Week 4

Our final week was intense and exciting. We completed our research work. Specifically, we created a final and definitive text version for ‘Autocracy On Air,’ which refers to a complete script for a one to two-hour theater play that can also be performed by other groups and theaters. While some team members spent the weekend in Leipzig, Saeed spent the weekend in the theater lab, working intensively to transform our preliminary work into a final draft for discussion. Saeed and Ferdinand completed this on Monday in an intensive work phase that lasted almost the entire day and night. On Monday and Tuesday, Ferdinand and Saeed spent a lot of time on stage, conducting several run-throughs to test and evaluate the material, and fine-tuning based on the runs.

Reem was intensely engaged in creating final drawings of the stage design, stage setup, and the progression of stage development throughout the play. She also finalized costume designs. Additionally, we evaluated a variety of sound materials based on our online research, and we relied on Syrian teams for insider information that is not publicly accessible. Building on Mattos’s sound design, we worked more detailed with the material and organized it in line with the book. Matto also finalized his sound design for the individual scenes. Based on this foundation, we can say that we have completed a complete theater piece, with a text and score version, a soundtrack, and the sketches necessary for costume and stage design.

At this point, I would like to make a theoretical interjection, i.e., the latest diary entry ‘Flausen+’ also dedicates itself to a reflection on collectivity, conviviality, and collaborative activity. The artistic practices that emerge in the long twentieth century are often characterized by a reflection on collectivity. This is already evident in Brecht’s and Benjamin’s engagement with the Lehrstück, but most exemplarily, it comes to light in Tetsuo Kogawa’s (*1941) engagement with the concept of conviviality in the context of Mini Radio and radio art. The concept of conviviality can be traced back to the philosopher Ivan Illich (1926-2022). Illich also visited Kogawa’s Mini-Radio Studio in Tokyo in the 1980s. And few radio projects express the idea of conviviality as well as Kogawa’s experiments and performances in the context of Mini-FM. It involves a singularized collective work that starts from the idea of non-ideologically homogenized singularities and is realized in the context of a radiophonic art practice that can be thought of as the assemblies that Kafka describes in his narrative ‘Josefine and the Mouse People’ (1924), narrated from the perspective of a mouse. They are temporary and a-homogeneous, they revolve around Josephine’s singing, and they do not serve a nationalist project. Moreover, Josephine’s singing is more of a chirping, which is difficult to distinguish from the chirping of the other mice.

One could say that Josephine, in a reference to Maud Meyzaud, goes beyond the implications that are posited, disregarding art, the artwork, and its origin. Furthermore, this chirping can be contextualized with Heidegger’s text ‘The Origin of the Artwork’ (1950). Brecht and Benjamin also postulate their political project in a collective that gathers apart from the community and perhaps society as a whole, to conduct experiments characterized by theater and an experimental approach to gestures. In Kogawa’s case, this finds an equivalent reflection in the engagement with Yiddish street theater in New York. And on this basis, we have worked as a collective, or perhaps more accurately, as a ‘kollaktiv.’

The Diary will conclude with reflections on our research into Arabic Nationalism, which will be explored through three distinct perspectives. These thoughts will also serve as examples of the content that should be conveyed in the accompanying Audiotrack, which could run via headphones for the during the play.

The first perspective revolves around Hafez Al Assad’s visits to North Korea and his endeavors to learn about the perfect communism. Al Bath’s motto centers on socialism, striving for an optimal socialist structure. Remarkably, Al Bath’s pioneers are children under the age of 12, embarking on their journey of allegiance. The preparatory phase for Al Bath spans from ages 6 to 12, during which an individual becomes a pioneer of Albath. Progressing between ages 12 and 18 designates one as a youth of Al Bath, involving training in weaponry. This system mirrors that of North Korea, where influences include an array of propaganda and advertising methods. These mediums portray workers as paragons of diligence, impervious to ailment or fatigue. A flawless worker refrains from complaint and even eschews meal breaks. Notably, depictions emerged of an employee multitasking, signing documents while dining and working. Accompanying inscriptions underscore the dispensability of meal breaks, positing that the nation’s needs supersede individual repasts.

The second perspective underscores that Syria never fully matured into a comprehensive nation-state, a discrepancy evident in its evolving definitions outlined within the constitution since Al Bath’s ascendancy in 1936. This transformation ensued twice: from the nation of Syria to the State of Syria, and subsequently, with Hafez Al Asad’s tenure, to the Arabic Syrian state in the 19th century. This shift essentially confined Syria’s identity to an Arab entity in the 1970s.

The third perspective accentuates the absence of Syria’s complete nationhood. The prevalent sentiment among those reared under Al Bath was an attachment to the notion of “Heim” (home), reflecting the fragmented portrayal even evident in school maps. A prevailing aspiration was consistently nurtured for the realization of a comprehensive nation extending from the Gulf to the Atlantic, constituting the full Arabic State. Consequently, a pervasive sense of residing within a fractured nation persisted, rooted in the unspoken ideal of achieving a complete “Heim.” This encapsulates the ethos of Al Bath’s motto.