Beirut: Bodies in Public

A three-day workshop inviting artists and researchers to think through the interdisciplinary concerns surrounding performance in public space in Beirut


Click through to view and download the schedule at a glance. Please note that the conference is free and open to attend. However, for the movement workshops on Friday and Saturday – marked with * – places are limited: please contact and to reserve.

Scroll down to view abstracts, including for durational and intermittent works not listed in the schedule

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The following abstracts are listed in chronological order as they will be presented during the workshop

Thursday 9th October

Keynote Address | Mona Harb (10.00)

Spatial Practices and Public Spaces: Snapshots from Beirut

Many have lamented the disappearance  of public space in cities, and how public spaces have become market commodities, secured and ordered, unable to engender meaningful political and public action. This analysis forecloses a more dynamic understanding of space—one that incorporates the three dimensions coined by Henri Lefebvre: space as conceived, perceived and lived. It also ignores De Certeau’s interpretation of the city as a place both designed and planned by dominant strategies, and appropriated and written by the daily spatial tactics of people who walk, move and dwell in it. In this talk, I take up those ideas about public space through the exploration of several snapshots that mark my daily walk to work from my home in Hamra, Beirut. A huge construction site. An abandoned open space with a gigantic tree. A street punctuated by contrasting functions and users. A mural painted by a Spanish artist during his residency in the city. The snapshots reveal how the city is conceived and strategized, as well as practiced and lived, by different groups, for various ends, at different times, often in unequal ways, generating contradictions,ambiguities and tensions. They also show how public space is also (re)produced at the level of the neighborhood and the street, via spatial practices or, in the spirit of the workshop, performances, which, despite their temporariness, have material and durable impact on the city, in ways that are more real than ongoing urban public policies.

Panel #1 | Publics, Borders, Documents (11.30)

Doris Frohnapfel, Artist, Art & Archives/Cologne–Beirut (GER/LB)

Public space with public transport

Within my research of the residency with „Art & Archives“ in Beirut from April to June 2014 – working on the layers and transformations through time, destruction and history in cities, territories and border landscapes – I researched, visited, walked and talked inside the southern and eastern neighborhoods of Beirut. Not having, and not using a car or a chauffeur, the city without a clear (to a foreigner) minimum of public transport makes mobility a thing to solve in such. A city and its suburbs where neighborhoods are marked and built and stigmatized(?) with religious and political fronts that control and frustrate movement is the next step to take in consideration. (Not to forget of the fe/male body-encounters in space any way.) My idea that I have to walk from Choueifat to Ouzai by the seaside next to the airport for my research, my photo documentation and for picking up material was very much discussed around these problems. In my presentation I will give an example about the problems, considerations, cares, concerns and how the research trip finally was carried out. Some of my references will go back to the notion of the flaneur, the tourist, the migrant, the pilgrim (Benjamin, Bauman) other will focus on the contemporary and future issue of the problem that there is only public space with public transport. The narrative presentation will be illustrated by images that form by- or sub-products within my artistic work.

Yasmine Nachabe Taan, Lebanese American University

Tagging Beirut

The culture of tagging has grown fast in Beirut in recent years. Tags thicken the city’s walls with layers of meaning. In the absence of a ‘properly’ functioning public sphere, candid civic discourse has in a sense migrated to the walls of the city. What is interesting in the dialogue is that unlike the mainstream media, it is raw and many-voiced. For example, in the midst of the gradual erasure of Beirut’s architectural heritage and the mushrooming of malls and skyscrapers around the city, a discontent over this stark urban transformation has been expressed. Terse as they are, the proliferating “Beirut is not solidaire” and “Beirut is not Dubai” spray painted tags on the walls of Beirut, during the past few years, in fact present a critique of the corporization of urban space, and the privileging of real estate speculation over community cohesion and continuity and the demolition of Beirut’s architectural heritage. In some of these tags, the word “Dubai” and “solidaire” has been covered with black paint in order to hide the direct accusation. This paper highlights the act of tagging with its characteristic ambiguities of authorship that foregrounds questions of representation: who thinks? Who acts? Who speaks for whom? In the absence of a clearly defined national identity, I argue that these walls can be seen as ideal spaces for the Beirutis to articulate, negotiate and redefine their identities and that of their city.

