Casondra Sobieralski ~ Media Artist

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Ohlone Memorial, 2002 | Fleet Week Action, 2002 | Making Friends, 2002 | Astarte's Scream, 2006 | Stickers: Get InterACTIVE! (downloads) |
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Egypt | Catal Hoyuk | Seneca Falls, NY |
Isis/Nephthys-VR, 2002 | Mona Hatoum-Embodiment, 2003 | Gender Relations-Song of Songs, 2004 | Spatial Storytelling, 2005 |
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Actions/Performances

Astarte's Scream

Astarte's Scream was an interactive performance event I organized in response to the Israel-Lebanon War of 2006, and to the seemingly eternal Israeli/Palestinean Conflict. The motto was "CONFLICT IS A FAILURE OF CREATIVITY."

The idea behind the peace/piece was that the goddess Astarte was worshipped by people all over the Levantine, and our roots--Arabs' and Jews'--are shared. So how can we find our way back to commonality? Too often I hear Pro-Palestine activists or Pro-Israel activists screaming at each other rather than listening each other, when really both sides seem to want the same things: peace, security, a homeland. So how do we get people out of their pre-suppostions about the other long enough to stop and really LISTEN, to hear this echo? I believe listening is the first step to solving any conflict of this nature.

Thus, I invited people to a night of all-audience participation improvisational theater games, like we used to play in college. In these games, two or more people volunteer to act. The audience assigns each actor a character, and the audience devises a random situation for the characters to be in together. The twist in this game was, the character set was limited to figures--real or mythical--from the Near East / Middle East.

As in a surrealist game, this technique snapped people out of their habitual patterns of how they thought about others, and forced them to be attuned to the present moment. We got some weird and wacky combinations, where no preconceptions were available. Examples are below.

The evening spurred a lot of open, supportive dialogue after the improvisational performances. I recommend this sort of community art project for any sort of peace-and-conflict work, in high schools, families, neighborhoods, or elsewhere. Score one for humanity.

Arafat and Kadifa Yasser Arafat was the leader of the PLO. Most Palestinians looked at him as a freedom fighter, working for the self-determination of their people; many Israelis considered him to be a terrorist leader. He won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, but he was a controversial figure.

Kadifa was the wife of the Moslem prophet Mohammad. She was a wealthy business woman--a caravan trader--who hired Mohammad. They fell in love, got married, and with her financial support, Mohammad was able to "drop out," in 60s parlance, to find his spiritual path and write a book about it: the Koran.

The audience told these characters that they were at a book signing in Palestine, with Arafat just having written a new book, and Kadifa wanting some signed copies.

 

Zenobia and Astarte Zenobia was a third century (c.e.) Arab queen. She expanded her vast empire, reclaiming some lands from the Romans. She reputedly had a harem of 20 husbands.

Astarte, as desribed above, was a Semitic goddess worshipped throughout theLevantine--what is today Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine.

The invented situation: The queen and the goddess were having a chat in Astarte's temple, after Zenobia had just conquered a people that had been praying to Zenobia for salvation from this fate.

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Jesus and George W. Bush Jesus was a Jew who is considered to be the founder of Christianity. He used to stand for--um--peace.

George Bush was the 43rd president of the United States. He was an evangelical Christian, and used some people's belief in Jesus to rally them for--well--war.

The imaginary situation these characters were to be in: visiting US soldiers in a military hospital in Iraq.

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