What of proximity? Distance?
Of absent terrains? Architectures and people
How to go on about it?
I make an attempt
I write
Against a single narrator
I mean I’d define you
But then I ‘d risk losing you
I try not to put you in the center
Is this a word?
It is in my language
I take Ndinda Kioko’s cue
I seek the language of my mother ...
of music, of my dreams, and my memories
I re-contextualize
I move closer, and connect
She calls this space transitional
She says I am not there yet
But slowly becoming
I recline towards the loose
Beside me is a dry Nymphaeum
A river that once was
But I retain the logic of water
Something happened and I appreciate it
There’s a build up
But I’m not in control
I ride on chance 
I recline
I cling on
I linger
But I’m not alone
I see you

This exhibition was part of the second phase of the Junctions program at The Lab- Darat al Funun (2019/2019), bringing together artists and cultural practitioners from various backgrounds to look at the postcolonial context we inhabit through the metaphor of arrival and departure. Long shaped by forced diasporas and migratory flows, Amman is approached as a living archive offering fertile ground for a conceptual and poetic archaeology of place. Concomitantly, the social and power structures that shape the existence of various communities today are interrogated, with a focus on nationalist and neoliberal politics that produce spaces of (un)belonging and give rise to enclosures and enclaves in urban contexts. Eschewing conventional narratives focused on multiculturalism and coexistence, artists and cultural practitioners from various backgrounds use the space of The Lab to meditate on new forms of cohabitation and probe possibilities for commonly produced spaces and times.

Occupying a geography best described as a dry seaport, we remember Martinican poet Edouard Glissant’s journey across the Atlantic and ask: how to conceive of a dialectic that is “a total rhizome of what’s different” or points of contact where roots “intertwine, mix and mutually assist each other”? And what of the passage from unity to multiplicity in a place suspended in a state of ‘permanent temporariness’?

Participating artists: Ahmad Salameh, Mohammad Hawwari, Vincent Chomaz, Asha Athman, Lizzy Vartanian Collier, Batool El Hennawy, Mona Ali, Jafar Jabi, Abdullah Sharw, Nadia Gohar, Yazan Setabouha and Dina Amro.

Accompanying Events

Workshop: Imagining Home

Through a series of discussions and workshops at the Lab encompassing architecture, personal archives and food, we will consider what happens when we migrate to or from a place. How do we assert our memories, traditions and cultures within a new geography? What constitutes ownership of space? How are ties with the “homeland” made or maintained? Do we consider the notion of “home” literally, through the construction of physical dwellings? Or is it a more elusive construction? Can we speak of a “poetic dwelling”? A memory, taste or ritual?

This workshop was facilitated by Lizzy Collier in collaboration with Leen Jarrar.

Workshop: Beyond Monumentality

Framed as an exploratory workshop, Beyond Monumentality takes as its point of departure the ways in which monuments serve to construct common national histories and narratives, and moves beyond that to consider and excavate the narratives that are unwanted, erased, or overlooked. Moving from the center of the city to the fringes and peripheries of Amman, Beyond Monumentality is articulated around a series of collective listening sessions facilitated by artist Vincent Chomaz. The project refers to listening as a mode of associative investigation bridging conscious and unconscious knowledge. It focuses on field listening and associative listening to unravel the relation between the soundscapes of the city and official and non-official social and political narratives.

This workshop was facilitated by artist Vincent Chomaz.

Workshop: The luck of life is for the spirit

Facilitated by artist Batool El Hennawy, this workshop explores narrative and the reluctance to build narrative or contribute to an existing one. What do the different proximities to a subject matter do to an auto-narrative? Looking into conceptions of livelihood, we will be moving between different historical accounts and theoretical critiques of Abdel Nasser’s Egyptian Agrarian Reform law up to Sadat’s Open Door “Infitah” policy, and considering the labour migration resulted from it.

