Restricted Frequency #137
Revolution 3.0, Harvard ArtLab, Lana Del Rey, Comix Train
|Ganzeer||Sep 21, 2019|| 6|
Egypt is erupting again. This of course isn’t entirely surprising. Too many people knew that a “third revolution” (more like a continuation of the original revolution) would be inevitable given the grievances that lead to the revolt of 2011 were never adequately addressed, but have in fact been compounded upon. Any support Sisi had in ascending to power and maintaining it for the past 5 years was only possible through coercion, fear tactics, and deception (he was after all Director of Military Intelligence and Reconnaissance).
So, the fact that we’ve reached this point isn’t surprising. The hows and whys though are pretty interesting. Pay attention:
A 45-year-old man by the name of Mohamed Ali, predominantly known as a film and television actor posted an inflammatory video on his Facebook page, detailing dealings between his construction company and the Egyptian military.
His construction company has in fact been working closely with the military for over 15 years (well before Sisi’s administration), and he claims he has never seen as much corruption as he has witnessed in the past 5 (knowing well that Mubarak’s regime was already corrupt as hell).
In short, his company was commissioned to do the preliminary construction work on palaces and villas exclusively for Sisi, as well as a 7-star hotel for one of Sisi’s closest friends (and fellow military officer), with costs in the billions (this in a country bootstrapped for cash no less). He explains the projects in detail, maps out all the wrongdoing, and implicates several high ranking officers by name.
He also explains that he has been swindled out of over $12 million US, and that the officers responsible took “legal” action to swindle him out of even more. Within a military dictatorship, this kind of means you’re fucked.
He sells everything he owns and quietly moves to Spain, before posting the aforementioned video.
Now… here’s where it gets particularly interesting:
Ali posts another video, claiming to have been contacted by “high command” promising that he will get everything he is owed fair and square. He decides: fuck the money, it’s time to expose these corrupt motherfuckers. And expose them he does.
His page (and videos) are removed by Facebook.
Sisi holds a televised “youth conference” in which he actually responds to Ali’s allegations (!!!). His response isn’t quite a denial, and amounts to little more than: “you kids have to trust us.” Uh, not good, Sisi.
Ali hits back with a series of videos on Youtube got over half a million views within a few hour's of being posted) which are carried forth by supporters on other Facebook pages, and even multiple Arabic-language news channels based outside of Egypt.
In his final video (which got over half a million views within a few hours of being posted), Ali calls for a nation-wide protest following a big football (soccer) game scheduled for this Friday (September 20).
Tanks and armored vehicles are deployed in major public squares.
September 20th arrives. It is a calm day, even after the big game. But come night fall, the chants begin.
It’s still too early to tell how things will play out, but you can be sure of the following:
If allegations from one single contractor are enough to get Sisi to respond directly and deploy military vehicles in public squares, then there’s definitely way more dirt where that came from.
Sisi is obviously very, very afraid.
The regime (as are most regimes, btw) is far more fragile than we thought.
All in all, you may want to keep an eye on Egypt over the next couple of weeks. The timing is particularly interesting because Sisi has just made his way to the UN General Assembly. If anyone within the military had any intentions on double-crossing the big boss, it seems to me like the opportunity may have just presented itself on a silver platter.
Turbulent times may lie ahead, but turbulence is better than a “stable” situation that benefits a handful while placing misery upon most. And turbulence at least allows for the potential of things tipping in the right direction.
I’m often asked when and/or if I ever plan on returning to Egypt. My answer is always the same: the next revolution.
Here’s hoping this is the one.
(If of any interest to anyone—particularly in Egypt—a hi-res version of the above image can be downloaded from this link. Feel free to print, photocopy, fly-post, etc.)
Coincidentally, the paintings I did emulating the walls of Cairo circa 2011-2013 for WE LIVE IN CAIRO’s (a musical) lobby experience, are now on display at the Harvard ArtLab in Cambridge, which as of today (September 20th) is open to the public.
(Photo by Roba Khorshid. Pretty telling picture, innit?)
In any case, if in Cambridge feel free to stop by.
The Harvard Gazette has the full story.
I couldn’t care less about Lana Del Rey (whoa, talk about curveball!), but this article by Audrey Wollen for Frieze about the myth Del Rey has managed to carve out for herself is pretty fascinating. And there’s no better sign of fine writing than the kind of writing that you can’t stop reading even if it’s about a thing you have no interest in whatsoever, and that’s exactly what Audrey Wollen did here.
My favorite bit is on Del Rey’s knack for recycling lyrics.
I don’t think there’s a single song on the new record that doesn’t borrow phrases or riffs from someone else. Her lyric cosmology includes The Beach Boys, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, The Mamas and the Papas, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, countless girl groups, and so on, and so on. It’s beyond pastiche; it’s library-like, almost career-as-archive. Del Rey remembers and memorializes while simultaneously erasing authorship and context: ‘I heard the war was over, if you really choose,’ she intones in ‘California’, converting John Lennon’s anti-war slogan into a woozy rumour. ‘But sometimes, girls just want to have fun/ The poetry inside me is warm like a gun,’ she lilts in ‘Bartender’, merging Cyndi Lauper and George Harrison in such an unexpected combination that both become almost unrecognizable.
But it’s not just music history that she cuts and pastes from, it’s apparently her own discography as well!
In Norman Fucking Rockwell!, she repeatedly refers to the titles of her songs within other songs. (She quotes ‘Venice Bitch’ in ‘Mariner’s Apartment Complex’, ‘Norman Rockwell’ in ‘Venice Bitch’.) Musical phrases recur across the album itself, a shiver of déjà vu. This repetitive tendency is sometimes somnolent, mantra-like and narcotic (‘Dream a little dream of me,’ she sings in ‘Fuck It I Love You’, quoting Ella Fitzgerald; ‘Dream a dream, here’s a scene,’ she sings in ‘Love Song’, a few minutes later).
I kind of really love that.
Don’t worry, you won’t catch me listening to Del Rey anytime soon—unless I’m out of sleeping pills—but I’m thinking how I might incorporate a similar process in my own work. Something to think about and experiment with.
This may be due to the fact that I am very much in the thick of my graphic novel (and feeling a little extra burdened by my inability to wrap it up in a more timely fashion) but I think that once I’m done with the thing, I’ll probably want to start fiddling with some other medium. That’s not to say that I won’t undertake any more graphic novel projects ever again, but it most certainly won’t be a regular thing. Generally speaking, I like to operate within what to me look like a cultural vaccuum. And I think that, as far as comix are concerned, I should be able to address those vacuums in 3, maybe 5, graphic novel tops (and even 5 would be pushing it), each completely different in tone, genre, and structure.
(And by other medium, I’m not referring to the film/TV cliché—though I’m not against it—but I’d really like to mess around with more contemporary art stuff.)
On a somewhat similar note, this edition of RESTRICTED FREQUENCY marks the end of weekly updates. Since it’s inception, I’ve largely treated the RF Newsletter as sort of its own project, which requires quite a bit of time and headspace in the lead up to each dispatch. It’s time I dedicated that time to all the other [shamefully] open projects I have going, not least of which is THE SOLAR GRID. And that is precisely what I’m going to do.
That’s not to say this is the end of the newsletter. It will still go out, but only when I have enough new work to share with y’all. Which will make the, uh, frequency (ahem) of this newsletter pretty irregular. At least for a while.
I hope you’ll continue to follow along, and still feel inclined to persuade all your cool friends to sign up.
Till next time,
September 20, 2019