One of the troubling questions of the last months that Bob and I have been discussing is: What the hell are we coming in Lebanon for? What is the point of coming to Beirut to show to the Lebaneses the bombing of their cities and the corpse of their death children, things they have been experiencing in real life? Are we here just to create a hot profile to the piece and make it easier to sell to promoters. Those are both surprising and unsurprising questions.
As I said in an earlier post, when the bombing of Lebanon started last summer, it was obvious for both Bob and I that we could not let that pass without assessing it in our work. It was not as much a question of political position and analysis about the historical situation of the Middle East, it was first a visceral reaction to a situation of madness, to the bloody and destructive evidence of how crazy our world have become for such things to happen. And how dangerous it was? And not as a reaction to something terrible that is happening far away over there but as something very personal, immediate, that concerns us intimately, about which we bear some responsibility. At least I am speaking for myself. It felt very important, unavoidable. Along the same lines, when we received the e-mail from Sharif Sehnaoui, renewing the invitation to come perform Living Cinema at Irtijal, it was very spontaneous for Bob to say it was top priority for us to come perform our new piece in Beyrouth. I totally agreed with that. So at the beginning of this story, there was what I can only describe as a movement of the hearth. Then things became less obvious. On the one hand, there was the question about the internal political instability of Lebanon, the risk that a new civil war would start again and the even greater risk that something happens elsewhere in the Middle East, like an American attack on Iran, that could really destabilize the country. It could have happened that the second anniversary of the assassination of Hariri would trigger something bad. Actually the trip was confirmed only a few weeks ago.
On the other hand, there was all this questioning about the motive and rational of coming here with our art. It is an irony of History that what Sharif knew about us was Bob’s piece on the war in ex Yugoslavia (The Yugoslavia Suite) to which I was not associated, and that he was somehow hoping for some kind of follow up to that piece. At the time, Bob first went to ex-Yugoslavia to perform that piece before touring it around the world and there he got mixed and sometimes bitter reactions about the piece. Some people got angry at him for coming in ex-Yugoslavia to show them images of the war they had been suffering through. What was the point? They knew all that too well. So why come here and show to Lebanese images of a war they suffered through, images that they know too well. More on this later.