Rana Haddad, American University of Beirut

The ripple effect

Installation works that address the city issues, are body sized architectures, that have a very short life span. They straddle between happenings and architecture. By their very ephemeral nature, they create a rippling effect that can last or simply fade. These interventions aim to seek, to host, to challenge, to improve, to engage and to question the city, reacting to the event that is taking place here and now. It is a pedagogical tool both for the city dwellers and for the designer, underlining the importance of the subtle and the mundane, questioning socio- political measures. Through such work, we become activists on a city scale; triggering discussions, debates and ideas of how young architects can be on the forefront of a sustainable critical discourse.

Panel #2 | Surveillance and Control: Comparative Perspectives (14.30)

Chair: Dr Monique Belland, Orient-Institut Beirut

Laudi Abilama

The Great Expression/Depression 2011-12

In 2011, I embarked on a journey to provoke a personal interaction with the public in Beirut. Part of the success of what I called ‘The Great Depression’ would be down to the level of public participation avoiding restriction. Having previously been a victim of censorship in Dubai (2010) for more political works, it was a very present fear to have to face some sort of clash with the authorities, despite my perception that Beirut was a much ‘freer’ public when it came to expression. ‘The Great Depression’ ‘project’ or ‘provoked protest’ succeeded in allowing me to photograph members of public and produce a body of artworks that included video, photography and the final outcome, a series of screen-prints on canvas. All of these media combined and the individuals who participated helped in communicating the idea that given the platform, we all have an opinion or something to say. Accompanied by three short films, images and artworks, that were a result of my interaction with the public between 2011-12, I will give a detailed talk of the challenges I faced in interacting with the Lebanese, Singaporean and British public. In particular, the reaction of people who belong to the Middle Eastern Diaspora in the foreign countries and most essentially the Lebanese public on Hamra Street. In between the short films being projected I will discuss questions of ‘self-censorship’ and ‘expression’ and whether or not the spontaneity of my interaction with the public had an effect on the outcome of the work.

Mohamad Hafeda, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

At Her Balcony: negotiating and narrating spaces of conflict in Beirut.

At Her Balcony is a research project and an associated gallery installation that worked with two female residents living in close proximity to one another in the Mazraa area in Beirut. Through enquiring about the possibility of obtaining a photographic panorama of the neighbourhood from the women’s balconies, and through employing photography and the camera as a device to negotiate borders and politics; the project captures the dynamics of negotiation between surveillance mechanisms existing in urban space and residents in their interior spaces. It builds on the differences between residents in ‘seeing’ and relating to surveillance operations and devices employed by political parties personnel in residential neighbourhoods in Beirut. The research project is part of a series (2009-present) that explores bordering practices in Beirut – through negotiation and narration, and employs art and urban research tools as critical spatial practices to negotiate borders conditions and activities in public urban space from the interior space of a resident, and to produce new bordering practices in the gallery space – in the particular narrative of the two residents the bordering practice is of: crossing. Thus the project explores the bordering practices of political surveillance and that of art and research practices as both include practices of observation and documentation. It reveals, and measures, distances and differences – emotional, geographical and political, that are utilized as part of surveillance strategies in occupying urban space, and those exist between residents.

Elaheh Hatami, Free University of Berlin and Sepideh Zarrin Ghalam, Brandenburg Technical University of Cottbus- Senftenberg

Performance in Public Spaces of Tehran; Realizing a Paradox

The Integration of Sharia Law within the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran rules over the existence of bodies within public spaces with an official power and stronger than other socio-cultural factors. Within the last 35 years, the struggle for gaining control over public spaces between authorities and people has resulted in challenging the meaning of public and private spaces, creating paradoxical temporary public events, as well as the development of underground scenes in Iran with their own complex sets of rules and relationships. To this end performers and dancers have to deal with extreme levels of limitations for keeping their artistic activities alive since the body stands at the center of this art and any form of body movement could be interpreted provocative. Bodies are objects of cultural attribution and political regulations. Such mechanisms are forming the body and its emerging images. In this respect, dance and performing arts have always been regarded as a political phenomenon; as the body, its form, sexuality, emerging images and movement possibilities are related to political regulation and discipline. Moreover exposing these performances to the public are entangled with the fact that, within the Iranian context, particular collective activities in public could be taken as a form of political defiance. With that in mind this paper takes few examples of recent performances in public spaces of Tehran to give an insight into this new emerging practice within such a highly controlled and politically orientated context and questions whether such experiences could further survive.

