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More Out of Curiosity - QUAD ARTS exhibition installation

26:00 minutes, single-screen,16:9, HD Digital Video, 2014

During the 2011 uprising in Egypt one of the key players in the political debate were the fanatical football supporters, the Ultras. Although affiliated to different teams in the domestic league they often joined forces in street protests against Hosni Mubarak. The controversy over the 2012 Port Said incident when 74 Al-Ahly fans were killed in an orchestrated attack forced the Ultras back onto the streets. They mounted a successful political protest campaign against the state forces that culminated a year later in a legal inquiry and limited convictions.

More Out of Curiosity is a film work drawing on documentary narratives to frame the capacity of resistance in social movements. This film is constructed from video footage drawn from a number of sources, including the Al-Ahly Ultras themselves who shared their unique video archive material. The assemblage of images of street protests, football games, riots and banner making helps stitch together a narrative to expose their local subculture in an overlapping meta-documentary format. The film work is bookended by the Port Said incident and the court verdict a year later. This structure is divided into seven scenes which define and categorize the video imagery.

 

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ULTRAS ESSAY BY BEN BURBRIDGE


1.  Introduction
More Out of Curiosity is the second iteration of a documentary film by artist Ronnie Close, which may or may not end up as a feature-length production. Like the first iteration—entitled, simply, Ultras—the film considers the fanatical supporters of Cairo football club, Al Ahly. More Out of Curiosity  focuses on events that followed 1 February 2012, when 74 Al Ahly fans were killed in clashes with rival fans and police at the Port Said Stadium.


2. Background I: Football
The Ultras Al-Ahaly formed in 2007. They modelled themselves on Ultra fans in Italy. They aimed to bring spectacle to the Egyptian football terraces. They produced banners, pyrotechnic displays and chanted.


3. Background II: Politics
The Ultras’ activities brought them into direct conflict with the Mubarak regime, which placed a ban on all political gatherings. The Ultras played a vital role during the January 2011 revolution. They helped defend the popular gatherings in Tahrir Square against attacks from government forces. The Ultras view the orchestration of the killings at Port Said as an act of direct reprisal.

 
4. Structure
The promise of a feature-length version of the film guides both the existing iterations. Ultras took the form of a Hollywood-style trailer: entertaining the temptation to mythologise  its subject.
More out of Curiosity is divided into seven scenes. Each begins with a title frame, used to identify the theme, event or characters explored. The scenes suggest the basic structural components that could make up the full-length feature. 


5. Documentary
Close’s film refuses the conventions of  ‘straight’ documentary -
Material is drawn from a range of sources, including state television, videos produced by the Ultras and footage made by Close.
The aesthetic is inconsistent. Sections jar. Much of the audio is in Arabic without English subtitles.
Gaps appear between image and sound, subject and document, the recording of events and our capacity to understand them.


6. Football Chant
They butchered the free Ultras/Coz they sided with the rebels./They butchered the free Ultras/Coz they sided with the rebels./In red headed to Port Said/Back in a white coffin and on my land I’m martyred./O’ martyr, you are in paradise/Now, it’s revolution all over again.


7. Mediation
In a persuasive account of the Egyptian Revolution, Negar Azimi highlighted the contradictory political role played by media imagery. On the one hand, the mediation of events led to a reductive view that obscured the complexities and internal tensions that shaped the popular uprising from the outset. On the other, the mediation of events was important in securing popular and  international support.


8. Rancière
‘Critical art is an art that aims to produce a new perception of the world, and therefore to create a commitment to its transformation. This schema, very simple in appearance, is actually the conjunction of three processes: first, the production of a sensory form of 'strangeness'; second, the development of an awareness of the reason for that strangeness and third, a mobilization of individuals as a result of that awareness.’ 


9. Labour
Some paint flags. Others stitch banners. Stencil logos. Conduct the chanting crowds. Let off flares. Pose for photographs. Fill the streets with moving bodies. And cameras.


10. Trial
Explain to me what happened with the Port Said trial on 26 Jan last year.
Basically there were around 74 charged, with 50 rival Al Masry fans (probably paid attackers) and 24 local cops in charge of security and stadium officials.

11. Football Chant (Reprised)
They butchered the free Ultras/Coz they sided with the rebels./They butchered the free Ultras/Coz they sided with the rebels./In red headed to Port Said/Back in a white coffin and on my land I’m martyred./O’ martyr, you are in paradise/Now, it’s revolution all over again.