book chapter complaints ideas

Complaint activism: A self reflection

Thoughts on myself and my complaint practise

I am young, white and was born into a middle-class family in the north of Germany. Based on these facts alone, I pass many marking systems, probably barely registering that they exist. For example, I started my studies right after school and even got a scholarship, I can go into a regular drugstore and find make-up that matches my skin tone and I can travel around Europe without even being asked for my passport. 

To me, this sounds like the archetype of a person that could benefit from »white liberal feminism« which Sara Ahmed describes as a state “when career advancement for individual women is dependent on the extent to which they show they are willing not to address institutional problems” (Ahmed 2021: 254). Scanning my life, I see traces of »silence as promotion« – I have to admit it, although I am not proud of it. For example, I got an internship via my boyfriend’s personal, mainly male network without having to go through the company’s regular HR process. I had mixed feelings at the time: On the one hand, I really wanted to do this internship at this company, but on the other hand, it was completely against my values that no open recruitment process was taking place. I took the internship offered to me and by that I played by the rules of a mainly patriarchal system in this situation of my life, without pointing out that this system is simply not fair, especially to FLINTA*-people. 

But even if I see those traces of »white liberal feminism« in my life, I refuse to categorize myself as a »white liberal feminist«. Hearing phrases like “you as a woman have the same chances of having a career as a man of your age and position”, “gendering makes the language look ugly and I don’t see the point of it” or “to me, the women I (sexually very active man) am dating, had to many sex partners already”, I need to complain and make my position in these debates clear. No matter if it is said in a personal conversation or an institutional context and even if this might cause damage to my personal position.

In several areas of my life, I feel the need to work on the transformation of institutional and systemic practices  through complaint and activist work. I came to an interesting realization while reading the chapter »Complaint activism« (cf. Ahmed 2021: 283- 300). On an institutional level, I tend to skip the step of complaint, even if I know it exists, because I have had the experience that complaining, even as a group, doesn’t lead to a change. One specific example of this came to my mind: In my current study program we had an external lecturer who gave an extremely poorly prepared presentation that had not been updated in a long time, which used racist cultural stereotypes and animated us to reproduce them. Almost everybody in the class felt uncomfortable with that and we expressed that personally in the feedback session of each block seminar as well as in our teaching evaluations that were handed over to the faculty. At first, the responsible coordinators seemed concerned and said that they would have a clearing conversation with the lecturer and might not continue the cooperation. But in the next winter semester we found out that nothing had changed. The course was still held by this lecturer; the content was the same and even the final task was still the same. So, even with the lobby of about 30 students from the same program, we couldn’t stop the reproduction of institutional practices by our faculty. Experiencing being stopped by not being heard and the ineffectiveness of institutional complaint procedures – in this case, the ineffectiveness of about 30 teaching evaluations – made me realize that if I want to change something in the faculty, not complaint, but »slow activism«, as Ahmed puts it, is often my tool of choice.

Last summer, together with three current and former students of my program, I formed an initiative that wants to connect students with alumni of our program in order to foster knowledge transfer on contemporary and relevant topics. Since we cannot influence the agenda setting on the academic side, we encourage dialogue and discussion on important topics in a semi-institutional context. For example, we plan to invite students who are activists on diversity topics here in Weimar and give them a stage linked to our study program by doing so. As just explained, we experienced that a complaint about the official institution and its practices didn’t work, so we rather started activist work ourselves and developed paths partly linked to the institution by founding the initiative than continuing the complaint process.

Feeling inspired by Sara Ahmed’s »Complaint!«

Reading »Complaint!« by Sara Ahmed has inspired me to reflect on my complaint practice in several different ways, and I’m very glad I did. While reading the book, I recognized links to different areas of my life, like systemic tools and constructs I am working with, as well as personal topics that I elaborated on in my blog entries. For me, three implications have emerged from this process that shape my ways of thinking and acting with regards to complaints.

