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Live Art from Lebanon

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33 rpm and a few seconds at the MCA (April 10-12, 2014)

33 rpm and a few seconds

33 rpm and a few seconds stages the suicide of a fictional Lebanese playwright, Diya Yamout. From April 10-12, the MCA hosted the production by Rabih Mroué and Lina Saneh, which bridges theater and installation art.

In the center of the stage, Diya’s desk is covered with books, a couple of laptops, and a tv. A record player that has long since come to the end of its song repeats the scuff of the needle on the final groove like a broken heartbeat. A large projection overhangs the desk. Most of the time, the image shows Diya’s Facebook page that serves as a platform for argument about the significance of his death as the messages from his friends, lover, and supporters flood in following the news.

Was it suicide or assassination? Was it planned for a long time or an act of depression? Was Yamout acting out against his default role of a leader because he wanted to be an anarchist? Will his followers be able to fulfill his final wish of cremation in a society that outlaws this kind of secular funeral practice?

The arguments from Facebook carry on into news reports that vacillate between taking over the projection screen and filling the small analogue television screen on the stage. The audience is further introduced to the absent character through answering machine messages, projected text messages, as well as fax machine texts.

The messages that the audience comes to know Diya through personal acquaintances, the texts and phone messages of his lover, friends and followers through Facebook, and removed media attention through the news (which also includes interview clips with his parents). At all of these stages we are offered an image of a complex man, who was both prepared to die for his principles, but unable to answer to any kind of leadership. The play highlights the contradictions of defining an identity through multiple forms of media, as well as the connectedness or facsimile of attachment, that various media forms can provide. We never hear directly from Diya, even recordings. His version of events is always reinterpreted.

The work was informative, but distancing, enticing but frustrating. The props on the stage seemed to call for interaction. The setting creates the desire to walk up and flip through the books and letters. Yet as it is a “play” and not an installation, we are left to watch the devices perform.

 

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