Performance Lecture | Casting Bodies in Urban and Rural Landscape (16.30)

Part I : Julie Weltzien, Landscape Architect (FAFS AUB 2002-2012, now Advisor at GIZ Amman, Jordan)

“Salt in the City” A talk about transition from urban to rural, sea to snow, salt to sky, body to landscape, abandoned to alive. Images of landscapes and bodies that address belonging and partnerships, that acknowledge transitional qualities of space and mind. Or in other words: Bodies and Landscape choreographing each other. The talk addresses projects and course work conducted in Lebanon with students and volunteers over 6 years, i.e. Walk the Splace, abandoned_alive, 4D.

Part II: Prof. Cornelia Krafft (FAAH, AUB)

“Mute Movements” a reaction to the continuous loss of theatrical space is a visual journey through 5 years of performance art practice with AUB students initiated and by C.K. in 2009. Since then over 100 performances small and large scale have been staged throughout various urban places: Tripoli fair by Oskar Niemeyer, in the ruin of the Dome downtown, along the Corniche, Hamra Street etc. All choreographed actions portray social political topics of the time relevant to the country and its youth.

Part III: Prof. Karen Kipphoff (Norwegian Theater Academy)

„Casting Bodies“ is a live performance for the Bodies in Public symposium in Beirut as well as a short presentation of the contemporary Norwegian Theatre and Performance Art scene. The presentation focuses on the artists, the venues, the organizations and the studies that have brought forth this phenomenon. A line will be drawn from the happenings of the 1960s to the postdramatic theatre of the 90s and performance art of the 2000s by briefly presenting works of different artists and artist groups. There will also be a brief introduction@ to the venues and organizations implicated in the successful casting of these artist bodies for the public (BIT Teatergarasjen, University of Bergen, College of Art and Design Bergen; Norwegian Theater Academy).

Film Screening (18.15)

Sophie Hoyle, Goldsmiths University London.

Performative Aspects of Recording Public Spaces: A Video Essay

My research explores representations of bodies in public spaces in photographic and moving-image genres of Documentary and Social Realism, as well as the bodies of the photographer and filmmaker; where the act of recording is a process and performance in itself, requiring negotiations of power dynamics and interactions. This is particularly pertinent in Beirut given the militarized security of certain spaces, with questioning or arrests for ‘suspicious’ acts of photography, which may result in internalized self-censorship. Yet this is also in tension with the on-going use of Beirut’s public spaces for expression from protests and demonstration to political graffiti. I am interested in the idea of the contemporary ‘flaneur’ and their interaction with the city, and how historically these have tended to be individuals in privileged positions, where it is important to consider post-colonial theory and the power dynamics of the gaze by those from outside of Beirut in its public spaces. The content of what is recorded and how it is then re-distributed is also important; many structural inequalities in Lebanese society are visible in public space, from the buses of male south-Asian construction workers to uniformed female domestic workers, where public space displays an intersection of global flows of trade and migration. I am interested in whether and how these acts and processes of being-in-space can be shared through temporary public-space exhibitions, as well as public spaces online, and not limited to the semi-private spaces of the art gallery.

Ilaria Lupo and Joe Namy

Concrete Sampling (arrangement for derbekah and jackhammer)

 Concrete Sampling is an evening performance by a crew of workers in an excavation/ construction site in Downtown Beirut.
 It was conceived as an interference in the urban soundscape, as the set up of a new rhythm within the existing one. The audience experienced the piece from above on the cusp of the location. The proliferation of construction sites in Beirut has inadvertently become a distinct ubiquitous sound-landmark. The performance attempted to deconstruct this soundtrack, creating a rupture to engage the space as the actual material of work. The performance explored the inner nature of the space and its acoustic potential. It is based on the idea that a ʻsectionʼ of the city (with a particular identity within the urban/historical landscape) will self-activate, turning its own sonic identity into a new autonomous composition. The sounds and rhythms of the site, collected over several months, serve as base material for the actual sound performance.This sonic identity is partially constituted by the performers themselves – the actual builders of the space. They are Syrian nationals and, in Beirut, the construction sites are often their temporary homes. So far, their voice locally has the nature of a subterranean grumble. Lupo and Namy spent two months working with the crew. Every day the workers rehearsed new possibilities of creating sound out of their daily working tools. The final performance itself was a sound composition with processed samples culled from the research database of the project site, infused with live improvised performance of work tools and musical instruments performed by the workers, and broadcast with microphones placed strategically within the space to explore the resonant qualities of the site itself. The project aimed at hijacking the functionality of the daily normative, changing a passive reception into an active appropriation and introducing a subjective temporality – other than the day/night, work/rest, noise/silence dichotomies.

Friday 10th October

Panel #4 | Corporeality and Biopolitics (9.00)

Emilie Thomas Mansour, Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3, Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Comparatistes (CERC)

Geocritical Exploration of the “Beirut Decentrists” Literary Spaces

“I was central and became peripheral”, Etel Adnan, one of the most iconic Lebanese authors of the Beirut Decentrists, a generation of women writing about the war in Lebanon, emphasizes the sentiment of being “off-center” that seems to characterize this literary movement in the country. The parallel of such a denomination with the notion of space is not surprising since the Lebanese conflict, like any civil war, has redefined the way the population, especially women, deals with intimacy in the fundamentally patriarchal Lebanese society. Indeed, the exceptional war conditions in which women were evolving allowed them to redefine their relationship with their bodies. In this communication, we will try to make a parallel with the female authors’ own writing bodies as an essential way of literary empowerment; hence we propose to study how the Beirut Decentrists link corporality, memory and language. However, our objective is to find a new approach of how we read these women writers. To do so, we chose to follow the road of the “spatial turn” as Robert Tally Jr. states it, hence to explore corporality, memory and language through the study of spatiality. Furthermore our objective is to go beyond the dualistic vision of centre/periphery, thus to study the very versatile notion of space, focusing on how these texts approach the third space as developed by Homi Bhabha and Bertrand Westphal.

Gabriella Calchi-Novati and Andrew Wilford will present a joint panel entitled ‘Performance of/in Public Absence(s)’, which draws on Žižek’s idea that today ‘what is in fact disappearing […] is the public sphere proper in which one operates as a symbolic agent’, in order to address the different performative shades of absence (both in its singularity and in its plurality) that seem to be necessary to the public functioning of contemporary biopolitics.

Dr. Gabriella Calchi-Novati

The Obscenity of Biopolitical Bodies

The paper analyses the concept of public absence as being the performance of the obscene in today’s biopolitics, of that which does not have a scene to be performed. The paper considers as a philosophical paradigm the work that represented Lebanon at the 55th Biennale di Venezia, that is, Akram Zaatari’s Letter to a Refusing Pilot (2013). Sparked by a rumor (which turned out to be true) about an Israeli pilot who in 1982 refused to bomb a school in Saida, Letter to a Refusing Pilot is a video installation shown in an immersive environment conceived to look like ‘a stage awaiting an actor, or a cinema awaiting a spectator’. Considering that for Agamben language in biopolitical times is devoid of its content, resulting in a crisis of communication caused by the alienation of communicability itself, Calchi-Novati shows how such a crisis is further heightened by the public absence of biopolitical bodies, that becomes ob-scene in that it transforms these bodies from tangible zoë to intangible bios, from content to concept, therefore denying these very bodies of a scene of their own.

Andrew Wilford (University Of Chichester. UK)

Demonstrations of Public Absences

The paper argues for a critical exposure of the agencies that become visible, and/or occupy, the biopolitical sphere that is vacated by public absences. His paper’s ‘reverse reading’ of the Boston Marathon Bombings predicates the bio-spectacle of counterinsurgency culture as monstrous manifestation of ob-scene agency. Challenging ‘soft power’ event-narratives in predominating the radicalization of the rogue bombers, this paper instead proposes a re-enfolding of the event through an enduring coupled-trope of neo-liberal consequence, where liberty struggles to keep pace with security.

Keynote Address | Jane Rendell (11.00)

Site-writing: positionally and subjectivity in urban research and criticism
With reference to two projects, An Embellishment (Purdah) and May Mo(u)rn, this talk configures what happens when discussions concerning situatedness and site-specificity inform the practice of writing criticism, and the spatial qualities of writing become as important in conveying meaning as the content of the criticism. I will suggest that in operating as mode of a practice in its own right this kind of criticism raises ethical questions concerning the relation of the critic to the work positioned ‘under’ critique, and instead proposes alternative positions connecting the researcher/writer to his/her ‘object’ (or subject) of study. Following the feminist figurations of Rosi Braidotti and Donna Haraway, site-writing is also a process of figuration, one informed by psychoanalytic understandings of subjectivity and representation, where relations between critic and site, text and reader are figured, configured and re-configured through writing.

 Walking Performance | Corps Urbain (12.00)

Helge-Björn Meyer, Richter/Meyer/Marx

CORPS URBAIN is a moving tour through Beirut, choreographed with a group of residents of the city. The viewer follows the moving mass through public and semi-public spaces. A chain of quickly formed body-sculptures in the urban space gives new perspectives, view axes and points of view – and a new city experience. The quality of the city of Beirut, the participating residents with their bodies as well as the time of day give every intervention a unique color. CORPS URBAIN is a dance sculpture that will be developed with local amateurs, their interest is the dance and the movement, and the architecture of the city of Beirut adapts. The performance is an action that Joseph Beuys would have called social sculpture. CORPS URBAIN offers the citizens of Beirut a new look at their city and their neighbors, so to throw fellow human beings. The intention of this dance intervention is to identify functional urban structures and the resulting possibilities of movement and habits in Beirut. By positioning the human body at selected locations provokes for viewers a process of reflection on the urban space and creates irritation. Pedestrians, residents and audience are motivated to think not only about their urban environment and their own movement and viewing habits but also about the position of the individual in their urban community.

Performance | 3 Naked Boys Ahead /Followed by 3 Naked Girls (13.15)

Lorenza Peregine, Flock Collective

Instructions are often inherent to public and private spaces through codes of behaviour. For example, in a museum, we attain, as prior knowledge, the rule that we are not allowed to touch the objects. Instructions suggest a way to proceed but also suggest options and opportunities for outright dissent. How we choose to respond to instructions reflects our personal relationship with a specific authority or context. Following Allan Kaprow’s example in Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life*, I attempt to ‘script’ the relationships between bodies both in public and private spaces and to research physical and emotional responses to social or interpersonal interactions. In the proposed performance, through the sole use of text projected live on the walls of the performance space, I aim to magnify existing patterns of behaviour, social dynamics and power structures of a given space. In a series of workshops run at Central St Martins College, London, I researched with the participants how the relationships between bodies in space, and between audience and performer may create or dissolve power structures. Using dance and theatre research methods including improvisation, movement research and choreographic composition, we focused on physical responses to verbal or textual instructions.

Movement Workshop | Placements: Objects_ Bodies_ Landscape (14.00)

 Karen Kipphoff, Julie Weltzien

Performance Work with Objects

All material used during a performance receives an enormous attention and appears loaded with significance for the audience. How do we work with objects and props? How do we find the right things and materials, how much or how little do we need, and what do the objects do with the player? The workshop is practice-based and looks into basic functions of the object-player relationship. It introduces a method to work with and develop miniature scenes with objects by improvisation. These miniature scenes will be set into relation with images of landscapes. In this context underlying structures and physical references of natural settings will be analyzed and set in relation to the scenes created before. How do we relate to those landscape images, what do they address in our emotional sphere, how are we choreographed by landscapes and vice versa…? Will the objects take on a new image, how will we place ourselves and our interventions into the chosen settings? The workshop introduces some physical improvisation techniques derived from contemporary dance. A small choreography will be presented at the end of the workshop.

Follow the Naked Wagon… (14.00)

Raafat Majzoub

The Wishing Fountain – مال عام’

The Wishing Fountain – مال عام’ is a public art installation in Hamra Street by Raafat Majzoub that allows people of the city to share money with each other while raising awareness about the escalating street beggars phenomenon and the increasing privatization and self-centeredness in urban Lebanon today.  The sculpture borrows its form from women street beggars sitting on sidewalks, wishing good fortune for passersby in return for minimal amounts of money, and is intended to create a visible and accessible point in this rapidly privatized Beirut for people to share money for public use.  Beggars, people looking for parking meter coins, night owls looking for change to buy a man’oushé and others can pick up the amount they need whenever they need it. It aims to start an active, local conversation about and between people, each other and their city. Supported by The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, Ashkal Alwan

Panel #5 | Queer Subversions (17.15)

Chair: Prof Dima Dabbous, Lebanese American University

Che Gossett, independent scholar

A Wall Is Just A Wall: Legacies of Black Queer Solidarity With Palestinian Struggle in a Time of Pinkwashing, Coloniality and Carceral Regimes

In this presentation I incorporate audio and archival visuals to highlight the import of legacies of Black queer solidarity with Palestinian struggle, focusing on what June Jordan called the “embattled baptisms” or renewed life that she found in her liberatory poetic struggles against war and militarization, cages and carceral violence and anti-queer violence, apartheid and occupation across the globe (Mississippi, Nicaragua, Attica, South Africa and Palestine). At a time when U.S. and Israeli sharing of carceral methodologies and technologies is at an all time (from Gaza to Ferguson, MI), Jordan’s abolitionist and liberatory poetics are all the more critical.