First, I experienced that using the »feminist ear«, as Sara Ahmed does in »Complaint!«, is a powerful tool. It creates a feeling of unity in shared experiences of complaints, even if they were stopped within institutions, and it is an option to express the complaint and get it out of your personal system. Moreover, by expressing the complaint, it can inspire others to take this as a starting point and proceed. As Ahmed explains this function of complaint: “How to help each other to get it out. What you put down, […], others can pick up” (Ahmed 2021: 298). This inspires me to talk about experiences of complaint more often and create a shared thinking space by doing so. 

Further, I have found for myself at various points in my reading that I want to cultivate a critical eye on my own privileges. On the one hand, to ensure that my actions do not reproduce institutional and systemic mechanisms of oppression and discrimination as best I can, and on the other hand, to find points of contact where I can support others in their complaint processes, building a kind of a complaint collective. 

Finally, I can say that reading »Complaint!« sharpened my perspective on complaint practices and their importance. During the reading process I realized that I was more conscious of complaints – my own as well as others.  I want to maintain this perspective and not simply have my complaints stopped in the future by institutional mechanisms or warnings expressed to me. 


Ahmed, Sara. Complaint!, New York, USA: Duke University Press, 2021.

chapter complaints ideas thoughts

Warnings: Do not express your boundaries

Just after I read chapter 2 of »Complaint« I went to the FLINTA*- Kampftag rally at the Theaterplatz where a young woman was courageously giving a speech on how she often does not respect her boundaries in order to please others. She even said something like: “It took me so many years of therapy to realize that I even have such a thing as boundaries.” I could relate to that. And to my mind, not expressing and advocating for your boundaries is directly related to what Sara Ahmed explains as “warnings [that are] an instruction about what you need to do in order to avoid a damaging situation” (Ahmed 2021: 70).

Especially as a young woman, I receive so many warnings that depict me as being self-damaging when I express personal boundaries, articulate my opinion or complain about institutional or societal problems. The sketch below shows me being influenced by such warnings. I wrote down a few that were still so present to me that I could easily remember them. They are representative of so many more.

Illustration 1: Receiving warnings


In this sketch, where I receive warnings, I decided to keep the warnings in my native language because I feel they have more impact on me that way

English translation:

Fellow student: “Be careful not to complain too much or you’ll get a bad grade.” Grandma: “Don’t always complain or you’ll never find a boyfriend.”
Dad: ”Don’t engage in political activism in Weimar – it could be dangerous.”
Ex-boyfriend: “Why are you always so bitchy? It’s not that bad. I don’t like you like that.”


Ahmed, Sara. Complaint!, New York, USA: Duke University Press, 2021.

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Emma Sulkowicz’s lesson on complaint

I am intrigued by the difference and distinguishment of formal and informal complaints. The book Complaint! By Sara Ahmed mainly addresses formal types of complaining but encourages complaining in all forms and shapes.
“Formal” complaints are consider here those ones that follow procedures given by the institution, and “informal” are those who don’t ask for permission, are done without premeditated or stablished frame.
I know filling forms and reporting in legal ways is the lets-say-propper-way to do things but is the informal way of complaining that captures my attention.

As Sara explains in Part III “Participation and protection”, there is a power when an action or protest reaches and interferes the reputation of the institution. It is this moment when the structure moves and reacts to an “attack”. If the procedure is kept in the shade of a folder it is less likely to success. I suggest that the procedures kept in the silent corridors of the institution can benefit when they are combined with posters, megaphones and graffitis.

But for sure there is a risk to sound radical, to make “too much noise” and be seen as over exaggerating. This might cause “neutral” people reject the original cause because of the “extremism”. This makes me think about what I have heard from (other) adults around me when protest and riots happen in the street and urban furniture or public properties are damaged. You can often hear things like “yes, I think the same but they have tho mind their manners”. I am sorry I do not care that much about those trash cans. Anyway, I can understand this but I will try to explain my point in the next paragraphs. I would like to add that writing about this confrontates my insides as it has been a while since I do any non formal complain that has this kind of impact. I am -just- writing in the internet.

