Speak Mouthless

June 3, 2013

Channeling the revolutionary struggle in the rebel-held town of Kafranbel, Syria, Lebanese architect Tony Chakar challenges the Western tendency to categorize the Arab Spring as fundamentally separate from social movements in Europe and the United States.

When the revolutions in the Arab world started, and the press introduced the term “The Arab Spring,” many artists from the region, including myself, were often solicited by European cultural institutions to speak about what was going on. This, in itself, seemed harmless: “they” wanted to know and “we” wanted to speak. At least, this is how it looked at first. Now the debate has shifted and the interest has waned. The themes today revolve around radical Islam, the fears of minorities, chemical weapons and so on—things on which contemporary artists are not considered experts.

This presentation was given at a January 2012 workshop at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), entitled “Translating Revolutions.” I showed a short video and a PowerPoint presentation, remaining silent throughout. I had asked that I be paid in cash at the end of my presentation, on stage. When I finished, the director came to me with an envelope. I opened it, counted the money and put it in my wallet.

The Kafranbel banners featured in the video were conceived by Raed Fares.