What do you want to remember?
Behind Your Eyeballs ends with an exercise for the audience: we are told to close our eyes and imagine a moment from the piece we want to remember. I think of the two round discs with which the choreographers and performers – Miriam Coretta Schulte and Salma Said – capture fragments of a video projection. They hold the discs into the projection of demonstrating women. The videos are taken from the 858 Archive of Resistance – an online video archive of the 2011 revolution in Egypt. An archive of resistance, established and compiled by the Mosireen Collective, which was itself part of the protest movement and of which Salma Said is a member.
“What do you want to remember?”, the performers ask. They move through the projection and catch parts of the images with their discs. They look for details in the moving images they want to remember. In the crowd of protesting women passing by, they point their discs at an elderly woman to remind themselves to take part in demonstrations when they have reached the same age. As a message to their own future and a shout-out to another generation of protestors. They hold the discs into the projection and draw our attention to protesters holding up newspaper front pages. A simple means of protest. They indicate a person who walks through the image and winks at the camera. She might be looking at the camera person or at us, the audience. What is our responsibility when we collect materials and archive them? What kinds of relationships do we enter into when we work with documents of resistance?
The discs pointed into the projection are part of a mnemonic technique employed by Miriam Coretta Schulte and Salma Said in their approach to the archive material so as to recall the experiences of the protesters who are denied and threatened by the state; to establish connections to a present – in which protests in Egypt have become even more fraught with danger after the coup in 2013. The bodies of the two performers interact with the demonstrators’ movements, moving towards them and searching for memories they want to pass on. It’s a technique for resistant archives that preserve documents of precarious achievements; an attempt to establish connections to violently thwarted possibilities and suspended struggles.
As I think about what I want to remember, another scene comes to mind. At the beginning of the piece, Miriam Coretta Schulte and Salma Said talk about how they met and how they came to work with archives. Do you remember where you were during the fall of the Berlin Wall? On 11 September 2001? In March 1979 – during the Islamic Revolution in Iran? When did your interest in archives begin? For the Body Archive and the 858 Archive? When did the theatre enter your life? As they ask each other these questions, they hug, wrestle and dance together.
At the end of the piece, I feel that Miriam and Salma’s friendship is a part of resistant archives. It reminds me of my own long-standing and close friendship that developed while working with archives. Doing research, working on videos and installations, writing texts, devising workshops and exhibitions. It reminds me of moments when we had to lie down on the ground in archives because we were horrified, exhausted or had burst into fits of laughter. Of our desire to climb into images and learn to live with the archive’s ghosts. Who, according to Avery Gordon, appear in conditions “in which a repressed or unresolved social violence is making itself known”. This is why we work together, and together with archives, and around them; with the documents that are kept in them, with the persons who take care of them, and with their ghosts.
When we open our eyes again, the stage is dark and empty. “This is your future!”, says a voice offstage. “A fragile future”, I think to myself, that partly depends on what we remember with our bodies, which ghosts we listen to and what we can imagine behind our eyeballs.
Julia Wieger works as an artist, researcher and educator at the interface of historiographical work, urban research and visual art. Collective and queer-feminist approaches play important roles in her work. In 2012, she co-founded the Secretariat for Ghosts, Archival Politics and Gaps (SKGAL) with Nina Hoechtl. As SKGAL, Wieger and Hoechtl produced the documentary essay film HAUNTINGS IN THE ARCHIVE! (2017), curated the exhibition DARK ENERGIY – Feminist Organizing, Working Collectively (2019), and realised the research and installation project RAISE THE RAGS (2022), among other things.
 Avery Gordon, Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination. Minneapolis, 2008, p. xvi.