I made it a point not to review any of the previous shows put together at the Nile Sunset Annex because I felt it would be a little embarrassing to rip apart art shows curated by your flat-mates. Their latest show, however, “It’s Never Too Late to Talk About Love” by Mahmoud Khaled, I enjoyed so much that I just couldn’t not write about it. Albeit highly praising shows curated by your flat-mates is equally as embarrassing anyway.
I had a dream many years ago. It was set in a big kitchen. I was with a group of friends, none of whom I knew from waking life.
One of the girls walked to the fridge. She turned to me and asked if I wanted anything to drink. I nodded and squeezed my head and shoulder together; it was a “yes, maybe.” A shrug towards agreement.
She handed me a glass of something orange; I took it and went to stand outside by the kitchen’s door. As I waited, Raphael (I knew that was his name) came and stood opposite me by the other side of the door.
There was a long silence, his intense look. Another half-shrug, and eventually he opened his mouth as if to speak. Instead, he let out a filament of blue smoke. It hovered above his head and settled exactly between us. It slowly took the shape of an embryo, suspended in midair, exactly at eye level, translucent blue, slightly fluorescent. “Raphael, what do I do with this?” I asked. No answer. We both waited in equal awe, transfixed by the event.
Dreams are by definition made of unlikely events. However, the event here came to interrupt familiar spaces and gestures, challenging me to accept it as “real,” its very existence depending on my bewilderment. It was an event in progress and I greeted it with a question. The question confirmed its presence.
An event in progress—in life as in my dream—is a shy proposition, hovering unborn, endearing and most fragile. It is visible, but unfixed like a nagging ghost at the threshold of our perception demanding to be integrated, to be loved. A work of art is never finished in this sense; it is never assertive and confident of its presence. It is hesitant, and that’s why it needs an audience. The hovering breath is not to an audience; it is with and waiting for an audience.
Very little art today is conscious of the importance of fragility and incompleteness. And very few artists are sensitive to the subtle interactions in the space created by these important motions.
Rana ElNemr is. In her recent photography series entitled Giza Threads, began in 1999 and exhibited at the Townhouse Gallery, she set out to find the unlikely interruptions in the landscapes of Giza and surrounding vicinity. She photographs open spaces, private and public. Spaces defined by ambiguous ambitions to enclose or expand them. Quiet ambitions tucked in behind fences, or wild ones springing out of tight containers. Every ambition is an event, and every event is a negotiation over—and hesitation with—space.
There are many events in progress in Rana ElNemr’s photographs. These events slowly take shape before our eyes. Absurd events, powerful enough to drive their own narratives, odd enough to disappear altogether. They are isolated and integrated. They are at the threshold waiting to be seen, nagging. It is the subtlety that if we chose to see them, they reveal themselves and a sense of completeness—a sense of sense in and of themselves.
ElNemr’s photographs are not cryptic, nor are they illusions of perception. We see the image’s elements very clearly but still fail to comprehend the photograph’s temporal logic. They are images of compressed, fleeting time, and we can only experience them as durations. We are gently led to discover how life pierces through like bamboo shoots imposing upon a new landscape. Plastic flower shops growing on highways. Two axes collapse into one another, the when and the how, the extension of time and intensity of life. Barely contained and barely containing. What remains is acceptance.
Life here could be as unsettling as one clay flamenco and three mushroom-lamps planted by the side of the road. What happened? Who abandoned the cotton candy? The dinosaur forever fixed in ridicule by the house gate: what is he waiting for if not love? Love, life, whim or necessity, are no longer the only options. ElNemr is not concerned with binaries, side-by-side juxtapositions, or clean-cut distinctions. There are regularities of space and irregularities of ambition, but they are felt at once, whole, emerging entangled onto a single visual plane.
