basic book complaints example

I am (finally) complaining. Somehow.


This book and the time I spent reading this book were a ride. Here are the thoughts I gathered as a first approach to comment it and what I have learnt from it. I hope you enjoy it.
As Mohombi said once “It’s gonna be a bumpy ride” [1]

I am late. This post is late.
I should have done this way earlier.
I should have started with this way before.
But I started on time, way back. It is just that it never showed.
I feel bad about this delay. This should not have been this way. What happened?
But I do not want to complain about this. Or shall I? No, no. I will not complain because that would mean to excuse myself in a way I do not want. But on the other hand the things that make my excuses for being late are things I really do not like. I am drained from those things.
This is not an apology. What is this then?

But these are just excuses and if I excuse myself I don’t like this feeling. I do not like it because I feel that I carry a burden and I do not want to carry a burden. But I carry it anyway. Also, who would care. I am just late. It is not such a big deal. It is mainly me who feels bad about it. Get over it. Grow a pair or something like that.

Ah but please do not be that hard on yourself. Treat yourself with care.
How can I take care of myself in order to improve without damage. How can I stop the voice that hits me in my head. It is not such a big deal, isn’t it.

It is hard for me to understand the limits of the complain and the whine (I will talk about this in another moment). Maybe I do not know what complaint is. I think I am biased because I consider the majority of my complaints never managed to work. They were formal and informal ones. Sometimes I think I do not think I believe in complaints.

This book makes me angry and makes me sad and makes me feel useless and not enough. That was probably not the purpose of it. But I feel personally attacked and I do not enjoy it. What is happening. What is this. I feel a big discomfort and I am filled with unease. I should have complained in a proper way and I never did. I should have shared it in that moment, now it will be useless.
But also…Why am I complaining? I should be grateful, it is not that bad, just live with it. In other times this was harder, not it is way better.
The adult voices that were implemented in my soft head now repeat inside of it. But I managed to dodge this adult voices in my adolescence, I was strong. Why can’t I take them out now? How did they pierce my skull? Why do I hear them? I was stronger.

What I learnt from this readings is an avalanche of nuisance because I feel small in a hostile world. Because I know the world is made up by institutions (institutions called structures) and they are not made for us. They are made by us but do not cooperate with us. What is this gap? Why when a big structure is created it starts lacking tenderness? I am afraid of big structures. But everything is a structure. I am afraid I am part of a structure.


I consider this was a complaint, somehow the worst kind of complaint, the non-effective complaint, the whining type. But I have complained and I have complained about the fact that I have complained as well. Therefore, am I carrying two burdens now?

[1] Khayat, N, Salmanzadeh, I, Hajji, B, Jannusi, B (2010). Bumpy ride [Recorded by Mohombi]. On MoveMeant [Audio file]. Retrieved from

art basic book complaints general ideas thoughts

Voicing Displeasure #0 Fault and Default

The summary was urging to be done and therefore, we are coming back to the roots: the place where the complaints were planted, watered, and let out by the complainer-creator, to the #0.

I do wonder sometimes why I have started voicing the itchiness I encountered. The following question would be why I do art. Then again, after rereading the displeasures once in a while I always bump into the satisfying answer. Moreover, I love my army of complaints. The question would pop up: how is it possible to have an emotional connection to the displeasure? I might not be able to explain it well, but assume that for me it comes from the joy of complaining, the power of reflecting, something very personal, one-man therapy, the empathy with the protagonists of my story, and most importantly, being able to be vulnerable somewhere, more than anywhere else. The topics that I touched through my displeasures are a good base to realize what are the itchy places and triggers, more precisely the base for future complaints and that is, my complainers, what I was looking for a while. I might be my own feminist ear.

What a lovely way to burn!

STICKY DATA: Complaints framed as self-damage

Is it, now when I opened these very personal, but very public questions and realized how sticky they are? Now, when I am aware of the damage that has been made? It can not be more of destruction than actually taking the words and bringing them into action. I and my displeasures are already here, which is, as I experienced, definitely not enough. Otherwise, Ahmed would call it a fatalist process (opened and started just in order to be initiated). But I would say that if my voices are burning now, there must be the next stage. Therefore, let me complete this action until it gets visible.

Fatal procedures, poster


After voicing displeasure #The Code of Visibility, I could finally cry my life off, after months of holding it back. The wonderful moment of being able to tell him how hurt I was is not the pathetic story about my father, as I always thought. It is the voice of all the girls in the world that were abandoned, living with the thought that they made a mistake. It is the voice of the anger, the spit of the tension that pierced my belly for years. Thinking about the children that are very present in my everyday life, I pictured the visibility that their complaints are creating: the contrast of being taken too seriously, or not at all. I have been observing both their creation of visibility and complaining in front of the authorities and I actually found something useful to apply in my own practice.

Never mentioned before that I have always been disguised and repelled by the way my family structure is described in the official documents. It gave many people the right to comment and construct their own perceptions of the two members of my nuclear family. I hated the way they victimized my mom seeing her as a tortured, poor woman, the single parent left alone. Once, in the report of a school psychologist, she wrote: the child’s lack of motivation due to the consequences of her broken family. Whatever would change in my behavior, that was considered weird, it was always attributed to the crack I was born in.

