The Wretched in the Sand

performance/video documentation/photography

Inter-format symposium:

On Hosting and Displacing: Critical tourism, site-specificity and post romantic condition

Nida Art colony, Lithuania

16-19 May, 2013

In 1961, Franz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth is published in France with a preface by Jean-Paul Sartre. The event, by way of publicizing one of the great works of anti-colonial literature, affirmed (once more) the necessity and urgency of anticolonial and decolonial struggle in Europe. Sartre’s contribution, a Western voice confronted with the urgency of the anticolonial project, is a landmark for the history of the White, Western position in the anti- and de-colonial struggles.
Four years later, Jean-Paul Sartre together with Simone de Beauvoir travel to Nida. A famous picture depicts a dark-clothed lonely white man, walking on sand dunes effortfully in the strong wind. The sand dunes could be anywhere, but necessarily evoke a margin of a mental or physical empire. Not just a tourist, Sartre is there as a Western leftist intellectual taking a trip to the land of the new other, the East, the Soviet empire, communism.
the wretched in the sand merges the two historical events into a lecture-performance. Starting with an interpreted reading of the preface we continue with a workshop by engaging participants to discuss the performance. Myself, I am coming from a certain East, from the post-communist context of Bucharest, Romania. The performance explores what is at stake when such a performer, a woman, an Easterner, a post-communist reenacts Sartre’s anti-colonial writing in a remote location he once visited.
Sand, Algeria, the West, Europe, margin, communist, empire, tourism are critically used to redefine our (myself and the participants) positions. Questions such as: What is North, South, West and East? Who is the Wretched? How Western/European do the participants/public feel? And what is this Europeanism: guilt, shame, pride, desire? will be put forth in the workshop.

>>> The Wretched in the Sand. Nida dunes panorama.

>>> Excerpt from Jean-Paul Sartre’s preface to Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth”.

(…) You know well enough that we are exploiters. You know too that we have laid hands on first the gold and metals, then the petroleum of the ‘new continents’, and that we have brought them back to the old countries. This was not without excellent results, as witness our palaces, our cathedrals and our great industrial cities; and then when there was the threat of a slump, the colonial markets were there to soften the blow or to divert it. Crammed with riches, Europe accorded the human status de jure to its inhabitants.
(...)A few years ago, a bourgeois colonialist commentator found only this to say in defence of the West: ‘We aren’t angels. But we, at least, feel some remorse.’ What a confession! Formerly our continent was buoyed up by other means: the Parthenon, Chartres, the Rights of Man or the swastika. Now we know what these are worth; and the only chance of our being saved from, shipwreck is the very Christian sentiment of guilt. You can see it’s the end; Europe is springing leaks everywhere. What then has happened? It simply is that in the past we made history and now it is being made of us. The ratio of forces has been inverted; decolonization has begun; all that our hired soldiers can do is to delay its completion. (…)”

                               Read full text here.

>>> Captions from „The Wretched in the Sand” performance, video, 18 min.