When one watches intensity and humor—in a place, surrounded by creatures and gestures that seek only to displace time—the viewer finds himself or her/himself to be post-interruption. The various parts of Giza ebb and flow and interrupt each other. We are asked to see through the cracks created by these flailing movements. This vision must be achieved with least bravado and most delicacy. We must stumble upon it, maybe like the artist did. She claims no authority, not even with her compositions, but merely points there and allows us the journey.
Rana ElNemr, Giza Threads. Townhouse Gallery for Contemporary Art, Cairo
26 February – 4 April 2012
ترددت كثيراً قبل ان أقرر الجلوس للكتابة حول حالة مزاجية لمستها في الحدث الفني المعاصر الحالي في مصر. حالة مزاجية تتميز بحداثة السن والإيجابية بل وربما إلى حد ما بعدائية. وقد وجدتني طوال الأسبوعين الماضيين بصدد عدد من النقاشات حول طبيعة تلك الحالة وبالأخص فيما يتعلق بمحاولتين بعينهما وقعتا – لا مصادفة - في يناير/ كانون ثاني 2012. أولى هاتين اللحظتين هي كايرو دوكيومنتا في دورته الثانية، وثانيتهما هي معرض شفت ديليت ثرتي (وأعتذر إذ لم يتكبد منظمو المعرضين على حد علمي أي مجهود لتعريب الاسمين).
أججت تلك النقاشات التحليل التالي إذ صارت وقوداً له. ورغم ما قد يبدو للبعض تهميشاً لذلك الكم من الأعمال الفنية والفنانين الذي تشكلت منه كلا اللحظتان، فقد ارتأيت أن أتجنّب نقد أياً من تلك الأعمال. ربما شفقة بذاتي، إذ لا قبل لي بأن أجد لي مدخلاً لتفكيك ذلك النسيج الفني المتشابك، عسى أن أتحرر يوماً من ذلك الذعر. إلى أن يأتي ذلك اليوم فسأكتفي بأن أحاول في الصفحة التالية أو ما قارب إرساء سمة مشتركة لمستها فيما بين المشهدين. كلا اللحظتان في رأيي فعلا استرداد فاشل، رؤيتا تمكين أجهضتا بينما تحاولان التهام أكثر مما يتسع فاهما، فلفظتاه كما هو.
المشهد الأول: كايرو دوكيومنتا
أدخن سيكارة في فضاء عرض مرتجل لأعمال قرابة 25 فناناً مصرياً شاباً داخل مبنى فندق الفينواز. يشرح لنا أحد رؤوس تلك المبادرة آلية المشاركة والاختيار، وقد كانت كما يلي: في قلب المبادرة يقبع فريق من ستة فنانين (مجلس الأمناء) ويشاركون بالطبع بأعمالهم، يقوم كل من مجلس الستة بترشيح فنانين اثنين، ثم يقوم كل منهم بدوره بترشيح اثنين في منظومة تفرع متشعب. ليس ثمة موضوع ولا نية قيمية ولا مناقشة ولا حتى محددات مساحية. جل ما هنالك هو مجموعة الستة (هل ذكرت أنهم يطلقون عليها مجلس الأمناء؟) التي تقرر نهائياً من تقبل مشاركته ومن يرفض.
لا يخفى على المتابع للدورة الأولى من كايرو دوكيومنتا عبث تلك المنظومة لدى مقارنتها بالإعلان الذي أطلقته المبادرة قبل عام واحد لا أكثر (انظر مقال مي الوكيل الرائع حول الدورة الأولى). لقد كان جوهر الحدث عندها – بل واليوم كذلك على الرغم من المساعي المتعمدة لتجريد المعرض والأعمال من أي تسييس أو سياق - هو عدائه للمؤسسة ولممارسات القيمين في محاولة لتصوّر ديناميات أخرى وسلطة أخرى ليست بالضرورة سلطة القيّم. ما كان مقدر لها يوماً أن تكون تربة خصبة لمجموعة من أكثر عناصر جيلهم إبداعاً من أجل نمو ما قد يكون أحدث أنظمة صناعة القرار وتمكين الفرد، استكملت دورتها وتوصلت لاستنتاج أنه من العسير على قرابة 25 فرداً التوصل لقرار جماعي، ليس بشكل عملي أو في إطار زمني فعال على الأقل. لابد لمجلس الستة أن يقرر عنهم، وعلى البقية أن تتبع القرار.
