‘After the Wildly Improbable’: Making the Railway Speak, Curated by Adania Shibli

Tomorrow and Saturday in Berlin, a wide range of visual artists, writers, sociologists, anthropologists, and thinkers — including Iraqi novelist Sinan Antoon and Uzbek novelist Hamid Ismailov — will give voice to the uncompleted railway networks meant to connect Berlin with Baghdad, Damascus with Mecca, Jerusalem and Alexandria:

Georges Henein / Photograph by Boula Henein | Courtesy: Farhi Estate, Paris and the artist

The two-day event — some of which we can eavesdrop on via audio livestream — is called “After the Wildly Improbable,” and was organized by Palestinian author Adania Shibli and HKWBerlin.

From the organizers:

What would a railway say, if it were to speak, about our journey through the century to the here and now? In the late 19th century, the Ottoman Empire, with the aid of the German Empire and its banks, embarked on two large-scale projects that would remain unfinished in the aftermath of the First World War: A railway network meant to connect Berlin with Baghdad, and a second, the Hijaz Railway, linking Damascus with Mecca and running lines to Jerusalem and Alexandria. Visual artists, writers, sociologists, anthropologists, and thinkers are invited to operate as mediators who will assist the railway to speak from its own perspective of no more than twenty-five centimeters above the ground. They will reveal unexplored—as real as improbable—potentialities of the railway, significances to and effects on the historical, political, social, and cultural realities within and beyond the then Ottoman ruled territories.

With Adel Abidin, Yazid Anani, Sinan Antoon & Priya Basil, Boris Buden, Zeynep Çelik, Gülnur Ekşi, Fehras Publishing Practices, Violet Grigoryan, Hamid Ismailov, Karrabing Film Collective, Sair Sinan Kestelli, Shahram Khosravi, Samuel Merrill, Morad Montazami, Musa paradisiaca, Shahana Rajani & Zahra Malkani, Muhannad Shono, Rania Stephan, Salim Tamari.

The schedule, from the HKWBerlin website:

Friday, Sep 15

6 pm–8:30 pm

Trains in the Past, Tracks in the Present

Rania Stephan: Train-Trains: A Bypass, film
Zeynep Çelik: The Hijaz Railway: Empire and Modernity, lecture
Salim Tamari: Could the Archives Lie? The Disappeared Train, lecture
Priya Basil & Sinan Antoon: Steel That Bites the Earth: The Logic of the Track, staged literary reading
– After the Wildly Improbable –

9 pm–11 pm

Postwar Landscapes

Karrabing Film CollectiveNight Time Go, film
Shahram KhosraviAlong the Rails with Travelers without Papers, lecture
Samuel MerrillGhost Stations, lecture
Rania StephanTrain-Trains: Where’s the Track?, film
– After the Wildly Improbable –

Saturday, Sep 16

2 pm–5 pm

Unsmooth, Broken Flow of Travels

Boris Buden: From Orient to Archaeology: A Railway through Time, lecture
Zeynep Çelik: Railways and the Politics of Archaeology, lecture
Yazid Anani: an imaginary train ride, 1926, lecture performance
Shahana Rajani & Zahra Malkani: Afterlives of Imperial Formations, lecture performance
– After the Wildly Improbable –

5 pm–7 pm

Between the Lines

Fehras Publishing Practices: Waiting Trajectory, lecture performance
Morad Montazami: Railway Stories of the Betrayed Avant-Garde, lecture
Hamid Ismailov: From the Railway to the www., lecture
– After the Wildly Improbable –

7:30 pm–10 pm

Animate Tracks

Adel Abidin: Parallel Reality, lecture performance
Gülnur Ekşi: The Effects of the Berlin-Baghdad Railway on the Vegetation in Anatolia, lecture and presentation of drawings
Muhannad Shono: Zomë Zomë, animated film
Violet Grigoryan: Two Women, literary reading, Armenian & English
Musa paradisiaca: The Intimate Knowledge of Things, films and lecture
– After the Wildly Improbable –

10 pm–11 pm

Sonic Interpretations

Sair Sinan Kestelli:Poles Re-Mediated, Electronic Music
– After the Wildly Improbable –

Tickets are available online.