Once, I cried in front of a 5 years old girl I babysat because her toy/doll family construction matched mine very well. Instead of stopping the professional cry, I started the professional complaint in front of her and the game was successful. The feminist ear has no gender and no age.

voicing the burning

#The Professional Cry is a fusion that gravitates and connects displeasures written before and after it. It is, indeed very much connected to the first displeasure #Feminine Masculinity. Both empowered my female/male voice and helped me understand the NO complaint. I was not respecting my own body, and my own little girl cried inside me every time I gave it to them. I was sexually harassed, taken advantage of. I experienced verbal abuse not knowing that what has been happening is wrong. I never told that to anyone, because they would immediately give credit to the broken family situation: seeking love more than others, daddy issues, loneliness, not having a man figure to look after, etc. I am not saying that traces of the crack are not present, but how dare you? Developing masculine femininity is a process and I prefer saying that my deep voice is therefore a social construct.

The fatal calculation, poster

This must be a professional crying class, voicing up and healing the cracks.

#The Crying Honk was, on the other hand, at the beginning very general, global, touching something outside of my body. I started writing it after the second day of my trip to Egypt thinking about the reflection on the way. After a while, it became strongly personal and I noticed that this was the task of mine, the one this life urges me to have: I am the voice of the children. I always felt this whisper more than others and whatever is the context, I ended up working with kids. At least I know whom I inherited this complaining skill from. Therefore, the more honest and radical I was, the more visible I became. This might also be called radical softness because my words are written faster than my brain can check them. I am simply unloading and emptying my cabinets within each letter.


So, how to treat these empty pieces of furniture that are piling up? How to fold all these tears and screams-soaked napkins? Where to store them? The collection of the voices, cabinets of displeasure, university of ears, feminist laboratory, collective hug, complaining choir – (some)where to go?

I have a trillion questions while burning on my own and some of them are adding oil on fire, while some are swallowing me even more into the topic. I am asking:

What is the difference between psychotherapy (type of a feminist ear), official complaint (including administrative process e.g), and art practice here, for me? What am I proposing and voicing? What would happen when the voices are heard and the cabinet is exposed, becoming visible? Will my writings hug the people, motivate them? What do the complainers need? Is it more of the introspection and individual complaining experiences or the instruction of how to make an act? 

Will anything voiced drastically change anything existing?

Until all of them are answered,
until it all burns.

art basic book chapter

Neither the devouring nor the gaping, neither the invisible nor the unnoticed, neither the threatening nor the unclosable gap, but the gap that is recognized and acknowledged.

“Mind the Gap” is the motif of the first illustration in Sara Ahmed’s book “Complaint!”, page 30: In a view from above, the lettering “MIND THE GAP” is embedded in a floor mosaic on the edge of a train platform; the train tracks can still be seen at the upper edge of the picture. The caption is: “The gap between what is supposed to happen and what does happen.”

This sentence refers to Ahmed’s observation of complaint processes on the same page of the book: Here, something does not coincide, namely that which is supposed to happen by means of a complaint in accordance with the policies and procedures and that which actually happens. There is a gap between the two, the should and the is. This gap is “densely populated” (p. 30), says the continuous text above the illustration, it should be paid attention to: “To mind the gap is to listen and learn from those who are experiencing a process.” (ibid).

“Mind the Gap” is the safety notice that can be seen at London Underground stations and heard as an announcement, a warning to passengers not to fall into the gap between the platform and the threshold of the tube. “Mind the Gap” is also the slogan of the London Student Feminists at the University of London, but here with a call to value and promote gender difference. One phrase, two applications, two meanings: one to pay attention to the gap in order to overcome it, the other to pay attention to the gap in order to acknowledge it. Ahmed’s variant combines both the warning and the expression of respect: to take care of the gap means first to recognize it, then to acknowledge it. 

That this message is visualized with the black-and-white illustration of the London Underground at Victoria station, where subway stations meet at different levels of elevation and construction, indicates Ahmed’s interest in the operational level of her topic, “Complaint!” How do which (cultural, institutional, linguistic) techniques meet, how can they be connected or made connectable without leveling their differences? How can differences not be ignored, how can differences be recognized as differences without stigmatizing them into difference? How can closures (of gaps) take place without closing them, but keeping them unclosed? “Mind the Gap” means with Ahmed: notice and respect the gap.

basic book chapter general

Weder die verschlingende noch die klaffende, weder die unsichtbare noch die unbeachtete, weder die drohende noch die unschließbare Lücke, sondern die Lücke, die erkannt und anerkannt wird.

„Mind the Gap“ ist das Bildmotiv der ersten Abbildung innerhalb von Sara Ahmeds Buch „Complaint!“, auf Seite 30: Zu sehen ist in einer Ansicht von oben der, in ein Bodenmosaik eingelassene Schriftzug „MIND THE GAP“ an einer Bahnsteigkante; am oberen Bildrand sind noch die Zuggleise zu sehen. Die Bildunterschrift lautet: „The gap between what is supposed to happen and what does happen.“ (Die Kluft zwischen dem, was geschehen soll, und dem, was tatsächlich geschieht.) 

