Narrating War: Performance excerpt, Pispala, Tampere, Finland, 2016

This reading from the book took place at The Memorial of the Red Guards, who died during the Finnish Civil War in Pispala, Tampere. The inscription in the stone says, ‘On this Pispala ridge, the Red Guard in Tampere last stood with weopans in hand defending their cause in 1918’.

The project is ongoing and a copy of the book in its current state is donated to the Pispala Library on the occasion of the exhibition, ‘Where does poetry nest?’, on 6th September, 2016 in memory of the over 5000 year old Civil War that the world, it seems, has not seen enough of.

Ali Akbar Mehta

 

  Missä runous pesii? | Where does poetry nest?
                  08­28.09.2016
Poetry—an everlasting inquiry of art, drives language outside its
borders. Poetry sets into play every possible moment of
signification by placing the exercise of imagination at the center
of all contradictions. Poetry as an aesthetic praxis outlines our
possibilities to challenge the everyday, locating potential
transformation at the centre of our political enunciations. Poetry
contradicts and slips between the cracks of meaning, propagating
evidence that something else is there. In its intimacy, it draws
complex figures from our emotions, just to blur them into new and
old unreachable impossibles, to keep us moving, desiring.

If we listen to poetry carefully, we realise that it is something social. Its sociality is voiced as a constant transgression to the de politicised forms of enunciation; these poetic echoes keep on challenging every space of retreat. Poetry captures tautology and pushes it to the edges. Since there is no purity in poetry, it confronts general assumptions with a subtle whistle that triggers a dance of our subjectivities, nude and broken out in sweat. There is nothing too radical for poetry; even if something has already been said before, it can always be said differently.

Poetry is looking back at us from the other end laughing,
flirting, fugitive.

Poetry grounds utopia not as something reachable, but as a practice for keeping the unreachable present. Inhabiting between sentences, it bears testimony that other histories have always been present, through gluing their words together. Within it, art becomes our interlocutor for these other histories, always rebelling, always demanding justice and dignity, driven by the air which feeds change. Another history which finds in every wall not a border, but a place for public denouncement and mobilisation.

Where does poetry nest? It is not a question asking for an answer,
but a question mark waiting to be followed.
D.M.
[*] The Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros recalled this question during his
time in Lecumberri prison: “Where does poetry nest? I can’t say how long ago this
question emerged within me. But it reemerged when I listened to Macario Huízar. And
the first time I followed it through to interrogation was in prison among a group
of dopers.”

Pudding Manifesto for Togetherness

The Pudding manifesto (2016) is a collaborative performance installation in which is embedded a manifesto that presents in satirical humour the benefits of consuming a magical pudding that will change people, a pledge signing and a subsequent serving of Rice pudding. The pudding has a history spanning several civilisations and culture, and here we are creating a hybrid pudding based on Syrian and Finnish recipes, as a conjoining of two ways of eating and therefore a symbolic act of consumption becomes an innovative catalyst for the otherwise rhetorical discourse on refugee integration and assimilation into the homogenous social soup.

Installation view

In the post-Cold War world flags count and so do other symbols of cultural identity, including crosses, crescents, and even head coverings, because culture counts, and cultural identity is what is most meaningful to most people. People are discovering new but often old identities and marching under new but often old flags which lead to wars with new but often old enemies. One grim Weltanschauung for this new era was well expressed by the Venetian nationalist demagogue in Michael Oibdin’s novel, Dead Lagoon: “There can be no true friends without true enemies. Unless we hate what we are not, we cannot love what we are. These are the old truths we are painfully rediscovering after a century and more of sentimental cant. Those who deny them deny their family, their heritage, their culture, their birthright, their very selves! They will not lightly be forgiven.” 

In the post-Cold War world, the most important distinctions among peoples are not ideological, political, or economic. They are cultural. Peoples and nations are attempting to answer the most basic question humans can face: Who are we? And they are answering that question in the traditional way human beings have answered it, by reference to the things that mean most to them. People define themselves in terms of ancestry, religion, language, history, values, customs, and institutions. They identify with cultural groups: tribes, ethnic groups, religious communities, nations, and, at the broadest level, civilizations. People use politics not just to advance their interests but also to define their identity. We know who we are only when we know who we are not and often only when we know whom we are against.

Food has always operated in circulation between the local and the global, migration and resettlement and, with its power in defining and performing social meanings, served to construct notions of home and cultural otherness. Perhaps it can also create notions of togetherness. We don’t need politics of unification – we need politics of togetherness.

Rice Pudding is a dish made from rice mixed with water or milk and other ingredients such as cinnamon and raisins. Recipes can greatly vary even within a single country. Names of Rice Pudding in the world (alphabetical order):

Arroz con leche, Arroz con dulce, Arroz en leche, Arroz doce, Arroz de leite, Arroz-esne, Banana rice pudding, Bubur Sumsum, Budino di Riso, Сутлијаш or Благ ориз, Сутлијаш/Sutlijaš, Сутляш or Мляко с ориз, Dudhapak, Firni, Grjónagrautur, Ketan hitam , Kheer, Kiribath, Milchreis, Mlečni riž or Rižev pudding, Mliečna ryža, Moghli, Morocho, Muhalibiyya, Молочна рисова каша, Orez cu lapte, Payasam, Phinni/Paayesh, Pudding Orez, Pulut hitam, Ρυζόγαλο, Рисовый пудинг Risovwe pudding, Riisipuuro, Rijstebrij, Rijstpap, Risgrynsgröt, Risengrød, Risengrynsgrøt, Riz au lait, Riz bi haleeb, Riža na mlijeku Ryż na mleku, Shir-berenj, Shola-e zard, Şorbeşîr, Sütlaç, Sutlija, Sutlijas, Sylt(i)jash or Qumësht me Oriz, Tameloriz, Tsamporado, Teurgoule, Tejberizs and Zarda wa haleeb.

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Pudding Manifesto for Togetherness

Pudding Manifesto: Pledge

Other Readings:

Eating Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Food, Tobias Döring, Markus Heide, Susanne Muehleisen, 2003

Food Is Culture, Massimo Montanari, Columbia University Press.

A Companion to the Anthropology of Europe By Ullrich Kockel, John Wiley & Sons, 2015

Clash of Civilisations, Samuel P. Huntingdon

Design as Art, Bruno Munari, Penguin Adult, 2008

{ null.void; // a sermon of nothingness and a space odyssey of zero movement and tycho magnetic anomalies }, 2016

 

A 3 minute excerpt of my radio performance, which was a One Hour Reading session of Wars from 2000 to 2011, at Kallio Public Library as part of Chimurenga’s Pan African Space Station live radio broadcast. For the full one hour radio broadcast of the performance, check out The Chimurenga Archives at http://panafricanspacestation.org.za/

{
null.void;
// a sermon of nothingness and a space odyssey of zero movement and tycho magnetic anomalies
}

null.void; is a Transmedia Performance-lecture recitation and Research Project. It comprises a procedural audio soundscape of glitch sounds using static and radio frequencies, and a performance recitation of a comprehensive list of every war, battle, siege, sacking, revolt and revolution spanning 5014 years of human conflict and violence.

 

*null.void will eventually become a part of a currently-in-developement project titled WAR • ROOM• ECHO: Regarding the Pain of Other Cyborgs