Bassam El Baroni, curator (Egypt)


bassam>> What does the idea of a manifesto mean to you?

It used to be when you got together with a collective or group and you wanted to “Change” something within the wider socio-political sphere you existed in. “Change”, I think for many people that word can’t be used any more with the same currency it had before Obama’s campaign, I barely believed in it before but now for me it simply can’t exist except within a contemporary Machiavellian populist politics paradigm. You see that’s the problem right there, manifestos today are faint and tainted re-enactments, copies of past movements, ideas and affinities. We have not yet broken with our recent history, we still define political ideologies as being “Leftist” or to the “Right”; we truly believed that our ideologies were dead so we stopped upgrading them or breathing new life into them, so any one proposing anything that would cause the late capitalist nexus to do so much as to scratch without profiting would be labelled “Leftist” or “Socialist”, these words have been vacuumed out of their real implications and meanings, they have become kitsch. So what we have now are stillborn versions of leftism, liberalism, democracy, and many other ideologies that still appear to be worth the label on the outside but on closer inspection what has happened is that these terminologies have been greatly infused with late capitalist rhetoric.

>> What are some of the manifestos that you consider significant for historical or personal reasons?

Many manifestos remained significant to me for a while, but I’m currently at a stage where I believe much less in manifestos and much more in the non-textual and the unsaid.

>> Are there other forms of expression that could be interpreted as
manifestos?

I think throughout the 20th century and what we’ve experienced so far of the 21st century manifestos have been stronger when they are simple actions, actions that embrace the nature of being a spectacle and take into consideration how they will be interpreted in media and history (spectaclization), that if you can’t beat it then be it kind of thing. Maybe the 240 mile long Gandhi Salt March is a good example of what can be called a “mobile manifesto”, actions that trigger formalization but are not formalizations themselves, it seems they work better that way.

>> Do you think that manifestos still have relevance in a century where identities are constantly fracturing and societies are in constant flux?

Which century are we talking about here, the 21st? In my opinion we still have not had closure on the 20th century, the hype might lead you into believing a different story but I think day in and day out the world is proving that socio-culturally & politically it is living in an extension of the 20th century, the 20th century’s final chapter has yet to be concluded, what happened in the 20th century could not possibly be concluded in the span of a hundred years. Identities have always been fracturing and most societies have always been in a constant state of flux, so this should not be why manifestos have relevance or not. Manifestos will not have any substantial relevance beyond the level of the spectacle until people have truly new ideas that can be implemented successfully in the fields of politics, social studies and culture.

>> Do you have a personal manifesto as a curator?

A manifesto would probably limit ones ability to expand and explore many realms and ideas, open ended investigation and experimentation work better for me.