Dieser Satz bezieht sich auf Ahmeds Beobachtung von Beschwerdevorgängen auf der gleichen Seite des Buches: Hier fällt etwas nicht in eins, und zwar dasjenige, was mittels einer Beschwerde in Übereinstimmung mit den Richtlinien und Verfahren geschehen soll, und dasjenige, was tatsächlich geschieht. Zwischen beidem, dem Soll und dem Ist, klafft eine Lücke. Diese Lücke sei „dicht bevölkert“ („densely populated“, S. 30), heisst es im Fließtext oberhalb der Abbildung, ihr solle Aufmerksamkeit geschenkt werden: „Sich um die Lücke zu kümmern, bedeutet, zuzuhören und von denjenigen zu lernen, die einen Prozess erleben.“ („to mind the gap is to listen and to learn from those who experience a process.“, ebd.)

„Achten Sie auf die Lücke“ lautet der Sicherheitshinweis, der an den Stationen der Londoner U-Bahn zu sehen und als Durchsage zu hören ist, ein Warnhinweis an die Passagiere, nicht in die Lücke zwischen Bahnsteig und Türschwelle der U-Bahn zu fallen. „Mind the Gap“ lautet auch der Slogan der London Student Feminists der Universität London, hier allerdings mit dem Aufruf, den Unterschied der Geschlechter zu wertschätzen und zu fördern. Ein Satz, zwei Anwendungen, zwei Bedeutungen: die eine, auf die Lücke zu achten, um sie zu überwinden, die anderen, die Lücke zu achten, um sie anzuerkennen. Ahmeds Variante kombiniert sowohl den Warnhinweis als auch die Respektbekundung miteinander: Sich um die Lücke zu kümmern, bedeutet zunächst einmal, sie zu erkennen, um sie dann anzuerkennen. 

Dass diese Botschaft mit der Schwarz-Weiss-Abbildung der Londoner Underground im Bahnhof Victoria visualisiert ist, in dem U-Bahn-Stationen auf unterschiedlichen Höhenniveaus und in unterschiedlicher Bauweise aufeinander treffen, deutet auf Ahmeds Interesse für die operative Ebene ihres Themas „Complaint!“ hin: Wie treffen welche (Kultur-, Institutions-, Sprach-) Techniken aufeinander, wie können sie aneinander anschließen oder anschließbar gemacht werden, ohne ihre Differenzen zu nivellieren? Wie können Differenzen nicht ignoriert werden, wie können Differenzen als Differenzen anerkannt werden, ohne sie zur Differenz zu stigmatisieren? Wie können Verschließungen (von Lücken) stattfinden, ohne sie zu verschließen, sondern sie entverschlossen zu halten? „Mind the Gap“ heißt mit Ahmed: Beachte und achte die Lücke.

basic book general thoughts

Am I allowed to complain? – about being privileged enough to complain and not being privileged enough to complain

I would like to start this post by stating: Everyone is allowed to complain, anytime, anywhere, concerning any issue.

What does this sentence provoke in you? Do you agree? Do you disagree?

I myself have to say that I am not so sure about this, even though I am also not so sure who should be deciding over this. Complaining means expressing discontent or dissatisfaction about something, making an accusation, stating that something is (done) wrong. I want to specify here that I will focus on complaining when you are treated unfairly, such as for example by a person, a procedure, or an institution. 

Who is allowed to complain? A complaint starts with the reason why you want to complain, and this reason starts with a feeling. A feeling of something being wrong: feeling hurt, suffocated, excluded, offended, hence unfairly treated. And this is where it already gets complicated. “Am I allowed to complain?” starts with a: “Am I allowed to feel wronged?”. The fact that it is so difficult to define right or wrong, especially when emotions are involved, makes the whole process somewhat subjective and easily determined in the end by whoever is in power (with this often being whoever you complain about). So, who decides over right or wrong? The complainer or the “being-complaint-to”? 

Who is allowed to complain? The right to complain is also a matter of privilege. On this issue there is a conflict between the fact that some people are too privileged to complain and some not privileged enough to get through with a complaint. Are you the right person to complain? While going through with a complaint “we learn how only some ideas are heard if they are deemed to come from the right people; right can be white.”1 There is absurdity in the fact that if you are in the position to make a complaint, hence if you are suffering under certain power relations that put you in an unjust situation, you are most probably not being heard. “You might not feel confident that your complaint is being taken seriously when your complaint is about not being taken seriously.”2 Thus when you chose to complain you take a huge risk, which might lead to self-damage. More than often, you are already in a precarious situation and can’t afford to lose your job or hurt your image. If you find yourself in this situation, you might be reminded of your dependence on the one you want to complain to. Hence your issue is not being taken seriously by those in power to do something about it. In addition to this “complaints are more likely to be received well when they are made by those in power.”3 Those who are already more influential are more likely to get through with their complaint. This is widening the already existing inequality gab in hierarchies.

Who is allowed to complain? Those who are heard are those who are in the “right” place to complain: those in a stable state, those with enough power, those who have the right connections, those with the resources to do so. But isn’t it ironic that when you find yourself in a situation of suffering, without support, and hence file a complaint, you are not supported by the system? And if you are in the “right” place to complain you are actually not really in the right place to complain, meaning the reason why you complain might not be that severe, because you don’t find yourself in a precarious situation. 

In conclusion when is complaining justified? When is your state alarming and legitime enough to be entitled to do so? When are you well enough positioned to complain? When are you allowed to take away people’s oh-so-precious time to criticize and tackle the system they are so desperately trying to uphold? To complain is to make yourself vulnerable. Be aware of the burden that comes your way, whether it is the burden of your privilege to be able to do so, or your struggle or even your inability to get through with it.

1 Ahmed, S. (2021): Complaint! 2021, p.6.

2 ebd., p.21.

3 ebd., p.24.

basic complaints example general


Das Wort „Complainer“ wird in Übersetzungsmaschinen neben „Beschwerdeführer“ auch als „Jammerlappen“ [ˈjamɐlapn̩] übersetzt. „Jammerlappen“ bezeichnet umgangssprachlich abwertend eine Person, die sich wehleidig über etwas beklagt. In Wictionary wird „Jammerlappen“ als „Flasche, Heulsuse, Schlappschwanz, Würstchen“ übersetzt, im Woxikon als „Pfeife, Loser, Taugenichts, Krücke, feiger Mensch, Unfähiger Weichling“. Zur Etymologie heißt es bei DWDS: „Jammerlappen m. ‘wehleidig klagender Mensch, Feigling’ (berlin. 19. Jh.), eigentlich (scherzhaft) ‘das zum Abwischen der Tränen benutzte Taschentuch’.“, hier heißt es zur Bedeutung: „feiger, willensschwacher Mensch“. Der Duden schreibt: „allzu ängstlicher, feiger Mensch, der sich alles gefallen lässt und nicht aufzubegehren wagt“ und informiert zur Herkunft: „ursprünglich = Tuch zum Abwischen der Tränen, dann auf seinen Benutzer übertragen“. 

Dieses Übersetzungsergebnis des Wortes „Complainer“ in die deutsche Sprache durch Übersetzungsmaschinen macht Diskriminierungsprozesse sichtbar, die zum einen über den Vorgang des Übersetzens stattfinden und zum anderen durch den Einsatz von Codes verursacht werden, wobei Diskrimierungen im Code mit einem Anschein technischer Neutralität umso wirksamer sind. Diese Beobachtungen machen Gründe sichtbar, warum sich zu beschweren bedeutet, so Ahmed, nicht gehört zu werden: „To be heard as complaining is not to be heard.“ (Ahmed 2021, S. 1). Wer schenkt sein/ihr Ohr jemandem, der als ein „Jammerlappen“ stigmatisiert ist und dessen Beschwerden damit herabgewürdigt und erniedrigt werden? 

Deshalb meine Beschwerde am 17.11.2021 an ein KI-System, an DeepL Translator, info(at)

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

wir möchten Sie gern darüber informieren, dass wir bei unserer Arbeit an der Bauhaus-Universität Weimar zu dem Buch „Complaint!“ von Sara Ahmed festgestellt haben, dass das Übersetzungssystem deepL den englischen Begriff „complainer” u. a. in den deutschen Begriff des abwertenden „Jammerlappen“ übersetzt.

Da es in dem Buch und unserem Seminar unter anderem darum geht, Ablehnungen, Barrieren und Widerstände gegen das Beschweren und gegen Beschwerden zu reflektieren, möchte ich Sie stellvertretend für mein Seminar gern um eine Stellungnahme hierzu bitten. Denn hier scheint es sich um ein Beispiel für eine Diskrimierung im Code zu handeln, die in dem Anschein technischer Neutralität umso wirksamer ist?

Danke & freundliche Grüße

DeepL, Customer Support Specialist I Support, antwortete mit am 22.11.2021:

Sehr geehrte Frau Kleine-Benne, 

vielen Dank, dass Sie uns kontaktiert haben. 

Es tut uns leid zu hören, dass Sie auf diese Fehlübersetzung gestoßen sind. 

Möglicherweise liegt das Problem darin, dass es sich um ein Wort ohne Kontext handelt. Aus diesem Grund raten wir in der Regel davon ab, einzelne Wörter zu übersetzen. Am besten ist es, das Wort zusammen in seinem Kontext zu übersetzen, da unser Übersetzer in der Regel den Kontext überprüft, um eine bessere Übersetzung zu liefern. Selbstverständlich werden wir Ihr Feedback an unsere Entwickler weiterleiten, um die zukünftige Verbesserung unserer Übersetzungsmaschine zu ermöglichen.

Außerdem möchte ich Sie darüber informieren, dass unser Übersetzer nicht mit den Übersetzungen von Kunden lernt, sondern mit Hilfe unserer Sprachexperten und unserer Algorithmen. Außerdem gibt es für einzelne Begriffe je nach Kontext unterschiedliche korrekte Übersetzungen. Daher kann es leider vorkommen, dass unser Übersetzer eine unpassende Übersetzung auswählt.

Wie Sie z. B. unten sehen können, wird das Wort complainer als Beschwerdeführer übersetzt, aber Beschwerdeführerin wird auch als Alternative angeboten.

Vielen Dank für Ihre Geduld. Sollten Sie noch Fragen haben, zögern Sie bitte nicht, uns erneut zu kontaktieren. Ich wünsche Ihnen einen schönen Tag im Namen des gesamten DeepL-Teams.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Ich habe daraufhin am 23.11.2021 Folgendes geantwortet:

Sehr geehrter xx,

zunächst vielen Dank für Ihre Antwort.

Sie haben Recht, dass das Übersetzungsergebnis des isolierten Wortes zu genau diesen Ergebnissen führt, die Sie in Ihrem angehängten .png abgefragt haben.

Ich möchte Sie dennoch bitten, sich noch einmal den folgenden Satz von deepl übersetzen zu lassen, um zu sehen, dass es sich nicht nur um ein Kontextproblem (bzw. um ein Entkontextualisierungsproblem) handelt: “You can become a complainer because of where you locate the problem. To become a complainer is to become the location of a problem.“

Danke, dass Sie unsere Beobachtung an Ihre Entwickler*innen weiterleiten,

freundliche Grüße

Wird eine Fortsetzung folgen?

Nachtrag: Am gleichen Abend des 23.11.2021 erhielt ich die folgende Antwort:

Sehr geehrte Frau Kleine-Benne, 

vielen Dank für Ihre Rückmeldung. 

Manchmal kann es immer noch vorkommen, dass unsere automatische Übersetzungsmaschine Übersetzungsfehler macht. Wir werden Ihr Feedback an unser Team weiterleiten, um die zukünftige Verbesserung unserer Übersetzungsmaschine zu ermöglichen.

Vielen Dank für Ihre Geduld. Sollten Sie noch Fragen haben, zögern Sie bitte nicht, uns erneut zu kontaktieren. Ich wünsche Ihnen einen schönen Tag im Namen des gesamten DeepL-Teams.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

basic book

Keep a stiff upper lip (Introduction )

“Don’t whine, don’t let “them” ever see you cry.
Stop complaining.
No one cares.
Don’t be a baby.
Are you going to cry like a girl?
Asians (enter choice of identities here) don’t whine.
When the going gets tough get going!”

Fold your lips. Close your mouth. Shut up.
Shut your eyes.

These statements, uttered so casually, often and devastatingly underlie the societal norm throughout the (Anglo Saxon) world that complaining, of any sort is, UnAmerican, UnEnglish, unbecoming, weak and simply to be avoided. The phrase “keep a stiff upper lip” (as lip trembling often signals fear, or the onset of tears) is often used in British culture in order to remind those who might (horrors) show emotion that the desired behavior is quite the opposite, to keep going in the face of adversity. Socially sanctioned repression, disguised as moral and personal virtue, that actually serves to uphold and maintain unequal treatment and structures of power.

This is particularly so for people treated unequally – Asians in the quote above from Ahmed, women generally as evident in the sexist language the admonishments against complaint are often couched in, LGBTQIA+ people, who are often mocked in heteromisic ‘comedy’ as limp wristed whiners and Black cis men and boys, for whom complaining can be literally physically dangerous, both at home and even more so in society at large. When people complain about racism, sexism and homomisia, all too often the complaint itself becomes the issue – even within these communities themselves, all too often the response is for people to ignore injustice and just buckle down and work harder in the hopes of eventual (or spiritual) justice and acceptance.

As journalist Additi Murti noted in an article “Stoicism Has Become a Masculine Ideal That Values Repression, Indifference. What Could Go Wrong?” published on Swaddle last year – this is a dangerous distortion of Stoicism itself, which was concerned with both the common good, care for the community and even had elements of precursors to feminism – and transformed it into at best, the veneration of uncomplaining workers in the quest for capitalist production (to what end?) and at its worst, “a philosophical foundation for men’s rights nonsense … military training and aggression.” (note that Murti found judged the “worst” outcome to be militarization and aggression and I have conflated both in this slightly misleading ellipsis above).

This rambling soliloquy (because what is a blog post if not a monologue to yourself) full of run-on-sentences, nested quotes and departures from the text of our actual book, represents both my lived experience and personal, unacademic response to reading the introduction, as nearly every paragraph sparked a visceral connection to the challenges in both the process of complaining and the assaults on the integrity and personhood of the ‘complainer’. I could have written 12 blog posts, with varying degrees of personal, emotional reactions or academic bona fides, but it seemed most important to go back to the beginning, the basics as it were and assert my (yours, our) right to complain, the very real prevalence of beliefs negating complaint itself and affirm the importance of doing so… as a way to begin so to speak.

art basic book general

Making the unnoticed visible. Rachel Whiteread’s “Double-Doors” on the cover of Sara Ahmed’s “Complaint!”

The cover of the publication “Complaint!” by Sara Ahmed (2021) shows an exhibition photograph of the installation “Double-Doors II, A+B”, 2006/2007 by Rachel Whiteread. In this photographed “room”, “Sara Ahmed” is set above the doors in cream-coloured capital letters and in 2D. The photograph is surrounded by a frame, also cream-coloured, in the lower part of which the title of the book and a quotation from Angela Davis are set in black letters and the same typography as above.

The “Double-Doors” are the focus of attention; in contrast to the entire publication, including its illustrations in the interior section in black and white, the cover and thus also the photograph of the doors is printed in grey-white-black-toned colours. This colour printing is reminiscent of a griseille technique or also of monochrome colour field paintings, they rely on a strong shadow effect in their effects, were used in different centuries and for different genres: Griseille for medieval panel/ancient paintings or also stained glass in churches and monasteries, monochrome (here in greyscale) can find its application in all fields (advertising, photography, design, interior/architecture) and was a preferred format in modernism. The colour-field paintings were often large-format, to the point of colour uniformity, and were often painted by male painters.

Here now are Whiteread’s double doors, two quite obviously unrelated, different door variants. The reference to Whiteread is noted on the back of the cover, so that Whiteread’s name does not compete with Ahmed’s name, and so it is not immediately apparent to quick readers or readers unfamiliar with art that the cover design is an illustration of an artistic sculpture.

Whiteread’s artistic strategy essentially focuses on transforming everyday objects such as mattresses, boxes, hot-water bottles, but also staircases and entire houses, and even doors, into sculptural negative forms made of resin, rubber, concrete or plaster, sometimes even taking another replica from the replica. In this way, the cavities hidden in the objects take shape and, in particular, the surfaces, their wounds, scratches and wear and tear are materialised. With this negative replica process (also referred to as mummification in theoretical reception), the 1993 Turner Prize winner transforms the previous voids that existed in familiar routines but were not recognisable, the seemingly absent, into a volume that can now in turn attract attention like a crime scene and evoke new themes and interpretations. These can be memories, pasts, nostalgias, pains, obsessions, pathologies, etc. The previously unseen becomes imaginable and visible through a minimalist process of abstraction and materialisation, especially the traces of use on the surfaces become recognisable, documented and archived and can be interpreted by the recipients in a personal process of reception. Whiteread herself speaks of the entrails she is interested in, entrails that no one has seen before and now become sculptural.

Ahmed is also interested in previous emptiness, the previously unsaid and unobserved, which is now to find presence. She dissects the “entrails”, the inner life – of complaint operations: What takes place, where and by whom, with whom, what is enforceable, what is prevented? And she is interested in the traces that arise and remain, the pain, injuries and scars that are documented and archived as possibly traumatised psyches, as in Whiteread’s sculptures. Both colleagues focus their attention on doors. While Whiteread seems to be interested not only in the topos but also in the formal as sculptural questions, perhaps also in psychological and physical similarities to the users, Ahmed emphasises both their metaphorical and operational dimension with the doors: doors must be opened in order to make and enforce complaints, complaints are made behind closed doors, doors are closed for those who complain or are closed:

„Doors can tell us something not only about who can get in but who can get by or who can get through. After all, when a path is no longer available to us, a door becomes a figure of speech: we say that door is closed. A women of colour academic described her department as a revolving door, “women and minorities” enter, only to head right out again: whoosh, whoosh.“ Source:

„Note then: power can work through what might seem a light touch: all you need to do to close a door on someone is to write them a less positive reference. This means that: the actions that close doors are not always perceptible to others. A closed door can itself be imperceptible; we can think back to the how diversity is figured as an open door; come in, come in; as if there is nothing stopping anyone from getting in or getting through. Or it might be that the effects of the actions are perceptible but the actions are not: so when someone is stopped, it seems they stopped themselves.“ Source:

The fact that Whiteread’s exhibition photograph of the door installation has now just been put on the cover of Ahmed’s book in greyscale colours certainly has something to do with the source photograph. Whiteread’s material, both the sculptures and installations and the exhibition photographs, not infrequently turn out in this colour scheme. But with the decision to design the cover in this way and exactly this way, next semantic levels merge with each other: it is about the “entrails”, which can now already be more precisely designated in the application of the technique of griseille or monochrome. For these artistic techniques reference specific places (churches, monasteries), times (modernity) and practitioners of these techniques (male artist colleagues) and can thus determine very precise structural and cultural techniques and framework conditions. The use of griseille and monochrome thus makes a meta-commentary on the subject: Attention, the cover seems to announce, we are located with the now following contents between the book covers in toxic, ideological, (quasi-)religious, traumatic, maltreating, in effective contexts of meaning of patriarchally effective structures and cultures.

