Raafat Majzoub’s performative text ‘Leaving a Secret Place’

ACT at MIT

In his performative text Leaving a Secret Place, published in Contemporary Theatre Review’s INTERVENTIONS platform, Raafat Majzoub (SMACT ’17) explores how to shift through transitions between the competing fictive worlds of the powerful and the marginalized.

During his time at ACT, Majzoub explored the ways in which fictions can be written systemically with an aim to script new realities. His thesis proposes two types of fictions: Active and DormantActive fictions are those that have been reified through being connected to power—an example of this would be the geopolitical borders maintained by governments, when in reality these same borders are fictions drafted on existing terrains. Dormant fictions, on the other hand, are those that have not been realized, and possess the capacity to compete with Active fictions and eventually replace them.

“This competition between two types of formative fictions is very interesting to me,” Majzoub said. “And coming back home (to Lebanon) from ACT, I realized that for me to develop this work, I needed to get into politics.”

In the first year of being back in Beirut, Majzoub maintained The Khan in Beirut as a prototype of a domestic HQ of an experimental NGO designed to try out new world-making fictions. That space organically hosted the parliamentary campaign HQ of a grassroots candidate, whose communication campaign was designed by Majzoub. Almost simultaneously, Raafat collaborated on the drafting of a socio-economic development foundation with a prominent political party currently in power in the country.

Today, Majzoub’s work is geared towards employing the artistic position and perspective as a medium to enable connections that otherwise would not have been compatible. His work is to envision future scenarios, and then execute them in ways outside of disciplinary/disciplined methodologies.

In Leaving a Secret Placethe secret place that Majzoub speaks of is a place of crumbling and regeneration; it is a negotiation of the importance of “announcing” work and making its story public and thus endowing it with value. He was approached to write this text by Dr. Ella Parry-Davies, the co-editor of this edition of INTERVENTIONS, following a conversation they had about relationships about transculturation and politics within the potentialities of performance and fiction.

This relationship with the public is one of Majzoub’s main research strands. “I feel there’s a need to write a critique on storytelling as an axis of political agency—that OUR narrative will emancipate us all! This comes from a hypothesis that just like NGOs are designed to patch—but not fix—broken socio-economic systems, storytelling is designed to allude to public impact with no mechanism for actual public agency.”

Instead, Majzoub is developing ideas on “publication” as a transition from narrative storytelling, where the aim is not as much to tell a story, but to perform gestures/labor that could amount to future systems that shape new shared publics. In that regard, Majzoub credits the Experimental Publication course taught by Bik Van Der Pol as one of the instances at ACT that allowed him to reflect on the nature of his practice and to take it where it’s going today.