التلويح هنا كان بفعل استرداد الفرد لاستقلاله عن المؤسسة، وهي محاولة شديدة الإثارة حبسنا أنفاسنا في انتظار ما قد تسفر عنه من تجليات جديدة. منيت المحاولة بالفشل، ولم يتم استرداد شيء. لقد أنشأت مؤسسة بين الأفراد ولكنها مصمتة هذه المرة. أكرر أن أنه قد جرى تجريد متعمد للأعمال من السياق، فصرنا نتساءل ازائها عما نفتقده فيها. أود أن أزج برأيي هنا، إذ أعتقد أن ما كان ينقص التجربة هو الفضاء الحواري. هل من المفترض أن نصدق أنه لدى منح الفنان مطلق الحرية لدى تقرير جميع الأمور ابتداء من ظروف العرض وانتهاء بالعلاقات الجمالية والمساحية بين الأعمال وبعضها البعض، فإن الفنان يقرر الخيار الاعتيادي بل التوفيقي؟ أشارت صديقة في حصافة إلى طرافة تعليق جميع الأعمال تقريباً على ارتفاع واحد، باستثنا عملين أو ثلاثة.
المشهد الثاني: شفت ديليت ثرتي
أقف في مركز سعد زغلول الثقافي أمام تجهيز فيديو من قناتين. التجهيز غير مشغل. ديجا فو؟
يختلف المذهب هنا جملة وتفصيلاً عن كايرو دوكيومنتا، فنحن هنا بصدد قيّمتين اثنتين لهما موضوع قيميَ جليّ أسفر عن عرض مسيّس واستجابي بل ارتكاسي إن شئنا القسوة. عدد الفنانين أقل هنا الأمر الذي يلمح إلى مقاربة أكثر انتقائية بالمقارنة بالمنهج التشعبي. لا يمنع ذلك تكرر حالة الاسترداد.
إننا هنا إزاء قيّمتين تحاولان العمل ضمن المنظومة الرسمية، فإن مركز سعد زغلول فضاء حكومي في نهاية الأمر. تسهى القيمتيان في شجاعة إلى الدفع بالممارسات القيّمية في قلب أجهزة الدولة، وإلى تقديم أعمال نقدية وسياسية لجيل شاب من الفنانين تحت أنف الدولة وباستخدام مواردها، وإلى أن يجري كل ذلك بشكل جيد. ثمة هنا تفوّق واضح في الاهتمام بظروف العرض والتجهيز، وعلى الرغم من ذلك فإنني بصدد الدفع بفشل محاولة الاسترداد تلك أيضاً.
إن إشكالية تعامل الدولة مع الفن متعددة الأوجه. لا جدال حول أهمية السعي إلى استرداد الموارد، ولكن ما ينبغي استرداده ربما أكثر من الموارد لهو الموقف من الفن، إنه الاهتمام بالخطاب الفني أو الاستجابة له على أقل تقدير. ليس ثمة استرداد طالما لا يزال عشرون موظفاً أو ما ينيف يلتهمون شطائر الفلافل في مكاتبهم الضيقة التي تفتح أبوابها على قاعات العرض. يمكننا بالطبع التجادل حول مسألة “القيمة المقدسة” لفضاء العرض، ولكن لا مجال لذلك الجدل إلى أن نعترف به، إلى أن نفسح له مجالاً في العقلية العامة. وبالمثل فقد حقّرت الدولة من قيمة النقاش العام لأسباب لا تخفى على أحد، وإنني لم أر أي استرداد في وضع برنامج نقاشي عام ثم إهمال ترويجه للجمهور – ربما لتسرب شك الدولة المضمن في قيمته إلى عقليات المنظمين - بل والفشل في تظيمه بشكل يحترم المتحدثين ويليق بهم. وأخيراً فليس ثمة أي استرداد في تنظيم عرض يتناول محو ثلاثين عاماً من ذاكرة جيل دون تقديم فنانة واحدة وكأنما تقيّدنا – بلا وعي - القيم المترسبة لدولة سلطة الذكر. إن التأثير على السرديات الرسمية ومنظومة قيّمها ومؤسساتها ودينمايات القوى فيها إنما يبدأ بتحدّي تلك المسائل وليس باعتناقها.
لقد تعلّمت منذ فترة وجيزة ألا أتساءل حول دوافع أي فنان، وإنني لست بصدد ذلك الآن بأي شكل. إن ما يثير فضولي هو ممارسات الاسترداد التي باءت بالفشل ومحاولات التمكين المحبطة وفوق كل شيء التساؤلات والجدل الموازي لها وما ينشأ عنها من تغيير في الديناميات.
عن مدونة غاردن سيتي moabdallah.wordpress.com
I hesitated a great deal before sitting down and writing about a certain temperament I identified in the current Egyptian contemporary art sphere. It is a temperament that is young, proactive, and to some extent aggressive. I have in the past weeks been engaged in multiple conversation and debates about two particular attempts that took place in January 2012, the date is no coincidence. The first moment is the second edition of Cairo Documenta, the other is Shift Delete 30.
The conversations fueled the following reflection. At the risk of margenalising the multitude of artwork and artists involved in those two moments, I have decided not to critique the art. Perhaps out of shear pity for my own self as I have no clue where to begin unpacking that wealth of artistic production, a sentiment perhaps I may free myself of one day. For the moment I will try in the next page or so to establish a specific common feature I have identified between the two scenes. Both moments are, in my view, failed acts of reclamation, two frustrated visions of empowerment that bit more than they could chew, so they spat it back as it is.
Scene one: Cairo Documenta
I am smoking a cigarette inside the make-shift exhibition space of the 25 or so young Egyptian artists showing in the Viennoise building. One of the leading figures of that initiatives is explaining to me and to others the mechanism of participation and selection, and it goes like this: at the core there is a group of 6 artists (The Board) whose work is of course shown, each of the six nominates two other artists, each of whom in turn nominates two more in a branching scheme. There is no theme, there is no curatorial notion, there is no discussion, and there are no spatial restrictions. The only thing there is a group of six (did I mention they refer to themselves as The Board?) who ultimately decide who is in, and who is not.
Anyone who is familiar with the first Cairo Documenta is aware of the absurdity of this system when cross examined with their published manifesto no more than one year ago, which ‘proposed an alternative model for exhibition design, one that is free from the conditions and frameworks imposed by art institutions and practicing curators,’ as Mai Elwakil puts it in her brilliant review last year. The gesture then, and even now despite the deliberate apoliticisation and decontextualisation of the show and the works within, was supposedly anti-institutional, an attempt to imagine different dynamics, a new authority that is not curatorial. What started out as a fertile soil for a group of the most creative individuals in the country to try and develop what could have been the most novel system for decision making and individual empowerment completed its full orbit and came back to the conclusion that 25 or so people cannot decide for themselves, at least not in a practical and time effective way. A Board of six must make some decisions and the rest will have to comply.
The gesture here was an act of the individual reclaiming her agency from the institution, a most intriguing attempt that many of us held their breath in anticipation of some new revelations. The attempt fails, and nothing is reclaimed. An institution is created within the individuals, only this time it is an opaque one. Again the work was deliberately decontextualised, we are left with a lot of question marks hovering over our heads, we feel unsatisfied and somehow wondering what it is we feel is missing. I personally argue that it is the discursive space that is missing. Are we to believe that when artists are given absolute agency over deciding everything from the conditions of showing to the inherited spatial and aesthetic relationships between artworks, the artists would opt for not only the conventional but even the compromising? A friend so rightfully pointed out that it is most interesting that with the exception of one or two pieces all the artists installed their work roughly at the same height.
