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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

[EXHIBITION / INTERVIEW] In the Future, They Ate From the Finest Porcelain (2016) by Larissa Sansour & Søren Lind – part of Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science-Fiction til 1 Septembre 2017 @ Barbican


Review - Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science-Fiction here

In the Future, They Ate From the Finest Porcelain (2016) by Larissa Sansour & Søren Lind

Festival-style exhibition Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science-Fiction at Barbican is divided in four sections. The third one, Brave New Worlds, might be a darker vision of our society. We can witness a number of film and television clips from the likes of Alex ProyasDark City in the 90’s; Patrick McGoohanThe Prisoner in the 60’s; as well as architectural plans and designs from Ben Wheatley’s recent blockbuster High Rise.
Located in a separate black room in the foyer, In the Future, They Ate From the Finest Porcelain is a delicate and highly poetry charged piece on the visual and text scale.
This 28 minutes film is written by Danish children book author and philosophy writer on mind language and understanding Søren Lind. His partner in crime for this project is Palestinian interdisciplinary, immersed in current political dialogue who utilises film, photography, sculpture Larissa Sansour.

Sansour and Lind’ film explores the role of myth for history, fact and national identity using sci-fi, archaeology and politics.

This exhibition is not celebrating sexism, but one has to put context into it its genre as a past reputation for addressing to boys, men and objectifying women, I wanted to ask a few questions to Larissa about her participation and her work.

Sci-fi world has a long history of being addressed to boys / men as well as being pretty sexists when featuring women. How did you feel to be part of this exhibition?
      
I think it is precisely because of this conception of science fiction, that I was drawn to explore it more. In most of my work, I try to accentuate tensions of expectations, be it gender or geographically related. I am interested in taunting the clichés in the art context as well. I like this crossover of disciplines and consider working with highly polished visuals and in a discipline that one does necessarily associate with fine arts to be an important formal gesture.

You have many references to past or / and future with complete absence of present time. Yet present is omnipresent because you / the narrator use/s it to mislead the future. What’s your relationship with “Present”? Do you feel you don’t exist? / You are not allowed to exist?

It is very hard to address trauma or trace it in history. For Palestinians this trauma has become part of their identity and I find this an important aspect to explore, in order to begin the next chapter. The Palestinian psyche is closely tied to the Nakba of 1948 and a constant deferral of a real Palestinian state. The Palestinian character seems to be hung up in waiting, so the presence is very hard to pinpoint, unless one addresses the past and future simultaneously. In the film, temporality is meant to be anachronistic, because only in this dialectic territory, can the Palestinian singularity be truly examined, I believe.

How did you get into sci-fi?
     
It seems a bit strange to contextualise the Middle East in a sci-fi context, but the more surreal the situation got on the ground, the harder it became to just resort to documentation. My work has slowly moved from more straightforward political documentary to a more fictionalised realm. I think that move was necessary to escape the stalemate of the political rhetoric when it comes to the reality of present day occupied Palestine. I need to create my own universe in which I can use my own terminology rather than having to succumb to a vocabulary that dictates the same repetitive outcomes to the various problematic questions regarding the Middle East.

I feel that I can tackle those subjects with more honesty and directness within the sci-fi genre. Sci-fi also carries within itself a sense of nostalgia. All of our predictions for the future and its feel are those conceived in early futurist works and I feel this sits well formally with the Palestinian question. Palestine always projects a future state, yet still lives in the past, remembering the Nakba (the catastrophe of 1948) and yet the present is in a limbo. I feel this mimics our idea of modernism, and more precisely futurism in this instant, in the science fiction genre.

The psychiatrist (your sister) -> Sometimes it feels like she is the narrator’s hypnotiser. Why the confusion if any?

The psychiatrist’s identity or persona is supposed to be a bit unclear and in turn cast a shadow of doubt as to the mental health of the main character, the rebel leader. The viewer is meant to oscillate between seeing her as a psychiatrist and a journalist with an access to a rare secret interview with the heroine. I think the confusion is there to create a mistrust of what the main character is saying, what is real and what is made up. In the end her dreams are interwoven with her actual endeavours, questioning the premise by which we accept historical narrative.

There are a few references to “digging”; “excavating”; “archaeology” “searching deep down” in relation to the concrete world. Is it a metaphor about your own personal search or about a population search? Trying to understand your own people? What happened to them?
By extension, it’s like your sister death has no longer any importance because her death is part of a global issue?

It is almost impossible to talk about the personal tragedy without talking about the collective damage and distress that the entire Palestinian population has experienced. Throughout the film, the rebel leader tries to navigate between her own personal loss and the grief and erasure of her entire people. Archaeology is used as a tool to reclaim belonging to the space that Palestinians are slowly and methodically denied access to. In that way, archaeology plays more than one part in the film, it is instrumentalised towards the rebels political end and it functions as one layer in our historical narrative. Excavation is also a great metaphor for delving deeper into psychological analysis.

Can you explain “deeper in apocalypse, an accelerated microcosm”?
       
I think this is in reference to climate and political disasters that are forecast for the future globally. Only in the case of Palestine, these almost apocalyptical changes are almost already happening in a small geographical space and happening fast. The methods used in cementing occupation are causing a great human tragedy and environmental disasters.

There is a constant voyage between concrete and abstract, reason and reverie... “Rulers have long since removed us from their equation. I’m adding new numbers, messing with their maths” etc... It’s very abrupt and condemning, can you talk a bit about it?

Throughout the film, the rebel group tries to intervene with the accepted current historical narrative. The fact that they are willing to go to extreme or surreal lengths only testifies to the impossibility of the task at hand, but also reflects the fiction of their own reality. 
When the rebel leader says, “rulers have long since removed us from their equation”, she is directly referencing the mechanisms of occupation, where Palestinians are not even considered subjects by the state of Israel. She is also referencing the problematic of revolutions in general, the oppressed only gets noticed by the ruling power when they rebel, if they don’t protest, they become invisible.

What are your references in sci-fi?

My references, I guess, are a bit less directly sci-fi. I am not a sci-fi buff, but I think using sci-fi in a Middle Eastern context subverts the genre. Hence it also reverses expectation of gender roles. Filmmakers that I feel influence my work are Kubrick, Tarkovsky and Bergman.


More info on the exhibition: http://www.barbican.org.uk/intotheunknown/


Sybille Castelain sybillecastelain@yahoo.co.uk

Monday, 26 June 2017

21 juin 2017 : Day of Rage #GrenfellTower

21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain


Le 18 juin 2017, deux jours après mon premier passage à la Grenfell Tower, je suis retournée à Ladbroke Grove. C’est au détour de la Bramley Street à l’Ouest 10 (W10) de Londres que je découvre une invitation placardée sur un panneau publicitaire près de la station de métro Latimer Road Station : Movement For Justice (MFJ) organise une manifestation Jour de Rage (Day Of Rage) le 21 juin.
Il s’agit de manifester contre un meurtre social comme il se pratiquait sans honte à l’époque victorienne ! Même si le flyer responsabilise le gouvernement actuel de Theresa May, les logements sociaux n’ont jamais été une priorité sécuritaire sous les autres gouvernements Tory ou Labour.

La manifestation invite donc le peuple à marcher pour que justice soit faite aux victimes de l’incendie qui a ravagé la Grenfell Tower ; qu’elles soient relogées dans le quartier royal de Kensington & Chelsea (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) ; que les sans-papiers obtiennent un statut légal de séjour.  
Il s’agit également de lutter contre les injustices qui gangrènent le pays : injustices sociales, raciales et une pauvreté galopante.

21 juin, jour symbolique puisque la reine fait son discours parlementaire. Un jour où elle choisira de ne pas arriver en calèche comme à son habitude depuis 1974 ; jour aussi où elle remplacera sa couronne et sa tenue cérémoniale par une robe et un chapeau aux teintes du drapeau Européen.

Le lieu de RDV est à Shepherd’s Bush (mon quartier pendant une dizaine d’années), un peu plus à l’ouest que Ladbroke Grove. Les organisateurs insistent fortement à ce que la marche jusqu’au Parliament se passe dans le calme afin de faire passer les messages : marre des stigmates envers la religion musulmane ou les immigrés, marre du mauvais traitement des handicapés, marre des oppressions sociales, marre des medias au service du gouvernement minimisant l’agonie et l’austérité que souffrent les gens.
Le peuple (peu nombreux) est ensuite invité à s’exprimer sur les cartons et peintures laissés au sol. Une population interraciale à tendance jeune avec un petit groupe de personnes plus matures.

Peu après 13h, la marche commence sous une chaleur de 34ºC et une police encerclant le groupe qui s’est épaissi jusqu'à 500 personnes selon elle.

Alors que la foule scande son leitmotiv “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now” (Qu’est-ce qu’on veut ? Une justice. Quand la voulons-nous? Maintenant) et “Justice for Grenfell” (Justice pour Grenfell), on entend parfois s’immiscer un hymne à l’honneur de Jeremy Corbyn sous un air de Seven Nation Army des White Stripes.

Malgré une crainte de récupération dans le but de faire dégénérer la manif’, elle se déroule dans la conviction et la bonne humeur. Deux personnes sont cependant écartées par la police entre Downing Street et Le Parliament.

C’est à Downing Street que les organisateurs révèlent aux manifestants la relocation des victimes de Grenfell dans des appartements de luxe à Kensington. A Parliament Square, là où la statue de Churchill semble se confronter à Big Ben, les gens continuent à revendiquer leurs priorités, à s’exprimer, à s’unir. Il est déjà 4 O’clock.

Pendant cette randonnée urbaine, une personne de la police me dit être contente d’encercler la marche, une façon de participer aux revendications. D’autres veulent en finir au plus vite. Peut-être parce qu’ils s’étaient levés à cinq heure du mat’ ? Peut-être à cause des risques d’attentats ? Peut-être à cause de leurs suréquipements sous la chaleur ?
Il faut rappeler que la police, les pompiers, les infirmiers… tous ces corps de métiers dont le travail est de venir en aide ont eux aussi eu leur budget réduit.

Moi qui ne possède aucun vase chez moi pour n’aimer que les coquelicots, je trouve que le mois de juin à Londres a vu pousser beaucoup trop de fleurs sur le bitume.

En rentrant chez moi, le 21 juin, après avoir marché dans tous les sens pour capturer des moments, Lamomali de Matthieu Chedid m’avait été envoyé par l’Institut Français. Une bien jolie coïncidence.

 Shepherd's Bush
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Holland Park Avenue
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain
Notting Hill Gate
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain
Queensway
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Hyde Park Corner (Marble Arch side)
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Park Lane
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Park Lane
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain
  Park Lane
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Super chic peeps looking down
 Piccadilly
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Piccadilly
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Trafalgar Square
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Downing Street
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Downing Street
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Parliament Square
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain


Parliament Square
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Parliament Square
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Parliament Square
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain


Parliament Square - Churchill statue
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Parliament Square
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain

Stand Up To Racism
Parliament Square
21 juin 2017 © Sybille Castelain


Sybille Castelain sybillecastelain@yahoo.co.uk

Friday, 16 June 2017

Grenfell Tower: a walk through a community in West London

Message from London Fire Brigade (LFB)
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain

Last summer I set up a goal of photographing tower blocks / high rise / multistoried building in London. I trekked east, south, north and west. I had a crush on anything brutalism, so I trekked even further. London is a jungle for housing. Some are new buildings, some are derelict and others were supposed to be knocked down, but got listed instead.

If you want to volunteer or help one way or another, see pictures below or contact grenfellvolunteers@rbkc.gov.uk


Due to the fire emergency and people in need of help, I’m posting pictures first and below is my text written on 18 June. I went there on Friday 16 June and Sunday 18 June – The fire broke on 14 June 2017 – More pictures below my prose.

 hundred of people passing boxes from a site to another
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 This emergency gas work started weeks ago unrelated to the fire
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain

16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Teenager passing on boxes supporting a missing teen girl t.shirt
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Notice board with help places to go to
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Jamie Oliver has also sent some of his chefs onsite:
https://www.facebook.com/jamieoliver/photos/a.10150336718739807.354708.27994914806/10155015451079807/?type=3&theater
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Tribute place
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain

16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain


Mass on 18 June
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 A block tower opposite Grenfell Tower
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Grenfell Tower view near Latimer Road Station
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 A picture of Grenfell Tower before 14 June 2017
as pinned on the tribute wall
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Grenfell Tower on 16 June
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 A spot where goods are being delivered. 
Still many LFB and police people around
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 Grenfell Road, W11
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 The van behind is off to many spots to deliver boxes
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 The car of a missing man
16 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain



On 16 June, I made my way to Ladbroke Grove and bumped into a friend who is usually involved in the music scene (friend with some ex The Smiths etc). Let’s call her / him Val. So Val, a resident near Grenfell Tower for two decades was very angry and hardly slept: the money spent on the tower renovation was apparently less than its initial budget, plus the building protection was some cheap material and unsafe.
Val has been helping since the early hours of the fire! On Thursday 15 in the night, because of Ramadan, Muslims set tables and food to share with survivors.

When I arrived on site, mainly cordoned off, the first striking thing was human faces plastered on walls, bus stops, pubs, shops with a “headline” MISSING. I took pictures. Later I chose not to publish them in a frontal way but from far.

In that chain of solidarity, when they were passing boxes, I noticed a mix of population. That very mix that attracted me when I lived nearby in the 90’s up to 2004. I always had to go to Ladbroke Grove for its market, its fine vintage shops (mainly gone now), its young designers, its music scene (Drum & Bass was my favourite), its grain shop food that you could take away and eat it at Mau Mau next door, its experimental film progs... its cultural mixed crowd: from Arabic to West Indies, from white European to the Asian descent peeps. It was and still is somehow vibrating.
In that chain, I noticed a teen boy harbouring an A4 print of paper of a missing girl. I wondered if he knew her, if they were classmates, school friends, neighbours, family...
I took pictures of boxes being passed and in between vans, I asked if I could take a picture of him with that image glued to his t.shirt. He said “no”. I understood and went “No worries”. I departed and he waved at me to come back. There was not much time as another set of boxes started to wave in people’s arms. There was good humour happening. I switched back my camera and as the lens pointed in his direction, he dropped his smile, got his arms behind his back and looked at me in defiance. There was one click before a box reached him! I said “thank you” and he replied “thank very much”.
It was that moment when two human beings understand each other. It didn’t matter if he knew her at all actually. After all, it was about a symbol and an understanding of that gravity of life. Something he will now carry all his life. Something that will give him a good reason to be angry. Enough is enough!

I trekked all around, took pictures, talked to people or rather they talked to me. I didn’t belong to any TV crew and I was perhaps more approachable in their eyes?
By the car of a missing man, an older man from North Africa came up to me and showed me a picture of his friend Hamid on his smartphone. His son told me his father saw the tower burning from his tower in Paddington. He took a day off to support his father. There is no picture of Hamid anywhere he said. He was a single man living on the top floor.  I tried to be clumsily positive and sent my prayers to them. They said “thanks very much for talking to us”. I didn’t move. I couldn’t. I smiled weirdly. I thought it wouldn’t be a matter of healing to those who are being directly traumatised, but the close ones, those whose life is being changed... they will also have to adapt.
I stood there by the car with a journalist from The Independent. She was typing, I was thinking of the beautiful animation by Michaël Dudok de Wit, The Red Turtle.
I crossed the road and asked the policeman if the figure of dead people was known. “people on the top floor didn’t make it”. Out of curiosity I asked if there were hundreds of people living in the tower. He nodded. Hundreds of people could be dead? He didn’t know for sure but his face and body language seem to agree. He added that the tower will be knocked down at some point.

On my way home, I picked up the Evening Standard in the street. I did some shopping near my Hackney home and the shop assistant asked to see the newspaper. She knew some people in the block. Are they ok? I ventured. They are all dead... the whole family she said.
Once at home, I checked my “Tower blocks list to photograph” and the Grenfell Tower was on it: a brutalism tower block design of 24 floors from late 60’s; 67 metres tall housing up to 600 working class people; planned to be demolished in 2014 but renovated two years ago.


Today, 18 June, I went back. There was some confusion, rumours, sadness. The tribute wall has grown: flowers, candles, teddy bears, messages on many walls and so many pictures of missing people. Some people might have chosen to stay in with their pets.
The whole area seems to be a desolate place, a cemetery of thought... a ghost village with that now blackened tower supervising the neighbourhood, still standing in defiance, resisting, deeply wounded... once sheltering hundreds of families and now being reduced to be a tourist attraction!

I heard kids telling their parents they knew those kids on the A4 papers glued on lampposts... I spoke to a 70 years old mother from Liverpool visiting her daughter who worked with many families in the tower, including the Boucair family. That very family who were friends with my local shop assistant. A mum Nadia, a dad and their three children Mierna (13), Fatima (11), Zeinab (3).
The lady’s daughter is sheltering some survivors. How long are people going to sleep in churches, community centres, halls, hotels? She guesses about two months...


It’s growling out there and this is not a single community but many standing together!

 18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain


18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain

 18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
Tons of toys, clothes, food  
18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
 18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain
18 June 2017 © Sybille Castelain


23 June, a new poster of a dog who managed to escape the fire but is now somewhere in the streets of Ladbroke Grove, if you found him:



Sybille Castelain sybillecastelain@yahoo.co.uk