A Step Too Far

December 6, 2018 at Beurscafe, Cobra Bar Gallery, and Lord Byron in Brussels

Les Mots bleus, a series of intimate readings of new writing by artists for the bar room.
A Tragicomedy About Political Organizing, a story told by Mary Jirmanus Saba
She has Room, a performance by Noor Al-Samarrai
Shazamy, a music/DJing session by Andeel

A Step Too Far was an evening in two parts presented in collaboration with the Beursschowburg. The night began with a walk between the bars Beurscafe, Cobra, and Lord Byron in Brussels city center for Les Mots bleus — a series of intimate readings of new writings by artists Andeel (Egypt) with Mary Jirmanus Saba (Lebanon), Noor Al-Samarrai (Iraq/US), and Abdellah Taïa (Morocco). Later, the program continued at the Beurscafe with a story told by filmmaker and geographer Mary Jirmanus Saba, a performance by poet and musician Noor Al-Samarrai, and ended with music mixed by cartoonist and writer Andeel.

The first of a new series of evening programs, A Step Too Far is an ongoing experiment by Mophradat with different forms of direct public address that propose changed dynamics between artists and audiences that generate immediate relationships in shared social space. “A Step Too Far” implies both a setting where gentle intimacy is desired yet unattainable, but also a situation where intentional provocation elicits unease. These evenings will continuously swing between both.

Les Mots bleus is a series of texts written by visual artists, performers, and writers commissioned to be read aloud in bars. On the night of Les Mots bleus, the audience was invited to walk from bar to bar where a reader, sitting at a table, was waiting to read one of the stories. These words, over a table and possibly a drink, were an invitation to follow some adventure similar to how late night conversations in bars can sometimes be. Les Mots bleus is an ongoing project developed collaboratively by curator François Aubart and artist Benjamin Seror.

A Tragicomedy About Political Organizing is a story told by Mary Jirmanus Saba about summer 2015 when her neighbor installed an electricity generator in the building next door, just one short meter away from her bedroom wall, and proceeded to run it 15 hours a day. Meanwhile, trash removal — the last existing public service provided by the Lebanese government — was suspended, carpeting Beirut in garbage for weeks, and sparking a series of mass demonstrations, the demands of which the state would completely ignore. Without sleep, and frustrated by the horizons for change, she decides to organize her building.

In She has room, Noor Al-Samarrai backtracks between catharsis and a goldmine of inherent awkwardness in an attempt to unify body and voice. There will be henna ‘n eggs. There will be slop and mud, and an attempt to get to the heart of it.

For Shazamy, Andeel uses the help of AI and a combination of multiple apps to create an illusion of professional overrated DJing. A rough mixture of non-homogenized genres, beats, and tempos with a subtle political undercurrent emphasizing the necessity of being as open as possible on the dance floor, particularly during dark times of xenophobia.

Andeel (b. 1986) is an Egyptian cartoonist, journalist, scenarist, experimental artist, actor, and sometimes DJ. He works in journalism, cinema, and in the internet since 2005.

Mary Jirmanus Saba (b. 1983) is a geographer who uses film and other media to explore the histories of the labor movement in the Arab world, and its connections to Latin America, feminist internationalism, and new transformative possibilities. Her debut feature A Feeling Greater Than Love won the International Critics Prize at the 2017 Berlinale Forum.

Noor Al-Samarrai (b. 1992) is an Iraqi-American poet and performer. She studied at UC Berkeley and was a Fulbright Creative Arts Grantee in Amman where she studied oud with Omar Abbad, taught creative writing at the University of Jordan, and collected oral histories about life and love in mid-20th-century Baghdad for a book on the city’s psychogeography. Her poetry collection El Cerrito was published by Inside the Castle Press in 2018.

Abdellah Taïa (b. 1973) is a Moroccan writer published by Éditions du Seuil. His novels have been translated into several languages: Le rouge du tarbouche (2005), L’Armée du salut (2006), Une mélancolie arabe (2008), Lettres à un jeune marocain (2009), Le jour du Roi (Prix de Flore, 2010), Infidèles (2012), Un pays pour mourir (2015), and Celui qui est digne d’être aimé (2017). In 2014, he produced his first movie, based on the eponymous novel, L’Armée du salut. It won the Grand Prix du Festival d’Angers.