Cabaret Confronts Complexity
In their Cabaret performance "Across the Middle Past the East” a women performance collective explores the entanglement of art, entertainment and politics while researching historically influential women from the Middle East
We’re a temporary collective of women artists living in Berlin who came together for the first time to produce a Cabaret. From Burlesque, Tahia Karioka Baladi dancing, grotesque acts, Berlin’s politically charged shows, cross dressing to sexy jazz songs featured in Cabaret shows ever since the concept emerged as a means through which many artists tested their practices before an audience. In a similar way, our first encounter involved various activities intended to build trust and familiarity between us including morning warm up, kick-boxing, Yoga, Belly dancing, Techno dancing, music/singing sessions, in addition to writing this article together.
Exploring the entanglement of art and politics
We are working with key figures – influential women with relation to the Middle East/Eastern Mediterranean. Drawing inspiration and courage through the themes they are bringing up: fleeing – leaving one place to find oneself, being persecuted, haunted, blamed, becoming stronger, even perfect as a survival strategy or creating a myth out of one’s own life, facing (voluntarily or not) loneliness and solitude. These figures allowed us a tool for retelling their stories with more attention to details we care about and find important while resisting the normative/patriarchal lens through which these characters are usually looked upon.
Since the format of the Cabaret is considered "Kleinkunst”, it allows a certain light-heartedness that other "higher” forms of art do not. The combination of this light and even "cheap” art format together with politically-charged current discourse creates an opportunity for us to approach these discussions at an unconventional angle. In an art form allowing us to do whatever we want, the boundaries are expanded and there’s room for real interaction and communication as a community. We have the liberty to explore the entanglement of art, entertainment and politics freely needless of strict coherence.
Experiencing collaboration, trust and responsibility
Meanwhile, it is a rare opportunity to be able to work in Berlin where we live being part of a temporary collective of amazing women engaging in topics each one would probably not have had the courage to unpack on their own: Working with people who work differently, adopting different approaches to art and life and carrying different baggage. Giving us incentive to figure out our own identity through this process. To experience how collaboration, trust and responsibility function in this set-up – a project which is really risky and can truly fail, and will only work by embracing it with all of the complexities and sensitivities it opens up.
Ours is a special project as it does not represent one person’s artistic vision executed by a group, but it aims at bringing people together and negotiating cultural and political differences. It is a project that brings together a group of artists that would probably in other contexts not come together. Thus the artistic product is made through a collective process in which each participant must engage her ideas, skills and creativity within a constant negotiation of these with others. Our collaboration is not supposed to make you feel better, or give you the illusion of an erasure of the inequalities that structure our lives. We refuse to be integrated into an economy of difference that can frame and market our intersecting and seemingly contradictory identities.
Finally, each of us had her reasons for wanting to take part in "Across the Middle Past the East" but the notion that circulated amongst us commonly was the experience itself. The idea projected in our desire for self-discovery; mirroring our own migration journeys with those of the women characters we picked in group form performing a contemporary Cabaret. The thought tickled our imagination and curiosity to experiment. On the other hand, having all lived in Europe for some time while some were born or raised in the west, it was unsurprisingly amazing how much we felt we had in common given the common history, climate and background we belong to.
Cabaret Confronts Complexity
In their Cabaret performance “Across the Middle Past the East” a women performance collective explores the entanglement of art, entertainment and politics while researching historically influential women from the Middle East