Oktoberdans (Bergen, Norway) is Scandinavia’s largest contemporary dance festival. It functions as a laboratory that brings together as many international acts as it co-produces local ones, while remaining curious about newcomers from the region and beyond. It also curates an extensive discursive programme – Positions – that aims to provide a theoretical base for experimental practices. The programme had several thematic focuses this year, among which I found two particularly powerful: Beirut Day & Night and Re:gender.
Beirut Day & Night presented different artistic approaches from the Middle East. These so-called ‘under-represented’ artists are often exoticised in Europe, expected either to criticise the oppressive political regimes they work and live in or to show off some partially endangered, interesting traditions. Opening with Everything you ever wanted to know about the Middle East and were not too embarrassed to ask, an in-your-face non-politically correct performance-lecture by Abdel Rahem Alawji, the mirror was turned on Europeans – who ‘travel, meet, eat and discuss how art can help people who can’t travel, meet and eat’. Alawji calculates the amount of money the Norwegian consulate makes per month through visa fees before giving us a short overview of each country in the Middle East, concluding every time ‘everything’s fine, people are happy’. Sarcastic and angry, the show ends with Alawji announcing he’s looking for a Norwegian to marry for citizenship. Is any further comment needed?