The Year 2017
A Collective Chronicle of Thoughts and Observations
Welcome to what is going to be a collective chronicle of the year 2017! This journal will follow the general change that we experience in our daily lives, in our cities, countries and beyond, in the political discourses and in our reflections on the role of artists and intellectuals. Originating from several talks and discussions with fellow artists and thinkers FFT feels the strong need to share thoughts and feelings about how we witness what is going on in the world. Week after week different writers, artists, thinkers and scientists will take the role of an observer as they contribute to this collective diary.
#6 February, 6th - 12th
My home, Downtown, Cairo
I cannot begin to write about those days today without thinking of the same days six years ago.
And I cannot write about those days in 2011 without feeling the need to write about why I am not able to write about them.
I cannot truly even remember the details of those days.
Not even clear images.
Only a messy combination of sounds and blurry images with vague colors.
Not that long has passed since then.
Already a year later I seemed to start failing expectations, by failing to recall and retell.
There are important landmarks in my life, which always affect my perception in terms of pre and post:
The first nervous breakdown
Just to name some examples.
Traumas that make it difficult for one to capture events by the hour or day.
Traumas make memory fragmented and selective.
Now the 18 days in Tahrir Square have joined that list of personal traumas.
That list that manifests itself in the memory of the body more than anything else. More than in the memory of the mind.
I walk around in the city trying not to be fixated on remembering because the same places feel like different places.
Some human beings seem to nod at each other in understanding and others seem to be walking on, but all faces seem to carry the economic crisis with them, on their shoulders, in every step of their bodies.
Everyday prices are raised. Taxes are raised. The pound was floated a few weeks ago and the repercussions of that do not seem to stop.
Prices have doubled or even tripled in the course of the last three months but salaries remain the same in Egyptian pound.
I feel very privileged to be earning a large part of my income in other currencies.
Still I am obliged to calculate like everyone else.
The air is heavy and tense, everywhere.
Winters are colder and colder due to Global Warming I guess.
February 6th, 2017
In the morning I woke up early to take Jorg Lukas Matthaei on a final walk through downtown Cairo focusing on the cracks, the alleyways, the twin buildings that could be prospective performance locations for our next project. An artistic research that tackles “disappearance” from different angles. Urban disappearances, digital disappearances, poetic disappearances. The list can be endless and depressing. What draws me the most of course are forced disappearences.
I miss out on my session with my hypnotherapist because I confuse the hour of my appointment. I do not feel special at all. Almost every woman I know now, at my age, in my circle in Cairo seems to be suffering or has recently suffered, from a post-traumatic disorder, depression or anxiety. The struggle between medication and alternative methods seems endless. A never ending battle for so many.
Yet another trauma the 30th of June: the day with the largest number of mass sexual harassment and the day the lover dictator came to power. Soft-spoken, tearful, and gentle***. Our cook once told me that this was the main reason why she, like many other women, elected him. Out of the need for love and romance. I have to say she is a woman of fifty-five, divorced by the first husband, deserted by the second since quite a number of years, in charge of her own household.
February 7th, 2017
Hadia, the cook, I just mentioned, comes in the morning complaining about how expensive food has become and complained about how her three boys, triplets cannot seem to find work. She talks to everyone about it, tries herself to find them jobs. They are now 21 I think. I also tried and failed. But this time she has a different idea. She wants the two who have fulfilled their obligatory military service to travel. Before I try to object she tells me what happened. She went with one of her sons’ friends who is travelling via these “offices”. By that I mean one of these employment offices, dealing with semi legal or illegal immigration. She went to meet the “man” in charge there but the police came to arrest everyone in the office and the friend called to warn her on the phone not to come.
February 8th, 2017
Except for that one meaningful, but painful personal conversation I cannot share.
February 9th, 2017
Today I visit Nagy Shaker and his wife Vera. How do I begin to say who Nagy is, while giving him his due. How can I begin to say who he is to me. Why I would dream to be everything like him, and nothing like him at his age. He just turned 85. A scenographer, a puppet master, an artist, a virtuoso who has taught most of what I know about the stage as a space and about the enthusiasm for life, which I have opposed to him inconsistently. Never confrontational with the state, yet never making compromises with his work and thus losing a lot of opportunities. And on a personal level? This is not the day to go there. All I can say: married for forty years and childless.
February 10th, 2017
It is Friday. The weekend.
