by Serubiri Moses
The play, or theatre performance, Body Revolution by Mokhallad Rasem, felt like a study in immateriality. The entire play, all less than 30 min, showed our relationship to the material world: in particular, the body’s metaphoric relation to architecture destroyed in war and the decomposition of matter. This is seen in the ways bodies fall, and the way paint begins to peel off the walls.
Body Revolution made broad and rather symphonic strokes, almost painterly gestures, between the bodies represented by the actors in the play; bodies that similarly fell, and similarly reeled along poetically, which also, appeared to fold and mould; bodies which seemed to die away, or peacefully disintegrate like the old buildings shown in the photographs.
In this poetic gesture, the play showed the continuity of life beyond the materiality of the world. In poetic gestures pointing towards human crises around the world in time, the play expressed the continuity of life, and our sense of humanity, beyond the destruction of bodies and buildings.
These gestures ultimately relayed the crisis of when people, especially in a time of war have lost their humanity: have been reduced to nothing along with the buildings reduced to debris. Yet in a similar way, the choreography of the play signals the continuity of human life, the idea of a continuing existence beyond the body itself. Perhaps the play, also, shows the power of memory under the weight of physical and violent erasure.
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,” Allen Ginsberg wrote in his 1950s poem, Howl, about the post-war era that saw many young men disintegrate into madmen, using drugs to numb the trauma of their experience.
The bodies and minds of these men in Ginsberg’s poem fell away into the shadows. It is this dematerialization that this play brings up; that sense that dematerialization could not only be the razing of buildings down to the ground, to the immateriality, to the deadness of debris; but in fact, it is also the dematerialization of the body: and therefore the body’s continuity into another cycle of existence, as immaterial memory, as image, as thought, as history.
Body Revolution occurs also within the mind, as a type of post-war psychosis. It is also the dematerialization of history: the massive archive of war pictures that continues to shape how we remember or how we experience war beyond its material destruction. The images of the political executions echo the history of political martyrs, and in doing so, relaying the body as a political sign a changing humanity and society.