Get to know the 2023 Performing Arts selected projects
11 / 8 / 2023

We are excited to announce AFAC’s 2023 Performing Arts selected projects. Grounded in new approaches to examining the body and its sensorial and material environments, the selected projects propose new methods for embodying and performing diverse socio-culturally anchored forms of performance.

This year’s 22 projects were selected following a two-day meeting bringing together the 2023 Performing Arts jurors: Institute of Theatre, Audiovisual and Cinema Studies (IESAV) Associate Professor Marianne Noujaim (Lebanon), artist Youness Atbane (Morocco) and anthropologist George Bajalia (Palestine).

Following is the jury statement, outlining the thinking behind their selections and how this group of performers reflects on the state of the field at present.

    "As the jurors for the 2023 AFAC Performing Arts Grant, we were honored to take on the difficult task of selecting from this year’s diverse and numerous applications from across the region. We were encouraged to see a good number of projects drawing on cross-regional collaborations and hope to see this trend continue both locally and in the diaspora. This year’s pool of applications also demonstrated an uptake of applied performance methodologies in pedagogical and development contexts. This marks a clear recognition of the importance of the performing arts in varied contexts. It also complicated an already difficult task of evaluating the many excellent projects and proposals that spoke to clear innovation in the field. While there was significant participation from young artists with thoughtful and bold approaches, we also note with regret the continued geographic imbalance in applications received.

    The vast majority of projects evaluated deserved support in one way or the other. This was, unfortunately, impossible. Many of these submitted proposals displayed resonances and variations of themes also found in the winning projects. In the end, we agreed to prioritize the following: new, original and collaborative projects without other means of support; projects near to completion in need of a final push to come to fruition; projects giving voice to new playwrights and in conversation with experienced writers from the region; and festivals or projects focusing on bringing together artists from the region (including alongside other international artists) and with committed plans for regional performances.

    Many of the proposals, selected or not, were grounded in new approaches to examining the body and its sensorial and material environments. This included a number of projects exploring the hybrid materialities evoked and created by memory and social history. These approaches articulated a politics of interrelation between the body, urban space or territory and the crowd. Some of these involved using new technologies to reinvigorate cultural memory, and others proposed new methods for embodying and performing diverse socio-culturally anchored forms of performance. Among the projects re-exploring artistic gestures or sub-genres related to such performances, some adopted a decolonizing perspective by re-claiming the identity of these particularities, while others subjected them to processes of deconstruction/construction and decontextualization/recontextualization.

    In many ways, these projects belied the dichotomy between “culture” as a purportedly static inherited form of practice and novel creation as “art.” If this contradiction could be read to be at the heart of a fund “for Arts and Culture,” it is promising to see more and more proposals that move away from this binary and ground their methodological approaches in the deep cultural canon of artistic innovation across the region’s palimpsest of cultures. Projects large and small, having finished or being a new work, made claims on the scalar relationships between the individual and the collective, the crowd, and the city. From festivals to individual performances, applications this year questioned what is socially imposed, the stereotypes contained within these impositions and how the body — gathered en masse or alone — can be a political and social force for making new claims on the spaces in which we gather in city, public spaces, and the region more generally.

And here’s the full list of the 2023 Performing Arts projects. To dive into the specifics of each selected artist or collective and their projects, click through to their separate dedicated pages.