Scene two: Shift Delete 30
I am standing at Saad Zaghloul Cultural Center before a two channel video installation. The installation is switched off. Déjà vu anyone?
The ideology here is radically different than that of Cairo Documenta, there are two curators, a forceful curatorial theme, and the show is political and responsive, perhaps even reactionary if you wished to be cruel. The number of artists is smaller too, implying a more selective approach than the branching scheme. However there is reclamation here no less.
Here is two curators working within the official sphere, Saad Zaghloul Center is after all a governmental space. The curators’ courageous attempt is to bring curatorial practice within the official apparatus, to present the political and critical works of this young group of artists under the nose of the state, and with its resources, and to do it well. There is evidently far more superior attentiveness to the conditions of showing and installation here. However I would argue that this attempt at reclaiming the state’s venues is yet another failure.
The problem with the state’s interaction with art is multifaceted. Reclaiming resources is undoubtfully crucial, however what needs to be reclaimed even more is the attitude, the attentiveness to artistic discourses, or at least interacting with them. No reclamation is successful as long as the 20 so idle government workers are still having their falafel sandwiches in their crammed offices with open doors exposed to the exhibition space. We could surely question the “sacred value” of the exhibition space, but we can’t do that before we give owe to it, before we create a room for it in the public mindset. Similarly, the state has for a long time and for obvious reasons undermined the value of public discourse, I didn’t see any reclamation in putting together a potentially critical discursive programme and not only fail to publicise it, perhaps again unconsciously subscribing to an official disbelieve in its value, but even fail to organise it in a fashion that is respectful even to the speakers. There is no reclamation whatsoever in a show about cancelling 30 years of generation’s memory that doesn’t feature one single female artist, as if, even coincidently, bound by the inherited values of a patriarchal state. Affecting an official narrative, system of values, structure, power dynamics begins by challenging those very issues, not taking them on.
I have learned a while ago never to question an artist’s motives. By no means am I doing that here. What I am most curious about is failed acts of reclamation, frustrated attempts of empowerment, and above all the questions and debates adjacent to a those attempts and the shift of dynamics they evoke.
Originally published on Garden City moabdallah.wordpress.com
The Mubarak trial, while significant politically must be analyzed by an art critic rather than a political analyst. The spectacle viewed by millions deserves a better review with all the show that’s been put in place for the people. The true nature of the Mubarak trial is that of a stage play and must be evaluated on its theatrical rather than political merits.
Let’s start with the writing. This play has been granted a large amount time for writing. The writing conditions may have been stressful; the protests in May could have attached a sense of urgency, and the 8 July sit-in may have expedited the execution. Yet, this script has been in the kitchen for quite some time so there can be no excuse for the quality of work produced.
The results have not been catastrophic. The script may not be air tight, but was adequate for all intended purposes. The true challenge came with the execution which I dare say, fell below the mark.That’s not to say that some of the elements of the performance weren’t well executed. The set design, for example, was impeccable. The hall looked like a real court room and the cage within was built with great attention given to the tiniest details such as the spacing between the wires. The costume design was one of the elements to be marveled at. The white track suits were well designed and a perfect fit (at least in one of the episodes). Audio was clear and the picture contained much realism.
Choreography was believable and not forced. Various actors danced their part. However, as any choreographer would tell you, the moves are only half of it, the other half is the dancers themselves. Unfortunately, the dancers were a true disaster.
Besides a few other minor glitches, acting was the real failing in the whole production. Setting aside the fact that the accused was brought in on a stretcher instead of a wheel chair, the deposed president had too much vigor for someone rumored to be in and out of comas all the time. His strong voice gave way, as if he were reluctantly playing the part. He also fidgeted around in his bed too much for someone being brought in on a stretcher. His movements were numerous, impatient and showed signed of strength that should have been absent. He acted more like a healthy child confined to his bed by protective parents, aching to be released from the clutches of his bed and to go outside and play with his friends.
The ex-president’s sons didn’t do a fine job either. Their faces were healthy and smug and their entire appearance was unconvincing. To make matters worse, Alaa, in a moment of improvisation, broke out of character and revealed his true identity by ordering a camera to stop filming with much authority.
Supporting actors did not help either. The execution was not convincing enough. Characters forgot their roles and saluted the prisoners in a gesture that completely betrayed the authenticity of the entire play. On the one hand, one might defend them by claiming they are not professional actors, but on the other hand, it should not be much of an effort for them considering that this is their real job and the role should be executed with ease.
That’s not to say the play was not an overall success, it was and it was viewed by tens of millions who at the very least appreciated the effort and thought put into this production. It is only that these little glitches that deter a viewer from fully being immersed in the drama and makes the whole story less believable. Here are a few things that would have made the production better.
Had the SCAF not been a dictatorship meddling with the judiciary system, the likelihood of believing this was a real trial would have increased greatly. This is compounded with their reluctance to try Mubarak for a very long time and the constant rumors about his ailing health that was once one of the country’s taboos. Had Mubarak been brought in on a wheel chair rather than a stretcher and had he acted the part, the play would have been more believable.
However the gravest of all flaws lies in the script itself which is devoid of any mystery. The way the case has been built, with evidence stacked very poorly against the deposed president gives away the ending. There has been no effort to stack the evidence in a believable manner to create any form of suspense as to how the play will end. The laws of the country have been set up by the perpetrators themselves to give them protection at any time. The SCAF’s refusal to alter any of these laws undermines the entire show. If there is no conviction, the play will extend as long as the crowd is willing to endure.
First published on 4amterrors.blogspot.com, September 3, 2011.
Where: Rawabet Theatre, Cairo, Egypt
When: August 19 - August 23, 2011
Where Else: Zurich Theater Spektakel (Aug 29-31), Rotterdam Schouwburg (Sep 15-18), ,Dusseldorf Forum Freies Theater (Oct 7-8), Amsterdam City Theatre (Oct 12),
A projected video sequence of Aida ElKashef’s and Ruud Gielens’s archival footage opens the performance “Lessons in Revolting.” To my knowledge, this is the first artistic application of the extensive material that Aida has collected throughout the three sit-ins (even at the darkest hours, it was impossible to catch sight of the activist filmmaker without a video cam glued to her hand.) Initially the prolonged sequence, edited by Gielens, failed to capture my attention, while painfully extending what turned out to be a video calendar of the first 18 days, even with date captions. The audience sat patiently watching an interpretative performance by the group, on a background of imagery already engraved in our recent visual memory. It seemed that the informative approach was the only possibility for the video component of this performance. Through 75 minutes, the videos sought to present narration, to tell a story, which didn’t need the ‘surplus’ of the emotions invoked by acting. This in a way is a purist gesture, leading one to conclude that narration was the essence of this work, not its instrument. The video, thus, played its part.
[image from theaterspektakel.ch]
The very first minutes of the performance also establishes the iconic style of Karima Mansour’s choreography for the performance. The movement was expressive and interpretative. Upon watching the bodies of the activists, as they roll on the floor, jump in the air, and self-inflect pain with maximum use of the stage as in a theatrical movement workshop, the audience are left with no alternatives but to collectively wonder that this dance definitely means this or that (the Aly Sobhi torture dance, the forcefully-putting-the-revolution-to-sleep dance, and of course the exhaustive protesting finale.) Here, again, narration reappears, as the choreography becomes an instrument to serve a seemingly more noble purpose, rather than being a self-sustained body of work. It is that peculiar urge to justify art, articulated by Susan Sontag in her essay “Against Interpretation,” which transforms art into a mimesis of reality, in order to then interpret it, and thus creates this unfortunate segregation between content and form we are accustomed to when encountering art. I shall revisit this point later.