In any case, here I share an overview of a good example where formal and informal types of complaining collide and work together. This is Emma Sulkowicz’s Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight). It is mentioned in Sara Ahmed´s book in page 290 as an example to “turn spaces into complaints”. This case of complaint activism consist of complaining about the sexual assaults that happens in the campus of Columbia University. (Morningside Heights, Manhattan, in New York City). In this case, the former art student Emma Sulkowicz alleged to be raped by another student of the University and the institution never positioned in order to protect the victim. Her aim was to get the University to expel the alleged rapist. She made paperwork as well as act of protest in order to call attention to her situation.

She carried a mattress around campus as showing the physical place and physical burden that she has to carry. It was a 23 kg university dormitory mattress that she would have to carry following the rules of engagement she decided until her rapist was taken out of the University. The rules were written in the walls of her studio and she considers the piece as an endurance performance art. He was never expelled from the University and the paperwork procedure finished without charges, as a lack of reasonable suspicion.

Emma Sulkowicz’s performance, Carry The Weight. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Emma’s complaint was filled 8 months after the encounter and she made it mainly after knowing that two other female students who said they had also been victimized by him. After Emma’s complaint, these other students also filed complaints with the university against the same masculine student. This is a clear example of the behavior of complaints.

“One story coming out can lead to more stories coming out”

Sara Ahmed, Complaint!. Pg 8

Having the both paths to show discomfort about a rape situation (paperwork and performance), I would like to proceed and evaluate them as in different stats that can define the “power” of a complaint. Inspired by the interner phenomenon of “Tier lists” where users subjectively rank for example the characters of a video game based on stablished criteria, I will try to rank complaints as my own established stats.

I thought about five parameters to calculate how good a complaint is:
The importance for the person making the complaint. Does the person complaining feel satisfied with this action.
The impact on the environment. How did it affect to the mates, colleagues, team, family…
The impact on the institution. How did it affect the people that work in the institution/are part of the structure that the person complains about.
The changes on the institution. Did it change any rule or policy in the institution
The safety for the person making the complaint. Did the complainer expose themself to any possible external attack (example: revealing their names or face, being a body in a hostile space, compromising their career…)

This Emma Sulkowicz’s complaint comparison would look like the image below

Radar chart with the comparison. (Media created in

Knowing the performance has better stats than the paperwork, I would suggest the performance would be in a higher rank in the list than the other option. But could the performance live without the paperwork? I could also consider if the complaint was only consisting about the performance, it would have been taken completely different by the public. The paperwork, the boring folder, is what grounds the procedure for the “real world”. Me personally, I hate to say this as I do find this ethically good but I also have to acknowledge the structure in which the institution positions us.

In my opinion, Emmas performance was a great example of the fruitfully relation between these two types of complaining. The performance made its way to media so it could gather attention of viewers. Therefore, the so mentioned environment grew. On the other hand, none of the paths had any “real” change in the institution. Should we think this complaint was a failure? I would leave that to the consideration of the viewer as I consider there is no way to have an answer for this. That also makes me think, how would a complaint with impeccable stats be? Is that even possible?

Rethinking the image, it also comes to my mind that it is overall sad. Despite the effort and time spent there was no real change in the institution. For sure, the noise being made and the attention in the case is not bad and it is better like this than without it. The times I am feeling weak and tragic I look at the “real” results and it just gives me hopelessness. Is it worth doing it?

As a conclusion, I understand the importance of the tedious filling forms format but I will always reassess and support the other kinds of complaints. (maybe they could be called in German as “bunte Beschwerden”?)

Ahmed, S. (2021). Complaint!. New York, USA: Duke University Press.

book ideas thoughts

“show all comments”

In this post I want to share my notes on the book Complaint!.
Here I attach the scans of the pages. My aim was to gather all the information that clicked with me and have it in a small format collection I could carry and look up easily. It is divided in the parts and chapters the book offers.
The information from the book is in black and my personal thoughts, additions and comments are on blue (sometimes pencil and pink). There are some small parts written in Spanish. There are also misspellings, mistakes and probably things I do not think anymore.

