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But the father and son genre was obviously something that interested you to begin with. The political elite has tons of fathers and sons too! So he was very conscious of the fact that he kept his shoes on or not. Why the two shots? Why the two spaces? Hence, the two locations.

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Also, two lenses are used. One is a normal lens or a slightly wide-angle lens and one is a close-up, and the film is always a shift between these two angles of vision: one is close and one slightly set back. The only time when you see them differently is from above, when the father is kneeling on the floor with the son on his shoulders. I wanted the camera to stay outside this bubble, and the only time where you think you might be seeing through the eyes of the father is in the end when you see the seats: the empty seats of the cinema.

You imagine that you are already on stage. This position of a camera is something that I have done before in other works, where you see action only from one side. When you made this film, The Script , of those individual uploads, you decontextualise it. It is a relatively anonymous interior domestic space, and a relatively anonymous theatrical space, so it takes it out of its geopolitical location — the countries where it was being made, who was making them.

Was that conscious, that you wanted to sort of decontextualise the original footage and make it, dare I say, more generic, more universal? You pointed out to me that the father in this film adds another routine. But I want to move on. In many ways, this would appear to be the reverse of The Script , inasmuch as everything is very specific.

Could you talk a little bit about Dance to the End of Love? Because it happens at a very specific time. It becomes about an imaginary that has to do with culture, with iconography, and with a photographic practice maybe. And you are so proud that Elton John wrote to you a very singular line, but you realise that he does this with everyone, with all his fans.

When you do an exhibition with the same photo and the same dedication repeated over ten years, then it would mean something else. So this, again, becomes about the practice; it tells you something not about the individual, but about the context of the individual, the cultural context. But with YouTube videos, you have a dematerialised reality. They create this echo chamber.

Is that part of that? Online communities operate in a similar way. You remember when there was the explosion of selfies? But all of a sudden, when you call it something, you give it an identity … you tag it as the product of a concrete behaviour.

The Enchanting Contradiction: Memories of the Middle East

Or paraplegic…. When you went searching, did you have any specific outcome in mind or was it a more opportunistic search? I constructed a thesaurus for the photographic archive of Hashem el Madani: all the different postures that were developed in a photographic studio to evoke the idea of romance, of masculinity, of the family, the kiss, father and son, etc.

I started with these, typing them into YouTube and seeing what kind of results I would get in moving images. With some you wouldn't get anything, but with others you realised that they are still very active in the imagination of people.

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YouTube also has the potential of offering you other material that is tangentially related to what you are looking for. But it is also about loneliness, I think.

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The people spending that much time filming themselves and putting those images online are very often solitary; it is a solitary practice. This performance of power… it's a very decontextualised masculine power that has no end in itself.

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Do you think that that was an element? Because this is about men ultimately. You always want to know how many views, how many hits you got. At this moment in time, there is a crisis, certainly, and not just in the Arab world. This continual performance of stunts… some of the characters in the film have superpowers, which is a very boyhood fantasy, the idea of having superpower beyond yourself, moving things with your mind. I did my research in and the film was almost finalised in December The opening was in January — and the day of the opening, the revolution in Egypt started.

But I only got to talk about it properly a few months after that. Were you conscious, when you were making Dance to the End of Love — and even more so, The Script — of the types of images that come out of the Middle East?

Or is that too reductive? In an Arab region, there are multiple realities. Very often, they are trying to contradict existing stereotypes. Why is this so?

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Any idea? Give me a rough figure. Ten, twenty? And YouTube has one billion users. But I want to push the discussion on a little. But effectively what that little clip…. But something else happened, of course: ISIS. And ISIS started to use the very networks, the social networks, to spread their particular brand of extremism.

I was really taken aback by it today because I had forgotten that specific. I always refused to watch any of those beheadings, from those times until now… When I did this research, I did not include any of those, because in my view they are ideologically not individually driven. I think it was his uncle, or his brother, who was filming him. He is singing, actually.

Who owns what is uploaded to the internet?

I think this comes out very forcefully in both of these films. When you upload an image to the internet, or a film, you no longer own that film. With Dance to the End of Love and The Script , ownership seems to be an issue, copyright seems to be an issue. Ownership and copyright are something else, different from materiality.

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The technology nowadays allows you to reproduce a photograph endlessly — exactly the same, one hundred percent the same. Yet, there is still an original and the original is stored somewhere geographically. A digital image is not the same. Supposedly it doesn't have a weight; it is pixels and data, data that is stored somewhere, data that can be reproduced endlessly, equally.

And it is probably also stored centrally somewhere, but this somewhere is multiplied and duplicated in different places. What is different is that access to this data is much easier than the accessibility of the original material photograph, which exists somewhere with a guardian, someone who is taking care of it. I notice these differences while working with different archives, physical archives as opposed to online archives where things seem to be much more easy and more liberating also.

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