Mining the self: I wish no one an identity a talk-performance by Constanza Mendoza

The Shape of a Pocket

Encounter: Mining the self: I wish no one an identity a talk-performance by Constanza Mendoza

Date: Sunday, May 26th

Time: 18:00 – 20:00

I was born in the driest desert on Earth. Like all deserts, the Atacama desert is a Sacrifice Zone*. It has been conquered, occupied, plundered and polluted. The desert is by definition a colonial engineering of exploitation. The desert is necropolitics. To be born in the desert becomes a contradiction, a biographical paradox, a vital errancy. Like all identities, mine is an inheritance of multiple violence: my family history is related to the colonial genocide of the Selk’nam people in Tierra del Fuego, colonial extractivism in Chuquicamata, the coup d’état and the Pinochet dictatorship, family exile to the European empire up until the apogee of the neoliberal laboratory in which we now find ourselves today. I will perform this necropolitical identity through a series of historical, political and social short circuits through excess and detachment.

*A sacrifice zone or sacrifice area is a geographic area permanently impaired by environmental damage or economic disinvestment.


Constanza Mendoza’s practice defies all categories and logic of the art business. She works with different collectives, and it is not about creating closed works, but rather about conversation and exchange. Whether in the form of a game with different roles or a method of institutional criticism, it remains open.

No RSVP required

Event held onsite: Donaustr. 84, 12043 Berlin


The Shape of a Pocket 

The Shape of a Pocket is a platform dedicated to articulations of voids and absences in social, epistemic and geographic landscapes.

The pocket is an intimate hollow, a ‘pocket of resistance’ or a vessel that carries multiple materials and stories. The ‘shape’ alludes to the imaginary lines that are drawn between the unknown and the known, and to what is revealed or obscured, connected or separated by these demarcations. The void is both the deepest trench and the horizon.

The project confronts absence not as an epistemological deficit, but as rich and generative in its indeterminacy. This does not mean that the unknown is a resource to be mined, located or exploited, but rather it is a necessary resistance to Western thought’s demand for clarity and unambiguous identification. This call to turn towards the unknown relates to ‘absences’ that include enforced silences, extractive practices, linguistic gaps, and erasures in archives and culture. In all its shapeshifting mutations, the void resists totalising systems and makes way for a multiplicity and an excess that cannot be contained by the constraints of absolutes or certainty.

Colonialism uses the notion of ‘empty’ space as a pretext to justify the occupation of land, genocide and subjugation. The continuous coloniality of societal structures requires an undoing of this claim over emptiness. Capitalism exploits and extracts human labour and geological matter, causing cultural erasure and ecological catastrophe, with dire consequences for human and more-than-human life. This project aims to unlearn and undo the claim that coloniality makes on ostensibly empty spaces, and to challenge the persistent omissions in hegemonic historical narratives and divisive identitarian determinations. While the concept of the ‘void’ speaks of absence, it cannot be reduced to a mere abstraction, rather, it is material and situated in the world: it has flesh, geography and history.

There are also voids and obfuscations whose contours are less easy or impossible to grasp but must be preemptively imagined to not perpetuate patterns of erasure. Following Saidiya Hartman’s approach, this project embraces the challenge of telling impossible stories while amplifying the impossibility of their telling. In this sense, The Shape of a Pocket works with the double bind of the necessity to be present to absences while resisting imposed silencing. Depending on positionality and context, silence or absence can be constructed as spaces for emancipatory political imagination and relationality or, conversely, as sites of oppression and erasure.

Together we ask: Can we trace the contours of these so-called voids without reenacting the violences of cartography? Who holds the capacity for articulation, about what, and from where? If, as Glissant says, the abyss serves as an alluvium for metamorphoses, how can we contribute to the emergence of languages that are born from places of irreparable trauma and loss and give rise to forms of solidarity, resistance and transformation?

The Shape of a Pocket is an invitation to reimagine our margins, shared unknowns, cavities, and rifts as meaningful grounds for rupture and connectivity. The Shape of a Pocket is initiated by Shoufay Derz and Talya Lubinsky at The Institute for Endotic Research.

 *The Shape of a Pocket is the title of a book by John Berger published in 2002.