Joanna Mansbridge, Department of American Culture & Literature, Bilkent University

Cabaret as Counterpublic: Metro AL-Madina and the Animation of Utopian Space

French for “small room,” cabaret emerged in Europe in the 1890s as a type of performance that encompassed avant-garde drama, song, dance, and satiric comedy and that aimed to subvert conventional morality by acting as a refracted microcosm of the larger social world. My paper offers an examination of the temporal, spatial, and affective structure of contemporary cabaret, with an eye toward its potential effects as a utopian site of contested urban modernity. Taking Beirut’s Metro AL-Madina as my primary example and drawing on the work of José Muñoz Esteban, Michael Warner, and Diana Taylor, I investigate cabaret as a potential counterpublic that re-maps the social landscape by animating the bodies moving within it. I consider, for example, how Metro AL-Madina’s cabaret show “Hishik Bishik” improvises history, invoking the “no-longer-conscious” in ways that might be taken up to create the “not-yet-here,” and how the burlesque comedy and jazz performances promote an affective atmosphere comprised of anticipation, surprise, and pleasure. Redefining a form that has dubious connotations in the Middle East, Metro AL-Madina positions itself as a symbolic stand-in for the city’s still-absent metro system, using cabaret as both a place to gather and a time to imagine a different kind of mobility and collectivity. To what extent and to what effect do the cabaret performances impact and animate the audience in ways that remain after the performances end? And how might the counterpublic created by Metro’s cabaret re-map the broader public space and improvise potential futures for contemporary Beirut?

Rima Najdi, Independent Artist and Leila Tayeb, Northwestern University

Explosive Performance: Madame Bomba in Beirut

On January 12, 2014, performance artist Rima Najdi dressed up in a cartoonish fake bomb and walked around Beirut. Under the title “Madame Bomba: The TNT Project,” Najdi’s intervention garnered worldwide media attention as well as significant confusion. This panel stems from and examines the Madame Bomba performance. Rima Najdi will present an artist statement/ lecture performance on the work. She will describe her motivations to create and to intervene in the streets as Madame Bomba, and then move to discuss people’s reactions during the intervention, and the performer’s body in relation to the place/time and the bodies of the spectators. Are the spectators witness to an event yet to happen during the intervention? Or is the event just the ephemeral moment that connects the performer’s body on the one hand and the spectators’ bodies on the other? Leila Tayeb will present a critique and analysis of Najdi’s Madame Bomba. Her analysis thematizes failure in the intervention and reflects on what parody in public exposes about contemporary sovereignty. She explores how Madame Bomba’s failures can teach us something about inoperativity and what is opened up in not being taken seriously.

Rima Chahrour, University of Southampton

The Young-Arab-Muslim-Girl as a War Machine

The Young-Arab-Muslim-Girl as a War Machine is a lecture-performance proposing a response to Tiqquin’s Theory of the Young Girl, tracing it back to Debord’s Comments on the Society of the Spectacle and its relationship with the contemporary political upheavals in the region referred to as Arab. Starting from the hijabi dolls, the lecture-performance engages in confusing the boundaries of cultural contestation, intending to provoke context creation and social change, through using the Arab-Muslim doll.

Performance | No Matter Where I Go (19.30)

Gender-bending bodies, disabled bodies, trans- bodies, lesbian and gay bodies, effeminate male bodies and in many cases cis-gendered female bodies, are different performances of queerness, and they all “provoke” different reactions by the city and its dwellers. From intrigue, to sympathy, to offensive reactions, to admiration, queer bodies disturb the city as they navigate it. Their essential fluidity, precarity and vulnerability resemble a flamboyant challenge to familiarity, certainty and mass agreement. They interact with the rigidity of concrete performances and structures around them, to create crucial emotional and intellectual conversations – on both internal and external levels – about thei identities and performances, and their relationship to the public space they are navigating. In their different capacities, queer bodies provoke diverse anxieties and disturbances in the city; and through this, they re-create it. We are a group of queer-identified individuals who live in Beirut, and who have known each other for the past seven years in the context of queer feminist activism and support work. Our proposed work is a theatrical performance that transmits our daily encounters with the city and its dwellers. We desire to navigate Beirut and re-create it through theatre, juxtaposing our performances in the city and on stage in one performance. We believe that bringing in the element of queer mobile experience in the city through theatre represents a vital addition to the workshop, and is deeply implicated in the philosophy of city planning, construction, public space and the culture that these concepts produc and embrace. It strongly means to us that we perform our stories by ourselves as a political statement of reclaiming agency, taking charge of our own stories, rejecting victimization and stereotypical portrayals of our bodies, and granting this performance a level of reality and truthfulness that otherwise will not be possible.

