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Lara Baladi: Alone, Together

January 25, 2013

A video artist draws on news footage, historical videos, Fela Kuti, Slavoj Žižek, Lewis Carroll, and others to reflect on Tahrir Square two years after #Jan25.

By arrangement with Creative Time Reports.

During the #Jan25 revolution—the hashtag used by online activists during the 2011 Egyptian uprising—the world watched as Egyptians toppled their president, Hosni Mubarak, and transformed Tahrir Square into a vibrant place for demonstrations of social solidarity and political struggle.

Just as the YouTube video “Tiananmen-Cairo Courage in Cairo” went viral, a friend posted on Facebook a speech Jean Paul Sartre had delivered to an audience of striking French autoworkers 40 years earlier. As the political tension grew, more and more images and videos of a packed Tahrir Square appeared on YouTube and other websites. They echoed footage from other uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the sights and sounds of a vast array of past social movements. It was as though Sartre was protesting with us in Tahrir.

In between participating in and producing documentation of #Jan25, I started an ongoing archival project called “Vox Populi.” I gathered and organized, in chronological order, videos, articles and photographs related to the events unfolding on the ground while also collecting material on major events taking place around the world since January 25th. Parallel to this archive, I researched and amassed footage that resonated with the spirit of Tahrir Square, from historical footage to philosophical speeches, to banned cartoons, and more.

Issues of police brutality, totalitarianism, democracy, a new constitution, censorship, violence against women, documentation of a revolution in the digital age, and watching the virtual world turn into reality were addressed repeatedly. At the time, processing it all was impossible.

Two years later, Alone, Together… In Media Res has emerged as one of the first pieces derived from the archive. It is a narrative that weaves video excerpts together to reflect on many of the questions raised during the Arab uprisings. These revolutions signal the beginning of the unraveling of a major historical period, in the middle of which I, like Alice in Wonderland, fell into a hole: YouTube.

Today, Tahrir Square has lost much of its impact as a public space for changing history. The demands of the revolution have yet to be met. Alone… Together, in Media Res attempts to find, and define, within historical processes, the innate quality that impels human beings to pursue freedom.

The above video, Alone, Together… In Media Res (Latin ‘in the midst of things’), Egypt 2012, is an excerpt of a 42-minute, three-channel video installation by Lara Baladi adapted and edited for Creative Time Reports.

RESEARCH Lara Baladi
ARCHIVE videos, articles, photos Lara Baladi and Amina Diab
MAX/MSP/JITTER PROGRAMMING and EDITING Michael Carter
SPECIAL THANKS TO Florian Ebner, Moukhtar Kocache, Cynthia Madansky, Amira Ghazalla, Ashish Ghadiali and Amina Diab


CREDITS FOR THE NARRATIVE VOICE
Alice in Wonderland – Caterpillar,” an excerpt from Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Jiddu Krishna Murti -Qui Êtes Vous?” Third Question & Answer meeting, Saanen 1981.
Slavoj Zizek on Arab Revolution, uploaded by Leftvisionberlin. Original Source: Unknown.
Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator’s Final Speech,” an excerpt from Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940).
Snap – I’ve Got The Power.” Official Music Video by Snap (1990).
1984,” an excerpt from the film adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 directed by Michael Anderson (1956).
Malcolm X – Democracy is Hypocrisy,” from Great Speeches Vol. 16.
Black Out – Khaled Saeed – Anti Mubarak Protest Video,” a short documentary shot by Mohamed El Hadidi, edited by Mayye Zayed and subtitled by Sara Hatem.
1984 – Winston’s Torture,” an excerpt from the film adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 directed by Michael Anderson (1956).
Alice in Wonderland or Who is Guy Debord excerpt 2,” directed by Robert Cauble (2003).
La Société du Spectacle 3,” an excerpt from La Société du Spectacle (1973), directed by Guy Debord.
Black Out – Khaled Saeed – Anti Mubarak Protest Video,” a short documentary shot by Mohamed El Hadidi, edited by Mayye Zayed and subtitled by Sara Hatem.
Violence as a quest for identity (1977),” Marshall McLuhan Speaks, Centennial 2011.
Hey Joe – Patti Smith,” released as a single on Mer Records in 1974.
Fela Kuti – Music is the Weapon” Music is the Weapon (1982), directed by Jean-Jacques Flori and Stéphane Tchalgadjieff.
Silly Symphony Egyptian Melodies 1,” animated short produced by Walt Disney and directed by Wilfred Jackson (1931).
“Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator’s Final Speech,” an excerpt from Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940).
Meet Asmaa Mahfouz and the vlog that Helped Spark the Revolution,” translated by Iyad El-Baghdadi, with subtitles by Ammara Alavi.
“Al Nas Betmoot Baheboo,” unable to locate the web link as of September 22, 2012.
Mai 68 en BD” Animation: Alexander Franc. Soundtrack: Nicolas Fillonneau. Published by éditions Berg International.
Nawal El-Saadawi: 50 Pounds and a Chicken to Beat Us,” Newsweek Video.
Marshall McLuhan – TV news coverage (1976)” Marshall McLuhan Speaks, Centennial 2011.

Egyptian-Lebanese artist Lara Baladi was born in Beirut, raised in Cairo and Paris, and educated in London. She has lived in Egypt since 1997. Baladi publishes and exhibits worldwide. Her body of work encompasses photography, video, visual montages/collages, installations, architectural constructions, tapestries and even perfume. Baladi received a Japan Foundation Fellowship in 2003 to research manga and anime in Tokyo. Among other global locations, she participated in the VASL residency program in Karachi, Pakistan in 2010. The breadth and variety of Baladi’s international experience influences her use of iconography drawn from numerous cultures.

Borg el Amal (Tower of Hope), an ephemeral construction and sound installation, won the Grand Nile Award at the 2008/2009 Cairo Biennale. The Donkey Symphony, Borg el Amal’s sound component, was performed by the Kiev Kamera Orchestra at the first Kiev Biennial in 2012.

During the 2011 Egyptian uprising, Baladi co-founded two media initiatives: Radio Tahrir and Tahrir Cinema. Both projects were inspired and informed by the 18 days that toppled Mubarak’s leadership. Tahrir Cinema served as a public platform to build and share a video archive on and for the revolution.

Baladi is a member of the Arab Image Foundation since its creation in 1997. She curated the artist residency Fenenin el Rehal (Nomadic Artists) in the Libyan Desert in 2006 and participated in workshops and conferences around the world. Baladi is represented by the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo and IVDE Gallery in Dubai.

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