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Precarious Breakfast

with
Armen Avanessian
Mark Fisher
04.03.16
60 min
60hertz

You know what a Zirbelstube is? Well, think of it as a light brown hell built from wood. In Austria and other strange places people take this for Gemütlichkeit. Anyway, in such a place, at a rather early time of the day, philosophers Armen Avanessian and Mark Fisher, author of among others “Capitalist Realism” and “Ghosts of My Life”, met to talk about of course Accelerationism but also and mainly about smartphones, depression and the way academics like them live today, caught between the notion of freedom and the dread of poverty, yes, poverty. Because this is what thinking amounts to today: symbolically, maybe, a bit, financially, realistically, close to nothing. What does this mean? Well, listen.

The art of the contemporary 6

Marie-France Rafael about "music on display"
01.03.16
8 min
Post

INT. DAY. SOMEWHERE IN BERLIN-KREUZBERG – ARI BENJAMIN MEYERS’ ARTIST STUDIO

M

The deconstruction of music, of the ‘idea of music’, or let’s say of what we think music might be, appears to me to be one of your main artistic strategies. Could you elucidate this aspect  – for instance let’s talk about your exhibition Black Thoughts at Galerie Esther Schipper in 2013 where you used the music of Erik Satie as the basis for your work, also deconstructing it in a certain way.

ARI BENJAMIN MEYERS

In that show I don’t actually use any of Satie’s music but he is present as a reflection. I always want to create a relationship between an audience or viewer and a piece of music, a musical score or a musical performance. Music as we now encounter it is often packaged in a certain way by the music industry and then presented to us as a completely finished, perfectly consumable thing. And as we know, consuming like that negates any kind of real interaction. What was missing for me in my work as a conductor and composer was precisely that: a real relationship among the audience and performers and with the music – in short, the social, messy, openended aspect. In this sense, also the political. 

Imagine a piano recital at the Berlin Philharmonie: a very famous classical pianist is on the program; musician and audience both playing their part, in their costumes, performing their roles in the ritual that is a classical concert. The pianist comes out, starts playing. After two minutes you’ve settled into your role, into your comfort zone, but then suddenly he stops, gets up from the piano and says something directly to the audience like: “No talking!” He’s broken out from his role. And from one moment to the next the whole charade, the artifice of the situation crumbles. Everyone is very awkward, the audience because they realize they are not an audience anymore. Now the concert turns into a performative situation, the audience gets the feeling of seeing something truly live, that things may not necessarily follow the script. That is what I am trying to achieve but in different ways.

M

So you are trying to create situations that open up the possibility for an encounter, be it social or political or let’s say aesthetic. Would you say that the situation is already inherent to the score, as a kind of potentiality?

ARI BENJAMIN MEYERS

Standing up and saying: “No talking!” is certainly not written in the score. But I don’t see it as necessarily outside the score either, in the sense that a score is a basis for a situation. Inside that situation a lot of things can happen – this might be one of them. If music is viewed as simply being equal to its ‘perfect’ reproduction then such performative elements are additional, not included – but if the performance of music means interaction on a social level in a certain space changing over a certain time span then a lot of things are possible without them being extraneous.

M

Speaking about the situation, I would like to know how the score operates in relation to this idea of a situation, especially in an art context. What I mean by that is, can a score be (visually) presented? And could we then speak about a situation as a form of presentation of the score?

ARI BENJAMIN MEYERS

A score is a written instruction. Notated music is the instruction for a musician to play or sing a note at a certain point in time usually in relation to other notes. Artistic instructions though can take a lot of forms, so there are graphic scores, speech pieces, the scores by John Cage or Yoko Ono that are just text. In my case a score is an instruction that leads to a certain situation. In a traditional sense we think of the score as a blueprint for an exact representation of a piece of music, so if I would write down the notes I hear I arrive back to the score it was played from. But if you go back in music history and for instance read newspaper reviews from the time when Beethoven was conducting his own works, those concerts were five to six hours long with different symphonies, concertos and opera arias, most of them premieres. The concert hall was full of sounds and things happening like people playing chess or eating. Some of the more important incidents are reported in the reviews, like Beethoven getting angry at the audience and the audience at him. He was going deaf so there were a lot of problems. . .So here again is the idea of the musical score as the basis of a social situation. In today’s classical concerts there is very little room for this, for the unrehearsed, the so-called extraneous or the contingency, even (or one could say especially) within contemporary music performance practice. We need the Philharmonie or La Scala in all its perfection like we need museums to display the old masters, but we also need another kind of space for contemporary music performance that hasn’t really existed until now, let’s call it a ‘Kunsthalle’ for music. We as composers and musicians haven’t traditionally had this playground as we know it in contemporary art. As a composer I feel a strong pull towards a nongoal oriented musical space, the derive. An art space has of course its own rules, but is still a space you can navigate at your own pace.

