School – Alaa Edris


Alaa Edris, School (Video still), 2017. Video, 3 min. Commissioned by DUCTAC.

In 1995, I was in my fifth year of elementary school. One day, I was dropped off at 7am, almost an hour before the daily morning assembly. I had time to kill. My favourite spot was the school’s backyard. It was almost deserted, rumoured to be haunted. Most girls were afraid to go there – I wasn’t. A large pile of fluorescent light tubes had, for some reason, been put there. They were still in their original boxes. I was intrigued. I began to unbox the boxed light tubes until I had about 10 or 12 tubes laid in front of me. I picked one up and smashed it on the wall. I picked another one up and did the same. I liked it. I continued to smash all the tubes that I had unboxed until the school bell rang and it was time to go stand in the assembly line.

In this artwork, 21 years after the event, I re-enact the same action, albeit with artistic intent. I staged the performance in a school’s backyard, built in the 1990s, and I documented it through photography and video. This act of remembrance is about reconstituting a lost moment and knowingly concedes that memories cannot be recovered or re-played. The documentation of the event, as well as shattered light bulbs saved from the performance, are the literal fragments of this second repeated act of memory. The artwork presents disparate pieces of two echoing pasts that cannot be reconstituted or made whole again – even through a diligently documented performance that strives to mimic.