This is also the context in which the quote from Angela Davis, the ancestor of the US civil rights movement and feminism, chosen for the cover design, is to be understood:  “Complaint! is precisely the text we need at this moment.“ Like Whiteread’s artistic strategy of transforming negative forms into positive forms or recognising the positive in the negative replica – for example, the doorknob in the hole – this is precisely what is envisaged for Ahmed’s book; the use of plaster for the materialisation of the absent, which is used as a healing material in medicine, points in the direction of the concern presented here.

art basic book general

Das Nichtbemerkte sichtbar machen. Rachel Whitereads „Double-Doors“ auf dem Cover von Sara Ahmeds „Complaint!“

Das Cover der Publikation „Complaint!“ von Sara Ahmed (2021) zeigt eine Ausstellungsfotografie der Installation „Double-Doors II, A+B“, 2006/2007 von Rachel Whiteread. In diesen fotografierten „Raum“ ist oberhalb der Türen in cremefarbenen Großbuchstaben und in 2D „Sara Ahmed“ gesetzt. Die Fotografie ist von einem ebenfalls cremefarbenen Rahmen umgeben, in dem unteren Teil des Rahmen ist der Titel des Buches und ein Zitat von Angela Davis in schwarzen Schrift und der gleichen Typografie wie oben gesetzt.

Im Zentrum des Blicks stehen die „Double-Doors“, im Unterschied zu der gesamten Publikation einschließlich ihrer Abbildungen im Innenteil in Schwarz-Weiß ist der Einband und damit auch die Fotografie der Türen in Grau-Weiß-Scharz-getönten Farben gedruckt. Dieser Farbdruck erinnert an eine Griseille-Technik oder auch an monochrome Farbfeldmalereien, sie setzen in ihren Effekten auf eine starke Schattenwirkung, wurden in verschiedenen Jahrhunderten und für verschiedene Genre eingesetzt: Griseille für mittelalterliche Tafel-/Altarmalereien oder auch Glasmalereien in Kirchen und Klöstern, Monochromie (hier in Graustufen) findet in allen Bereichen ihre Anwendung (Werbung, Fotografie, Design, Innen-/Architektur) und war ein bevorzugtes Format in der Moderne. Die Farbfeldmalereien waren oft großformatig, bis hin zur Farbengleichheit und wurden oft von männlichen Malern gemalt.

Hier nun Whitereads Doppel-Türen, zwei ganz offensichtlich nicht zusammen gehörende, unterschiedliche Türvarianten. Die Referenz auf Whiteread ist auf der Rückseite des Einbandes notiert, so dass Whitereads Name nicht in Konkurrenz zu Ahmeds Namen tritt und damit für schnelle oder kunstunwissende Leser*innen auch nicht gleich erkenntbar ist, dass es sich bei der Einbandgestaltung um die Abbildung einer künstlerischen Plastik handelt.

Whitereads künstlerische Strategie konzentriert sich im Wesentlichen darauf, Alltagsgegenstände wie zum Beispiel Matratzen, Schachteln, Wärmflaschen, aber auch Treppen und ganzen Häuser, und eben auch Türen in skulpturale Negativformen aus Harz, Gummi, Beton oder Gips zu überführen, manchmal auch vom Abdruck einen nächsten Abdruck zu nehmen. Über diesen Weg nehmen die Hohlräume, die sich in den Gegenständen verbergen, Gestalt an und werden insbesondere die Oberflächen, ihre Wunden, Kratzer und Abnutzungen materialisiert. Mit diesem Negativabgussverfahren (in der Theorierezeption auch als Mumifizierung bezeichnet) verwandelt die Turner-Preisträgerin von 1993 die vorherigen, in den vertrauten Routinen zwar vorhandenen, aber nicht erkennbaren Leeren, das scheinbar Absente in ein Volumen, das nun seinerseits wie ein Tatort Aufmerksamkeit finden kann und neue Themen und Be-/Deutungen evoziert. Hierbei kann es sich etwa um Erinnerungen, Vergangenheiten, Nostalgien, Schmerzen, Obzessionen, Pathologien etc. handeln. Das zuvor Nichtgesehene wird durch einen minimalistischen Abstrahierungs- und Materialisierungsvorgang vorstell- und sichtbar, insbesondere die Gebrauchsspuren auf den Oberflächen werden erkennbar, dokumentiert und archiviert und können von den Rezipient*innen in einem persönlichen Rezeptionsprozess be-/deutet werden. Whiteread selbst spricht von den Eingeweiden, die sie interessiert, Eingeweide, die zuvor niemand zu Gesicht bekommen hat und nun skulptural werden.

Auch Ahmed interessiert sich für bisherigen Leeren, das bisher Ungesagte und Unbeobachtete, das nun zur Präsenz finden soll. Sie seziert die „Eingeweide“, das Innenleben – und zwar von Beschwerdeoperationen: Was findet hier wo und durch wen, bei wem statt, was ist durchsetzbar, was wird unterbunden? Und sie interessiert die Spuren, die entstehen und zurückbleiben, die Schmerzen, Verletzungen und Narben, die wie in Whitereads Plastiken als womöglich traumatisierte Psychen dokumentiert und archiviert werden. Beide Kolleginnen richten dabei ihr Augenmerk auf Türen. Während Whiteread neben dem Topos das Formale als skulpturale Fragen, vielleicht auch psychologische und körperliche Ähnlichkeiten zu den Benützerinnen zu interessieren scheinen, stellt Ahmed mit den Türen sowohl deren metaphorische als auch operative Dimension heraus: Türen müssen geöffnet werden, um Beschwerden anzubringen und durchzusetzen, Beschwerden werden hinter verschlossenen Türen vorgebracht, Türen sind für diejenigen, die sich beschwerden, verschlossen oder werden geschlossen:

„Türen können uns nicht nur etwas darüber sagen, wer eintreten kann, sondern auch, wer vorbeikommt oder wer durchkommen kann. Denn wenn uns ein Weg nicht mehr offen steht, wird eine Tür zu einer Redewendung: Wir sagen, dass die Tür geschlossen ist. Eine farbige Akademikerin beschrieb ihre Abteilung als eine Drehtür, durch die “Frauen und Minderheiten” eintreten, nur um gleich wieder hinauszugehen: wusch, wusch.“ Quelle:

„Beachten Sie also: Macht kann durch eine scheinbar leichte Berührung wirken: Alles, was Sie tun müssen, um jemandem eine Tür zu schließen, ist, ihm eine weniger positive Referenz zu schreiben. Das bedeutet, dass die Handlungen, die Türen schließen, für andere nicht immer wahrnehmbar sind. Eine geschlossene Tür kann selbst nicht wahrnehmbar sein; wir können uns daran erinnern, wie Vielfalt als offene Tür dargestellt wird; hereinspaziert, hereinspaziert; als ob es nichts gibt, was jemanden daran hindert, hereinzukommen oder durchzukommen. Oder es könnte sein, dass die Auswirkungen der Handlungen wahrnehmbar sind, die Handlungen selbst aber nicht: Wenn jemand aufgehalten wird, scheint es, als hätte er sich selbst aufgehalten.“ Quelle:

Dass Whitereads Ausstellungsfotografie der Tür-Installation nun gerade in Graustufenfarben auf das Cover von Ahmeds Buch gebracht wurde, hat sicher auch mit der Ausgangsfotografie zu tun. Whitereads Material, sowohl die Plastiken und Installationen als auch die Ausstellungsfotografien, fallen nicht selten in dieser Farbgebung aus. Aber mit der Entscheidung, den Einband so und genau so zu gestalten, verschmelzen nächste semantische Ebenen miteinander: Es geht um die „Eingeweide“, die in Anwendung der Technik der Griseille oder der Monochromie nun schon genauer bezeichnet werden können. Denn diese künstlerischen Techniken referenzieren bestimmte Orte (Kirchen, Klöster), Zeiten (Moderne) und Praktizierende dieser Techniken (männliche Künstlerkollegen) und können damit sehr genaue strukturelle und kulturelle Techniken und Rahmenbedingungen bestimmen. Der Einsatz von Griseille und Monochromie nimmt damit einen Metakommentar auf das Thema vor: Achtung, scheint das Cover mitzuteilen, wir befinden uns mit den nun folgenden Inhalten zwischen den Buchdeckeln in toxischen, ideologischen,  (quasi-)religiösen, traumatischen, malträtierenden, in wirkmächtigen Bedeutungszusammenhängen patriarchial wirksamer Strukturen und Kulturen.

In diesem Kontext ist auch das für die Umschlaggestaltung ausgewählte Zitat der Altvordern von US-amerikanischer Bürgerrechtsbewegung und Feminismus Angela Davis zu verstehen: „Complaint!  is precisly the text we need at this moment.“ Wie Whitereads künstlerische Strategie, Negativformen zu Positivformen umzuwandeln bzw. im Negativabdruck das Positiv zu erkennen – beispielsweise im Loch den Türknauf – wird genau das auch für Ahmeds Buch in Aussicht gestellt; der Einsatz von Gips für die Materialisierung des Absenten, das als ein Heilungsmaterial (in) der Medizin eingesetzt wird, weist die Richtung des hier vorgetragenen Anliegens.

art basic book general genre

Term „Complaint!ivism?“

Complaint!ivism?, neologism, still with implicit questioning: linguistic expression for a ? movement, technique, form of critique ? that places complaints at the centre of its operations. 

Word combination from

1.) the September 2021 book by Sara Ahmed “Complaint!” (Duke University Press), in which she studies complaints through the oral and written testimonies of academics and students who have made complaints about harassment, bullying, and unequal working conditions at universities. Ahmed explores the gap between what is supposed to happen when complaints are made and what actually happens. The book is a systematic analysis of the ways in which complaints can be both enforced and stopped.

2.) The suffix ‘ivism’ points to a variant of genrefication, i.e. the formation of a genre, of making complaint activities usable for the artistic field. This can be both the subject of the complaint (its methods, potentials, difficulties, etc.) and the technique of complaining (when? Where? How? To whom? With whom?). The question mark indicates a provisional nature, since at this stage this is a hypothesis to be tested in the course of the winter semester 2021/22. The examination includes, among other things, the clarification of similarities or differences, for example, to Institutional Critique, Protest Art or Conflictual Aesthetics, and is to be lined out using concrete examples from the artistic and curatorial field.