M

What I noticed about your work is the fact that you sometimes take one of your previous pieces and continue working with it, by changing it, rewriting it, or giving it a new form – so basically you are working with the same material over a long period of time.Are you especially interested in time-based variations?

ARI BENJAMIN MEYERS

Yes, absolutely. I find that idea interesting, that a work or a composition itself could be revisited and change or be reworked over a long period of time. In the world of contemporary music there is a lot of importance put on the idea of the ‘premiere’ and I wanted to get away from that. Then in classical music there exists the concept of the arrangement, but the arrangement is always considered as something of lesser importance than the original. In a way this is odd, because we know that ‘popular’ arrangements of classical music were at the time often the first contact people had to a work. The string quartet arrangements of arias from an opera like Don Giovanni (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, KV 527, 1787) would at the time have been much more popular than the original opera, precisely because they could be performed at home.

M

So taken from what you just said, what interests you is not only the process of composition, but especially also what happens to the piece you created once the composing act is done? The way it is going to be performed and presented and the different and new forms the work can produce?

ARI BENJAMIN MEYERS

Every composer puts a lot of energy and emotion into a piece and after a certain time, let’s say a year, the work is done. Then it is taken out of your hands and you have nothing more to do with it. You write down the notes and that’s it. Wanting to control the variables after that led me into the direction of contemporary art. When you start with a blank space, like a white cube, you have to think about where the musicians are going to sit, on what kind of chairs, and what the color of the walls should be. It is a specific space you have to deal with when you are invited to show in an institution. I usually start with the idea of a situation – usually connected to a specific space – and the composition process will proceed on from that.

M

Do you think that a musical experience must necessarily be an immersive one?

ARI BENJAMIN MEYERS

I’m not interested in creating an ambience or atmosphere in which one gets lost, but rather an always active present. I see it more like a constant series of ‘nows’. Usually when one starts talking about the immersive qualities of music, what’s implied there as a counterpart is a passive audience letting the music wash over them; this kind of ‘zoning out’ leads to a certain isolation and separation among an audience.

The Syrian Tragedy

with
Carsten Stormer
Georg Diez
25.02.16
60 min
60hertz

Carsten Stormer seems fine, he is cool and clear as always. He just spent two weeks in Syria with the Kurdish led coalition fighting IS or Daesh, close to Raqqa and Aleppo. He is a covering the war since 2012 and wrote about it for 60pages – his moving and important text “The Syrian Tragedy” is just out in English. With Georg Diez he talked about the grim reality on the ground, empty villages, no people left to kill. About his friend James Foley. And about what will lies ahead. His stern verdict: “This will not take years, this will take decades.”

Chemnitz, Charleston, Clausnitz

20.02.16
9 min
Post

November 1989 erlebte ich von Istanbul aus, wie die Mauer fiel. Ich freute mich für dieses Land, in das meine Familie und ich aus dieser Stadt gekommen waren. Komisch, dachte ich noch, gerade bei so einem unfassbaren Ereignis bin ich, aufgewachsen in der BRD, nicht da, schaue von der Ferne aus zu. Ich saß fast ungläubig vor dem Fernseher und musste daran denken, wie mir meine Mutter davon erzählte, wie sie 1969 die Landung auf dem Mond in unserem Wohnzimmer im Taunus verfolgten. 

Als dann 1990, kurz nach der Wiedervereinigung, die Treuhand anfing, ostdeutsche Betriebe abzuwickeln, war ich Student an der Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Fakultät Erlangen-Nürnberg. Am Lehrstuhl für Volkswirtschaftslehre hing ein Zettel, dass die Treuhand Studenten im Hauptstudium suche, die während der Semesterferien dabei assistieren könnten, Umschulungsprogramme in ostdeutschen Betrieben abzuhalten. 

