Stimmen aus dem Off Jeewi Lee

Voices Offstage: 33°31’40.0"N 7°48’15.8"W

by Jeewi Lee

“Locked down” in Casablanca for over 70 days.

“Time is simply the objectification of intrinsic meaning, space the objectification of extrinsic meaning.” (Friedrich Schelling)

My current situation reminds me of the work by Beuys, I Like America and America Likes Me: Total isolation from the surroundings of a place where one happens to be. One might be in an unknown place, but the only thing as yet experienced there are the four white walls within which one is enclosed. One wonders whether the location has thus become irrelevant, almost non-existent. It is a condition of being everywhere and nowhere at one and the same time.

After a one-month project trip to Senegal my plan was to fly back to Berlin via Casablanca. Spurred by a mood of spontaneity and lightness I decided to spend a few days in Morocco’s largest city on my way home and to visit a friend in his artist’s residency there. The projected six days have now turned into more than seventy. I am marooned in this city without ever having been able to see or experience it. In the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Morocco is one of the countries that reacted the fastest and most radically to the corona crisis. Not only have all forms of transport been completely discontinued, but the borders have also been closed. From the very outset it has been compulsory to wear a mask and the strictest curfew has been imposed. The police surveil the stay-at-home order with thermal cameras, while drones are used to disinfect the streets and buildings. People are only allowed out to go to the chemists or a supermarket in their own neighbourhood. And even that is only possible with a sort of “certified permit” issued by the authorities. Anyone unable to show one on demand must reckon with draconian punishment by the government.

I am accommodated in a house by the sea near a tourist resort in Casablanca. From my window I have observed every day how a police van regularly rounds up people taking a walk on the beach. It is an odd feeling to have the vast expanse of the Atlantic directly before your eyes, yet only allowed to experience it as a landscape painting set inside the window frame; only able to experience the world through a rectangular television screen. It is equally strange to spend so much time in a city without ever having truly seen the city. This is the association that reminds me of I Like America and America Likes Me. For his 1974 performance in the René Block Gallery Beuys was rolled up entirely in felt at JFK airport and driven to the gallery in an ambulance, because he refused to see the US and wished to remain isolated from the outside world. Instead he spent several days nowhere else but inside a single room and played with a coyote called Little John.

Jeewi Lee is an artist based in Berlin and Seoul who will participate in Ruhr Ding: Klima 2021 with the installation Mute.

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