Rabih Mroue

Photo by Talal Khoury

LEE : Hello Rabi. First, please introduce yourself briefly.
RABIH : I'm Ravi Muere. I lived in Beirut, Lebanon, until i came to Berlin five years ago. I work on plays, visual arts, and video.

LEE :First of all, we have only media access to Lebanon, so please explain Lebanon.
RABIH : That is a difficult question. It's a very big story. It is not easy to talk about Lebanon. Lebanon is located in the east of the Middle East and has many wars, conflicts and tensions. For many years now, each region has tried to shape or form
 itself, but it is still struggling. Eight years ago, or longer, the Arab Spring, the Arab Revolution started in Tunisia, Kuwait, Libya, Yemen, Barbain, Syria. The war has spread to most of the Arab world, and conflicts have become very obvious to everyone, everywhere in the Arab world. Artists living in this environment are inspired by the situation, but at the same time, they are in difficult situations to work on.

LEE : What is the relationship between the area where you have lived and the opportunity to start a lecture  performance?
RABIH : My Work is a play. The recent Seoul show " So Little Time " is a play, not a lecture. I work in the form of a lecture performance, but I call it the Non Academic Lecture. A form of this work that required only a small budget and minimal set was appropriate for artists in countries with a small budget for the cultural industry. The aartist of visual media are always deal with how to create their work. What I learned and realized for myself is that you have to be free in the power and money of this market. I also start with zero. The Non Academic Lecture , or Lecture Performance, gives the artist the freedom to do what, when and where. Of course, there are other alternatives that show the work without being passed on to places, funds, authority. Today we have smartphones and laptops. You can create and film photos and videos without budget. You can also present your work to many people and have free access to it through massive Internet space. Just as they show images, writings, performances, photos and songs through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, artists have been free to use the media without the authority of art institutions. Even if there are situations that i have to work through the agency, i will choose to do it myself. This is very important to me.

LEE : I'd like to hear about work in korea, Time Out. How did the audience react?
RABIH : This is the story of a martyr. The concept of the martyr, the populist nationalist discourse on the martyr, is visually and in the voice of the individual. This voice is also the voice of the community. This is a story based on Lebanon's history. When I showed my work in Seoul, I performed in the traditional concert formats of Beirut, Berlin, Brazil, and so on. I think Korea is like any country outside the Arab world, outside Lebanon. There's a lot of difference and detail in the work, but the audience doesn't know the history of Lebanon. But I think the audience can interpret and relate their work with their own personal experience, with their own history, with their own life and knowledge. So even though the task was complicated, there was no fear of showing. It is dangerous to simplify the audience by connecting the work to Seoul and Beirut. It's a dangerous idea to think of the audience in Seoul as a student or a minor, or not understanding the work. I think every audience has the intelligence to understand work in different ways. That's why we show our history, our stories, our narratives, without any summary or explanation.

LEE : When I was your workshop, You told us about the bodies of war and the bodies of everyday life. You also mentioned " tension " in your keyword, and would like to take this position to be more specific.
RABIH : Talking about the body of the play and the body of the war comes from a very specific period and experience in Lebanon. I don't think we can generalise this story as an event for everybody. Because when you put everything in general, everything becomes simple, and it's very dangerous. It's an example of what I've experienced and where I've grown up. That doesn't mean " that all wars are the same as I say. " Every war has its own characteristics. But we need to specify what kind of war we're talking about, what kind of events, what areas, what situations, what kind of history we're going to dig up more. Talking about a particular case of the body can be very clear. When you have to talk about your body, you can say the body that experienced Seoul. That's why I can't speak about the body of Seoul. The smaller the boundaries, the harder they become, the more complete they become.

LEE : It happened when Kim Jong Il died in the military. At that time, I felt more familiar with my usual colleagues. Is this the way you talk about your body?
RABIH : Yes. It's a very interesting story. These different stories have a common point of resonance. I think this is very important. Not only are we inspired by each other's ideas, but we also have to digest them to talk about our traits. It's my way of doing things.

LEE : Yes. I feel like your work is thinking about how to recreate the body on stage. I wonder how you developed that concern in this concert.
RABIH : What is your answer? You don't have to answer right away. This question is not yet unique to me. It's a question we need to think about.

LEE : When I asked for an interview, I was impressed by the expression that the body disappeared. I'm more curious.
RABIH : I said we don't use our bodies. The body is always in our pictures, in our videos. I can still see you on the screen without your body. We can go outside without using our bodies as we did before. I think it's something to think about in a play, performance, even dance that's closely related to body. In other words, we need to think about today's new technology. What we're given and how it affects our bodies, and I don't think we should literally translate it into work. Of course, that doesn't mean you shouldn't use Skype in the theater.

LEE : I wonder specifically how the Internet contemplates major changes or new technologies.
RABIH : The Internet or new technology is not the only reason for the change in my work, but it is a very important factor. We're always thinking about how we use images and how we produce images of the body. We have different profiles. When we set up a profile on Facebook and Twitter, we think about how we treat it. Of course they're virtual, but they're in different places at the same time. I am in Germany now, but at the same time I am in Seoul with you. At one time, Lebanon was at war when it was offered an exhibition by Japan. I couldn't go to Japan, and I offered to do it on Skype, so I performed to Japanese audiences in Beirut. The site was not recorded and was streamed live. Real-time broadcasting is a very old technology, and it is what everyday life looks like today. Therefore, I don't think the play needs to be afraid of new technology anymore. It doesn't destroy the play. In contrast, it can enrich. I want the play to be like an open door to something new.

LEE : How has recent work changed since its inception?
RABIH : What matters to me is a simple question. For example, it's a question of why a play is and what a play is. Very difficult to answer. I still don't know why they're performing. But we keep a lot of experience and possibilities open to the answers to this question and we always keep trying to find them. Of course, you don't have to answer. So when I started my early work, I opened up my range and my experience to other areas of art. The play was filmed, installed, visual, written. However, all work comes from experience and background in the play. So we're asking about the play, the replay, the body..

LEE : Finally, tell me about your future plans.
RABIH : It's still in the raw stage of sculpture, but I'm going to try to think about today's relationship with the era, which was developed in 1968 by students and leftist thinkers.