Flatpack Festival
Film for all the senses

Interview: Bint Mbareh

Tuesday 7th May, 2024 Posted by Selene’s Archive

R21 aka Restoring Solidarity by Mohanad Yaqubi reflects on a collection of twenty 16mm films, safeguarded in Tokyo by the Japanese solidarity movement with Palestine. By synthesising these archival resistance films into a montage essay, foregrounding the process of digitisation and restoration, R21 aka Restoring Solidarity simultaneously acts as a catalogue, time machine and archive.

As we approach the date of the event, we spoke to sound artist Bint Mbareh who will be performing a piece specially conceived for this event in response to the film.

Q: What is your approach to sound and its relationship to space?
A: Sound is one way to understand a space, both in the way that it is as well as thinking of how to mould it into something else. Because of how sound moves through our bodies and space so ephemerally, either recorded from a different time or literally emitted from someone’s body in a “live/living” way, it gives us the chance to challenge linearity in our experience and thinking of time.

An example is in the film Restoring Solidarity, there are intentionally sounds of machinery that used to run the camera equipment and reels running the films. This sound of machinery throws listeners into an era, making the space that they inhabit while listening slightly different and slightly more hopeful and more fantastical. More fantastical because it challenges the fatalism of the current moment.

Q: What is the significance of the voice in your work?
A: I hope that my work always allows listeners and participants to experience a dissolution of borders between things, even if this is temporary. When I sing to/with someone, I’m hoping to allow them to forget that there is a skin that separates us and that we are not one thing, but we have a connection that spans many more years than we can consciously call to our memories.

In Arabic, the word for voice and the word for vote is the same. In encouraging more people to use their voices through a choir practise or by singing by myself, I want to confront the shame that many people experience with their own voices. The first response I usually get when I invite to join my choir is: “you don’t want to hear my voice - I can’t sing AT ALL”, this to me is more significant than people simply cracking a self-depracating joke. It could even stem from the belief that people are unable to imagine that when they sound together or individually use their voice, they can affect change. This has a deeply political significance.

Q: What is the significance of looped/ repeated sounds in your practice?
A: Part of what I’m trying to do is to reinstate the importance of orality independently of written text. So often when I loop a segment of voice, it mangles the language within that, and focuses on the body that made the sound and the sound potential that lives in the text.

The reason I think orality is so important is because it decentres a (very generally) Western cannon that states that perfectly preserved texts written by individual geniuses take precedence over texts developed by entire communities over centuries if not millenia. So with this in mind, I loop a text to drill it as a piece with an intrinsic importance regardless of the genotype that originated it because a body issued that voice ephemerally, relating to right now.

I am not sure that I like the sonic effect of extreme and repetitive looping, but my ambition is to take inspiration from trance traditions that have taken place across Palestine over the past number of centuries. This often Sufi tradition takes many different forms, but usually relies heavily on repetition to induce a state of transcendence.

Q: Could you talk about your response to the film (R21 aka Restoring Solidarity by Mohanad Yaqubi) and what you will draw from it in your performance?
A: This film is so topical it was almost difficult to watch. My earliest moment of knowing that I would dedicate my life to Palestinian liberation was during a visit to two refugee camps in Lebanon. I had heard about the massacres, but having visited them thirty years after their occurrence, I was struck by how extremely prescient they were in the daily language and memory of those still living in the camp.

During my performance, I merge the sounds of the films’ harrowing music with the sounds of events taking place in Gaza today. This is in addition to heavily looped lamentation music. All I would like to do is sound the moment we live in in the most honest and historicised way possible. An ambitious goal is to allow for continued grief processing as a method of mobilising listeners and participants into action.

Book tickets to R21: aka Restoring Solidarity here.

Join our mailing list

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required