In Tangier, we invite conference attendees to step out of the conference bubble and into the city of Tangier. Each small group will travel with a guide to a different part of the city–we don’t yet know what serendipitous experiences will find you. Each small group will land in a different Internet cafe where you will have an opportunity to share ideas virtually with small groups of colleagues in other parts of the world. We will then return to a common site to share tea and dessert and compare notes about their experiences of the various parts of the city and the contents of their conversations.
We hope this project will address conference themes as manifest in this ostensibly synchronous media that nonetheless draws attention to the differences in temporalities, spatial contexts and cultural contexts. While in our last performance, Wish You Were Here, we explored the often uncomfortable frustrations of intermediality, in Tangier, we prefer to emphasize the pleasures of mediated companionship. Together we will use a technological network to connect two existing social networks, charging each with a performativity that is intensely localized yet global. While much attention is given to the revolutionary or mind-numbing potential of social media, we wish to celebrate the small-scale aesthetic and intellectual encounters they make possible. We hope to elicit a moment of relaxed cultural contemplation, a consideration of place from an attitude similar to that which Brecht imagined for his “smoker’s theatre.”
As important as the mediated connections in this project are, the ‘unmediated’ experience of the city (in traveling to and from a location remote from the conference) is vital; a significant part of this project is the the construction of a hand-made, idiosyncratic map, a map that reflects not official tourist destinations but rather the city as seen through the eyes of locals and visitors. Such map-making is part of our engagement as artists with unfamiliar places.
I’ve just finished having a conversation with Chiel Kattenbelt. I was expecting to be contacted by someone I’ve never met from North Africa, but this experience was itself interesting, since Chiel and I have corresponded, but never met – we were both in Utrecht at the PSi conference last week, of course, but it’s only when I saw his photograph on Skype (he had no video, though he could see me on video) that I realised who it was – a person I had sat near to during several different events. And now I know why he kept going in an out of the room in Utrecht! (Chiel was one of the organisers of the conference).
Anyway, we talked a bit about our respective locations and munched licorice. He didn’t have any baklava, so I enjoyed the taste while he sat in the location. It was nice to have quite a meandering chat – we didn’t dwell on anything for too long, and were just starting to talk about the Utrecht conference in detail when his handlers decided it was time for him to go.
Since I had no video of Chiel, I google-mapped him while we were talking, though for a while I could only locate ‘Tangier’-related places in the US, rather than in Morocco, a limitation I’ve never experienced before. The closest I can seem to get in Tangier itself is a nearby golf club. So I hope Chiel is now taking it easy on the green.
It’s a grey and rainy Sunday afternoon here at my mum’s house in Southwater, West Sussex, England. It was nice to have an easy-going conversation with a voice from a sunnier place; a voice I could finally match to a face I’ve seen before.
A solitary performance in Helsinki (5-6 pm local time)
At the moment I am sitting at my computer with the Skype page open, eagerly waiting for a call, a sign, a beep or something. I am drinking Moroccan tea from the big mug I received and find it quite pleasurable. I have not touched the sweets yet, since I am hoping that could be done together as part of our Skype performance.
As opposed to what I planned I am not sitting in my office at the Theatre Academy, where the Skype equipment works very well, but in my private studio on Harakka Island off Helsinki, where I work on my own projects, mostly on weekends. The reason is not that I had to be here on the island at 3 PM local time, due to a project called Year of the Rabbit – With a Juniper. (That project can be followed on a bilingual blog, http://aa-katajankanssa.blogspot.com or accessed directly from the web page of the artist community on the island, http://www.harakka.fi.) No, the real reason is the fact that the Theatre Academy is now working with summer schedule, and is closed on summer weekends. The internet connection on the island is excellent; the problem is my tiny laptop, which does not allow me to use its inbuilt webcam for Skype. The processing power is not enough, they say.
Nevertheless I am eagerly waiting for a call. Although I cannot show a map of the island through the webcam I could perhaps describe the location, just south of the centre of Helsinki. It is quite an exotic place, really, a former chemical research laboratory of the Finnish armed forces, and now housing more than twenty artists as well as the centre for the environment of Helsinki city, with lots of children coming for nature excursions and so on.
I am not giving up hope yet, but feel impatient enough to taste the Dutch liquorice – which is superb! Finnish people love strong liquorice flavoured with ammonium and call it “salmiakki”. I did not choose that as my local flavour, however, since I do not really like it myself, but instead dried bilberries (Vaccinium Myrtillus), yes that is what they call it on the package. I would have called them blue berries, but perhaps that is something else.
Now the local time is 17.35. Half of the hour has passed. So now I decide to taste the chocolate as well. And it tastes very nice, too. I took some snapshots of my desk with the sweets with my camera phone, they might function as evidence that I did prepare for the encounter. I was a little bit scared in advance, not knowing whether the connection would work and whether a discussion would be possible at all. But now, when it seems that the whole event might not take place, I am already slightly disappointed. Well, it is too early to be disappointed, yet. Punctuality is a northern invention. Already in Mediterranean countries half an hour sooner or later does not make such a big difference. So perhaps I should keep waiting…
I have never visited Tangier. As a young student I visited Morocco by inter-rail (cheap train ticket for students), in august 1974, I think, but arrived from Spain to Tetouan rather than Tangier and like many young westerners of my age I was most interested in the mountains were kif was smoked, of course. Arriving in Tetouan was very exciting, it was my first time outside Europe and it seemed like engaging in time travel, really. To arrive in Tangier would probably, even in those years, have been a totally different and a much more cosmopolitan experience. – Ten more minutes of “performance time”. I am eating my second Moroccan biscuit and already reminicensing about sensory delights of days gone by.
Well, I should perhaps add that I recently read an article written by a Moroccan scholar in Contesting Performance (McKenzie, Roms & Wee 2010) and found it really interesting. What I remember is that the idea of performance is very well suited to the historical local understanding of performance as narration whereas theatre as representation and spectacle is an idea introduced by the French, and contemporary forms are hybrids between them. Well, I should really look up the title of the article, and the writer… (And I did; the writer is Khalid Amine.)
So, it is now 17.55 and I am enjoying my last Moroccan biscuit, the one with the almond decoration. The sun is still high in the sky, here the days are getting longer and longer this time of the year and I feel like working a little bit before I return to the mainland. But of course I will stay online with Skype for a few more minutes. Perhaps other people had better luck with their connections.
Whoever tried to reach me, or if they tried to reach me, I guess their disappointment is somewhat similar to mine. What first felt almost like a relief, so much easier not having to engage in a meeting with somebody you do not know, soon turned into true disappointment. However, thanks for trying. And thanks for an exciting experience including a nice tea break. Better luck next time…
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