Mon amour Cairo, Leo Castro



“When I was asked to take part in the Miniatures Project with the possibility to travel to another country and another culture, the first thing that came up to my mind was the necessity to work about and to build-up an (out)line from images. There was the need to continue the research with the video camera; first of all because it gave me the possibility to continue the work I had been doing.
What did I need to do? This was the first question, and according to the conditions I was offered by the project, I thought of:
Possibility 1/ a short performance with a video camera
Possibility 2/ a short performance with a video camera about love.
Possibility 3/ a staged miniature by myself about love but for sure with a live video camera.
Afterwards I thought about Cairo and the time conditions: it had to be a 15 minutes (out)line, following the conditions related to the opportunity I had been offered. Then the image changed and instead came the possibility to track the streets and observe the people. For me that means to go out into the streets with the video camera as an instrument to write on the spot in the present moment or after. Then the challenge I was confronting merged: to build-up a gaze from the images. Objective: how to make possible to register love? how to make possible to film love? how to make anything possible from love? What does it mean? Love as an objective: love as a theme, love as a plot, love as a body, love as a concrete way to look upon your surroundings, love as a context constructed by oneself, and afterwards? What does it mean? How to make possible the contribution of love to the shooting or to the recording …? How to make possible the perception of love? I ask these questions to myself, mainly because I’ll go to a place I don’t know, and therefore I don’t know what I’m going to find there. Of course, I acknowledge that what I’m proposing for myself to do is to go into a territory in which I’ve been before, though only in an intuitive way, and sincerely speaking I can’t affirm I have the control of it. I mean that I don’t have yet my professional guide book to assure a final result. Anyhow, I can’t avoid doing this.
When I thought about it I also realized that all this had something to do with love itself. We can’t avoid it.
These fragments have kept me company for a long time; may be it was a coincidence, but the kind of reflections and convictions of how and what I wanted to work were suggested by them, and they came up-front with the Miniatures project.
These are the fragments.

X: “that’s on the script but it’s not what I’m looking on the screen”
Y: ” of course, because on the script it is written and on the sceen the image appears. Its name is film”
X: “Is it not the same thing when it is either written or filmed?”
Y: “there’s something essential about cinema and real life. Poetry”
Y: ” The beauty of the Odyssey lies on its belief in reality as it is. That’s what it is. Take it or leave it”
(Dialogue fragments between a director and a producer in Godard’s film Le Mépris).

“(…)space must be respected. The film must be discovered in a certain place”.
Eduardo Couthino (interview. On the question about the importante and significance of the space)

Other fragments, which are already included in the first draft, came afterwards when I accepted the challenge and I began to select the reading and study materials.

At the moment the work I’m doing – before I come to Cairo or I begin the search for images -, it is reading, viewing and studying any material that fascinates me, creating a background of different layers, in which to question myself, and by confronting me they help me to visualize what is my own doing and my imaginary. What I’m aiming at first is related to the challenge of achieving a first (out)line in which I deploy ways of telling, capturing and/or perceiving in a specific reality: the city of Cairo. And a specific aspect: love.

Leo Castro

Leo Castro

Graduated in Philosophy at the University of Barcelona in 1996. She begins her training as an actress between 1992 and 1997 (Stanislavsky/Strasberg methods) and in circus techniques, working as a trapecist during two years. She began to study contemporary dance in 1996, training in several contemporary dance techniques and also participating in workshops and Labs with different dance makers: Benoît Lachambre / Ruth Zaporah / Mark Tompkins / Lisa Nelson / Moreno Bernardi / Maria Muñoz / Cathie Caraker / Kirstie Simson / Martin Keogh / Frey Faust / DD Dovilier / Julyen Hamilton. In 1999 she co-founded the Colective SIAMB, dedicated to the training in improvisation and the Contact Improvisation techniques. Between 1999-2000, she worked as an actress for the National Theatre of Catalonia with George Lavaudant (Theatre de l’Odeon/Paris) and with Magda Puyo. She also worked for TV in Tv3/Tvc (1998-1999/ 2003-2004). She has worked with several dance companies in Barcelona: Senza Tempo (1998-1999), Sol Picó (2002-2003-2006), Konic thtr (2005-2006). Since 2004 she is regularly working with the dance company Mal Pelo, where she has started to develop her own work (Amadou 2009).

