I have never been to Al-Mutanabbi Street. We were not there. Most of us probably will never be there. How can we bear witness to an event that occurred so far away, so long ago? How can we make ourselves witnesses to what we never could have seen? Why is it important, in this time, and in this place, to continue to witness, to see? How do, or can, these broadsides actually make a difference? Or are we simply tossing pebbles into an ocean of tragedy?
I have lived my entire life on Al-Mutanabbi Street.
Every act of violence, every bomb, opens a wound in the world. It destroys everything near it, continuously, even well after the bomb has exploded, the dead have been gathered, and the rubble has been cleared. Even three years after it happened, the bomb, this bomb, our bomb, any bomb, continues to incinerate any action or any language that tries to get near it. These words you’re hearing now are dust before they’ve left my mouth.
If not for this bomb and for this project, I never would have heard of Al-Mutanabbi Street. 130 people were killed or wounded in the attack. There are now 130 different broadsides in the world: produced, producing, embodied, and embodying. Broadsides can not protect anyone from a piece of shrapnel, can never heal a wound, or “right” a wrong. They are, at best, shrouds, or photographs of the lost, creased and worn.
130 acts of creation, laid over this wound in the world. 130 moments of remembrance, burying the dead. 130 pieces of shrapnel, continuously opening and reopening the wound. 130 broadsides, by more than 130 artists and writers, who have chosen to try to see, to feel, to make.
I have come to no conclusions.
We will live our entire lives on Al-Mutanabbi Street.
Making notes this morning for the Al-Mutanabbi Street panel discussion this evening (scroll down for info). This is what I’ve ended up with: