Mia Habib

Stranger Within


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A performance for gallery space, black box space

and installation- mixed media

– Duration: 3 h

Haunting: That which roams unseen and quiet upon the land signals that what is not here is moving us. Absence is a powerful drive. The word is often found at a muddy crossroad between performance and politics. Stranger Within is a haunted landscape that maintains a multiplicity of absences; organic, historical and ecosystemic. They start to behave strangely; shaking bodies, breaking objects, shaping menacing figures.

Stranger within is a performance which makes use of an installation of artefacts. It is a broken historiography, shaped like a haunted land, fretting at the remains of the day. Agents made out of sounds, driftwood, plastic and flesh, are disseminated, lurking. Stranger within is the work of a sleeper: the story unfolds using displacement, condensation and disruption. It is structured like a dream set in the rural north of Norway. It explores the fabric of what makes a political unconscious.

Text for the public used about the mixed media installation

Habib and Hindis hosts were teachers, priests, sledge dog herders, secretaries, ex-police. They received gifts from their hosts, gleaned objects, and recorded the land.

“Lurking between these artefacts and these sounds is a fragmented tale, the work of a sleeper. It is structured like a dream: the story unfolds using displacement, condensation and disruption. Stranger within explores the fabric of what constitutes a political unconscious, a place where something is at work, at the edge of language, haunted by bodies made out of objects and stories.

The installation is a work on haunting, as a gesture which marks the muddy crossroad between bodies, history and politics. That which roams unseen and quiet upon the land signals that what is not here is moving us. Stranger within pretends Norway is a haunted landscape, maintaining a multiplicity of absences: historical and ecosystemic. Presences that seem to have disappeared reappear, fretting at the remains of the day.”

Stranger within (documentary film) 45 ”

The film follows artists Mia Habib and Jassem Hindi on their travels with starting points Alta and Kirkenes during the autumn of 2017 and is a road movie about meeting people and places during an artistic process. The film brings the viewer into people’s homes, and is a personal and intimate close-up with different people who let themselves be surprised and bewildered by Habib and Hindi’s invasion of their daily lives. We also meet the artistic guests Helle Siljeholm and Sina Seifee.

Vibeke Heide is a graduate in directing from the Norwegian Film School. She has previously written, directed and produced the short films Bunker and Og Leken Er God and made a number of music videos and other video works. Heide writes, directs and produces her own films, through the production company Sentimeter Film. Among several appreciations, Bunker received The Amanda Award for the best short film in 2015. Her films have been awarded and have been screened at a number of festivals inside and outside of Norway the last few years.

Commissioned by Transcultural Art Productions and directed by Vibeke Heide in collaboration with Astrid Skumsrud Johansen and Janne Lindgren, Photo: Janne Lindgren. Film editor: Astrid Skumsrud Johansen, Co-producer: Sentimeter Film / Heide. Producer: TrAP

Dance against food

This is part of a practice started in 2009, performed all over the world, in a variety of situations. The initial formula is very simple:  Stranger within travels to a town or an area, and makes itself available for a house performance, in exchange of a dinner made by the host, with or without guests. It is a simple, yet holistic experience, between poetry recital, performance, sound installation and relational art. The dinner is entirely part of the proposal, and the lines between performance and immersive social practices are blurred. The presence of the artists acts as a sort of revealing agent, because of the ‘exceptional’ situation of having performers use the private spaces of the hosts. In strange situations such as these, people enable themselves to talk about the exceptional or secretive moments of their own lives, of their world, of their collective past. The social and occupational backgrounds of our hosts are very varied, from houses to gas station and backseats of cars, from priests to outdoors specialists, secretaries, border police, political activists and farmers.

Method: Dance against food – How to

Mia and Jassem make themselves available through localized social medias, community centres, rumours, public spaces and social circles. They publicize a phone number along with a text, leaving aside any association to an artistic institution, albeit sometimes using the personal resources of art institution personnel. This has proven its efficiency when one wants to have a wider variance in audience (social class, education, centres of interest, age, gender, etc…) favouring people outside of the cultural and artistic professional field.

The invitation usually starts by one conversation, usually over the phone, keeping it practical and minimal:

  • The host chooses the amount of guests, usually say that one is a minimum.
  • The host chooses the food and the timing
  • The artists give an idea of the length of the performance (20 to 45 minutes)
  • Mia and Jassem make sure to explain that they will not make a mess of their house, that nothing special needs to be arranged for us, without disturbing the ecology of the house, and hosting us in however way they usually host people.
  • They try to keep information about the content of the performance to a minimum and to have only basic information about our guests – usually only what they reveal for practical reasons (I have a kid to put to sleep, my partner works late, etc…).

Jassem and Mia also have a cumulative protocol about how to behave in someone’s house, but this is not something that is usually reveal (such as to never touch a picture, never open a door that is closed, not to touch ornamental objects, etc…)

Bio & Statement

Mia Habib and Jassem Hindi have been working together since 2007 – using mixed media; time-based, relational, archival, performance and sound art. Their work started under We Insist, a collaboration with Rani Nair. They sit with the question of where is time-based art created and who can see it.

Statement: Their work is ”stuck inside reality”; acknowledging as much as possible that the ecology in which the work is created is part of the work itself. A major part of the creation starts outside of art institutions and venues, preferring open milieu, heteronomic poetics and social interactions. Art is not given any privilege over meeting people, standing outside, exploring houses and sharing meals. It is always open to being constantly transformed and interrupted, misunderstood and complicated. It stands for a radical relation to otherness, and starting in the middle of everything. The ”creation” of the work is mostly done in the public sphere (houses, streets, mountains, public spaces). However, it is also an important part of the work to put a special effort into documentation, and creation of transmissible and repeatable objects (performances, sound installations, lectures, workshops) that can be shared afterwards, with the support and partnership of art institutions, and with transparency as to the endeavours.

Mia and Jassem have been doing a variety of works around the world using this problematic of where art is what art is,making installations on the wall between the USA and Mexico, meetings in Damascus, immersive performances in Norway, flash happenings in Morocco, etc.

Concept and direction: Mia Habib and Jassem Hindi
Co – Produced by: TrAP
Supported by: Arts Council Norway, Oslo Kommune

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