Alia Mossallam ° To chant the worlds away. The anatomy of a 2011 Revolution

Ithbat. Ithbat can be translated as ‘stand still’, ‘steady’ and ‘unshaken’. It was one of the newer chants that were infused into us on the 25th of January 2011 – every time the police launched an offensive, and people started to run, someone would shout “Ithabt” as he or she stopped moving, and then several would shout it, and then tens and hundreds, until thousands would stop. I would close my ears and squeeze my eyes shut and let the thousands of voices shake through me, shake out the fear, and stabilise my resolve. Although the 25th of January revolution was an explosion, it continued to be leaderful without a single leader, and the chants became the way the thousands that met on the squares in Egypt’s cities and villages, could quickly decide what to do and where to go next. A chant would be shouted by one person, and its message would either capture the imagination of thousands, and drive them, or it would not and it would flop. “The people demand the full of the regime” was the flame that came to us from Tunisia, setting the country on fire; the many chants that called on ‘our families’ to join us for our freedom and theirs inspired tens of thousands to join protests without a second thought for the first time in their lives. A chant can move and mobilise like poetry, it can capture your heart like a song, and it can weave a future before you like a vision. For a chant to garner consensus it had to be as promising as it was beautiful, it was the idea around which people assembled and not the person who chanted it.

In this talk, i will trace some of the chants that made the anatomy of the revolution, and the ideas that drove it forward.

Oliver Ressler "Take the Square" (2012) Filmstill

Oliver Ressler ° Voices to reckon with

Assemblies provide a crucial platform for direct decision-making in any attempt to make societies more inclusive and democratic, more just and less hierarchical than those existing today. For a long time now, assemblies have also played a central role in Oliver Ressler’s films and video installations. Together with Dario Azzellini, he produced a cycle of films on factories under workers’ control in Europe. Before that he filmed the Square and Occupy movements in Athens, Madrid and New York. His latest film shows a four-hour assembly in Madrid in October 2019, where delegates from various environmental groups gathered to prepare an act of civil disobedience to foster climate rebellion.

Julia Ramirez Blanco

Julia Ramírez-Blanco ° Assembly as Performance: The Mass Assemblies of the 15M Movement

Assemblies are normally held on a scale that allows for direct discussion and participation. However, during the Spanish protest camps of the 15M movement in 2011, massive assemblies defied these notions by blowing up scale, and also challenged the idea of a more or less fixed group that thinks about issues with a certain continuity. These mass assemblies, in turn, emphasized the performativity and the rituality. Julia Ramírez-Blanco addresses the potential and contradictions of those mass assemblies and discusses the evolution of the format toward a more manageable form in the neighborhood assemblies. The experience in Spain can be understood as a political laboratory which can help us for the rebellions that come.