May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth


In development for nearly a decade, May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth examines how people bear witness to and narrate experiences of violence, loss, displacement, and forced migration through performance. The title of the project is lifted from a translation of writer Roberto Bolaño’s “Infrarealist Manifesto,” written in Mexico City in 1976. It is at once an indictment of the presiding artistic community’s complacency and an urgent call that artists remain attentive: “May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth. May it never kiss us.”

May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth begins with a collection of online recordings of unknown figures (mostly from Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Yemen) performing through song, music and dance either in the intimacy of their homes, or on a street, in a square, at wedding or on a beach having just found refuge.  It takes these moments as the basis for new performances developed with electronic musicians and a dancer in Palestine, Makimakkuk, Haykal, Julmud and Rima Baransai, responding to specific gestures, music or texts from the archive.  May amnesia examines the place and significance of voice in the form of song and oral poetry and body in the form of dance and gesture as a political act of embodiment and becoming in a moment marked by various forms of violence against entire living fabrics. The project repositions these moments as a material witness inscribed through body, movement, rhythm and voice to the destruction of everyday life that is occurring or has occurred. Equally it is also one of the most critical ways in which these fractured communities are resisting their own erasure and laying claim to space, self and community once more. Often quite literally embodying and performing through their bodies and voice within and against these violences through renewed rituals of movement and song.   At times splintering, even if momentarily, the various regimes of power that have rendered them uncounted, inaudible.

Ritual and body are broken, still bodies congregate and appear, demand to be counted, to be seen. Uncounted bodies counter their own erasures, appearing on a street, on a link, on a feed. Performing and activating a collective body and reclaiming their right to spaces, in a way that entangles material bodily presence and virtual afterlives.  Yet these virtual afterlives are just as equally marked by precarity, instability, and disappearance as their material counterpart.  May Amnesia repositions the figures in the collected and new material as quasi-actual, quasi-virtual actors of their lives and ‘time’.  Casting these figures as characters in an unusual script that thinks through the relationship between violence, performativity, the body, virtuality and ‘future’ time.  The work delves into the complexities of never ending records of the everyday amidst the amnesia and erasure that marks our time. Inviting us to consider the forms of entanglement between the destruction of bodies and the erasure of images, and the conditions under which these same bodies and images might once again reappear both materially and digitally.

May Amnesia
will take on multiple forms that intersect and overlap; an online project, an installation and a series of public performances. 

We would like to thank the incredible performers Makimakkuk, Haykal, Julmud and Rima Baransai.
Deep thanks to everyone who worked on this project.

All text written by the artists translated by Jumana Kayyali and May Jayyusi.

Transcription and translation of songs:
Iraq songs transcription: Ali Aldallal
Iraq and Syria song translations: Linda Al-Bairmani
Palestine and Syria song transcriptions: Hurriyah Ziadah and Qusai Saifi
Palestine and Syria song translations: Jumana Kayyali
Second translation: Nariman Yousef and Osama Esber.

Research and Production:
Yara Abbas Research Assistance
Aline Khoury Producer
Yara Abbas and Battoul Qadi, Production Assistance.
Raouf Haj Yahiya 3rd Camera
Sami Zarour 4th Camera on group filming.
Yara Abbas additional Sound Recording.
Hussein Arouri additional Sound Recording.

This multi-part online platform is part of Dia’s Artist Web Projects series.
May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth
will be presented as a subsequent exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art’s Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Studio. 

Ruanne Abou-Rahme and Basel Abbas

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