Sunday, 13 February 2011

The Right Stuff Almost

Hey hey Internet!

So re my last post, in case you have been living under a rock or are signalling this blog from another planet or a satellite, (in which case, cool!) the Egyptian people won. Thank frickin' goodness. We can all feel a little bit better about being human and being in the world and what four million people can do. For now.

In other news, I had a rollicking time this week at the annual RSA State of the Arts Conference where my lovely co-director Andy Field was speaking about Innovation in Theatre. Excellent stuff, and his also happened to be the best panel in my humble opinion. One thing that panel really brought home for me was the importance of visionary curators and producers. Artists have been and and will always be making visionary work on their own time, but without a producer or curator with the vision to platform them in some way, be it by buying one of their paintings, offering them space to perform, or paying for their first symphony, we won't ever know they exist. Those who ran the panels that day were desperate to avoid talk of funding, lest the conference descend into some kind of artsy whinge-fest. But how do you talk about risk without talking about money? Artists do take a risk when they make experimental work, but equally curators take a huge risk by supporting that work, and perhaps what we really need to be discussing in these belt-tightening times is not only how to continue to support artists to make this kind of risky work, but how to support and encourage curators and funders to programme and platform it?

Anywho, a lot of interesting thinking done around the entire event. Andy, Laura McDermott from the Fierce Festival, and academic and artist Hannah Nicklin had also organised a wonderful "Flash Conference", where in a rather Guerilla fashion artists got up during coffee breaks and answered some tough questions about work and how to continue making it. Considering how few actual artists spoke at the event this was mighty interesting, and tucked away in a corner somehow felt appropriate. A definite highlight was Lucy Ellinson's answer to the provocation "How do we involve art in mass protest?" Lucy staged a miniature sit-in in a sea of somewhat awkward networking. It was a definite fan favourite and unsurprisingly confirmed my unending respect and admiration for her politics and performance.

Oh my gosh, did I just blog about an Arts Conference on a blog that is usually reserved for hilarious youtube clips only? I certainly did. What a world. Well, just to keep up my street cred, watch this, and feel free to disparage my attempt at credible blogging in the comments. (I'm looking at you, Spammy McSpammer! I just love your replica SwatChes.)

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Why the Egyptian People Need to Win

The Egyptian people have spoken and they have spoken decisively. They have spoken for change. Nearly this exact wording was used by John McCain in his concession speech after Barack Obama won the election. “The American people have spoken and they’ve spoken decisively.” He said. “They have spoken for change.” In many ways Barack Obama’s presidency has been a disappointment – although his people spoke decisively, he has not, or perhaps he has been silenced in a system that has ancient bureaucratic frameworks built specifically to delay and stymy bright moments of change. What was most exciting about his election was sadly not what happened next – it was the feeling that the people had a will, even the poorest first time voters in the United States, and that that will had the power to influence change, and that they lived in a democracy where such change was possible.

The people in Egypt have a will too, although they work against a different system – they can not put this energy behind a well funded, centre left, charismatic politician in an election where they only have two options. Their president has over stayed his welcome if he was ever welcome to begin with. And the change the Egyptian people are seeking, when they succeed, as they must succeed, will be far more decisive and meaningful than the election of Barack Obama. Where that “grassroots” movement took the people’s collective frustration and harnessed it to elect the leader of a party that in fact had never been quite so radical, this movement is organized by the people, and it is not chaos, it is its own temporary paradigm of collective leadership that has succesfully seen through sixteen days, and could see through sixteen more, or however long it takes. It is an exercise of endurance, where more people join each day because they believe that change is possible, and that the people can make it happen.

This is why the Egyptian people need to win. In the west we have been presented with such appalingly limited paths toward true and meaningful change and democracy. The election of Barack Obama was internationally celebrated because the candidate he seemed to be before the election was radical. He was radical because he was intelligent. He seemed to recognise what was wrong with his country and he was not afraid to speak out about it. He spoke out about Guantanamo Bay, about Health Care Reform, about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said what the people were thinking. He asked the same questions and he promised to change what he could. But he represented a party – a party that had been in power countless times before and will be in power countless times again. And in this sense what he had to offer could never have been as radical as the people needed it to be. Because the system was not changing. And even a good man at the head of a corrupt system can apparently not change much.

The Egyptian people are calling for reforms of their leader and their system. The Egyptian people are not making change happen through a well worn and possibly corrupt election. They are making change happen through their collective wills.

I need to know that I live in a world that is not so flattened by international bureaucracy and globalization that millions of people in the streets can not remove one stubborn tyrant, Mubarak, from power. The world needs to know this. Because perhaps it is this, above all, that needs to change. The people need to feel empowered. The people need to feel that what they think and feel matters. The people speak for change, and they speak decisively. They need to know that somebody is listening, and that they won't be arrested for speaking. Egypt could change the world.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Tariq Ramadan and Slavok Zizek on Egypt

I love Al Jazeera's point about Saudi Arabia. It exposes America's selective Islamaphobia for the propaganda it is.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

A little bit of feel good

From the lovely kids and choir instructor at PS22. Keep on rockin' on.