[thingist] Pirate Cinema Berlin S08E06: 858.ma

sebastian at rolux.org sebastian at rolux.org
Wed Apr 29 13:35:35 UTC 2020

                                                                   april 29 2020
                                                                or any other day

                      please scroll all the way down for the classifieds section


The problem with "international solidarity" in times of crisis is oftentimes a 
problem of imagination. Which is why today, we invite you to imagine not the 
horrors of a global pandemic, but something entirely different: a revolution.

The revolution in question was made in Egypt in 2011, and the question is: What 
images arise when you make one, what images disappear when you succeed, what 
becomes visible when that victory turns into defeat, and what remains visible 
today? 858.ma, the online archive of Mosireen and friends, presents no answers 
to these questions, just the raw material. You'll have to find out for yourself.

The Arab Spring has been abused for all kinds of purposes, became the wet dream 
of the European Left, the casting catwalk for European institutions(1), and the 
subject of more bad documentaries and fiction films than we can list here. But 
if the revolution in Egypt has left a bad aftertaste in Egypt, then that is not 
because of projections from the outside world. It obviously sucks to put your 
life on the line, risk getting shot, raped, arrested, tortured or disappeared, 
only to end up in a situation where your life is, again, on the line every day. 
In order to have a bad time in Egypt today, you don't need Corona or Ramadan.

But having a bad time in itself isn't very exotic. On Kottbusser Tor, you don't 
need Corona or Ramadan either. What's exotic is the life-changing experience of 
taking part in a protest that turns into a revolution: how a small series of 
minor events can be sufficient to gain the offensive over the state, its police 
or army or hired goons, and what's truly exotic is what happens when the full 
force of what is normally not leaks into that vacuum, how the "other worlds 
that are possible" immediately realize themselves in the capillaries of the 
social. (The current pandemic offers small hints at such a state of neccessity, 
including a few pointers at why one shouldn't totally romanticize this state 
either.) For those who have lived it, this is often a point of no return, 
and even though from all we can tell, you're still more likely to die from a 
gunshot, or mental exhaustion years later, than to be able to sustain a 
revolution for long, this experience forms an essential part of how you become 
ungovernable for good. Of course, such a becoming requires certain talents and 
predispositions, and these are not distributed evenly. There are notable 
gender, class or ethnicity gradients, since not being subject to permanent 
harrassment is a more essential requirement for some than it is for others.

Obviously, after the revolution, you will be subject to the schadenfreude of 
countless professional besserwissers who can easily demonstrate that your 
attempts at overthrowing your government were doomed to failure. What they 
forget is that for those who lived it, their attempt to overthrow their 
government was, even if overshadowed by major hardship, a smashing success.

And one of the advantages of having an archive like 858.ma around is that is 
makes it much easier to call bullshit. It may not contain the one true story
of what really happened in Egypt in 2011, and when it presents itself as "an 
archive of resistance", that includes the sustained resistance against all 
attempts to turn this mess of a million entangled micro-stories into a bold, 
linear narrative. Still, at times it can be extremely useful to be able to 
point at footage as fact, as something that actuall happened - as opposed to 
remaining "just one side of the story" forever, or having to rely on dubious 
opinions or hazy memories. 858.ma is one of the rare instances of an archive 
that can be used in court to get people in jail, but also to make the most 
fantastic science-fiction films. (Of course, when we say "get people in 
jail", we don't mean the people who have filmed or collected the footage or are 
runnning the site, but their adversaries - how staying out of jail works is an 
entirely different issue. And when we say "science-fiction films", we don't 
claim that any of them has ever been finished, at least not to our knowledge.)

And for us, finally, the advantage of working with quite a few of the 858.mas 
for extended periods of time, in Cairo, Berlin, Bombay and elsewhere, was that 
we could develop at least some sort of respect (sometimes also some sort of 
software, but that's not the point here) for people who made a revolution and 
sustained it for a while, and such "people" are usually not revolutionaries, 
but rather normal folks like anyone else, and that "sort of recpect" can easily 
descend into friendship, which is of course nice, and a good antidote against 
the slanderous hallucinations of outlandish third-world misery that fuel part 
of the "international solidarity" machine. Of course, it totally sucks if you 
have to spend time in an Egyptian jail, or have to walk a street as a woman - 
and cars in Egypt suck big time too! - but in case this little shortlist of 
practical problems has you wondering from afar how you can transform your own 
imagination of these issues into concrete acts of solidarity on the ground in 
Egypt - then Corona and Ramadan is probably not the best time to get started.
Even though, as always, and rather obviously: "Now is better than never". (2)

(1) among those who created the most irreparable destruction in the Cairo 
scene, in the shortest amount of time possible, https://www.gold.ac.uk/ and 
https://www.documenta.de/ come to mind

(2) see https://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-0020/


P.S.: One of our Cairo collaborators got lucky, has chosen the not-so-easy way 
out, will arrive in Berlin on Sunday, inshallah, and is looking for a nice and 
affordable apartment, preferably in Kreuzberg or Neuk├Âlln, with enough space to 
accomodate a partner and a small child, who are coming as well. (Now that the 
Berlin rental market has entered its well-deserved depression, and AirBnB has 
finally discovered the true meaning of the term "disruption", such a place 
shouldn't be too hard to find.) So if you got that flat for them, please reply 
to this e-mail with details, and we're going to put you in touch. Thanks!


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