Saturday, October 08, 2011

Maikel Nabil in Athens and Vienna / October - November 2011

Comme je descendais des Fleuves impassibles,
Je ne me sentis plus guide par les haleurs:
Des Peaux-Rouges criards les avaient pris pour cibles
Les ayant cloues nus aux poteaux de couleurs.

-Arthur Rimbaud, September 1871
Letter to Paul Verlain

[As I was floating down calm rivers
I no longer felt myself steered by the haulers:
Gaudy Redskins had taken them for targets
Nailing them naked to totem poles.]

During the months of October and November, my friend, the painter Katherina Olschbaur, will be participating in the XV Biennalle de la Mediterranee in Thessaloniki - Greece, featuring some of her art work. At the same time we will run a project in parallel throughout October
and November for a wandering exhibit firstly in Athens during the course of the Biennalle and then later in November in Vienna in the context of "Vienna Art Week: Reflecting Realities - Wien und Psychoanalyse". Further stations are still under planning.

The name of this project is "Bateau Ivre", (the Drunken Boat) based on the famous poem of the French poet Arthur Rimbaud. Inspired in Rimbaud the project takes on theme of the drunken boat as a metaphor for restlessness and of the boat as the restless mankind absent from the boat itself; tumbling and itinerancy as a (human) condition to be implemented in the form of a travelling exhibition. The journey of restlessness becomes the central concept in an exhibition featuring works in the format of postcards, almost old-fashioned,     creating a loosely defined geography of place; from which the greeting, the message of the postcard, that has been sent to the other, becomes a circumscribed two-dimensional space. An exhibition as a book of poems, a drunken journey with an open end.

There are no formal creative requirements, as long as the format of the postcard is met. The postcard should tell a story about unrest, at the discretion of the artist. As it is going to be shown in different cities more postcards will be added along the way and at the end  of the journey they will be published as catalog. As the call was sent to some young artists and the concept evolved, I suggested to include postcards from the Arab Spring, without which, unrest in 2011 is difficult to conceive of. The current state of unrest itself made it very difficult, but eventually besides postcards coming from Western and Eastern Europe, we managed to receive some impressive works from Bahrain, telling the now tragic and somewhat paradoxical story of February 14 in pictures; the works will be seen for the first time in our exhibit and unfortunately the artists will remain anonymous.

I am in charge of writing a central text, included as a part of the exhibit part dealing with Bahrain and also of writing a lengthy philosophical essay to serve as introduction to the published catalog of the journey; reflection on the work of Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig "The Star of Redemption", the most important Jewish philosophical text of the 20th century that was written by Rosenzweig while he was a German soldier in the course of the first World War and sent in the form of postcards to his mother in Kassel, who typed it out into a manuscript form.

Postcards were received in Vienna until the beginning of September, however I would like to invite artists, designers and other people in Egypt to create a couple of works (perhaps 2 or 3, since the exhibit is planned as something intimate, not numbering over 40 works) that reflect upon the struggle of Maikel Nabil, the Egyptian blogger jailed for nothing but expressing his views and the first political prisoners of the bitter post-revolution in Egypt. The works can be either physical and sent directly to Greece or scanned/photographs, which we will then print out and arrange in the desirable format. As Maikel Nabil struggles for his life and only few people remain vocal for his cause, I want to take advantage of this opportunity to allow Egyptians and Europeans alike to reflect upon this tragic and contradictory experience through art - always a locus of freedom.

Art should remain committed to aesthetics lest it loses itself, and become itself politics and political action; for this reason it couldn't be simply any of the pictures and letters of Maikel that we all know and have seen, they should be crafted by a human hand, turned into art, to tell his story which is not only his, but also the story of the Egyptian revolution and its aftermath. Political art has become already a cul de sac for a deliberate abandonment of the aesthetic, but it is possible to act upon the political without leaving the realm of art; one example would be the writings of Susan Sontag while she was in Bosnia during the Siege of Sarajevo, directing a Bosnian version of  Beckett's "Waiting for Godot"; making a political statement and yet not leaving the realm of art.

Timing is crucial here, therefore I urge to pass this onto your friends so that as people campaign for the release of Maikel, a token of appreciation and reminder of his story will be shown in Athens and then continue to travel Europe, in this drunken boat, allowing us to reflect in deeper level than that of politics of the present about the meaning of Tahrir. If you are interested or know anybody who would, please contact me as soon as possible.

Thank you

Arie Amaya-Akkermans

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