ACT Lecturer Lara Baladi’s work, Don’t Touch Me Tomatoes & Chachacha (2013), is being featured in the program Monuments & Flowers at the Arab Film Fest Collab.

Between 2012 and 2013, artist Lara Baladi created the immersive, surround-sound video installation, Don’t Touch Me Tomatoes & Chachacha as a direct response to the ill-concealed misogyny which had been surfacing around the world (and continues to), and which at the time, in Egypt in particular, was amplified by the use of sexual abuse as a counter-revolutionary tool.

Made with YouTube videos collected over a period of two years during the 2011 Egyptian revolution and its aftermath, Don’t Touch Me Tomatoes & Chachacha, is a tribute to the creative and transformative part women play in history, a role they are too often denied, in the Middle East and in the world at large.

As a response to a commission by Christian Dior to make a work for the exhibition Miss Dior––which highlighted the designer’s admiration for his sister’s role as a resistant in the second world war––this enchanting audio-visual experience, titled after one of Josephine Baker’s songs, Don’t Touch Me Tomatoes, is a “carousel” of fireflies in which iconic women artists, activists, and anarchists, such as Louise Michelle, Isadora Duncan, Alice Guy, and many more––are fireflies, who, if only for a moment, illuminate the world.

This work was originally conceived as a 7.1 surround sound video installation (projection at 180 degrees 380 X 118 inches).

Artwork commissioned by Dior.

Curated by Regine Basha, Monuments & Flowers draws from the particularly accelerated ebb and flow of destruction and construction, death and regeneration — of cities, of ideologies, of nationalities, of quotidian life and ecosystems — that the region termed the ‘Middle East’ is continually undergoing. The artists selected here internalize this state of constant flux, employing both fictional and diaristic narratives while collapsing the hyper-real with the surreal. Scenes from daily life become infused with a subconscious overlay of desire, fear, alienation or utopian longings. Through highly evocative mixed use of time-based media; ranging from found super 8mm, to stained celluloid, to CGI, many of the works lean towards a retro-futurist lens that is highly attentive to the minutiae and habits of locale, yet slippery in its chronology.

ArteEast, the Arab American National Museum (AANM), Arab Film and Media Institute(AFMI), and Mizna collectively present the Arab Film Fest Collab, December 3–13, 2020. With programs featuring films, panel discussions and performances from Southwest Asia and North Africa (SWANA), the AFFC highlights Arab, Afro-Arab and Black SWANA voices, capturing the complexity of the Arabic speaking world and its diverse narratives. Screening the work of filmmakers from countries including Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, and Morocco.