Saturday 11th October

Intermittent performances | Aquaurban Routines

Liva Dudareva and Eduardo Cassina, METASITU

Continuing our line of work for representing urban data through performance, we propose a similar piece for Beirut: Bodies in Public. The Corniche, being that liminal space that separates the urbanised landscape of Beirut from the Mediterrenean Sea, offers a space for developing site-specific routines that redefine the relationship between humans, the built environment and the water. Private beaches, picnics on the rocks and dare-jumping. Aquaurban Routines is a cartographic performance piece that looks at how these relationships are deeply related to one another, an intricate set of connections that form the social tissue weaved in this space. After analysing site-specific information from this borderline, we clustered the information forming different layers, choreographed over a simplified traditional representation of the explored territory (i.e. map). The ephemerality of the piece renders visible, even if for a few minutes, what Doreen Massey describes as the ‘geometries of power inscribed in space’, spanning like an invisible web throughout the urban fabric that surrounds us. Yet it is not only power hierarchies that we are interested in showing, but also combine it with different elements of bio-mapping, empirical ideas that escape two-dimensional illustrations and measuring instruments.

Durational performance | Carrot Juice Without Borders: Proscriptive Rights & The Commons.

Julia Collura, Arts Educational Schools, London and Richard Launder, National Academy of Art & Design, Bergen, Norway

Formative memories: Bright orange against Turquoise, those typically ‘60’s colours. Here the orange being also frothy, the turquoise cool liquid. Accepting a glass from the street vendor (distant memory links this to a bicycle-business, complete with glass/metal cabinet attached) drinking the carrot juice intrepidly (exotic for an English schoolboy) looking out over the rocky headland of Dalieh not comprehending why I couldn’t just go & plunge into this magnetic sea…(January 1965)

Personal narrative as core, embroiling/interacting this into the contemporary narrative:

  • The unscripted view of public space becomes the proscriptive right, with time, of the populations fluid use of space in the city as extensions of their neighbourhoods/communities/family’s/time out (Dalieh).
  • Beirut: Mediterranean city with its back against orchards/mountains – its inhabitants need access to sea, to green space, to open space

Neo Liberal Materialistic systems are not the only routes available – in Art, the Middle East’s propensity for the poetic, contra knowledge, is of particular significance when viewed in this arena. The necessity of keeping the variety of social function (regardless of affiliations/wealth/status) is what makes a city/a culture vibrant, unpredictable, dynamic – attractive to live in. Cities and liminal space; as contexts: Oblique Strategies and Mapping as tools to meet and negotiate the unknown/known: Beirut: & 2 foreign artists (one with life-lasting impact of adolescence in pre-civil war city). Collura and Launder will process through the city, riding a doctored cycles/vendor stand from Downtown, along the Corniche to Dalieh/Pigeon Rock; negotiating entry (area prohibited to street sellers/vendors); stopping en-route at arbitrary points.

Instruction walk | i see what we see

Mads Floor Andersen, Cara Davies, Joseph Dunne,  Ashleigh Griffith: Tracing the Pathway.

If art in public spaces does not exist any more then where is the public sited in performance? What does it mean to perform public? In our age of overwhelming connectedness our understanding of what is public is radically shifting. We broadcast from our homes, and seek privacy in crowded streets, but still the performing body remains hidden from public consciousness. i see what we see is a corporeal intervention to amplify the visibility of a performing body, your body, in the cityscape of Beirut. Sited on the Naked Wagon, at the Cornice, you will be invited to respond to an Audio Guide and menu object which will provoke you to produce your own performative encounter in the Corniche area. Engendering participants-as-performers the menu is designed to act as a framework for your walk, holistically engaging you in how your bodily experience might be manifested in and for the eyes of another, prompting a personal public reflection on the socio-cultural conditions of the performing body. Participants are encouraged to walk alone with a digital device for recording your journey; an act of solitude on public mass. After your walk you are invited to upload any record you have made to the archive website. In an act of collective posthuman cartography the documentation will create an online, public, organic installation that will re-site participants’ experiences of their performing body in Beirut. The archive will grow and develop as i see what we see migrates to new territories and terrains to create a perspicacity of multiple pathways for bodies to encounter public places.

Artist-in-residence Performance | Naked Wagon (14.00)

Dima Mabsout; Omar Talhouk, AUB; Mohamad Hodeib, el-Yafta.

