BITTER THINGS – Narratives and Memories of Transnational Families is a research-based exhibition project by bi’bak that explores the impact of labor migration on the notion of motherhood and family from the perspectives of women migrant workers and the children left behind. The installation takes the experiences of transnational families from both past and present as a point of departure, and brings narratives together with those objects that play a central role within the families.
Labor migration is worldwide creating new models of the transnational family, which despite geographical distances strives to maintain contact between the separated family members. In the time of the recruitment agreements in the 1960s, many parents were forced to leave their children behind since working hours were too demanding to make childcare on the side possible. Today it is predominantly migrant workers from Eastern Europe, who have to leave their families to earn a living in wealthier countries. Turkey, as a former country of emigration, has in turn become a destination for many workers, especially in the care sector, from Eastern Europe, the Caucasus or the Central Asian region.
But, how is the relationship between parents and children to be redefined whenever gifts and material support take the place of shared experience? When physical closeness has to take second place to communication programs like Skype and WhatsApp? How does this changing family landscape impact children and their parents? BITTER THINGS retraces positions on this topic from the 1960s right up to present day perspectives.
Besides the exhibitions a side program with films, lectures and discussions has been curated by bi’bak. Moreover a publication with academic and literary contributions, interviews, songs and photos examining the topic from interdisciplinary perspectives has been released. Order your copy here. A booklet with selected texts in German and photographs of the exhibition can be downloaded here.
Concept and Artistic Direction: Malve Lippmann, Can Sungu
Exhibition Design: Malve Lippmann
Editing, Research: Maike Suhr
Project Assistants: Zeynep Dişbudak, Esra Akkaya
Communication Coordinator: Selim Özadar
Graphic Design: Jan Grygoriew
In Cooperation with Archive Berlin, Depo Istanbul and DOMiD – Museum und Dokumentationszentrum für die Migration in Deutschland, Köln.
Funded by the Berliner Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa and the Goethe Institut Istanbul. The sideprogram is funded by Berliner Landeszentrale politische Bildung.
Can Sungu is a freelance artist, curator and researcher. He studied film, interdisciplinary arts and visual communication design in Istanbul and Berlin. He gave lectures on film and video production, curated various programs and events on film and migration, and took part in numerous exhibitions. He has worked as a juror and consultant for the Berlinale Forum, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen and the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program, among others. He is co-founder and artistic director of bi‘bak and Sinema Transtopia in Berlin. Since 2023 he is curator for filmic practices at HKW in Berlin.