I hope it can help to have an overview of the content, even if it is my own objective one.
Feel free to rescue, comment and use the ideas I mark here. I have the feeling I have a considerable collection of headlines that can lead to good texts if they are cared, squeezed and loved.

The name of this post references an option in social media platforms, such as YouTube or Facebook. Usually is only a selection of comments that is shown beforehand and there is a button to click that says “show all comments”. When clicking this option, the comments can be read in chronological order (as I am showing here).

art book general ideas thoughts


“Even when you are made uncomfortable by a situation, you can still find it hard to get out of it. We learn from how hard it can be to do what you need to do to protect yourself. Who you are taught to be, how you are taught to be, polite, considerate, not troublesome, as a girl, as a student, is how you become more vulnerable, less willing or able to stop someone from pushing the line you need to protect yourself. When you know that to say no is to be judged as antisocial, it is hard to say no.”

(Ahmed, 2021, pg. 183)

“HELLO, I AM HERE: An Identity Crisis on Paper” is my ongoing art project, in which I am processing and establishing my place in the world. The title comes from my professor: during a meeting, in which we were discussing my work, he noted that I had been trying to make my art “illustrative” and putting too much focus on creating pieces that were aesthetically pleasing. In trying to make beautiful artwork, I was not making anything that was true to who I was as a person. He told me to try drawing and writing without putting too much forethought into it, to make my mark, to say, “Hello, I am here!”

Naturally, this challenge sent me into a tailspin. Where was I supposed to begin? How could I even start to project my inner self onto the world around me? What did I want the world to know about me, and what would that look like?

So far, I still don’t really know, but the imagery that keeps emerging is painting a picture (if you’ll pardon the expression) of the parts of myself I have trouble reconciling with. 

When I was 22, a therapist noticed that I struggled to maintain eye contact with her while I spoke about the challenges of working as a waitress, and how I was embarrassed about struggling to complete basic tasks in a stressful work environment. After a quick screening test, she referred me to another, outside organisation in order to test for autism. 

It has been nearly three years since this referral (thanks to a hefty waiting list), and nearly every day since has been spent picking up the pieces of this bombshell. Finally, I felt as though I understood myself on a much deeper level. It became easier to forgive myself for the explosions of anger over tiny inconveniences (God help the poor soul who would change my plans at the last moment), for my thin skin and for the routines and rituals that were once thought of as “childish”. It didn’t matter that I was not formally diagnosed (nor that I am still waiting to this day): this was the key to letting myself heal from years of confusion and self-hatred. 

With this monumental relief, however, came an entirely new set of challenges. A discerning lack of validation, for one. It became remarkably easy for those around me to dismiss my newfound diagnosis, primarily on the basis that I “didn’t seem autistic”. Many times I heard the old adage, “Everyone is on the spectrum!”, always from well-meaning people, probably unsure of how to respond to such a bombastic statement as “I have autism”.  

Upon further reflection, I can see how such a statement could be seen as a complaint. This quote from the book “COMPLAINT!” by Sara Ahmed resonated with me:  

“Correction is often heard as complaint: as being negative, assertive, demanding. Coming out can involve an intentional disclosure, but that’s not always how coming out happens. Sometimes you have to admit something to yourself before you can admit something to others…”

(Ahmed, 2021, pg.119)

This project is my concentrated effort to be assertive, to gently remind my friends and loved ones to handle me with care.

art book ideas thoughts

An Ode To Coming Out (Or, These Closet Doors Go On Forever)

The doors in my life are two-fold.
For every revolving door, every sliding door, the doors to my studio, my flat, my new way of life,
a closet door.

If this door could talk
it would probably scream.
A piercing, blazing wail of fear,
the unknown scorching the handle.
The varnished oak gouged in scratch marks,
peeled off stickers.

I have opened this door countless times.
Slowly, haltingly, wincing at the groaning hinges.
Now and then the coast is clear,
and I fling the door open,
delighting in the slam against the wall.

The door was forced open once.