As a response to the lack of public spaces and creative outlets in the Lebanese culture, the Naked Wagon was initiated as a social experiment to provide a peripatetic platform for various forms of public expression and creative networking. Throughout the three‐day event, the wagon will be stationed in different locations on‐site, and will function as a hub for ‐ but not limited to‐ the speakers, artists and researchers of the workshop, in order to articulate on the issues being raised. The space will allow and encourage spontaneity of thought and action, while deploying an open structure of provided materials, props, and initial ideas in order to challenge all the participants to creatively and collectively respond to the workshops. These gestures will help compose a final performance piece on the last day that intends to bring Beirut: Bodies in Public back to the public.

Workshop | Creating movement performance in the urban landscape (15.15)

Sarah Manya

This performance workshop is designed to introduce a lay public to the experience of performance in urban public space. How can we both observe and create positions and movement patterns that encompass the full scale of the environment from dominant aspects like large buildings to smaller aspects such as lost gloves or falling leaves? The methodology offers the audience an enhanced way of seeing the urban space in its entirety. The workshop will explore several basic performance principles of how to relate to urban space with our vision and our bodies, though the use of improvisational movement methods and exercises that train spatial and urban environmental awareness. We will work outside to explore new ways of seeing the space and to build movements that open up potential for how the audience sees the space. The workshop is open to everyone interested in moving in public space, including professional performers and makers and non-professionals. No previous movement experience is necessary. Please wear comfortable clothing and shoes that you can move in. The workshop is 90 minutes.

Durational, Intermittent, Exhibitions

Site specific work | Untitled

Rania Khalil, Theatre Academy Helsinki, Anthony Hamboussi, Queens College, Suny Old Westbury

In “Two Responses to Peeping Tom Digest #3” editor of Ibraaz Magazine Omar Kholeif writes: “… Peeping Tom took the series of statements they collected, abstracted them from the individuals who had pronounced such statements and presented them, out of context… the statements collectively set up an odd picture – that of a self-loathing nation, which has reduced itself to a colonial binary.” In an effort to intervene in contemporary art practices in which practitioners parachute into new contexts and impose their perspectives, we propose an artistic research project in Beirut which focuses on visual listening. It will result in an original site-specific artwork, the medium and contents of which will become clear to us. As diasporic citizens (Egypt/USA/Egypt…) we are concerned with the following questions: How do our backgrounds effect our perceptions of public and private space and how is this notion in itself culturally informed? How can we as artists observe new environments without consuming them, or turning our work or ourselves into objects to be consumed? What can an absence of representational images and performances of particular bodies (or perhaps the trace of their presence through their absence) relay and what might these absences have the power to undo? If the term post-colonial refers to a time after colonialism, a temporality which remains clearly contested in the region, what can we as artists offer toward a possible rethinking of the terms of culturally colonial relations?

Exhibition | SOUTK (Your Vote)

Nadia Mounier El Sayed

After the widespread disillusion following the first post-revolutionary elections in Egypt, I noticed the campaigns of each candidate and the promises they gave to the people to support and vote for them. I watched the Ads and the way they were shot and how they are made to convince you that the best is coming through them. So I decided to create my own fake election campaign, in which I promised bread, education and security- three common promises used by politicians. In each image, I added details referring to the fake character of the promises. The material for the campaign was 3 studio self-portraits. the plan was to design the posters, to print them and to start gluing them in Cairo streets beside the remained, ruined election posters with the same visual way. Finally I start documenting the reactions and the changes that went with them day after day till the moment. The campaign is called Soutk (your vote) and there was a blog launched on the day of gluing for documenting and accepting reviews from people interested in the idea.

Sound-based performance | Between The Lines

Merijn Royaards

Between The Lines is a sound-based performance. In a series of 5 simultaneous free-runs, parts of Central Beirut are time-sliced by tracing acoustic pathways the city once provided, but which have now been lost or interrupted. These pathways, which were carved out through occupation, destruction, demolition and (re)construction tell a story of Beirut’s turbulent history and present; their tracing re-enacts a time and memory of the physical city. The free-runners will criss-cross the city, intersecting with each other and the former Green Line, carrying sound systems in rucksacks. The sound systems will play sounds taken from Beirut as it is today mixed with fragments of memories about the city’s urban fabric as it once was. They will follow as closely as possible a line-of-sound as it existed at a certain time in Beirut’s history, a line that may since have become distorted, jagged, and might run through buildings, backyards, cut through fences and other obstacles. Through sound and performance, Between The Lines poses questions regarding memory, change, privatization and urban development in the context of, and directly sensitive to the city of Beirut. The work however, also aims to explore whether an ephemeral action, and the ephemeral nature of sound can become a monument, a memorial, something lasting.


One thought on “Programme

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