We leave Syria accidentally, I call my friend Ahmad, whom I shared with my studio in 2019. He told me he learned to play ” Oud” by himself after he settled in Turkey, along with his father, he was in Jordan before and they left the country in a legal way.
Ahmad is still the same, his only concern is the painting, almost all the time, and then came a few additions, paper, flutes, Oud…
There is something delicate and very elegantly Syrian surrounding this artist, even the instruments he chose to use imply that. Loneliness also surrounds him, us, once we leave the country.
This is a complaint about the inevitable price we pay either way, whether we stay or leave. this is a complaint that is so close to my heart because it sounds like my country from far away and also from the inside.
When we started this seminar we were asked to write the expectations we had about it. I wrote I wanted to know what a complaint is. More than four months after this moment I think I still do not know what that is. In this post I share the path I have gone through to approach the definition of complain.
Going full cliché I check the definition online, it is a way to start:
So complain is the act and the state. This is big and ambiguous and I like ambiguous things. On the other hand, I spent the time I read the book wanting to know the definition Sara had for us. There was not such a thing like a moment where a ultimate definition of complaint was presented and I did not like that, somehow. We (“we” as referring to “me” but feeling less lonely in this journey) passed the barrier of only considering complaining the formal filling forms format. For a really long part of the reading process I thought that was the case and that got me annoyed. Even if the explanations never closed the definition almost in any way, I was bitter with the writer. I could not believe this. Even though I know in page four (page four!) it clearly explains “a complaint can be an expression of grief, pain, or dissatisfaction, something that is a cause of a protest or outcry, a bodily ailment, or a formal allegation”. This was not enough for me. I just could not stop thinking about the -other- types of complaining that involve maybe unorthodox/impulsive/childish/and-so-on kind of behavior.
Then at some point I realized the writing style she has, repeating some structures or emphasizing by rerunning the sentences maybe adding a little bit more at a time or making minor changes. This is the moment I had the idea of collecting sentences from the book that might clear up my hesitations about the definition presented. I am really thankful about the “searching” tool in texts available in digital books. I take this moment to appreciate the Ctrl + F.
So as we all know, we can get the words and sentences we want from a text, in this case a whole book. For your information, you can find the word “complain” 251 times and “complaint” a total of 1686 times.
I searched for combos like “to make a complaint is”, “to complain is” or the longest one by far “complaint can”. I think the most useful one was this one:
With this collection I satisfied a little bit my needs of definition, still as an ambiguous and big pool.
By the end of the book I finally was dazzled by what it seemed to be a strong statement who says:
“If complaint can be understood as a phenomenology of the institution, complaint is a practical phenomenology“
(And it comes from a previous book from Sara in 2012: “On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional.”)
While reading I also made many notes about what the institution/structure means to me and how I experience it. I might have been caressing the position of wanting to scape the structure but (sadly?) it is not that realistic. Complain ties us up with the institution. My initial aim was to avoid formal ways of complaining as I thought complaining the formal way would only show that I support the institution/structure. Why would I like to support such thing? Complaining in non-formal ways ALSO knots us with structures. I wonder, could it be because structures are usually the thing to blame? So as we usually blame structures in formal and non-formal types of complaints that could be the link. Even if, for example, you are complaining about your grandpa having an old-fashioned way of thinking and him being intransigent, there is the structure of power+sexism to blame. Huh, how easy is this? If everything is a structure there is always a structure to blame.
I consider <<blame>> a really critical ingredient of complaining. I might talk about this in the future and how we can blame things that are bigger than us/our control.
So, yes, again in this ambiguous map I enjoy. The complaint is together with the institution/structure. But I was still thirsty for limits. I thought if I might not find the big limits of it, I could at least work with the content we know it is inside of it. Thats when I though of classifying the inside of complaint. The first approach was to make a diagram, a Venn one:
Obviously we have the big big circle that captures everything, called complaint, and inside of it the are two main types of complaint. The most attractive part I find is the protest, and how it can be both at the same time (the joy of ambiguity strikes back!?). I would like to go deep about it in other post. In future posts I will suggest as well a way of classifying complaints regarding their traits.
So yes, anyway, what is still the definition of complaint..?
One possible option: could everything be a complaint?
Is it like the definition of art by Dickie? He said something like “a work of art is an artifact upon which some person(s) acting on behalf of the artworld has conferred the status of candidate for appreciation“
yuhuuu then: “a complaint is an artifact upon which some person(s) acting on behalf of the complaintworld has conferred the status of candidate for appreciation”
Lets appreciate coomplaints in the complaintworld then!?
There is no future, but at least there is coffee. Not the kind of coffee they sell in fancy places. Not the kind my mother used to make. There is no future, but at least there are shoes. Not those comfortable shoes. Not even uncomfortable ones, but sexy ones. There is no future, but at least there is music. The kind that makes me dance, makes me sweat, makes me stink. There is no future but there is saliva. Of the slippery kind that makes me retch and the dry kind when there are no more words. There is no future but at least the printer works. After ten tries and even though the cartridges were full.
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.
Complaint!ivism?, Neologismus, noch mit impliziter Fragestellung: sprachlicher Ausdruck für eine ? Bewegung, Technik, Kritikform ?, die Beschwerden in das Zentrum ihrer Operationen stellt.
1.) dem im September 2021 erschienenen Buch von Sara Ahmed„Complaint!“ (Duke University Press), in dem sie mittels mündlicher und schriftlicher Aussagen von Akademiker*innen und Studierenden, die sich über Belästigung, Mobbing und ungleiche Arbeitsbedingungen an Universitäten beschwert haben, eine Studie zu Beschwerden verfasst. Ahmed untersucht hierin die Kluft zwischen dem, was passieren soll, wenn Beschwerden vorgebracht werden, und dem, was dann tatsächlich geschieht. Das Buch ist eine systematische Analyse der Methoden, in deren Anwendung Beschwerden sowohl durchzusetzen als auch unterbunden werden können.
2.) Der Suffix ‚ivism‘ weist auf eine Variante der Genrefizierung, also der Bildung eines Genres hin, Beschwerdeaktivitäten für das künstlerische Feld nutzbar zu machen. Hierbei kann es sich sowohl um das Thema der Beschwerde (deren Methoden, Potentiale, Schwierigkeiten etc.) als auch um die Technik des Beschwerens (Wann? Wo? Wie? Gegenüber wem? Mit wem?) handeln. Das Fragezeichen verdeutlicht eine Vorläufigkeit, da es sich hierbei zum jetzigen Stand um eine Hypothese handelt, die im Verlauf des Wintersemesters 2021/22 zu prüfen ist. Die Prüfung beinhaltet unter anderem die Klärung von Gemeinsamkeiten oder Unterschieden etwa zur Institutional Critique, zur Protest Art oder zur Conflictual Aesthetics und soll anhand konkreter Beispiele aus dem künstlerischen, kuratorischen und kunstinstitutionellen Bereich vorgenommen werden.