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Interview: Rima Najdi about Think Much. Cry Much.


Rima Najdi has lived in Beirut, New York and is now settled in Berlin. Her work occupies and (re)negotiates in-between spaces. She deals with the ways in which identity is constructed and perceived, focusing on the lived experience of the body.

Rima Najdi has lived in Beirut, New York and is now settled in Berlin. Her work occupies and (re)negotiates in-between spaces. She deals with the ways in which identity is constructed and perceived, focusing on the lived experience of the body. She is interested in the vulnerability of the body in relation to the politicized tropes of gender, safety, mobility and representation. Think Much. Cry Much. – a choreography of migration about the construction of borders – can be seen at SPRING 2018.

How did you join the world of performing arts?

I studied theatre, directing and acting, and then went on to get my Master’s degree in performance studies in New York. That was the moment I started working more in the medium of performance, and where I allowed for more mediums to interact with what performance is. Whether visually, sound wise, or with video or costumes. I come from a theatre tradition, where you usually end up in a box – you work with a group, and need a budget. I found that performance suits me better, when you either have a small or big idea you can accommodate the idea to your means instead of the other way around. I especially wanted to experiment with small ideas. So this is how I started doing performance, because of the fact that you have to rely on yourself and what’s there.

What was the starting point to create Think Much. Cry Much?

I think the starting point consists of many points. With the media bomb around what Europeans called the ‘refugee crisis’, there was an overflood of images and information and technology, especially around Facebook. There were a lot of funded organizations from governments that were dictating this ‘refugee body’ on what it is, or what it is not. It was of framed in a very single frame, a very stereotypical image. So these things felt very weird, and I felt that we need to talk more about these laws, organizations and about the refugees’ individual stories. They don’t have one big collective story and the same collective law. For me, there were a lot of question marks since refugees have been in Europe for quite a while. Some groups have been here for 15 years without papers! These were questions that I was invested in discovering and understanding.

While travelling through Europe, Najdi met with people who build, guard, fence, cross, challenge and negotiate borders.

Could you tell more about the research for this performance?

The research was in different countries: Germany, Estonia, Italy and Slovenia. It took about a month and a half in which I visited one place to another nonstop. I was interested to meet with people as well to visit the borders themselves to understand what we are talking about. Is it a physical space, is it a meeting space? How is it constructed physically? I went to visit borders and collected some sounds and footage from these physical spaces, and then met with lawyers who understand the European laws or lawyers who were active in certain asylum seeking situations. I didn’t have any access to refugee centers because you’re not allowed to go in. So the lawyers were my eyes and ears, my information leading me. I met with activists who were hosting illegal asylum seekers and working against deportation. I tried to meet with people who work in the legal system, which was quite hard. But I managed to meet someone who had applied to be a border police that was refused. I was trying to understand how this apparatus works, to find out more about people who are active in the bordering system and the people who work on this system.

Out of all the encounters and countless interviews, Najdi has created a radio drama that positions our bodies in the middle of a borderland. The audience listens via headphones and is instructed to navigate in this no man’s land.

What can the audience expect when joining the performance?

I think it’s a different, yet similar experience for everyone. Because the performance is on a loop, you end up doing everything that everybody else is doing. Yet your intuition towards all these things that you’re hearing can be different. It’s your agency, it’s never not there, unless you don’t feel it there. It’s kind of like you’re in a videogame. You get headphones and you hear instructions, and a few stories here and there. The performance is constructed in a way that each channel has its own music and its own mood and movement. So you end up in an immersed experience.

What influence would you like to have on the audience?

I would like to have a psychological moment with the audience, or a psychological opening. It’s more like how to understand how we – whether we do or don’t want it – are agents in this system, and to question our agencies in this system. This without really having to push very hard and in an obvious way. During the performance people will understand that they have different roles to play. I would like for the audience to question this moment, like “do I do something, or shouldn’t I do anything?”. As an audience you always have the choice not to do it of course. This is part of how they question themselves, and then understand that we don’t have to play these roles exactly in society.

What is your biggest inspiration?

I get motivated through many things, there is not one main place where I look for inspiration. In my case I’m very interested in politics, and there’s few moments in life where society and the politics and everything comes together in a way. That makes me, and a lot of other artists question themselves and their positions as citizens in the world. I believe that this space where we are questioning our citizenship and what it means to be a citizen in this social and economic construct, makes me want to understand or act to a statement. Kind of poke it a bit. This is what I try to do in my work, and this is what makes me do work as well. I believe that we as artists are citizens in the society, and have a certain agency that we need to act up on.

What are your plans to the future?

For now I have collected a lot of materials, and I have been working with that. The whole performance and the research took about a year, and the amount of information and the material I have is a lot to process, so I will continue processing it.

• Think Much. Cry Much takes place at Terrein 2e Daalsedijk, on Saturday 19 May and Sunday 20 May. Click here for tickets.


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