Wir wussten, dass die dortigen Unternehmen in keinem guten Zustand waren und dass das für viele Menschen bedeuten würde, dass sie ihren Arbeitsplatz verlieren. Ich wusste auch, wie es für meine Eltern war, als sie damals in Deutschland ankamen. Sich in ein neues Arbeitsumfeld einfügen, zwei Kinder einschulen, sich mit einer anderen Gesellschaft auseinandersetzen. Es ging uns gut, wenn auch nicht alle Erfahrungen positiv waren. 

Ich meldete mich. Ich dachte, ich kann nachempfinden, wie es den Menschen in Ostdeutschland geht, wenn sich plötzlich alles ändert, wenn man nicht weiß, ob das, worauf man bisher baute, in einem anderen System funktioniert. 

Nach vier Wochen Vorbereitung kam ich nach Chemnitz, ehemals Karl-Marx-Stadt, zu Robotron, einem Flagschiff der ostdeutschen Industrie. Ich hatte mich ein wenig eingelesen, 1989 arbeiteten in dem Kombinat fast 70.000 Menschen, am Standort Chemnitz waren es glaube ich 8.000. Weniger als 2.000 sollten dort übrig bleiben wurde gesagt. Ich war ich mir unsicher, was ich dort einbringen konnte, außer meinen Optimismus. 

Und so war es dann auch. Montagmorgen um acht stand ich in einer grauen Flanellhose und einem Wollcardigan vor etwa 30 Nochbeschäftigten Robotronmitarbeitern. Mein Vater hatte noch beim Abschied über den Cardigan gelächelt und milde gefragt, ob ich jetzt mit meinen paar Semestern Studium in Yale unterrichten würde. Es roch nach Braunkohle, als ich von meinem Wohnheim, wo noch einige Vietnamesen wohnten, zum Betriebsgelände des Ex-Kombinats lief, und ich hatte davon Kopfschmerzen. Das kannte ich aus Istanbul, als der Ruß von den Kohleöfen im Winter in der Luft hing und ich immer Tage brauchte, um mich an die schmierige, kalte Winterluft zu gewöhnen. Ich sagte: „Guten Morgen, mein Name ist Murat Suner. Ich bin hier, um mit Ihnen die nächsten vier Wochen das Modul Volkswirtschaftslehre und Soziale Marktwirtschaft druchzunehmen.“ Es klang wie ein Witz. Sie guckten mich alle an. Keiner sagte etwas. Ich war Anfang zwanzig, sie zwischen Ende dreißig und Anfang fünfzig. Ich war Student, sie Ingenieure, Physiker, Facharbeiter, Büroangestellte. Ich kam aus der BRD, sie aus der DDR. Wenigstens das hatten wir gemeinsam: Zwei Länder, die es irgendwie nicht mehr gab. Ich fragte mich, wie sie sich jetzt wohl vorkommen, mit so einem jungen Spund vor sich, der noch dazu gar nicht so aussah, wie sie sich vielleicht den Besserwessi vorstellten. Ich dachte, die haben Angst und die trauen mir nicht. Auch das kannte ich aus West-Deutschland. Es gab so endlos viele Begegnungen von klein auf, wo ich das Gefühl hatte, die haben Angst, die sind misstrauisch, ohne dass ich es erklären konnte. Dieses verdammte Gefühl, das mich endlos nervte, aber das ich nicht ablegen konnte, und nicht verstand warum. Ich verstehe es bis heute nicht. Es gibt Erklärungen, dass es mit dem Krieg zusammenängt, mit dem Faschismus, mit dem das Land sich und andere in den Abgrund riss, dass dieses Trauma sich über Generationen vererben kann, all das weiß man heute. Aber man weiß das nicht, wenn man als Kind in diesem Land aufwächst. Ich wusste nur von klein auf, dass die Angst und dieses Misstrauen absolut nichts mit mir zu tun haben. Dass das meinen Eltern gelungen ist, dafür bin ich endlos dankbar. 

Im Laufe der Wochen wurde die Stimmung immer gelassener, jeden Tag verbrachten wir acht Stunden zusammen. Keiner von uns wusste, ob das, was wir da machen würden, irgendjemand nützen würde, aber wir entwickelten eine Art Gemeinschaft in diesem Raum. Aus dem, was lächerlicherweise als Unterricht gedacht war, wurde ein Miteinander-Reden. Ich sollte Noten vergeben, aber schämte mich, gestandenen Physikern etwas über Pivottabellen zu erzählen. Ich glaubte, sie spürten das und ließen mich machen, und ich sie. Eine fand heraus, wann ich Geburtstag hatte, dann gab es morgens einen Kuchen und ein Ständchen von allen auf Sächsisch. Ich war wirklich froh, dass ich nach dem Zettel von der Treuhand gegriffen hatte. 

