The Luca/ Hefny Running Fluorescents

by M. A.

From the minute we entered Maurice Luca & Tarek Hefny’s site-specific performance at Rawabet, and as the audience settled in, what seemed to be ambient, audio-filling, cello sounds turned to be Luca himself already starting his performance.  Hefny’s  flashing fluorescents implied an alternative experience; perhaps even a westernized post-modernist one.   This instantly goes out the window with All of That Time Flow’s first foto-explosion when we realize that Hefny is using controlled synchronized lines of light bulbs on long wires over our heads, similar to those used in Egyptian festivities, and colorless as the ones specifically used in religious Muleds.  Rooted in a local visual culture, yet removed from any trace of attempted authenticity, the mood is set for Luca’s work to also venture through this gate of locality.

Luca’s work seemed to be revisiting a singular musical thought, a reconstruction of a particular aesthetic from his earlier Bikya work, when a single transition is used to create a melodic, and melancholic, short progression.   This aesthetic was most evident in All of That and then again in Lutch, played back to back in an effort to establish that thought of repetitiveness despite change, and then reprised at the end of the performance.

Hefny seemed more interested in what he could physically construct with lighting units than with what the light could actually do.  Reduced to austerity, whether fluorescents, tungsten bulbs or the two spotlights on the musician, the lighting sources were colorless.   At a certain point in Lutch, the bulbs seemed to be playing a funky guitar riff, perhaps a remnant from Hefny’s days as a funk/  jazz guitarist.

After exploring festivity lights, Hefny tones it down and leaves Luca to erect a sad, dark, and sensitive construction in Repeat to Fade, in which he invokes bitter commentary tone to the Alexandria events in that fading-out waves and in Hefny’s accusative flashing fluorescents.   And then, when the audiences thought that the installation has exhausted its capacities, there was Flood Lights.

Flood Lights was the most complex, well conceived, and well rehearsed part of the performance.  As Luca paved his sonic path into it, he signals Hefny to release the madness: the projected, live, time-lapse VJing was perfectly synched with Luca’s manifestation of repetitive patterns in time, a notion he romances throughout his work.  He continuously constructs patterns, overlays them with more patterns until they lose their original context, and eventually get stuck inside them, in the same manner the city has been stuck in a singular historical narrative that it doesn’t seem to avert.  Hefny complements with an upside-down footage of a disco-boat moving forward, backwards and in circles.  It is motion that evolves from the radical, transcends to the absurd, and then relapses backwards to nothingness with the following track: large bright grains and an Arabic tune played backwards.

Luca and Hefny then remind us that audio-visual live performances are not a novelty, with a homage to Pink Floyd’s Division Bells.  Hefny leaves us with lava-lamp-like projected visuals of warm colors.  And Maurice repeats his 3 chords patterns with little variations.

Luca’s disinterest in his recipients’ experience endured to the last of the 45 minute of his  performance, when he refused to reemerge after leaving the stage, even though the audience gave him an extended ovation.

Maurice Luca’s album Garraya is released under 100 Copies, a local label dedicated to electronic music.

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