Doa Aly

Doa Aly

The End Comes Not For Me

Five-channel synchronized digital film installation, 4:3, 2024, 20 min 49 sec  

The End Comes Not For Me is an immersive five channel audio-video installation, adapted from two literary sources: Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin’s Confidences (1858; published in English translation in 1859 as Memoirs of Robert-Houdin) and Albert Camus’s novel L’Étranger (1942, 1946 in English as The Stranger). The first and second scenes describe how an illusionist helped suppress the muslim resistance in French Algeria. The third scene features an act of wanton killing on a beach in French Algiers.

In 1856, Robert-Houdin was summoned to French Algeria by the French government’s army to help suppress the revolts of the Aissaoui sufi cults, and their marabouts. The marabouts’ ceremonies included magic rituals that were said to make them invulnerable. These rituals were often successful in rallying local tribes against colonial authority. Robert-Houdin’s mission was to undermine the power of the marabouts by demonstrating the superiority of French magic, including his own version of the “magic bullet” trick. In Magic: A Very Short Introduction (2012), Owen Davies mentions that: “The press presented [Robert] Houdin’s trip as a triumph for colonial rationality: ‘today the marabouts are totally discredited among the natives’, announced one newspaper.”

The first two scenes draw on the occasion when Robert-Houdin, after performances in Algiers, is escorted into the desert for an audience with Bach-agha Bou Allem Ben Cherifa, Bash Agha of the Djendel tribes, near Miliana. There he encounters a skeptical marabout who questions Robert-Houdin’s storied invincibility. The magician prepares a trick to subdue and terrify the marabout, and invites him to a confrontation the next morning. In the following scene, the character of Robert-Houdin explains his trick. The third scene, taken from Camus’s The Stranger, illustrates the random killing of an Arab, by the French-Algerian title character Meursault, on a deserted beach in French Algiers. 

The End was born out of the following question: what are the historical events that could be defined as singularities? Singularities are events experienced primarily as new and irreversible, albeit occurring within set structures of repetition. The rupture of the repetition with the eruption, through time, of a singular and novel event. This synthesis of time is what Deleuze calls “empty time” because it brings back intensive structures but incarnates them in new ways. History is not possible without this form of repetition, the transformation of old structures, models or patterns into singularities.  (James Williams, 2011.)

This new thing born out of the eternal return is essentially a rupture. It blows up, disrupting and shattering existing identities. It is the experience of an event that annihilates a known sense of self and connections to the world around it. As Reinhart Koselleck puts it: “Suddenly one encounters a novelty, that is, a temporal minimum generated in the space between before and after. The continuum between previous experience and the expectation of coming events is breached and needs to constitute itself anew. It is this temporal minimum of an irretrievable before and after that inscribes surprises into our bodies.” (Reinhart Koselleck, 2018)

The End uses the tropes of sublime and theatrical killing, as the normalized patterns out of which emerges the project’s notion of a singularity: the apparition of the African sun in the colonial imaginary as a shattering event; the discovery of this expansive explosive maddening force has set the European’s psyche ablaze and renewed a history of violence and exploitation.

The End Comes Not For Me is filmed between Cairo and Tunis. It was co-produced by Sharjah Art Foundation, the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), and 32Bis.