Im nächsten Jahr bin ich wieder hin, da waren, glaube ich, noch 1.600 da, die Stimmung war ernüchtert. Einige Zeit später brannte in Hoyerswerda ein Heim, in dem vietnamesische Arbeiter lebten – so eines wie das, in dem ich in Chemnitz gewohnt hatte. Es waren sogenannte Gastarbeiter, deren Veträge aus DDR-Zeiten abgelaufen waren. Sie sollten bald nach „Hause“ geschickt werden, viele mit Kindern. 30 Menschen wurden bei den Anschlägen verletzt. Die Menge applaudierte, während Rassisten Brandsätze schmissen. Das war im Herbst 1991. Dann kamen Solingen und Mölln, und Helmut Kohl ging nicht zur Trauerfeier. Später mordete die NSU quer durchs Land, auch in Nürnberg, wo ich studierte. Der Rassismus scheint überall zu sein, wo ich bin, doch eigentlich ist er überall, wo jeder ist. Aber es gibt keine Regierung, die von strukturellem Rassismus spricht.

Es geht nicht um Ost oder West. Dieses Land kann nicht ohne Einwanderung, es setzt sich in der Mitte des europäischen Kontinents ja aus Eingewanderten zusammen. Es gab auch nie irgendeine Gesellschaft ohne Ein- oder Auswanderung. Es geht gar nicht ohne den vermeintlich Fremden, die Konstruktion der fremden Kultur ist lächerlich, es gibt nur eine Kultur des Zusammenlebens oder es gibt keine. Wo Abschottung ist, ist Dunkelheit. Niemand will da leben. Selbst die Leute aus Clausnitz nicht, denn im Grunde vergehen sie vor Selbsthass. Der Mensch hat keine Wahl, er kann sich nur öffnen oder zu Grunde gehen. 

Als die Menschen 1989 „Wir sind das Volk“ schrien, meinten sie das „Wir“, jetzt aber geht es nicht um das „Wir“, es geht um das „Volk“, das die völkische Bewegung des 19. Jahrhunderts meinte, und die war rassistisch und antisemitisch. Dass dieses Geschrei heute auch anti-muslimisch ist, ist fast Nebensache, denn was sich gerade breit macht, ist vor allem anti-demokratisch. 

Ich bin enttäuscht, weil die Politik das nicht klar genug macht. Politik muss das Öffnen der Menschen, das Zusammenleben gestalten, wofür gibt es sonst Politik? 

Ich habe angefangen diesen Text zu schreiben, nachdem ich fassungslos und wütend das Video sah, in dem Geflüchtete in einem Bus mit der unglaublichen Aufschrift „Reisegenuss“ in Clausnitz ankamen und der hasserfüllte Mob die Menschen mit „Wir sind das Volk“-Gegröle bedrohte. Und dann dieser Polizist, der den völlig eingeschüchterten, angsterfüllten Jungen gewaltsam aus dem Bus zerrt, während der Mob dabei aufjohlt. Wer macht so was? Ich wollte mir die Erschütterung aus der Seele schreiben und ich dachte, es wird nicht gut enden. Aber ich erinnerte mich an die Leute, die ich in Chemnitz kennenlernte und die mich kennenlernten, die mich nach einigen Wochen zu sich nach Hause einluden und die am Ende traurig waren, dass ich wieder nach Hause fuhr. Und das beruhigte mich. 

Aber es geht nicht um mich. Da kommen traumatisierte Menschen aus Not und Elend, fliehen aus Verzweiflung und vor dem Tod. Um dann in die hässliche Fratze von entmenschlichten Wesen zu schauen, so dass sie noch einmal um ihr Leben fürchten müssen. Woher kommt diese Entmenschlichung? So was macht allenfalls der Krieg, aber hier ist kein Krieg. Hier stimmt etwas nicht. Auch mit der Politik nicht, mit der Polizei nicht. Dafür müssen wir keine US-amerikanischen Polizeivideos anschauen, in denen Afro-Amerikaner misshandelt oder gleich abgeknallt werden. Was Obama nach dem Attentat von Charleston über die klaffende Rassismus-Wunde, in die dort keiner hineinsehen will, sagte, können wir uns ruhig auch hier eingestehen: Deutschland hat ein gewaltiges Rassimusproblem. Wenn wir es aussprechen, wird es besser, nicht schlechter. Viele Facebook-Kommentare sprechen von Scham und Betroffenheit über Clausnitz, aber das reicht nicht. Das sind keine Einzelfälle, das ist ein wiederkehrendes, also strukturelles Problem. 