As we navigate two contexts, Jordan and Egypt, we will move between public policy designed by the state and/or ruling class and studies of local economic functions as a way of understanding urban expansion and its direct effects on spaces of practice and self-sustainability, instead of the more common conversation on progress and awaiting an economic boom as a mirage extending working hours for a national goal. In reference to being in Amman, a city built to be urban and mostly through visiting labour, we will talk to a landscape designer and to a technician involved in construction projects that mainly rely on agrarian knowledge and visiting laborers.

The workshop follows an indirect research methodology of historicity, jumping between different moments on a long timeline of a prevailing paradigm shift in music, cinema, and labour, wondering: what did untimely collaboration offer within strong tides of political humidity over 100 years? In addition to readings on images, songs, and policies, we will be following a film by Hashem Al Nahhas (1970s, Egypt) and a song by Saleh Abd El Hay (1920s, Egypt). As we listen to Saleh Abd El Hay’s announcer, before 1932 and the disappearance of the Taqtuqa, we find an alternative that departed confrontation for a chance to repeat an important line. Even if a conclusion is not reached, an opportunity for it remains present in choices made by practitioners across various work conditions.

The luck of life is for the spirit because luck is not tangible but responsive, additionally because it’s a dedication and a connection. If we are left without a pressure to compare destiny, with free choice, or on the other hand not made too aware of a discontinuity between them, so much is left for the non-comparative moment, as the common denominator.

Talk: Qa’ Al Madina

A conversation with writer Lina Shannak on her book "Qa’ Al Madina".

In this book we read the stories of residents of Jabal Al-Joufah in East Amman. They are the human faces behind figures in official reports:

- The number of families evacuated from Al-Joufah area after the collapse of several residential buildings there
- Families receiving assistance from the National Aid Fund
- Women married to non-Jordanians
- Young people held in administrative detention for fear of the risk they pose to the country
- Refugees who have found a safe haven in Jordan (or presumably so)
- Youth rebelling against injustice and seeking to reclaim their dignity and rights

“In early 2017, residential buildings collapsed in Jabal Al-Joufah in East Amman without causing any casualties or injuries. This was the first time we entered these streets. Afterwards, for over a year and a half, we followed the lives of several families in the area and accompanied them in their struggle to survive in a place that offers them very little choice… Through this book, we enter the houses of some of the residents of Jabal Al-Joufah. Although all the characters in the book are from Jabal Al-Joufah, their voices express a wider and more general state of affairs that resonates with many marginalized communities around the country." - Lina Shannak

Performance: time flows in all directions_ water flows through me

Dina Amro's documentary sound piece time flows in all directions_ water flows through me, explores the tradition of Palestinian rain summoning and the concept of time bending using music and sonic heritage. Her practice revolves around performance and improvisation as it challenges the mummification of Palestinian sounded rituals. Performances are impossible to replicate, especially if they rely heavily on improvisation. The artist uses this knowledge to employ vocal improvisation as a way of transmitting knowledges about Palestinian music, and to respect that this music is a living archive rather than a dying repertoire.

The substantive elements of the sound performance embed themselves in several traditions of time-bending: by using recordings of women she has interviewed, the artist adds her voice throughout the performance to theirs, metaphorically and literally singing with them, thereby challenging the notion that the songs they sing and the miracles they cite are obsolete. The artist also adds her own writing and composition to the piece, thereby intertwining the sounds of the old women with writing and improvisation that takes place in an irreplicable way during the performance. The piece revolves around the performer's research on rain summoning in Palestine, and this is already a tradition which challenges notions of seasonality and offers participants in rain summoning rituals the sovereignty of controlling the future and the resources available to the village in the future. The performed piece is a conclusion/continuation of Amro's installation at Darat al Funun.

Music and Food: Layali il Uns

A cozy evening bringing together people from all walks of life to share their musical heritage and traditional cuisines. Remember a song, pick an instrument, and head over to Darat al Funun. With this first jam session, Hosam Omran and Joud Al-Tamimi launch Layali il Uns, a music club initiated to create a close-knit community of musicians and people interested in musical heritage.