I go to the beach in Ain Sokhna with my closest school friend. A child physiotherapist, the mother of a one-year-old girl she got, after trying so hard for many years. The whole trip I cannot help but wonder whether I actually would want to have children, a child? Single, 35. After the gynecologist decided to have a serious talk with me, a silent clock started ticking again, a clock that had been silenced by all those corpses and blood traces of those last six years. There is no doubt that life does always go on, but the question is always how. My almost physical, hormonal reaction is very different from many of the people from my generation who decided to embrace the hope of a new Egypt by bringing a child to this world. Like Alaa.
February 11th, 2017
“In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate. Citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of the president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country. We seek god’s help and guidance.”
An overriding feeling of helplessness and disillusionment. I remember in 2011 all I could feel was exhaustion to the extent of not being able to properly celebrate because of sheer physical and psychological depleting exhaustion. As any pessimist, I found the open-end discomforting and the first hints of continuing military control supported by the masses alarming. But hey, who am I? And still who AM I?!
February 12th, 2017
I rehearsed in my home with the new actress Sherin Hegazy, who will replace another actress in my latest performance Zigzig when it goes on tour again in Europe. There is no point I think in repeating boring details of a rehearsal.
The interesting thing I found out from Sherin in rehearsals though was the fact that she was obliged to postpone her own dance piece Ya sem, because she could not obtain the new permissions in time. The permission from the censorship, the permission from the Syndicate for Performing Professions. And since the category of contemporary dance does not exist there: “permission to belly dance in night clubs” it became. I guess in everyone of us is a frustrated belly dancer, even if Sherin would disagree.
*** vague translation of Sissi’s speech
I will say again, pay attention.
I am talking about this, and about these specific issues.
For all of us Egyptians to know.
People who are trying...
Did Afghanistan come back? (recover from trouble)
Did Somalia come back?
How many other countries will never come back?
How do you expect to come back from that?
This is why I am here!
So that you understand!
You are not supposed to live,..
These evil people and their plans to harm us all
They use us to turn us against each other.
They tell you, he doesn't care for you
he is not feeding you, he is not education you
What they didn't tell you is that you are very poor
No you told you, you are very poor
I wish someone would tell you we are really poor, very poor
Listen to my words
We are telling you about a disease
so we can stand and resist and we will build·
And we will tell them, despite us being poor we will advance
and we will be big
Ignore what they say.·
Laila Soliman, born in 1981, is an Egyptian theatre director and playwright, living and working in Cairo. She is most interested in an independent, socially and politically aware theatre, and also in the role of art as a tool that can empower the individual and bring out modes of expression that are neglected and otherwise stifled. Her works include: The Retreating World (2004), Ghorba, Images of Alienation (2006), …At Your Service! (2009), Spring Awakening in the Tuktuk (2010), and Lessons in Revolting (2011). She also worked as a dramaturge on the documentary theatre piece Radio Muezzin (2008) by Stefan Kaegi (Rimini Protokoll). Her play Egyptian Products (2009) was published in the anthology Plays from the Arab World by Nick Hern Books and the Royal Court Theatre, London. She developed a documentary theatre series on military and police violence titled No Time For Art (2011), followed by Whims of Freedom (2014) and Zig Zig (2016).
#1 January 1st - 8th Jacob Wren
#4 January 20th - 30th Alexander Karschnia & Noah Fischer
#5 January 30th - February 6th Ariel Efraim Ashbel
#6 February 6th - 12th Laila Soliman
#9 February 26th - March 5th Gina Moxley
#11 March 13th - 19th Agnieszka Jakimiak
#12 March 20th - 26th Yana Thönnes
#13 March 30th - April 2nd Geert Lovink
We are deeply saddened by the devastating news that Mark Fisher died on January 13th. He first visited the FFT in 2014 with his lecture „The Privatisation of Stress“ about how neoliberalism deliberately cultivated collective depression. Later in the year he returned with a video-lecture about „Reoccupying the Mainstream" in the frame of the symposium „Sichtungen III“ in which he talks about how to overcome the ideology of capitalist realism and start thinking about a new positive political project: „If we want to combat capitalist realism then we need to be able to articulate, to project an alternative realism.“ We were talking about further collaboration with him last year but it did not work out because Mark wasn’t well. His books „Capitalist Realism“ and „The Ghosts of my Life. Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Future“ will continue to be a very important inspiration for our work.
Podiumsgespräch im Rahmen der Veranstaltung "Die Ästhetik des Widerstands - Zum 100. Geburtstag von Peter Weiss"
A Collective Chronicle of Thoughts and Observations ist ein Projekt im Rahmen des Bündnisses internationaler Produktionshäuser, gefördert von der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien.