Archive for ‘music’

August 3, 2015

مرثية الدودو

by M. A.

في مصر، مات الفن.

أجل. لم تخونك عيناك الكليلتان: مات الفن في مصر، هكذا طاب لنا أن نستهل مقالنا هذا. مات موت طائر الدودو، موت طائر منقرض يمشي ولا يطير لم يره أي منا يوماً، بل ولم تقع عليه عين قط منذ عهد بعيد.

تنويه: إن ما بين يديك عزيزي القارئ ليس بمقال من صنف تلك المقالات الساخرة المتذاكية والتي تعج بها منصات النشر بالإنكليزية علي الإنترنت، والتي يقوم على كتابتها وتحريرها جحافل من الهواة أنصاف المتعلمين المتمحكين بالثقافة الأنكلوسكسونية مبتسري الموهبة محاربي الفكر، ممن ارتضوا لأنفسهم في الفيسبك منهلاً لمعارفهم، وممن لازال لعابهم يجري لحذاقة ما في كيتش حقبة التسعينيات. كلا، عزيزي القارئ التعس (وإنك لتعس بحق، إن أثارت جيفة دودو متفسّخة أمرًا في نفسك) كلا، ليست هذه بواحدة من تلك الفظائع.

اعتبر ما بين يديك تأبينًا إن شئت، مرثية كتبها قلم نازح. جاء فيها: أن في مصر، مات الفن. ذلك أن الفن – عزيزي عاشق الفنون – يموت حينما يعجز الفنان عن سد عوزه كي ينتج أو يعرض أو يعمّم فنّه. فحين تغدو سياسة الدولة الثقافية هي تبديل رخام درج دار الأوبرا، وحين تقتطع الهيئات المانحة من موازناتها في اللحظة التي نحن فيها في أمسّ الحاجة لبذل المزيد من الموارد بغية ممانعة طوفان الموت والخوف والتطرّف الذي غشى المنطقة، حينئذ تفوح ريح التفسّخ.

يموت الفن متى تدنّي مستوى تعليم الفنون في البلاد إلى أسافل الدرجات، متى تخرّج المئات في معاهدنا كل عام بإجازات في التصوير وتطلْع إلى تكسّب من الحرف اليدوية وتصميم الإعلانات، متى شرعت خيرتنا في اختلاق مدارس خيالية تنشر معارف باطلة لا تنفع، وترسي بلا حياء دعائم شخصية الفنان المعاصر بكل ما قد صار عليه من دجل وتلاعب فارغ بالألفاظ.

يموت الفن متى أغلقت مؤسساتنا أبوابها الواحلة تلو الأخرى من دون حتى رسالة مناصرة. يموت الفن متى منعنا بحكم القانون من حقنا في التجمهر، متى عجزنا عن تكوين نقابة أو اتحاد يخدم مصالحنا المشتركة. حينما تجعل ثقافة الخوف من مهمة تافهة شأن إدارة مؤسسة فنية أمرًا مستحيلًا، فتيقن من انبعاث ريح النتانة.

يموت الفن متى صارت الإعلانات دارًا للتجريب والإبداع على صعيد جماليات الفيديو وتكوينه، وحينما تصير الأفلام (كل الأفلام) خراءًا مبثوثًا. يوم تصير الحلوى المحشوة بالمانجو أو تمثال قبيح على مدخل مدينة منسيّة موضوعات تستوجب سجال حلقات المثقفين لأسابيع، فعلينا أن نقف أمام آنفسنا وأن نقر بإفلاسنا الفكري. يموت الفن يوم تجف قريحتنا، وحين تخلو البلاد من ناقد فني واحد يوحّد العلّام قادر على كتابة مقالًا يستحق عليه راتبه، وحين نحسب النقد واحدًا وتفكّه المقاهي أو سرعة قريحة الفيسبوك. يموت الفن حين لا يعد بيننا من يعرف الكتابة.

يموت الفن متى سمحنا لأنفسنا أن نغدو أداة في يد مضاربي العقارات ضمن مشروع لتنبيل مدينتنا (Gentrify لمن يجهل التعريب) ومن ثم نسهم متحمسين في إضفاء الشرعية على أولئك الذين مانفكوا فرغوا من الترويج لمشروعهم، فسيلقون بنا في الطرقات. يموت الفن متى أنفقنا ملايين الدولارات على مؤسسات لا تخاطب إلا أنفسها وأنفس القائمين عليها، ولا تنتج إلا خطاباتهم.

مات الفن متى بات كل فنان مكروب مرعوب غير ممكّن منهك القوى فاقد الأمل معوز. مات الفن متى صار النزوح ضرورة للبقاء لا خيار، ومتى يعجز الجميع عن الدفع ببرهان أو حجة عاقلة عن إمكانية عودة أعداد من طيور الدودو مهما بلغ صغرها ذات يوم إلى عالمنا.

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August 22, 2011

Monumental Narratives Waiting to Cave

by M. A.

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.

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 Layla Sulayman 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 monumentalisation.   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 formalise it in a mechanical, formative fashion in order to “formalise” 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.

I would argue that the motive in this case is the individual desire of the activists to monumentalise the revolution, its thoughts, its sentiments, its moments, its victories and its losses.  An act of monumentalisation 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 skilful 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 immortalise 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.

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