Ich, der als Einwanderungskind mit nationalsozialistischer Vergangenheitsbewältigung bis zum Erbrechen aufwuchs, muss es mir selber sagen. Weil ich es nicht fassen kann. Weil ich dachte, als jemand meinen Eltern einen Karton voll mit noch dampfender Scheiße vor die Tür legte, mit einem Zettel, auf dem mit armseliger Handschrift „Geh nach Anatolien, Hunde kurieren“ stand, das sei ein Spinner, wie das halt jeder so denkt. Aber das ist falsch. Ein Rassist denkt nie, dass er alleine steht. Überall. In Hoyerswerda nicht, nicht in Charleston und auch nicht in Clausnitz. Er denkt immer, dass er für andere mithandelt. Andere, die sich nicht trauen, die nicht erkennen, was er vermeintlich erkennt. Er denkt in seinem kranken Wahn, wie der norwegische Massenmörder Breivik, dass er irgendwas beschützt, was schützenswert ist. Aber da ist nichts. Nichts außer Selbsthass. Wir können diese Leute nicht alle auf die Couch legen, wo man sie eigentlich behandeln müsste. Nicht den Mob auf der Straße, nicht die gestörten AfD-Leute, auch nicht die aus der sogenannten bürgerliche Mitte, von denen offenbar viele immer noch denken, Rassimus ist nur, wenn das in der Gaskammer endet, und das sei ja vorbei. Ist es nicht. 

Deutsche sind doch so ehrgeizig. Warum ist die Politik dann nicht so progressiv und erkennt, dass ein Einwanderungsland seit Jahren nicht einfach so stehen bleiben kann. Es reicht nicht, einen einmaligen humanitären Akt zu vollziehen, damit wir uns dann wieder in tumben Das-Boot-ist-voll-Debatten aus den neunziger Jahren verheddern. Da waren wir doch schon. Wir sollten uns der Zukunft zuwenden und konsequent den Weg zu einer echten Einwanderungsgesellschaft bestreiten. Es gibt keinen Weg zurück, wir können nicht stehenbleiben oder abbiegen, es geht nur dorthin. Das muss Politik aber auch sagen.

Sniper Abu Abdul accompanied by Carsten Stormer, Aleppo 2013, © Courtesy of Carsten Stormer
Aleppo - A City Engulfed In Civil War, Aleppo 2013, © Courtesy of Carsten Stormer

The Syrian Tragedy

by
Carsten Stormer
17.02.16
60 min
Longread
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Our Task

Igor Levit about meeting a guy with a clear vision of politics, life, love – and music
10.02.16
4 min
Post

