Performed January 18, 2014 as part of the ‘Qubed’ Performance & Video Art event, for the 2014 Midsumma Festival.
A multimedia performance that combines music, video and dance in a wry and kaleidoscopic exploration of several key concerns in my art practice:
- Bees, from their ancient reverence to their modern decline
- Modern Egyptian politics and culture
- My own relationship to my Egyptian Coptic Orthodox heritage as an Australian-born gay man
The droning sound of a million bees. I walk in from the staircase, dressed head to toe in a Beekeeper’s outfit, face obscured, and slowly hand out flyers from BZ Corporation. The flyers are advertising material from a fictional multinational, who manufacture weapons, agricultural pesticides (for which they claim there is no scientific evidence that they contain chemicals harmful to bees), are conducting military research on bees for the Egyptian Armed Forces, use honey, royal jelly and propolis in pharmaceutical and beauty products, control a several cable television networks, and many other things.
Included in the flyer is the English translation of the Arabic lyrics of Teslam el Ayadi, a hugely popular political song that was recorded by several high-profile Egyptian musicians in 2013. The song glorifies the Egyptian military, especially its leader, General Abdel Fattah El-Sissi, and thanks them for their important role in the military coup which deposed the democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim brotherhood.
Once everyone has a flyer, I slowly walk to the stage and wait. The droning dies down.
Suddenly, Teslam el Ayadi, a very upbeat and typical Egyptian pop song, starts to play. I dance in time with the music, using an amateurish mix of belly-dancing and disco moves. Before the end of each verse, I have seductively remove one item of clothing, and dance with renewed vigour during the chorus. I keep the beekeeper’s hat on for most of the performance.
My successively revealed outfits are:
- A full beekeeper’s outfit, with hat, veil and full length white coveralls
- A soldier’s uniform
- A galabeya, or decorated tunic, popularly worn by Arabic men
- A ‘Nasty Pig’ jockstrap
As I remove more clothes, various bandaged wounds all over my body are revealed. Removing the jockstrap reveals a bloody bandage over my crotch. I dance some more, then remove the beekeeper’s hat and veil. On my left eye is another bloodied bandage. The music and video is cut short by the sound of gunfire, and I fall to the floor. Everything is dark and quiet. Eventually, a smoky, slow-tempo piano track fades in.
I slowly remove the bandage, and underneath is my closed eye, crusted with blood. I step into a kids pool that has been placed on the stage, and from it I take a large pot of honey. I take a cloth, dripping with honey, and gently dab at my eye, then begin to wipe away the blood. I remove other bandages and cleanse them with honey. I turn away from the audience, glancing back at them shyly, and drop the bandage from my crotch. I dab at my crotch with the honeyed rag. My movements slowly become more erotic, as I drag the cloth all over my naked body. I take the pot of honey and pour it over me from above, and the light and music fades.