Video installation: Didem Pekün - Araf

Still from the film ‘Araf’, 2018, courtesy of the artist. Didem Pekün.
Still from the film ‘Araf’, 2018, courtesy of the artist. Didem Pekün.
Still from the film ‘Araf’, 2018, courtesy of the artist. Didem Pekün.

Video installation: Didem Pekün Araf

11/07/2020 - 13/09/2020
11:00 - 17:00


From 11th July the Van Abbemuseum presents Araf, the 2018 film by Didem Pekün (1978, Istanbul). Presented with surround sound in a single gallery installation, the 45-minute film will be screened every hour on the hour. The Van Abbemuseum invited Pekun – whose film Of Dice and Men (2011-2016) is in the Van Abbemuseum collection - to present Araf on the occasion of the 25th commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide.

Araf - meaning purgatory or limbo in Turkish - is an essayistic road movie and diary of a ghostly character, Nayia, who travels between Srebrenica and Sarajevo to Mostar in Bosnia. She has been in exile since the war and returns for the 22nd memorial of the Srebrenica genocide. The film is guided by her diary notes of the journey which merge with the myth of Daedalus and Icarus – Icarus being the name given to the winner of a bridge diving competition in her home country. The story of Icarus and Daedalus, a myth symbolic of man’s over-ambition and inevitable failure, is weaved throughout the film as a way to think about exorcizing the vicious cycle of such events happening in the future and of a possible reconciliation. Nayia also thinks of Icarus from a different perspective, that of seeing the optimism of such a leap, his braveness of taking a leap into the unknown in times of radical instability Perhaps, Nayia infers, Icarus wanted to write a different narrative. Araf traces these paradoxes through Nayia’s displacement and her return to her home country post-war – that of a constant terror and a permanent standstill, and the friction between displacement and permanence.

Whilst prompting us to consider what remains from the ‘permanent temporariness’ of Srebrenica, the film’s fluid shots, stirring soundtrack and sense of an on-going narrative – invites reflection on acts of genocide, racial violence and political injustice that scar recent history. As well as being shown on the 25th memorial of Srebrenica, the presentation of Araf also marks 1000 days since the imprisonment of Pekün’s friend and long-term collaborator Osman Kavala, the humanitarian philanthropist who was imprisoned in 2017. The artist would like to thank Kavala, whose support was instrumental in the making of the film. 

Araf premiered at the Berlinale 2018 and has subsequently been shown in exhibitions and festivals internationally. In 2018 it won the Heart of Sarajevo, Best Human rights documentary award. Didem Pekün’s documentaries and video installations have been shown internationally and have received various awards. She is a founding member of the Center for Spatial Justice (MAD). She holds an MA in Documentary from Goldsmiths, and a practice-based PhD in Visual Cultures from Goldsmiths, University of London. After being a faculty member at Koç University, a Research Fellow at Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, a Joint Fellow at Institute for Advanced Studies & Visual Studies Platform at CEU, Budapest, she is currently a fellow at Graduate School / Berlin Center for the Advanced Studies in Arts and Sciences @ Universität der Künste Berlin. Pekun’s film Of Dice and Men is in the Van Abbemuseum collection.

An e-publication with new texts by Didem Pekün, Rebecka Katz Thor and a conversation between Pekün and Nick Aikens will be released in September which involves extensive archival research on the topic at Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives, Budapest. The e-pub will be free to download from the Van Abbemuseum website. 

Film credits

Director: Didem Pekün
Screenplay: Didem Pekün
Director of Photography: Petros Nousias, gsc
Editor: Didem Pekün
Music: "Mountain of Air"
Written and Produced by Ellen Arkbro
Performed by Johan Graden, Elena Kakaliagou, Hilary Jeffery, Robin Hayward
Master recording: Subtext Recordings
Published by: Multiverse Media Publishing
Elena Kakaliagou/Ingrid Schmoliner
Album: Nabelóse “Nabelóse” Kakaliagou/Schmoliner based on the Greek folk song "Βάρκα μου μπογιατισμένη"
“Frau im Berg” Kakaliagou/Schmoliner
“To be given up” Kakaliagou/Schmoliner based on the Greek folk song "Γιάννη μου"
Sound: Theofilos Botonakis / Fatih Ragbet & Eli Haligua
Producer: Didem Pekün & locus athens (Maria-Thalia Carras & Olga Hatzidaki)
Cast: Dino Bajric