“My work occupies itself with queer memory, grief, loss and desire” – In conversation with Enad Marouf

Photo by K. G. Helm

In ancient Greece and Rome, the “dog days” signified periods of drought, heat, unrest, and mania. Enad Marouf, a Syrian-German performance and video artist, draws on this symbolism in his upcoming play HUNDSTAGE, where the anticipation of challenging and unpredictable times puts the notion of futurity into question. Premiering at Sophiensæle, Marouf integrates formal elements of ancient Greek theatre with his choreographic exploration of memory’s fragmented nature.

KALTBLUT caught up with Marouf ahead of the premiere of his play. Read our conversation below.

KALTBLUT: You have worked in various art forms such as choreography, text, video and installation. How do you develop a coherent artistic language that encompasses all these different forms of media?

Enad: Generally, I am interested in works that move away from an idea of a coherent whole and rather move towards poetry and fragmentation, works that mix genres. With that in mind, in my work, I don’t aim to create so to say a Gesamtkunstwerk combining different disciplines to mould a comprehensive language of “universal art”. I find, for example, the figure of Frankenstein more of an interesting figure that speaks to this meshing of different disciplines. So for me, my artistic language is more of a fragmented temporality that is able to hold those different mediums together.

KALTBLUT: Your new work HUNDSTAGE uses formal elements of ancient Greek theatre. What inspired you to integrate these elements into your work, and what effect do they have on the performance?

Enad: Greek tragedy specifically was my interest to experiment with in HUNDSTAGE, in Greek tragedy violence or the tragic event is not portrayed on stage as rule. I find this quite interesting as a way to avoid reactionary images and to concentrate more on the aftermath and the mechanism at work of a tragic event. I follow this rule in this work, focusing on the process of how to do things and dealing with the aftermath of loss instead of attempting to act out of what should be.

I have been busy in my previous work with memory, grief, loss and desire from a queer perspective and I have been concretely working with fragmentation as an operative mode. I have developed a practice of fragmentation. Not only in terms of content; dealing with the fragmented nature of memory, loss and desire. But as well in terms of form; general aesthetic choices as well as the working method developing composition strategies and the chosen formats.

Theatre plays in the Greek antiquity had set rules and clear order of the structure of the play. I took those rules to investigate them in relation to my work reciprocally. What lies for me is not to deconstruct Greek theatre nor to approach it as a trope of the age of enlightenment, but rather examine the question of human condition through a critical approach to theatrical form and contemporary aesthetics. For example in this work I concentrated on the idea of the chorus and how it is organised choreographically and abandoning having protagonists/ antagonists.

Photo by K. G. Helm

KALTBLUT: What are the central themes and messages of HUNDSTAGE, and how do they reflect your previous work and artistic message?

Enad: As I mentioned earlier my work in general occupies itself with queer memory, grief, loss and desire. For this work I wanted to continue on these themes while navigating uncertainty. The uncertainty of the now and the future. The aim is not to reimagine queer experience as a problem of queer identity only, but rather an invitation to understand them as means to inquire into what it means to be living – now, in contemporary times? When the notion of futurity for us is somehow lost, what we can learn from queer experience now more so than ever before?

I have been creating for my video installations and stage works alike installation settings and sculptural works that carry with them an architectural gesture: giving the audience and the performers alike the possibility to inhabit and move through the space during the viewing of the work. Changing their pathways and framing how the art work is observed. For this work I decided to work with the architecture of the Sophiensæle Festsaal instead of creating an installation or sculptures. The way the stage is organised and how the performers interact with the space. The Sophiensæle Festsaal has already a rich history of historical periods that I thought would be interesting to highlight.

Photo by K. G. Helm

KATLBLUT: Your collaboration with renowned artists and collectives, such as the Forsythe Company and Anne Imhof, seemed to have shaped your creative process. What experiences have you gained from these collaborations?

Enad: For all of my works, the team I’m collaborating with is very important to me, personally and also artistically. There are always artists involved, with whom I worked together in the past, but also others with whom I am collaborating for the first time.

For HUNDSTAGE, for example, I’m working together with Billy Bultheel for the composition, Jacqueline Sobiszewski for the lights and also with the dancers Ewa Dziarnowska, Jao Moon and Samuel Pereira with whom I already collaborated in the past works. With Serhat Işik and the team of the Berlin fashion label GmbH and the dancers Nancy Naser Al Deen and Shade Théret I’m collaborating for the first time.

I have the feeling that everyone involved in a project adds a new artistic and also personal layer to it regardless of whether I have been working with the person for a long time or if it is my first collaboration. To bring together these different forms of artistic expression is an essential part of my practice.

@enadmarouf

Follow @sophiensaele to keep up with Marouf’s play and others. Tickets available here.