A resounding truth,
a lesson I have had to learn and teach myself,
is that there is never just one closet.
There is never just one set of doors.
I will find myself behind that door again.

book chapter complaints example general ideas thoughts

II: The Professional Complaining Career

Big gratitude to all those enthusiastic people that have made complaining such a rewarding activity.

T.Kalleinen & O.Kochta Kalleinen
Bauhaus Complaints Choir project 2022
Nadja Kracunovic & Margarita Garcia

Opening the door of the radical wardrobe

From the very beginning of my professional complaining career in winter 2021, I traveled with the book of S.Ahmed and my little diary through everyday situations. At first, I took advantage of the Complainitivism blog to store there everything I could not in other places. Safe-travels blogging. I embraced the chance to hang out in the cheap hostels in Cairo, my WG in Weimar, and different flats and places I inhabited since that stimulated my writings. I remember most of my life I was so loud in complaining, loving it, and hating it simultaneously. On the other hand, it was such a good tool to protect not just me, but also somebody who could be bullied due to no voice. It means transforming the voice into something useful instead of using it for something that empowers the ego. Me, the protector, the rescuer – the one that provides space, I pictured. It already happened – entering the world of displeasure through the texts, and diving into the whole new world of complaining as art practice. There was the moment when the book divider cut Sara Ahmed’s piece in half, somewhere around Occupied spaces in Part IV, and I felt precisely the task I had – to take care of the voices pragmatically instead of theoretically. To give complaints somewhere to go and open the door. The same day I decided to propose a project called Bauhaus Complaints Choir.


Something itchy decisively and loudly screams from the bodies of these young people – I thought after the first Complaintivsm live session. Emotions and openness were splashing the walls of the institution, group therapy as if nothing will exist after it. The respect for my wonderful colleagues, it is my true pleasure to share the walls with them, while pretending that the walls do not exist. How will we proceed? How to root out the issues we mentioned there and eradicate the origin of the problem? This was the basis for the cabinet I imagined creating. The place of the singing drawers, a closet full of thoughts. The words that gravitate towards the reform and aim to dissolve the complex procedures.

BCC (Bauhaus Complaints Choir) is an experimental chorus aiming to structure and coordinate the complaints within the institution. While giving a space for the voices of the students, professors, and all employees of our university, I and my colleague Margarita Garcia decided on creating the lyrics out of the complaints we receive. Making a complaint within the institution often requires reflecting on it. BCC is a cabinet for both institutionally and privately held complaints. Allof them are welcome. The music follows the dynamics of the writings, combining global, indigenous, dispossessed, classic, and experimental.


I must share a sort of disappointment regarding the response within the BCC (Bauhaus Complaints Choir) open call, that weirdly hurt me. My fragile ego was mixing the anger, protest, sadness, and actual result of the call. For weeks there was no complaint on the form. I wondered what is the problem? There must be something standing between a person who is about to voice their displeasure and me building a cabinet and waiting for it. Is there a bug in the system, a mistake in the approach?

‘’Hey Nadja, this rocks. ‘’
‘’Bravo, I hope you get a lot of complaints.’’
‘’This is such an important project!
‘’Girl, this is what this university needs.’’

…but no complaint was appearing on our form, nor being dropped in the mail. No letter, no notification, no displeasure. It might be that I have made a piece of marketing, a product, and lost its actual objective on the way. One person even texted me that she would like to participate, but she really does not have anything to complain about. Even an apology followed this statement. I was feeding the air, the social media, and idea, but not the people, I suppose. On the other hand, there was this question: Are we so overwhelmed with the individual, inner complaints that the task to complain somewhere else, outside, feels like one more errand? I do understand this. I do not blame. I am, myself, having way too many on my list.

However, some complaints made BCC’s idea fight for its existence in my head, still taking the failure as the legitimate and integral part of the process. At some point, the letters started appearing – the response came from the crowd.


“If you have to complain because of failed processes, you have to enter yet more failed processes.”

If I am about to create a real cabinet for the complaints, I should take care of it in the best possible way. I have to learn from the empty spaces in the form, as much from the filled ones. Moreover, it is just the beginning of BCC’s radical wardrobe, and the door has just opened.

