—Rabih Mroué is a profoundly complex avant-garde, conceptual and political artist, whose work uses documentaries, humor and lucidity to tackle the conflicts that occur all over the Middle East and the way in which Arab society gets information about them. In The Pixelated Revolution for example, he compares the images captured by citizens about the conflict in Syria - shaky, low resolution, captured in the middle of the conflict itself - to the polished communication strategy of the mass media and the government. In Sand in the Eyes however, he questions the very nature of human beings and how much violence they are actually capable of carrying out.
—Rabih Mroué is one of the main figures on the new Arab theater scene. Born in Beirut in 1967, he belongs to a prolific generation of artists who began creating at the beginning of the nineties when the civil war in Lebanon ended. Affected by the conflict, Mroué focused on reflecting on Lebanese society and political power through plays that try and avoid censorship in the country. Only a few performances are put on at venues that are not on the traditional circuit although, in some cases, objections have been raised by the government anyway.
—The readings deal with the human and political dimension of the Syrian conflict and the actions of the Islamic State and include powerful images, issues that are both relevant and interesting when looked at from an artistic point of view and through the eyes of a local artist like Mroué.
—The Syrian Civil War: This is an armed conflict between forces of the Arabic Republic of Syria, led by President Bashar al-Assad and armed rebel forces, several of whom have joined the ranks of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The riots started in 2011 during the so-called Arab Spring protests, which began in Tunisia. Eight years later, the consequences of this war have been brutal. It has created more than 10 million exiles, with around 350,000 deaths, cities destroyed and a wave of refugees unlike any other seen in the last few decades. The direct or indirect intervention of countries like the United States, Turkey, Russia and the European Union has not managed to solve a conflict to which there still seems to be no end in sight. It’s the worst human tragedy the world has seen in the twenty-first century.
—The Islamic State: Also known as IS, ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) or Daesh (a term used by several western states to ‘not recognize’ this group’s self-declared status as a state), this Jihadi group was created in 2013 when they broke away from Al Qaeda, calling themselves a state under a caliphate (political or religious leader), governed by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. It’s considered to be the largest terrorist group in the Middle East.
—Performance: An avant-garde art form in which the play’s medium is the artist’s body and the play itself is made up of the actions this carries out, normally combined with multiple other elements such as the visual arts, music, dance and theater. It’s one of the art forms that transformed art in the middle of the twentieth century.