Five extended monologues, carrying the testimonies, impressions, emotions, and reflections of their true narrators who also delivered them, and intersected by performative movement, constitute the spine of the performance. The monologues were meant to be “a reaction” as co-director Laila Soliman tells a press interviewer, instead they were overburdened with the half-baked reflections and emotions of an open-ended revolutionary experience, all trying to pass through the eye of a creative needle, which requires a much greater deal of processing the source experience before attempting to re-release it in a work of art. Unresolvedness, in its own right, is for me far more interesting a paradigm than indulging in fixed notions of monumentalization. The possibilities it offers on the performance level are limitless. Yet we are left to feel that this work was hardly concerned with that positioning.
This invites a curious question on timing; what is that pressing need which urges an artist to construct a work comprised of her personal experience in its pristine form, or to formalize it in a mechanical, formative fashion in order to “ formalize” the narrative, in other words to forge the content in a cast of form? The separation thus prevails, as form here can only exist to serve a narrative, interpretative content.
[image by Adham Bakry]
I would argue that the motive in this case is the individual desire of the activists to monumentalize the revolution, its thoughts, its sentiments, its moments, its victories and its losses. An act of monumentalization that neither the masses, nor the interim state, nor the media has claimed. No architects or sculptors were commissioned to carry it out, as the Soviet habit went. Monuments are in their own right narrative and interpretative. From this angle, it is safe to perceive the work’s title in a new light. The lessons are not those acquired by the activist performers throughout months of a revolutionary experience as Sulayman suggests at the same interview, but rather the sum of what the performers are lecturing and confronting us with, and the guilt we are subjected to throughout the performance. This work is, equally, educational.
The instrumentalisation of art for educational and enlightenment purposes is by far the best applicable example for the project of content-form separation in the arts. Art here is form, whereas education is content, and content must always come first, followed by the serving form. The separation project could be well-intentioned, fueled by the artists and critics’ genuine desire to justify art’s value, going down the rabbit hole of interpretation which “means plucking a set of elements” from the wholesome work, and whose project is to “translate” a work of art rather than receiving it, Susan Sontag tells us. At any rate, this project of separation, along with the interpretation approach, calls for a true critical view.
Music may well be the sole component in the performance that succeeds in overcoming the content-form schizophrenia, possibly due to it, music as a medium, being the last stronghold for creativity that requires no reconciliation between the two sides. Maurice Luca skilfully manages to merge Mustafa Said’s immensely appropriated live performing (Said is an academic scholar, a professor, a published composer, and a skillful Oud player) with the soundscape of the documentary footage, and his own pre-composed works. The resulting constructive complexity of the finale scene for example, in which the sound grows from ambiance to a space filling, dominant Shaabi music, is a sublime example of a piece of work one does not wonder before it about the statement of its creator, or the meanings of its elements. The work’s energy, structure, and appropriation simply leave no room for an interpretative project.
I am disinterested, on a personal level, in self-glorifying indulgence, particularly in the art. I am equally disinterested in, and maybe even irritated by, monuments. History, together with human behavior specialists, psychologists and anthropologists, often observes with pity the wealth of poetry, songs, monuments, statues, films and literature produced directly at the wake of critical moments of history. These practices are often locked in an indulging, romantic, and seldom critical, viewing of a nostalgic perception of these moments. A view often carried out by the triumphant side while reconciling history according to ideologised narratives. Monuments are an exportation of values, an attempt to immortalize a certain view of a moment while creating a false rhetoric. Whatever shape they may take, they are by large totalitarian constructions awaiting to cave. They stand no chance against the principles of change and the instantaneity of any given revolutionary project. An artist, and by far a rebel, should surpass such problematic approaches.