Valituskuoro: Who sings the things?

Valituskuoro: Who sings the things?

The world of diverse voices amazes me. From the collective art performances to the theater stage happening, I was always a big devotee and admirer of this kind of noise. Except for the melody of the crow, I am in love with complaining as a sport of choice. Therefore, I started searching for enthusiasts in the same field.

In the Finnish vocabulary, there is the expression “Valituskuoro (literally ‘’Complaints Choir’’) and it is used to describe situations where a lot of people are complaining simultaneously. In my research, I found the two names that are taking this expression seriously.

Studio Kalleinen projects


It is my true pleasure to introduce the artist duo Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen and Tellervo Kalleinen, Helsinki-based contemporary artists working with cinema, installation, performance, and events. In their practice, they attempt to merge the languages and approaches of several disciplines, such as film, performance, game design, experimental education, facilitation, social architecture, and alternative economies. They construct situations and invite people to join her for collective adventures.

Complaints choirs took place in primary schools, streets, churches, villages, and big cities… Complainers started their movement worldwide. Better said, they occupied spaces.

Another example is The Resistance Revival Chorus from New York that introduces themselves as activists exploring music and musicians exploring activism. RRC is a collective of more than 60 women and non-binary singers, who join together to breathe joy and song into the resistance and to uplift and center women’s voices. Chorus members are touring musicians, film and television actors, Broadway performers, solo recording artists, gospel singers, political activists, educators, filmmakers, artists, and more, representing a multitude of identities, professions, creative backgrounds, and activist causes. And we have now the BCC (Bauhaus Complaints Choir) that exists in specific time and space. We are students, designers, artists, filmmakers, supervisors, tutors, professors, activists, protesters, everyday people. We are the diverse voices of a particular context and we aim to voice up.

Say complaint – and there I am, building my professional complaining career.

To participate in the Bauhaus Complaints Choir, please enter here.

Sincerely, informally, with the pleasure. Yours,

art complaints example exhibition general ideas thoughts


This fairytale is a well-established concept, an interpretation, and the invention of the main protagonist of the story.

“My poor little Nadja, I wish I could scoop up your remains every time you fall apart,” she said, addressing herself, facing the text her thoughts had just woven.

The story consists of a bunch of words in English, many complaints, self-criticism, world criticism, global politics, conflicts, and personal reflections. Its content is not actually a story at all. It is more of a fake, fictional etymology of the Serbian word “beznadje” which started all this textual fuss.

Hunger, acrylic on plywood, 50x70cm
©Nadja Kracunovic


Neoliberal capitalism breeds charming little monsters. My name is Nadja, welcome to my overexistence.

There is a word in my mother tongue, a word in which I had planted my ego years ago and have watered it ever since. In Serbian, we say beznadje / beznađe meaning hopelessness or more precisely: without hope. This compound combines the word bez (without) with my beautiful name (Nadja), by coincidence. The world without Nadja makes me sad. Sometimes I blame my small, generous family for splashing so much love onto me. You are guilty of my ego plantation and egocentric perspective. You made me overexist. There are times when I miss them so much that being so far away from their warm, loving bodies tears me apart. Time has shown me that they are the creators of the most beautiful and disgusting things that my being consists of. Let’s discuss it in my monologue.

My anxiety is reversed. Instead of, as a hedgehog or a snail, squeezing my face inwards, I go for more of what makes me anxious in the first place. Instead of covering my face with an emergency blanket, I apply for a new open call, I make a new friend, and I make new art. I overwhelm myself, volunteering for my own destruction. I stretch my body on the ceilings of contexts I do not even belong. It hurts so damn much being a captive of your own brain. It makes me feel trapped, stupid, unable to progress. I have been hanging on this clothesline ever since, and it seems I won’t pick up my clothes soon. Let me dry.

