School for Dissident Friendship

Summer School for artists from Berlin and Lebanon

The “School for Dissident Friendship” is an intensive three-​week study programme in Berlin that takes place within the context of the multidisciplinary festival “Performing Exiles”. Eighteen artists and cultural workers will have the opportunity to participate in workshops, seminars, mentoring sessions and visits to cultural institutions to develop their artistic practice in an interdisciplinary exchange.

About the School for Dissident Friendship

“School for Dissident Friendship” engages “dissident friendship”, first defined by academic scholar Leela Gandhi in her book “Affective Communities” (2005) as “all those affective gestures that refuse alignment”, as a point of departure to consider artistic practices which seek to question and challenge existing structures of power through the mobilization of solidarity across differences. Positing the often-​idealized notion of ‘friendship’ as a metaphor for “dissident cross-​cultural collaboration”, Gandhi, by way of French philosopher Jacques Derrida in “The Politics of Friendship” (1994), invites us to probe past and present experiments in anti-​colonial resistance and the commoning of land and memory through an affective lens.

If, per Derrida, there is “no thinking being [...] except in friendship”, then: How are transformative forms of togetherness constituted? What pushes one to find themselves committed to a political struggle that doesn’t distinctly reflect their own social position? What and who does it take to sustain historical consciousness? How are bonds made and strengthened in the conjuring of life-​affirming infrastructures for future generations?

These inquiries are of crucial importance at a point in time when Berlin continues to find itself host to different diasporas and transnational communities with direct or inherited ties to countries facing upheavals and compounded crises. Even though these groups occupy the space of both exile and home through varyingly similar affects—yearning, stuckness, ambivalence—their political agencies can also find themselves in tension with one another. When the cracks between lived experiences of displacement seem insurmountable, which forms of aesthetic mediation and intervention could be thought of to render affinities not only legible, but generative?

Working through friendship, collaboration, and collective authoring, and starting from Berlin’s histories of diasporic struggles for self-​determination, School for Dissident Friendship will reflect on how global artistic practices can articulate political entanglements and interdependencies across geographies and temporalities.

As it grapples with an unprecedented wave of migration in Lebanon and the broader Arabic-​speaking region, within an environment shaped through economic dispossession and cultural isolation, Ashkal Alwan was invited by the Berliner Festspiele to co-​imagine the School for Dissident Friendship.

Established in 1993 in Beirut, Ashkal Alwan is a non-​profit organization, which aims to support contemporary artistic practice, rethink arts education, foster critical thinking around current social developments, and engage in community mobilization. The organization was originally conceived by a collective of artists, writers, and activists, as a place where art could be figured as a vessel for civic dialogue. Its educational programme, the Home Workspace Program, now entering its 13th edition, remains pivotal in providing alternative modes of artistic study.




Berliner Festspiele
Performing Exiles – Summer School
Sophie Blomen
Tel +49 30 254 89-177