The black-and-white projection, Araf by Didem Pekün, begins, as a lithe man stands high up in the middle of the grand, rebuilt 16th-century Ottoman bridge in Mostar, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In very slow motion, he soars through the air like a bird in a graceful dive. We never see him land. The essayistic road movie is the diary of a ghostly character, Nayia, who travels between Srebrenica, Sarajevo, and Mostar in Bosnia. She has been in exile since the war and returns for the 22nd memorial of the Srebrenica genocide. Narrated through the interweaving of diary notes and the myth of Icarus and Daedalus, the film speaks of home and exile, memory and the land. Nayia reads the story of Icarus not as one of failure, but of ambition to see the other side of exile, as the film embraces the paradoxes of the poetry of the land with the logistical static of the post-war condition.
Didem Pekün is a media artist, who divides her time between Berlin and Istanbul. Her work may be described as reminiscent of the American video maker, poet, and gay rights activist Marlon Riggs (1957–1994). His deeply personal and emotional videos tested the conventions of the media essay, a form that attempts to unravel the complexities of current political events. Pekün, like Riggs, has blurred the line between narrative essay and fact-based documentary. In her case, she has crafted something that is both temporal and primordial.
For nearly two decades Pekün has managed to stitch together a peripatetic life, much like other international artists of our time. Born in Istanbul, where she attended a French high school, from she was an avid music enthusiast and record collector an early age. Starting in her teens, she worked as a DJ in Istanbul’s underground music-dance club scene. Her early music experience had an impact on her video editing style, echoing her early DJ practice. Her research-based practice is concerned with the production of subjectivities, violent geographies and displacement.