Public space has always been a contested arena, where the political, the social, and the individual overlap. As soon as we leave the confines of our homes in an urban environment, our movements are choreographed by a series of rules and regulations dictating what we can and cannot do in the supposedly collectively- owned public space. Through traffic lights, pedestrian walkways, tunnels and overpasses, we move in a predetermined path, intersecting and sometimes colliding, over how public space should best be utilised to serve us, the public.
But what happens when we disrupt this predetermined path, this carefully orchestrated urban choreography? When we re-imagine and repurpose public space to serve as something different from its originally intended function?
Who can claim a public space as their own? A rally of the politically disenfranchised? A shop-owner who stakes the sidewalk as his makeshift living room through an arrangement of plastic chairs and glasses of tea? A performer using the sidewalk as an impromptu stage?
These questions are particularly pertinent to the local context in which the D-CAF Festival operates, in light of the ongoing changes Downtown Cairo is experiencing. Government-led restoration efforts dance with independent research projects, which pirouette around new arts and culture initiatives, which in turn tango with neglected passageways, public parks and an increasingly young, street-savvy and arts-hungry populace.
The D-CAF-led lab, Choreography, Performance and the public, attempts to explore these and other questions, highlighting choreography and performance as a strategy to engage with public space, and drawing on the relationship between arts, political practice and civil society in Egypt and beyond.
April 14-17, 2016
D-CAF in collaboration with Homo Novus