My driver, a black man of about 25 years, picks me up from the hotel and greets me with a super loud “Hi brother, how are ya?”
“Good. And you?”
“I’m fine, thanks! I’m always fine, I’m always good, I’m fighting for a better world, daily, ya know? We all need to fight, and we need to feel good about it, that’s our task!”
A few minutes later, driving to Kalamazoo, we are deep into a wonderful conversation on intellectualism in politics, on presidents (“Obama is the best president we’ve ever had!”), on the media (“Sure, Fox News is crazy, but hey, I like MSNBC, but I would like MSNBC even more if they wouldn’t try to act like Fox News. Sometimes I think, we’re all surrounded by crazy people. Why can’t they all just THINK before they act?! Why not?!”)
“You know, my family and I, we came from Ethiopia to the United States, we lived in Virginia. But I didn’t like it. You know why? Too white, too republican (big laugh), too happy, too unpolitical. Not enough trouble! (big laugh). Luckily my friend called me from Ann Arbor, asked me if I’d like to move here, so I did. And it’s great! I love it! We all fight. We all do ! And each day we fight more, and each day we love the United States more. These nazis, Cruz, Trump, they’ll never take over our country. We won’t let them. It’s our land. It belongs to all of us! Bernie Sanders, he is my man. I love him. But I wouldn’t elect him. It’s sad, but the country isn’t ready yet. I support Hillary. Yes, I do. We all do. Sure, Bernie is closer to my heart, but the country isn’t ready yet. But he did so much for us already. So much! He’s our voice. Our media calls him “Socialist Trump”. They’re nuts!!!! Populist? He’s a populist? He’s a good man! He cares for us, he cares for culture, he cares for young people, and they call him Socialist Trump??? That’s insane! He’s like the only guy who speaks about culture. Yeah brother, I love culture, I love music. I think music helps us fighting. Detroit is like so so close from here. Hip Hop, Eminem, they’re fighters. But here, today I was listening to Schubert. You know Schubert? Listen to this! (He switches on the radio, puts a CD inside, Schubert E flat major Mass.) Listen to this great stuff! Ah, yeah, ah … these harmonies! That drive! He must have been in trouble, man! You can tell! Such amazing stuff! I’ve been listening to this all day long! Trump is a nazi, Cruz is a nazi, maybe even more dangerous than Trump. We shouldn’t underestimate these guys. Never! Look, you see these places over here? (He points to the left and to the right side.) So many crazy people live here. They’re crazy about their guns. Guns, everywhere guns. They’re insane. And churches everywhere. Baptist churches, all kind of churches. But sure, yeah, more guns than churches! (big laugh) They trust guys like Trump and Cruz. And you know why? Cause they hate us. They hate blacks, they hate Mexicans, they hate gays, they hate progressives, they hate culture. It’s pure hate. And it’s fear. They’re afraid of us. That’s why they hate us. Where are you from? Germany? Europe is a mess these days, right? I read it in the news. Everywhere crazy people. France, England, Poland, crazy stuff, man … Germany too? Oh shit. But is the young generation fighting? They should fight! You guys must fight! It’s your country! It’s a problem to say “my country”? Why? You should care for your country and for your people. Always! Hey, you know, I think the key is: love. I love all people. Even people, who hate me, I love them. If they’d kill someone I love, I’d still love them. I’d never hate them. Never! That’s why they’ll always loose. I think I drove too far, wait. No, just one block. I want you to be safe and to be on time. That’s important! Hey, good luck with your concert brother! You play Schubert? Wow! He’s my guy!! (big laugh) Give them hell!”
He dropped me at my hotel and drove away. Three hours later I performed Bach, Beethoven, Schubert and Prokofiev at the hall down the street.

The three in a Nietzschean pose; and look who has the whip

Listen, We Have a Jingle!

with
Ari Benjamin Meyers
Marie-France Rafael
Armen Avanessian
10.02.16
60 min
60hertz

Armen Avanessian visited Ari Benjamin Meyers together with Marie-France Rafael in his studio in Kreuzberg for 60Hz. At the end of 60 minutes 60Hz finally has the only thing that was still missing for such an amazing radio show: a jingle, or rather one out of 60 jingles. You’ll hear about Marie’s and Ari’s new book ‘Music on Display’ and his work as a composer, (post)contemporary artist, his upcoming shows, the book launch on February 19th at Spike Berlin, his childhood discovery of Satie and Vexation’s 840 repetitions, his discovery now of our hidden singing talents, and basically everything you ever wanted to know about the history of radio (jingles) and why its frequency should be measured not in hertz but in hurts: Ari explains it all while sitting and playing at his piano. And all this you get if you make it beyond the first 10 minutes of us recording a jingle for 60Hertz (or hurts) totally out of tune.

Please, Don't Tell Me I Look Prettier!

Enas El Masry about the veil she wore and the veil she does not wear anymore; and the time in between
08.02.16
8 min
Post

