While Guy Debord sleeps
collages, electricity cuts, candles, 2011



This work was commissioned by the Thessaloniki Biennial which took place in June 2011. After I got invited to visit Thessaloniki a few months ahead of the show in order to develop a work for the biennial, here was my response:

Focusing on the non-materiality of production reflecting the current economical situation, and the growing ecological problems caused by human movement and the modern society I decided not to go to Thessaloniki.

Instead two assistants would help me figure out the situation while I am in a different part of the world.

My first idea is (still roughly speaking at this level):

Cutting daily for half an hour the electrical courant in the monumental and Historical building Jeni. According to more precise information, it would be more clear to me when we should cut the electricity there and how and for how long.

It would be interesting if according to the opening hours of the show, it’s still possible for instance to do that some ten minutes before sunsets and till ten minutes after sun sets.

This idea roughly speaking reflects on the growing problems of infrastructure and chaos across the Mediterranean countries. In Lebanon for instance and in Beirut, where my studio is located, nearby the Beirut harbor, electricity cuts three hours a day. This is considered OK to compare to more remount areas and towns and villages where sometimes there is no electricity for 23 hours a day.

The Syrian regime is cutting electricity and water in cities for weeks to punish the demonstrators, thus leaving families and children without electricity access nor water access for long periods.

In jails, water and electricity are often used as torture techniques. Either an excess of electricity injections in the bodies of the tortured or banning them from drinking water and washing for instance. How about the electricity issue in Thessaloniki and Greece and over the centuries up until now? 

In addition to cutting the electricity for a certain time daily, I plan to make a number of drawings using black ink and burning techniques on white paper and hang them on one of the walls in an isolated spot in the building, and only when the electricity is cut, people can look at the drawings by candlelight. However, it’s not possible to see these drawings when the electricity is there; a door or some isolation could help keeping them hiding when there is electricity in the building. The drawings are indirect allusions to electricity problems in the area, and how it is used and or misused in jails and in cities of the Mediterranean area and in Thessaloniki itself. 

The title for the work “While Guy Debord Sleeps” hints in an ironical way to the fact that Debord was insomniac, because of often drinking too much.

Cutting electricity as a reaction on the current situation, is in a “Deborian way” somehow linked to insomnia as well: alcoholics become insomniacs, and people who have many worries, people living in troubled areas easily become insomniacs. If electricity is gone, the easiest is to sleep. But the effect is often the opposite of that, and could be one more reason to generate insomnia and perhaps even to endure a dark night but with a possible certain secret joy.