World Picks: Exist Festival + the Mosaic Room, London

4 September, 2023

Exist Festival: Queering Palestinian Narratives in Underground Electronica & Dance

September 8 to 10, Café Oto and The Yard, London


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Just as a new biopic on Golda Meir hits theatres (the late Israeli prime minister was famous for saying that the Palestinians didn’t exist), The Exist Festival’s community of artists, musicians, DJs, curators and writers from Palestine and across the globe will use art, culture, dance, and performance to “impact the … environments in critical ways … through their engagement with anti-colonialism in the context of Palestine and beyond.” 

In an interview, Exist Festival’s founder Odai Masri aka ODDZ explained, “The Palestinian case is one that affects us all [and] not just Palestinians. There’s been a system of oppression going on over there for 76 years now, and it’s important to use any tools we have in our hands — media, connections, events, radio — to continue to remind people of that. We want to show everyone that there are people living in Palestine, and not only living but doing great things, creating beautiful art and doing amazing collective work.”

His unexpected death in June shocked a scene that stretches from Ramallah to Amman, Beirut to Athens, Oslo to Berlin. Key to Palestine’s underground music scene since 2006, Masri organized events and pushed electronic music and his community-minded ethos beyond the borders of his country. According to Root Radio from Istanbul, Masri was “1\2 ANTS, a harsh industrial techno project, employing pounding beats and devastating kick-drums in a harsh soundscape informed by classic techno and modern industrial elements in order to narrate the political and social panorama of Palestine. He previously used to run the first Palestinian electronic record label Harara records and Palestine online radio station Radio Nard.” Masri started the Exist Festival in 2019 and had been curating it with Bint Mbareh, who wrote the “The Rite of Flooding: When the Land Speaks” for The Markaz Review. 

From September 8 to 10, the Exist Festival will take over Café Oto and The Yard in London, with film, talks, music, performance and dance with underground veterans as Choronzon and Drew McDowall, and super powerful Exist heads, Kujo and Dirar Kalash. All will celebrate Odai Masri’s life, work and an understanding of global reach of Palestinian community politics and culture.

Festival organizers explain: “We owe Odai the vision and groundwork for the accomplishments of this festival, its tightly knit network, and most importantly, we owe him our ethos of marrying uncompromising sound curation with uncompromising caregiving. He insisted on queering Palestinian narratives while resisting victimhood … Exist is Odai’s legacy, and we insist on keeping it strong, fearless and bound by love.”

Malu Halasa


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Plus, In the Shade of the Sun: Mona Benyamin, Xaytun Ennasr, Makimakkuk, Dina Mimi

September 6 to 14, The Mosaic Rooms, London

Working across mediums that include film, installation, music and gaming, In the Shade of the Sun brings together artists that are forging a new language to think about and with Palestine. The exhibition considers the relationship between politics and aesthetics through new commissions by artists Mona Benyamin, Xaytun Ennasr and Dina Mimi, as well as a new sonic performance commission by Makimakkuk. Independent researcher and curator Adam HajYahia has been specially invited by Bilna’es (In the Minus), an adisciplinary platform that seeks to find new models for artists to redistribute resources and support one another in the production and circulation of work, to contribute a text to the exhibition and will be co-curating the exhibition’s accompanying public programme.

This exhibition forms part of The Mosaic Rooms 2023 program, which seeks to interrogate questions of active solidarity; to consider how we can continue to collaborate, host, and create sustainable support networks that enable critical and creative artistic practices.

Rana Asfour

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