As much as I dislike passing generalized judgments, one feature that seems to prevail in Egypt’s social life is meddling in one another’s lives, one time through criticism, the other time through subtle or blatant commentary. Being the free spirit that I am, not only have I come to learn how to shun people’s unsolicited opinions but I have also come to find pleasure in defying society in pursuit of stretching my limits and growing.
However, despite my thickened skin towards societal blabber, I could never escape all sorts of judgments that accompanied both putting on and taking off my hijab (Islamic headscarf). In contrast to what both schools of supporters and opposers may think, neither step actually left a significant impact on the path I walked. With or without the veil, I was – and still am – pretty much the same person.
In September of 2007, I wore the hijab out of complete conviction, backed with a set of unwavering logical arguments. Despite my parents thinking that I was too young and that further on I may find it a burden, I still did what I thought was the right thing to do. It was a step I felt at the time was much needed.
In November of 2015, I took off my hijab with a pretty much similar mindset to when I put it on: complete conviction, unwavering logical argument and a deep belief that I needed to take this step. No doubts, no remorse.
However, what was also common between the two instances of decision making was the subtle peer and societal pressure which played a core part in shaping my beliefs and feelings, even if I was made to believe that they were intrinsic and genuine. It was upon realizing so that it became a necessity to revisit why I wore the hijab at all.
In the years prior to 2007, I saw many girls my age wear the hijab. In parallel, I often heard teachers talk about how big of a responsibility wearing it is and that once you put it on, you can never take it off. Along the same lines, one teacher once told us about the time she decided to take off her veil, which was only followed by a series of unfortunate events. Taking this as a sign from God that she shouldn’t have taken it off, she put it back on.
Filled with fear that every single waking day without wearing my veil only meant more sin, I decided it was high time I wore it. I mean, who in their proper mind would want to fry in hell?
It wasn’t until five years later in 2012 that I started realizing how influenced I was with society’s perception on wearing the veil. Consequently, I started questioning whether I wore the headscarf out of piety or out of following the societal and religious consensus on the path a girl should walk down. Seeing as how I still struggle with the basic practices of Islam, I felt that I portrayed a false image that didn’t exactly reflect my stance.
Opposed by my family at the time, I didn’t take it off. Although I never hated it, I just grew indifferent about it. Hoping to feel natural and at ease in my own skin and in my veil, I started to tweak how I wore it until it eventually looked more like a fashionable rendition of this societal dress code, void of any religious or pious purpose.
This indifference carried on, until I felt like I was doing myself and this religious practice – which I have all the respect for – wrong.
“You know, mom, between myself and God, I don’t consider myself veiled anymore. Let’s be honest, what I wear, the way I wear it, that isn’t real hijab.
“If that’s the case, why do I still wear it? Society? Why should I cover my hair for society? And what’s so obscene in this bulk of hair over my head? I no longer want to play by the rules of this sick society. You and I know very well that putting on or taking off my hair covering won’t attribute to healing or worsening this sickness.”
As though uttering out my thoughts gave them life and gave me purpose, I ventured for a second round of discussions with my family and, this time trusting that I was taking this step based on sound logic and not an impulsive whim, I took it off.
However, in all honesty, I strongly believe that the prevailing trend of women and girls taking off their veil in the past few years had a rather similar impact to the time when I put it on. As certain as I am of the logic which led to me to either step, I will always be a bit doubtful about how much of my logic was purely mine and how much was based on societal influence. Nevertheless, I don’t regret either decision.
Although confident of the step I was taking, what left my heart a bit heavy was worrying I would face harsh judgments. As a matter of fact, almost everyone I met was quite accepting of my decision, sparing me any condescending comments or unwanted religious sermons.
Strangely though, what made me feel rather uncomfortable was the praise I received. Varying between “You look gorgeous!” and “This suits your lifestyle more,” I knew people were trying to show their support, but they were boiling down the value of the journey to mere external looks.
For me, it was a journey of reestablishing my relationship with God, and trying to find Him is what led me to taking off my headscarf – which is only one step among many along the way.
Tired of constructing my spiritual life on the fear of punishment, I vowed to only do things out of love for God and the true desire to do what makes Him happy – similar to how anyone would act towards a person they love. But in doing so, I had to take a step back and reevaluate how I practiced the things which we allegedly do for God. I am not against wearing the headscarf but I am against wearing it for the wrong reasons. Having once bet on God’s punishment when I put it on, I was this time betting on His mercy as I took it off.
Looking back on the doubts, insecurities and beliefs that I dwelled on, it irritated me that to those who tried to show support, it was more or less a matter of looks. With or without the scarf, I have my good days when I’m all shiny and pretty and I have my days when I’m an utter mess. But guess what, that’s how all people are!
In the years following 2011 and in the wake of this aggressive and mutated face of feminism that has swept the country, many movements and public figures called on women to take off their headscarves, those chains that restricted women and kept them from reaching their full potential.
Looking at myself and my friends who have worn it for many years and who also happen to be very successful and aspiring young ladies, it was quite entertaining how people generalized their personal experiences and traumas, boiling them down to the hijab and how it’s one means of limiting women – kind of sounds like when feminists wanted to burn bras!
But let me tell you what I have achieved during the years when I wore my headscarf. I have graduated both school and college with honors. I started cycling in Cairo at a time when I was called insane for doing so. I traveled to new places in Egypt that I had never seen before and I traveled for the first time on my own to Europe – twice. I took my first steps along the professional career path. I left an impact wherever I worked. I succeeded at some things and failed at others. Fell in and out of love. I grew and the horizons of my capabilities grew farther, always inviting me to go the extra mile. I made new friends, cherished old ones, went through uncountable precious experiences – all of which contributed to my continued growth.
If there is one thing I shall miss about wearing my headscarf, it is proving the absurdity of linking the hijab to limited freedom or aspiration. My eight veiled years were exceptionally rich eight years that I don’t regret a single day of.