Beznadje, acrylic on cardboard, 50x25cm
©Nadja Kracunovic

I am tired of being excited. Recently I asked my mom if I was born like this. I believe I was: strongly into everything along the way, wanting, eager for everywhere and everyone, not belonging, not existing for real, never loving anybody but their love for me, never accepting anything that does not benefit me in some way… The vicious cycle of every, any, every. The excited monster always wants to see another garden and love another flower. I am a factory. My production is unbelievably fast, so is my consumption. However, I do understand this method of mine very well, I simply fear not having the options. If I get one NO, there is something about to be a YES. If he leaves me, there is another HE loving me in the background. If you make me choose just one, I will disappear from it, whatever it is. I am a union of the contexts and queen of my clothing. I am not one, but plural. Let me be swallowed by my monsters, it is the only way to survive.

I thought about the book title that I might write if I switch from art to popular psychology book title copywriting. “How to plant, cultivate, and water your multiple egos”. Best-seller, right? I would give a course on multitasking, productive puma advice, and self-destruction, inevitably. And what is with me and this puma thing? I do compare myself to a black panther on a daily basis. Let me be the best there is in the capitalist jungle.

Yesterday I cried my face off while jogging through a German landscape. It felt like it was about to explode. I am not sure what exactly, but I felt its shape right above my bladder, growing and pulsing. Like a creature. I gave birth inside my belly. The pregnant puma is starting to feel the pain. It hurts so much. It pierces and paralyzes me. I cannot do this anymore. Stretched over my red sofa, I tried to collect the puzzle pieces and get through the fog I found myself surrounded with. It felt so blurry that I didn’t even know how to carry myself from the sofa over to my bed in the corner. It took my excited body and it suffocated me. How can I live in this world without Nadja? If she becomes tired and sad, what is this all about? She hurts me, she is killing me. I want her to calm down and pick up the fucking clothes.

Puma needs to sleep for the time being. Now, let me breathe and sing Nadja a lullaby.

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 complaints general ideas thoughts

Voicing displeasure #5 The Crying Honk

The sound of collective praying made me tremble. I heard the voice coming from the top of Ibn Tulun mosque communicating with the other voices, the choir of Al-Qāhirah. The collective vibration transmitted through the architecture gave birth to a sobbing city I had a chance to encounter.

Why are you crying? ارجوك لا تبكي.

All the best from the West

Scared for my white skin, I walk through the dusty bubble and pray for my white skin not to get dirty. For my white skin not to get raped. For my white skin not to experience poverty. My privileged, white body prays for the kids from this street, for the mango traders of Bazar, and the mothers feeding their newborns on the pedestrian zones, beyond the legs of passengers. The white privilege that I have not chosen but was given to me. With the whiteness and ability to wash my face after a long day on the streets, I dare to ask: how can we be part of the same planet? Me and this little girl in front of me, being alone on the street? We, small humans spreading inequality. We, mute humans, do not hear the cry.

On day 4, I slowly accepted these scenes as a part of the landscape and got used to poverty.

Honk for the existence

Being loud or visible has many purposes: from the simple joy of having attention to the emergency blankets, danger alert, and simple, everyday fear. I find the ambivalence of the honking orchestra here being disturbing and meditative simultaneously. The sound of confirming the presence on the road. Another form of crying, right? Traffic tears, polluted breath, screaming brakes.

Somehow, this typical Egyptian honking practice sounds very much like my own cry – hysteria, anger, the language of the unique emotions. Imagine honking as the only voice you can use. The honking makes you want to explode in your own anxiety and drown in your own tears. Or in mine, if you wish.

Cairo, Egypt

Who takes the pictures of the otherness and who is the otherness?

“The relationship between Occident and Orient is a relationship of power, of domination, of varying degrees of a complex hegemony.”

Said, Edward W. 2003. Orientalism

The postcolonial studies introduced us to the Westerns depicting the Orient as an irrational, strange, weak, feminized “Other”, contrasted with the rational, familiar, strong, masculine West. I would gladly comment on something that opposes the otherness, the one belonging to Orient (from the previous view), and reflect on my own, Occident otherness experience in Egypt. It is very important to underline my position here: I am not a scientific researcher on the topic, nor competent to discuss postcolonialism on any deeper level. The fact that these were my first steps out of Europe and the ways I used to experience each of them urged this reflection and made it very personal.

