Abduljabbar Alsuhili (AJ) was the first ICORN artist-in-residence in Helsingborg in Sweden, in 2016-2018. During this period, he was part of several local artistic productions and projects. In 2018, AJ took part in the Borderline Offensive artistic residency in Gothenburg & Tjörn, a production of TILLT done in collaboration with the Nordic Watercolour Museum. This is where the idea for The Museum of Real History, recently exhibited at Röda Sten Konsthall in Gothenburg, originated.
- With the urgent need to relate to and find a place in the great predicaments of our reality – climate catastrophe, economic and social injustice, migration & cultural conflict – participants created totally false and totally believable theories that gave them a place, a meaning and a purpose in the big picture of contemporary history – isn’t that what we all seek every day? Says Tiago, one of the project coordinators after the exhibition at Röda Konsthall.
The Museum of Real History – who creates reality?
The installation, The Museum of Real History, is an artistic project laid out as a regular exhibition and showcases a collection of artworks posing as scientific evidence. There are manipulated photos, fake maps, drawings, earth models, in order to create an incontestable parallel reality presenting ridiculous, sarcastic ideas connected to migration.
The purpose is to emphasize the absurdity of the conspiracy theories and urban myths used by violent extremists (both ethnocentric and religious) to radicalize people and poison the public sphere with fear and xenophobia.
A lecture-performance by AJ within this “totally-not-fake exhibition” also explores conspiracy theories mixing fiction and harsh realities to create an alternate reality about global migration that nourishes mass-paranoia. Forced to confront their perception of reality and the myths it contained with the notion that realities can be fabricated, the audience is encouraged to create their own conspiracy theories within the exhibition space.
- The main reactions among the audience who visited the exhibition were to either laugh (was the truth presented in front of them more ridiculous than the urban myths imagined by extremists – and sometimes adopted and spread by political leaders?), to fall into introspection (assessing what “truths” they believed without question), or to be offended (leaving after/during the most sensitive scenes or asking the play to be changed afterwards), says Tiago.
The Museum of Real History is curated and presented by Abduljabbar Alsuhili, together with the Slovakian painter and new media artist Ivana Šateková and Omar Abi Azar from Zoukak Theatre Collective in Lebanon. It is comprised of three parts:
- The exhibition
- An artistic workshop for locals to develop their favourite conspiracy theory (e.g. chickpea industry is behind the Syrian war to increase falafel consumption in the European market...) and work on fake/autobiographical testimonies: a fusion between their real personal life, conspiracy theories and actual facts;
- A lecture-performance by the fake curator, in which workshop participants can take part as fake audience members to enhance the fictional realities presented to real audiences.
The exhibition and performance is currently on in Serbia, on 20-21st of September, at the Centre for Cultural Decontamination in Belgrade, an independent cultural centre founded by the late dramaturge and cultural activist, Borka Pavicevic. And after that, they will tour in Slovakia, Kosice as well as spaces in Netherlands, Croatia, in Malmö in Sweden, and Ireland is eyeing to book the exhibition and lecture performance next.
A quick look into the #borderlineoffensive pop-up exhibition at Röda Sten Konsthall. Film by Anna Hulth
Borderline Offensive: Laughing in the face of fear is a platform for artistic research and art-based societal development, where European and Middle Eastern artists explore issues of migration, sociological contact zones, intercultural conflict and dialogue, collective identity-building, and community cohesion in contemporary Europe through new artistic creations. They use art and humour as a means of creative transgression, to broker dialogue between natives, old timers, newcomers and outsiders.
Borderline Offensive hosted 5 transnational + transdisciplinary artistic residencies in 2018, across 5 European countries and resulted in many artistic projects.
Abduljabbar Alsuhili is an actor and cultural activist from Sanaʽa Yemen, using his craft for social and political change and development of performing arts scene in Yemen. As part of the Rwabiit Cultural and Media foundation, he has produced plays, stand-up comedy, radio and TV shows.