Enas El Masry
People

The first time I met Enas was one year after we physically met. We were at a cafe, exchanging words and magic about God and the world, as she descriptively narrated her first solo trip to Europe. Suddenly, I saw a glimmer in her eyes; a glimmer of someone who’s hungry for life; a glimmer of someone who truly knows how to live by the codes of passion.
The second time I met her was when she decided to follow her heart and shift careers. I knew that she has a heart that encompasses the world, and following that heart would never lead her astray. I knew she would put her unicorn heart and soul into whatever she sets her mind on, and that’s exactly what happened.
The third time I met her was when she shared a collaged picture of herself alongside Marge from the Simpsons. She had the eyes of a child. The way she saw the world anew everyday has inspired me to write: “May you grow up enough to become a child”. That was when I envied her for having the soul of an artist and the mind of a world conqueror who grabs the world by the neck – a formidable combination if you don’t know.
The fourth time I met her was when she she decided to give it all up and chase what she loves, when her detachment of all things seemed courageous and thrilling, exactly like her soul.
You will meet Enas on one level or the other, whether she brings you to your knees by singing, melting your heart by casually playing Chopin,  or flipping through her thoughts like an eloquent book, and never hesitating to tell it like it is. But if you’re really damn lucky, you’ll meet Enas on a personal level where her existence strips you off the masks you think you need to wear. 
She is magic. Not the representation of it, she is it. You only need to meet her once to know that, but one time, mark my words, is the furthest from enough.
She is art, one that cannot be unseen.

The beginning of a revolution
The anger, the rage, the people: Tahrir Square in January 2011
Tahrir Square on Feb. 11: Hosni Mubarak had resigned after 30 years in power.

I Like to Think of Tahrir Square As a Woman

with
Nora Amin
Georg Diez
31.01.16
60 min
60hertz

It was the day of the fifth anniversary of the beginning of what would become the Tahrir revolution, one of the first episodes of what would become the Arab Spring, one of the most promising events, a series of days really, 18 say the people who were there. And Nora Amin was one of them. There are still sparkles in her eyes when she talks about these first 18 days, and her voice changes when she talks about what happened then. 
She has written about all of that, a very moving, a very important text, especially today in the context of all the hysteria, the wrong information, the lack of knowledge of what really happened and what it meant.
“Migrating the Feminine“ is a fearless attempt to find an answer to what it means to be a woman in a society full of prejudice, contempt, anger and transgression against the female, in all ages, in all forms, from the way a young girl is treated to the violent and traumatic events of Tahrir.
Nora Amin`s text is personal, passionate and political, her voice is strong in a time full of confusion, her vision is clear, her language as vibrant and as poetic as it can be. This is an important text not only for the Egyptian society, it is part of larger discussion among writers, thinkers, feminists around the world. 
Amin’s essay “Migrating the Feminine“ is the first book published from the exceptional and experimental collaboration between 60pages and some of the most important journalists, activists and writers in Egypt today.
In her interview for 60Hz we discussed the legacy and the sadness involved in the memory of this day, five years on.

Precarious Breakfast

with
Armen Avanessian
Mark Fisher
04.03.16
60 min

The art of the contemporary 6

Marie-France Rafael about "music on display"
01.03.16
8 min

The Syrian Tragedy

with
Carsten Stormer
Georg Diez
25.02.16
60 min

Chemnitz, Charleston, Clausnitz

20.02.16
9 min

The Syrian Tragedy

by
Carsten Stormer
17.02.16
60 min

Our Task

Igor Levit about meeting a guy with a clear vision of politics, life, love – and music
10.02.16
4 min

Listen, We Have a Jingle!

with
Ari Benjamin Meyers
Marie-France Rafael
Armen Avanessian
10.02.16
60 min

Please, Don't Tell Me I Look Prettier!

Enas El Masry about the veil she wore and the veil she does not wear anymore; and the time in between
08.02.16
8 min

I Like to Think of Tahrir Square As a Woman

with
Nora Amin
Georg Diez
31.01.16
60 min