As I have already voiced in one of my displeasures, it feels that my everyday purpose is to be visible wherever I am and no matter what I do, say, or behave, my visibility was never so present (I dare to say even successful visibility in my case) like here. It is not me, Nadja, being exotic otherness in Egyptians eyes, but us, Nadjas that came to enjoy the heritage of their country and leave a few pounds more, possibly. And here I was even more white and prestigious, being considered a German within the group of German students I came with. What fascinates me among many things here is the way of communication that consists (besides the honking) of a couple of questions as where are you from; what is your name; and multiple versions of welcome to Egypt. These questions are never meant to actually be responded to, but to deepen the conversation, lead to the possible trade, and give them ”the promise”. Each word answering their conversation starter is a permission to enter the platonic friendship where you are the one promising to buy, to sit there and, necessary, come again. Such intensity in everything happenings. Welcome, to Cairo, they said.

What is your name?

My name is Nađa, that, according to Russians comes from Nadezhda (Надя) meaning hope. According to Arabs comes from Arabic Nadia (Nadiya) meaning moist; tender; delicate. One of the sellers from Bazar told me that the meaning is a short, but very fast river. I wanted to run aweay, that's true. 

So, you are Egyptian? I was asked.

The first time in this symbolic 25 years I exist in this world, somebody took the picture of me because I was different than everybody else there. I was the exotic, fascinating alien among the ordinary, everyday man on this continent. Instead of giving the superiority that attention usually does, I felt the opposite. I felt small and different in front of the whole world that I had no idea about. I felt the heaviness of the cloak of otherness that was worn by the people of color in Europe, Muslims praying on the street of the Orthodox country I came from, the women with hijabs, etc. Their unusual, extraordinary behavior or look was taking the attention of ”normal” white people and now, it is was me: an alluring, foreign subject.

I would revive the Serbian saying ”Šta je, jel igra bela mečka?‘ (eng. Is the white bear dancing or what?), the term we use for an event that evokes the curiosity of random passers-by. Apropo this saying, I wonder, who is the white bear and who is the spectator, actually? It might be that the white bear is the observer and he does not need to be tamed.

Gold-coated, crying city

Not goldening it more than it is, it is the fact that Egypt has been visited for its archeological heritage as a golden civilization that left magnificent traces dating back from the world we have no idea about. This golden coat kicked me after I left Cairo and woke up the following morning on the night train in Luxor. There I understood the massive tourism of the Serbs used to go to Hurgada every year, as well as other people visiting Egypt and seeing just Lux(or). Nobody enjoys truly the 67 layers of dust on their faces while being trapped in the traffic sandwich between the cars, buses, auto-rickshaws, and running pedestrians in Cairo. Rarely who want to live in these conditions. I do not. Yes, we are contributing through tourism and we should keep doing it. No, Egypt is not just a sandy kingdom and Giza. That is all I wanted to comment on.

Again, how to be sure that this is not one more reflection fabricated by a western explorer?

Now, poetry for the poor. (ref. Architecture for Poor, Hasan Fathy)

Granite poverty,
she, however, bravely smiles.
Sculptured, structured valleys
and these little brown eyes.

I dare to feel,
feel quickly and escape.
Never in your skin.
Never in this shape.

My apologizes for just being,
and existing as I am.
I must create a blanket
so I can protect them!
All of them.

Scared and aware,
of the white nightmare
my foot in dirth,
completely bare.
My skin somehow shines.
And they stare.

Nevertheless, I am the other
My eyes are bigger
then my own hunger.

They are the one,
one of the same.
Non-existing trone,
just a pile of chairs.

The voices are raised,
the voices that dare.
They exist so much,
one can feel it in the air.

I have never seen the crying city before.

West Bank Poetry, chalk on the wall
New Gourna Village, Luxor, Egypt

A special hug goes to all my children.