Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

Interview with Ibrahim Quraishi

Ibrahim Quraishi's 5 Streams (5streams.org)

Ibrahim Quraishi's 5 Streams (5streams.org)

Did you have a particular audience in mind for this production?

Younger people. I say that immediately because I want more and more young people to go see it because, like myself, young people tend to get bored quite easily. So I'm interested in younger people really going on the trip. "Older" people, too. I would actually prefer as an audience all people who are open to a challenge and who are interested, essentially, in going on a voyage, a trip.

Do you think that your audiences have to be well versed in the traditions you play with in order to appreciate your work?

No, I don't, but it really is not the point.

So if someone has never even heard of the Bhagavad Gita for example they will still be able to make some sense of the piece?

Hopefully they will make sense of what they want to make sense of. That's more interesting.

What do you expect the audience to come out of the performance thinking?

Thinking.

Period?

Period.

What was the inspiration for the production and where all would you like it to travel?

One of the inspirations for the production is context, of course. Not only social context but also performative context. I do profoundly believe that when you have a body in a space, no matter where that body is -- be it on the street, be it inside an office corporate meeting, be it inside a conference hall, be it in a building, be it in a performance -- that body has to reason. And when you present a body, why are you presenting that body? In what context are you presenting that body? So we clearly have bodies onstage here. We have sound in this space. We have interactivity in this space. We have movement in this space. We have motion in this space. We have voices in this space. Why is it?

Clearly, at another level, we -- all of us involved in creating this piece -- are trying to raise questions that are attempting to address some of the issues that are being talked about now -- not in a literal way, of course not. But there is something there. I am not sure but there are many things here. Clearly, the issue of war, the issue of the Other, the issue of the role of women in society -- these are issues that are being talked about, especially when South Asia and/or the Middle East are evoked. The issue of the so-called "conflict of civilizations" is also present. Minimally, of course, I am saying that there is no conflict, for one thing. The tensions that exist in this city are no different from the tensions that exist in an Arab or South Asian or East Asian city. The problems in an American village are really no different from the problems in a Pakistani village or a village in Gabon. They are different in the way they are magnified. They are different, in the sense that they are part of a particular context. But otherwise there are really no differences in the struggle between the haves and the have-nots.

The danger is within us. There is no external danger. So in that sense there is something here in 5 Streams that is attempting to deal with that or more accurately, just to raise questions -- not to give any answers, of course.

Are there particular places in the world where you would like to see 5 Streams performed?

In India and Pakistan. Of course Israel, Saudi Arabia. In Iran, North Korea. In Bozeman, Montana, of course. In Oklahoma, Hawaii. In all the places where there is a supposed notion of what the Other is and where there is an enclosed -- I almost want to say 'artificial' but that would be wrong, since it never is quite artificial -- definition of who we are versus who they are. These are the places where I would like this piece to be seen.

So you do see your work as political, in a sense?

Everything is political. The moment you put a body in a space, it's political. The moment you have a conversation with someone, it's political. The moment you interact with the Other, it's political. So, yes, it is political.

In what particular way is your work political?

I have no idea!

[laughter]

Is there anything else that you'd like to say about the piece?

Come and see it! [laughs]

Interview conducted by Nermeen Shaikh of Asia Society.