Bidoun 25 out now
I’d never inhaled tear gas before, and I had a good half hour that felt like both eternity and as well the end of my life. Your chest and eyes and face burn so much it feels like blood, and you can hardly breathe. Your eyes seem to spurt tears, and you wipe them with your hands and expect to look down and find them red, bloody. But you can’t—you can barely open your eyes to see. —Yasmine El Rashidi Twenty-five is special. This, the twenty-fifth issue of Bidoun: Art and Culture from the Middle East, responds to the Egyptian revolution that began on the 25th of January. (Twenty-five is also the median age of the Egyptian people.) In April and May, a group of Bidoun editors took over the first floor of The Townhouse Gallery in downtown Cairo, five minutes from Tahrir Square, to better understand what happened, and what did not happen, during the eighteen days of revolt, and after. We wanted to think critically about art and revolution and whether it was possible to make a magazine that wouldn’t totally betray either. And so we walked around and looked and talked and—especially—we listened. The Egyptians really proved that they have the skills to fight a war that day. There is this image in my mind, this sound. There was a group of people hitting the street signs, the big ones, with rocks, stone on iron, and it made a terrible sound, like an F-22 flying overhead. If you were the police, and you saw the smoke from the burning cars, and then this huge sound—it could make you believe there were two million people coming at you. It was really amazing. —Magdi Mostafa Bidoun 25 is the result, a rough and ready document, bristling with words—the product of over fifty unique interviews in Arabic and English, along with roundtable discussions, political party platforms, TV transcriptions, overheard dialogue, public apologies, dreams, tweets, and email forwards. Conversations and as-told-to tales appear amid found texts of every kind, from soap-operatic Mubarak family melodramas to post-revolutionary paperbacks to lists of looted antiquities and a compendium of negations found in news headlines (from “EGYPT IS NOT LIBYA” to “ZIMBABWE IS NOT EGPYT, HONEST.”) Bidoun 25 is our most collaborative issue yet, produced in concert with dozens of Egyptian writers, artists, architects, and activists (including guest editor Yasmine El Rashidi). The result, we hope, is a kind of composite portrait, at once disjointed and revealing, partial but not trivial. We were colonized because of the Nile. Egypt is a very strategic country and all colonizers came to Egypt, up to today. We were colonized, and that is why we are funny. —Nawaal El Sadaawi Inside, you’ll meet the first family of the revolts, an intergenerational (and confusingly named) activist band that includes, among others human rights lawyer Ahmed Self El-Islam, computer whiz Alaa Abd El Fattah, and Sanaa Seif, a seventeen-year-old whose new magazine, Gornal, was born in Tahrir Square. You’ll encounter Ramy Raoof, an activist and new media maven famous for tweeting while being chased by police, as well as Mahmoud Othman, a writer whose 2007 sci-fi novel, Revolution 2053 prophesied a revolution in Egypt that spreads through the Internet. You’ll listen in as an activist who stormed the interior ministry leafs through her monumental security file, and hear the story of how news anchor Shahira Amin quit her job on state TV rather than propagandize against the revolution. Legendary feminist author Nawaal El Sadaawi is at once vindicated and vexed by the revolution; contingency artist Ganzeer is vindicated and vexed by his conversation with Bidoun, especially in re: his project to paint a street mural for each of the 846+ people killed during the eighteen days. This is also what bothers me about martyrs’ pictures everywhere, because they are mostly middle class, the middle-class martyrs—and that’s bullshit. Eight hundred people died. They’re not just the beautiful young university students that we see in the news. —Doa Aly Plus: Albert Cossery, Aleister Crowley, political obituaries, revolt profiteers, revolutionary flotsam and jetsam, Massive Scar Era, animal people, unguarded moments with museum guards, and Fatima Al Qadiri unearthing the lost glories of The Egyptians (the band).