16th Venice Architecture Biennale
Biennale Architettura de Venizia

A Future Collective (Sadia Shirazi, Mezna Qato)
Bahrain Pavilion, Arsenale Artigliere
Curated by Noura Al Sayeh and Nora Akawi

May 26 - November 25, 2018

*Friday, November 23, 2018* 
Enactment of The People's Mic Khutba 

Download PDF of Press Release

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The People’s Mic Khutba (PMK) is a score for a non-hierarchical Friday khutba. It responds to the conditions in which social life—the lives of friends families, lovers and strangers—exists under conditions of siege, imprisonment, surveillance, disappearance, deportation and death. Bodies standing, sitting, kneeling, suspended, stripped and strapped down, at rest and restless, side by side and in solitary, in moments of debility and disability are this work's conditions of possibility. Our project is animated by the sounds of prayer, chants, cries, and hands striking flesh but also by whispers and silences that give way to breath and breathlessness. 

The Friday khutba is performed as a religious ritual by Muslims around the world. It approximates the Sunday sermon, only it can be conducted with a minimum of three people anywhere in the world. The khutba itself consists of two parts, the first is a sermon and then prayer, both led by an Imam. In the last century, as religious leaders became state functionaries across the Muslim world, surveilled and disciplined by the state, this speech often embodied instructions on how to function as a good citizen. In America, as a result of the intense surveillance of Muslims that escalated after 9/11, the Friday khutba became one of the most surveilled moments in Muslim American life. In addition to the Imam, who feels under threat, is every congregant who is also monitored and surveilled. Under such suffocating conditions of omnipresent censor, it becomes difficult to speak and impossible to hear. 

The PMK is an ‘instructional’ score written in response to these conditions. We asked ourselves: how can we worship together under the unremitting gaze of the state? In the homes of a repressive patriarch or regime (or both)? What would happen if the khutba, a central moment of worship that is ceded simultaneously to the imam and the state, refused the singular voice and was reclaimed by many voices? What happens when sect or gender are not foregrounded by a score? The People’s Mic Khutba is our offering back to the worlds we grew up in as well as those we now inhabit and are proximate to, Muslim and non-Muslim. We offer it as a way to build collective speech, refuse individuated utterance, and sustain a possibility for lone voices to speak together. We hope it helps us find a way back to one another after having trust and the bonds of community, family and self broken. 

3 Scores & The People’s Mic Khutba draws from institutional and personal archives of prayer books and religious manuals that are written, transliterated and translated in English, Urdu and Arabic. This iteration of the book, supported by the Bahrain Pavilion, includes English, Italian, Arabic, and Urdu translations and transliterations. The book includes an additional three scores written in response to the site and context of the exhibition. The project will also include an “enactment” of the PMK in Venice.