dispossessed communities of the creations that underline their being. Through the constructed gaps in commemoration, one’s existence becomes fragmented, governed by structures that disrupt the wholistic relationship to sense space and time. Archives are therefore not only toxic spaces that hold chemicals to artificially preserve what is not for the archivist to hold captive, but inaccessible graveyards depriving communities of re-centering through their epistemologies and imaginaries.

Lynhan Balatbat-Helbock is a curator and researcher at SAVVY Contemporary, where she is part of the participatory archive project Colonial Neighbours. She received her MA in Postcolonial Cultures and Global Policy at Goldsmiths University of London. In her work within the permanent collection of SAVVY Contemporary she looks for colonial traces that are manifested in our present. The collaborative archive dedicates itself to discussing silenced histories and to the de-canonization of the Western gaze through objects and the stories behind them. With close collaboration from artists, initiatives, and activists, the archive is activated through hybrid forms of practice. Lynhan Balatbat-Helbock assisted the management for the documenta 14 radio program Every Time a Ear di Soun at SAVVY Funk in Berlin (2017), supported the artist Bouchra Khalili with several projects and exhibitions (2015/16), and worked on a year-long research project on Julius Eastman in a collaboration between SAVVY Contemporary and the Maerzmusik festival (2017/18). In 2018 she produced Agnieszka Polska’s commission for Germany’s National Gallery Prize show in the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin (2018/19). Lately she has been co-curating the year-long research and exhibition program HERE HISTORY BEGAN. TRACING THE RE/VERBERATIONS OF HALIM EL-DABH (2020/21).

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