carmen reimagined — the official trailer

Finally, the official trailer to the /carmen/karmen/s/ project! It’s always slightly shocking to hear your own voice disembodied and mechanised, but Johanna Devi looks fantastic and Robin Storey‘s music sounds suitably dark and terrifying to draw out the deeply disturbing narrative that underlies Carmen.

Check out rehearsal photos and take a sneak peek at a snippet of the rough cut of the visuals.

Come to the shows! Book now!


Filed under: arts, films, literature

rough cut – centrifuge: carmen sampled

A sneak peek from the final scene of CENTRIFUGE: CARMEN SAMPLED – created by Rapoon and Johanna Devi. See photographs from the rehearsals a few weeks ago here.

Also, check out the official trailer in which I explain, with the help of some serious editing from the media services people, the rationale behind the project.

Book tickets now!

(and if the clip below doesn’t work… try here.)

Filed under: arts, films

trailer – carmen staged: ‘Love is a Baby dat grows up Wild’

Susanne Dietz, our wonderful video artist, has created a trailer for CARMEN STAGED, entitled ‘Love is a Baby dat Grow Wild: Re-Reading of the Media Archive’. She says this about it…

‘Love is a Baby dat grows up Wild. Re-Reading of the media archive’ is a montage of clips from Carmen movies that were made in particular social contexts at specific historical moments between 1915 and 2006.

Her video piece will be accompanying the live performance of the Orchestra of the UCOpera conducted by Charles Peebles on 11 February 2011 at The Bloomsbury Theatre. Book your tickets now!

In case you are wondering, all the images in this trailer come from existing (and some well-known) Carmen films. Any guesses as to which ones?

[In case the embedded video doesn’t work, click here.]

Filed under: arts, films, literature

Carmen and her others: call for papers!

Call for papers ¦ CONFERENCE ¦ Saturday, 12 February 2011
University College London ¦ Mellon Programme


The aim of this interdisciplinary conference is to conduct an in-depth study of Carmen in her various manifestations. By exploring Carmen in text, opera, film, dance and theatre, the conference hopes to trace various incarnations of the work across time and space. By juxtaposing multiple versions, we will explore issues of inter-cultural and inter-medial translation and adaptation.

The most famous versions of Carmen are the Merimee novella (1845) and Bizet’s opera (1875). Subsequently, the story proliferated into over eighty films and numerous re-stagings, including notable versions such as those by Cecille DeMille (1915), Otto Preminger (1954) and Carlos Saura (1995). More recent interpretations include Karmen Gei (2001, Senegal); U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha (2005, South Africa); and a television remake starring Beyonce Knowles (Carmen: A Hip Hopera, 2001).

In addition to these, there are other lesser-known versions of the work. For example, the film The Wild, Wild Rose (1960, Hong Kong); a manga version produced for the Vancouver Opera; and a Danish staging as 2200 Carmens at the Nørrebro Teater with the rapper Isam B in 2009. There have also been numerous uses of the figure of Carmen as an archetype: for example, by the Symbolist poet Aleksandr Blok and the director Petr Chardyninin late Tsarist Russia. Moreover, there have been countless references to Carmen in films such as Mr X, Part 1 (1967, Egypt) and Love Drives Them Mad (1946, Mexico).

The conference invites papers dealing with any version of Carmen in any culture, form and language (including, but not limited to, those mentioned above). We particularly welcome papers that address non-European adaptations or lesser-known re-workings. The papers should address issues such as:
* Genre and media and their impact on representation;
* Cultural adaptability of stories and archetypes;
* Issues of translation across cultures and media;
* The configuration and representation of issues of gender, race and criminality;
* Dissemination and migration of cultural tropes.

Presenters will have 30 minutes for their papers. In addition, each presenter will be asked to respond (in less than 10 minutes) to one other paper. Therefore, all presenters will be also asked to circulate a draft of their paper to their ‘partner’ a week in advance of the conference. It is hoped that this activity will encourage debate across discipline, culture and media.

A book proposal will be drafted once the conference programme is finalised.

Two evening events related to the conference will be held at the Bloomsbury Theatre on 11 and 12 February including a concert version of Carmen with video projections, and a performance with the multimedia artist, Robin Storey (Rapoon).

Please send your proposal (no more than 500 words) by 8 October 2010 to:
carmenandherothers AT

Please direct any questions to:
Dr Mi Zhou (UCL Mellon Programme)
zhou.mi AT

Filed under: arts, conference, films, literature

Guantanamo: the horror continues. Do something.

Guantanamo. A story that has dropped out of media spotlight for some time now. But despite Obama’s promise, it is STILL OPEN. And there are still over 200 prisoners languishing in it. Many of whom have been ‘cleared for release’ but have nevertheless continued to be detained while the U S of A figures out what to do with them.

Andy Worthington, an independent journalist, painstakingly worked through 8000 pages of documents released by Pentagon in 2006 after a freedom of information lawsuit. These included the names and nationalities of all prisoners held, and 7000 pages of transcripts of tribunals convened to assess the status of these ‘enemy combatants’.  Piercing together a chronology and a narrative about these 774 people. The result is his book, THE GUANTANAMO FILES, published in 2007. With Polly Nash, Worthington then made a documentary – OUTSIDE THE LAW: STORIES FROM GUANTANAMO (2009) – including extensive interviews with former prisoners Moazzem Begg and Omar Deghayes, and with lawyers who have represented prisoners and have advocated tirelessly for their release.

The documentary succeeds in doing the one thing that no other media coverage has been able to do: it humanises the prisoners. Men accused of committing acts of terrorism turn out to be soft spoken, articulate, eloquent and gentle people. Often the victims of bounty hunters who were motivated by the vast sums offered by the Americans in the early days of the war, these men were made the exemplary homo sacer: exiles from law. No protection, no representation, no rule of law.

Yet despite their years of confinement and torture, Deghayes and Begg speak without rancour or bitterness: they recount their stories and the litany of outrageous abuse with an almost detached matter-of-factness. After so long in detention and so intimate an acquaintance with ‘enhanced techniques of interrogation’, a perverse yet nuanced appreciation of pain develops: talking to anyone, even an unsympathetic guard, is better than complete isolation; a tiny cage cell with a partial roof is better than a fully enclosed cell that offer no light or air.

Although Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian detainee who was finally released back to UK in 2009, did not appear in the film, his  story is told by Worthington, Clive Stafford Smith (director of Reprieve and Mohamed’s lawyer) and others.  Mohamed’s case has challenged the British government’s position that it had nothing to do with the torture inflicted by US agents and proxies. He (and other prisoners) maintain that British intelligence agents were aware that they were tortured, and even assisted the Americans in inflicting torture by providing information that could have only come from Britain. Only on Friday, the Court of Appeal recently reinstated a paragraph in a judgement (the government attempted to have the paragraph suppressed) by Lord Judge Neuberger which stated that some agents in MI5 had a ‘dubious record’ with torture and were also less than frank about what they knew. Unsurprisingly, Gordon Brown defended the intelligence community saying that ‘It is the nature of the work that they cannot defend themselves against many of the allegations made’. But of course, it is also ‘the nature of the work’ that the intelligence community is rarely called to account for their actions.

One of the most disturbing and oft-repeated arguments defending or justifying torture has been the argument of ‘balance of interests’. Some in the media have disseminated the view that there must be – as this Telegraph editorial puts it – a ‘balance [struck between] the human rights of terrorist suspects who claim they have been ill-treated with the rights of the whole community to be protected from those who would do us harm’. This is a view energetically propounded by the British government, including by Jack Straw – the current (ironically) Secretary of State for Justice and former Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary. In 2007, Straw delivered the Annual Stuart-Mackenzie lecture at the Centre for European Legal Studies in University of Cambridge. In his lecture, entitled HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE 21ST CENTURY, he argued that human rights must be balanced by security interests. Straw delivered his lecture with a politician’s polish. Shamefully, the usually vigorous crowd at Cambridge entirely failed to challenge Straw in any way. Only 4 questions were allowed, none of which addressed the one glaring problem in this calculus of efficacy that Straw was proposing: there are some rights that are non-derogable, including the right to be protected from torture. (There are only a few non-derogable rights under The International Protocol for Civil and Political Rights.) No calculus of interests should ever prevail over the protection of those basic fundamental rights. NOTHING can justify the use of torture.  There is no balance to be done. No calculation is needed.

As outrageous as much of the Dubya-led response to Nine-Eleven, it is perhaps important to focus on the future. How to hold those responsible to account? How to help those still in Guantanamo?

Shaker Aamer, a British resident (Saudi national), is STILL in Guantanamo. He has been cleared to be released, but has remained in detention. Moreover, although his wife and children are living in London (he has never met his youngest son, aged 7), the British government has not helped him to return. Instead, the American proposes to send Aamer back to Saudi Arabia, where his wife (a non-Saudi national) cannot go. As Gareth Peirce, a prominent lawyer points out, Aamer is another ‘inconvenient witness’ to the complicity of European and British governments in the horror of Guantanamo. If Aamer cannot return to the UK to tell his story, to testify at public inquiries or court hearings, then the government can evade taking responsibility for its own guilt.

The stories from Guantanamo rarely fill one with hope. But it is not all lost. Although I am often sceptical about ‘do-gooders’, there needs to be people who are willing to do good. So, here are a few ideas on how to do something:

  • JOIN the  campaign to secure the return of Aamer to UK. He cannot be allowed to be disappeared to Saudi Arabia. Learn more here, or here. And sign the petition here.

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