View on the MINIATURE

Written by Adham Hafez

The public artistic presentation, and the research process of artist Leo Castro in Egypt within the framework of the Miniatures project, raised a crucial question on confronting alien urban realities. The artist has never been to Cairo before, and generally never to this region of the world (Arabic Speaking Region); a region that embraces different specificities and dynamics of perception and comprehension. The presence of a Catalan choreographer, holding a camera, and moving in streets, already proposed a confrontation with a system of social codes, political andlegal norms and regulations, as well as with empathetic anonymous others. In her public presentation in Cairo, December 2010, artist Leo Castro was confronted by questions from the public on the difficulties faced on Cairo streets while filming. Her answer was that there were no difficulties at all most of the time. Which, for a lot of Egyptians, is a surprising factor, within the context of Cairo streets being very regulated and policed by authorities of different entities. Yet, the answer of Leo was quickly followed by her addition that she could not hold the camera and move her body the way she could in any European capital. With this selfcensorship- decision, one border was confronted already: What we imagine the other to be. In different words: What Leo Castro imagines Egyptian reactions on streets to be if she starts to move in the streets the way she moves in other towns. What Leo Castro imagines Egyptian urban quotidian choreographies to be. Yet, how many more borders are there to cross? And how much time is there, when you have one week to do a project that doesn’t at all deal with urban realities or contemporary societies (at least not directly), yet could never evade being immersed in particular daily realities of simple mundane specificities. The project embedded itself within what Leo Castro named “none-touristic explorations”. For the majority of the audience at the presentation, the images depicted in Castro’s film were troubling and somewhat insulting. The moving image depicted particular living conditions of Cairo that are truly not frequented by tourists, yet are extremely exhausted by artists as work material throughout the past 10 or 15 years. The sub-urban Cairo of unorganized and illegal settlements is a trend. This part of Cairo that hosts poverty and infrastructural malfunctions became –one may dare state- an aesthetic. This has been the subject matter for several visiting artists in Cairo, while dealing with urban reality, and attempting an escape away from touristic or orientalist engagement with Egypt. It has been driven mainly by the sponsorship of “art for social change” within a postcolonial condition. The flocking groups of artists that engaged with the practice of depicting the illegitimate Cairo, remained equally “orientalist” to Egyptian audiences, in terms of modes of investigation. The threshold that this process tilts towards is that of constructing the other as a lesser and unrepresented subject residing outside of frames. The other here is a malfunctioning quasi-rural suburbia dweller, who could be brought into the light of representation when captured within the image of a visiting artist. And, visiting artist in this context is a category that included and still does include a lot of Egyptian artists, who would cross from the City-centre of Cairo into the “darkness” of Suburban illegal settlements and wonder for example about “Necropolis” or “City of the Dead”, which is a constructed term that does exist only and strictly in Western discourses about modern day Egyptian cemeteries, and does not exist at all within Egyptian discourses about demography, arts or urban planning. A contemporary Egyptian subject nowadays can’t help but wonder: “Is Egypt only represented as an Orientalists enigma with writhing snakes, palm trees, pyramids and incense smoke? And, if this is one side of the coin, does this mean the other side of the coin is Poverty, Female genital mutilation, Fundamentalist Islam and Unrepresented illegitimate citizens?” Most Egyptian contemporary citizens would argue that both sides of such a coin are fictitious constructs, and are equally “fantastic” in their content and attire. Within the same direction of thoughts, one then re-proposes clearer questions: “What are we doing when we have one week in an alien city to reflect on form and themes for an artistic project?” “How do we engage with the other in a context that we don’t know?” “How do we understand love within an inaccessible context shrouded by political mythologies?”
And here, a list of possible strategies could be:
- Voyeur-ing the Other
- Objectifying the Other
- Subjectifying the Other
- Subjecting the Other
- Loving the Other
- Violating the Other
- Ignoring the Other
- Constructing some “Other”
The most commonly used strategy within contemporary artistic projects that deal with “localities”and weds locality with third world countries (third world itself being a term not constructed within the region coined as “third world”), and confuses localities, localisms, specificities and subjectivities all together is the “Construction of some Other”. With this construction of what the other would want, like, be like, hate to be, desires to be, and all based on expectations and
projections of one’s own self constitution and codes, the communication channels become problematic if not none-existent. If there is a way one could document the reactions from the street “subjects” filmed in Leo Castro’s video it would enrich this text with the unrepresented standpoint. The question extends itself then into “What did people actually think when they saw a Catalan choreographer walking in Cairo streets with a Camera in her hands, December 2010, within city areas that are not frequented by tourists?” “What fictitious constructs do Egyptian suburban dwellers have about Catalan choreographers, or about contemporary artists, or about European funded social development projects coming to probe their neighborhoods? What do they know of Spain? What kind of fictitious “other” have they constructed of a single European female figure holding a camera from a distance towards their houses?” Most probably this standpoint will remain unrepresented. The frame that tries to capture those unrepresented subjects is still at a far enough distance to capture topography rather than geology of inhabitation. It has currently no room for more than social constructs, political myths, political correctness, and problematic communication channels, that are generated by the subject of the gaze, the object of the gaze, and the history of looking and being looked at within such cities.

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