Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Beirut, Zoukak, and the question of settlement

An incredibly rich and inspiring couple of days in Beirut, working with Brian, Maya and the rest of the Zoukak company.  In fact, the Zoukak company plus  - as, for the first time, in this workshop Zoukak has invited a number of other Lebanese performers to join the process.  Given that they are normally a very tight ensemble of six people, this is adventurous to say the least - there are at a minimum three layers in the collaboration.

The fact of collaboration inevitably raises questions around ownership (I mean in artistic and cultural, not legal terms) and representation.  Maya feels that some of the work created in response to the stimuli Brian and I have suggested has been in danger of perpetuating some cultural clichés, and that this may be the result of a subconscious shift which occurs when Lebanese people represent themselves to Western eyes.  It becomes "cultural" in the wrong way.  I hadn't felt this about the material - but perhaps that's all the more reason why she should be wary: orientalism and exoticism are the bane of the sort of intercultural work we attempt in Border Crossings.  The fact that this, and other key issues, are being clearly voiced in the workshop is very heartening - we have a genuinely open dialogue here, with an awareness of the broader issues with which our collaboration inevitably engages.

The starting point for our work has been The Iliad - the great epic of a long war.  Brian has been particularly interested in the end of the poem, when King Priam humbles himself to kiss the hand of Achilles, and so achieves a measure of uneasy reconciliation.  Before we left England, he also said to me that he wondered whether this would actually work as a model here - and it turns out that he was quite right to doubt it.  Forgiveness and self-abasement do not seem to be possible to contemplate in spaces where there has not yet been any measure of accountability, and where the conflicts are fed and fanned by forces very remote from the immediate actors on the ground.  Somehow we need to move our work on so that it addresses this level of complexity.

Well - it's only the third day!

No comments: