we dreamt of utopia and we woke up screaming
In the fashion of a radio series, two performative works form the first two episodes of we dreamt of utopia and we woke up screaming. A broadcasting company at times, and a foreign broadcast monitoring centre at others, they explore new ways of ‘exhibiting’ and activating a unique and little-known archive of a time when Algiers was dubbed the ‘Mecca of Revolution’.
Against the backdrop of the Cold War’s bi-polar tensions during the 1960s and 1970s, militants from all the continents convened in Algiers and witnessed a forging of a ‘third way’, other possible futures. The Algerian capital hosted everyone from national liberation movements, political exiles, rebels and disillusioned Westerners. Drawing on the liberation movements’ broadcasts aired by the Algerian national broadcasting company (RTA), the polyglot and polyphonic productions echo Yasmina Reggad’s journey through the worlds of ideas and ideals of that transformative period.
Initiated back in 2016, the long-term research named after Roberto Bolaño’s ‘First Infrarealist Manifesto’, we dreamt of utopia and we woke up screaming continuously takes on different forms and develops further with each episode.
By either immersing themselves within a live radio documentary show, or by activating a performative installation, the audience bares witness to the processes of conception, production and broadcasting of two carefully scripted works. The audience becomes both the contemporary listener and broadcaster. They carry the voices of past struggles and avant-garde propositions. In this way, they are invited to re-enact the solidarity with and between otherwise invisible actors of global history.
The performance Episode 1. La radio des images qui s’écoutent is inspired by the radio and documentary theatre genres. Spanning across all continents and several languages, a diverse corpus of both audio-visual and documentary archive elements and contemporary documents intertwine with testimonies by key actors and militant voices of the 1960s and 1970s. The performance provokes an encounter between voices of the past, Frantz Fanon, Houari Boumediene, Sam Nujoma, María Acerina, Elaine Mokhtefi, Antonio Cubillo, Vera Sílvia Araújo de Magalhães, Manuel Alegre or Yasser Arafat, and the voices of the present: a solidarity choir composed of today’s activists. Through the unfolding of the carefully crafted acoustic and dramatised script, the audience is led into an active form of listening constantly brought back to present and current events by the voice of the main commentator, Yasmina Reggad.
The performative installation Episode 2. From Dreamers to Freedom Fighters to Terrorists presents different facets of the armed struggle adopted by liberation movements in the 70s, an era characterized by acts of sabotage, bombings, kidnappings and hijackings. The work questions the way these acts are perceived by the historical parties involved at the time they occur, and by the contemporary audience in the present days.
The audience is invited to activate the installation by becoming the radio commentators of a daily live broadcast. By reading a projected script mounted like a 70s militant movies, the audience can re-enact and experience different modalities of political engagement and commitment to solidarity.
In Episode 3. The Theatre of Operations. Ammar, undercover Ammar is infiltrated by Yasmina Reggad inside the Cantine Syrienne de Montreuil. A committed secret informant, Ammar will attend all the activities organised during the three-day assembly ‘Les Peuples veulent’, in the same way as the general audience. Ammar will look like others. He will watch, listen, take notes, clap, eat, drink, dance and smoke outside. Like so many others. Sometimes he will yawn, be bored, or even fall asleep. But Ammar will also conduct an undercover investigation.
Every day, Ammar will echo the common argument of supporters of mass surveillance: “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear”, while conversely, he will recall everyday mistrust of past and present militant movements. Ammar will become both the director and the actor of his own theatre of operations at the Cantine Syrienne de Montreuil.
Drawing on processes of collecting information and the writing of reports stored in the archives of the secret intelligence services, the police or the army (too often inaccessible), every evening and in an aside, Ammar will report daily at the microphone of Yasmina Reggad, a double agent. These recordings will provide an alternative form of documentation to that produced live by the general audience which will circulate on social media (sources and territory of surveillance par excellence). The content will feed into Episode 3 podcast. Theatre of Operations. Ammar, Interrogated and will be broadcast live at the end of each clandestine day on the airwaves of Fréquence Paris Plurielle – FPP 106.3 FM.
This performance recalls the close and historical interconnection between performance and happenings, activism and surveillance. Thus, the undercover agent in the performance muddies the waters by becoming in turn playwright, performer, witness, agitator and producer of information.
we dreamt of utopia and we woke up screaming – Episode 1. La radio des images qui s’écoutent (performance)
Creation, script, research, mise en scène, translation and montage: Yasmina Reggad Performers: Yasmina Reggad, Solidarity Choir (TBC) Sound dramaturgy: Myriam Pruvot Sound spatialisation: Sophie Delafontaine Production: Hiros With the support of: Centre national des arts plastiques (Cnap), Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), Ucross Foundation, Sundance Institute Theatre Program and the Bouzeurs Family
we dreamt of utopia and we woke up screaming – Episode 2. From Dreamers to Freedom Fighters to Terrorists (installation performative)
Creation, script, research, translation: Yasmina Reggad Montage: Lola Hislaire Sound dramaturgy: Myriam Pruvot Production: Hiros Co-Production: Moussem Nomadic Arts Centre With the support of: Centre national des arts plastiques (Cnap), Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), Ucross Foundation, Sundance Institute Theatre Program and the Bouzeurs Family
we dreamt of utopia and we woke up screaming – Episode 3. The Theatre of Operations. Ammar, Undercover (durational performance) + Ammar, Interrogated (series of 3 podcasts)
Creation and direction: Yasmina Reggad Performers: Ammar, Yasmina Reggad Production: Hiros and La Cantine Syrienne de Montreuil Thanks to: Rindala, Hiba & Sarah Alhamed, Jumana Al-Yasiri and Bédi Topuz