Project Launch of augmented[archive] – Cairo Edition and Symposium on Digital Archival Practices

Goethe Institute Cairo (Dokki), Nov 24-25, 2017

A project by Kaya Behkalam (Berlin/Cairo). With Mosireen (Cairo), Alisa Lebow (Sussex), Knut Ebeling (Berlin), moderated by Lina Attalah (Mada Masr)

Facebook Event

When in the winter of 2011 protestors in Cairo and other cities started documenting events with their hand cameras and mobile phones and TV stations broadcasted live video feeds 24/7, new forms of political participation and subjectivity came into being on- and offline; seemingly immediate, contagious, unstoppable. Video became a key “witness” of violence and formerly unheard voices of dissent and as such one of the driving forces of the political struggles on the ground and of globally shared dreams of emancipation. The continuous transmission of networked video feeds with ever shorter delays and latencies seemed to confuse notions of chronological time, of confined understandings of identity, place and linear narrative. Instead we witnessed an overwhelming and exhilarating experience of real-time, of simultaneity and of a limitless architecture of seemingly self-governed streets and squares under virtual clouds. Real and virtual spaces conflated, and with it were birthed different heres and nows.

Yet what was live then is not live anymore. How do we now deal with the abundance of digital traces of a once urgent now? What to do with the hasty, breathless testimonies articulating new visions of being together or recounting immediate injustice? What is the relevance of the countless shaky video images of a time when there was no time to lose? What happens to those newly articulated subjectivities once they enter the all-objectifying realm of the archival? How to keep this contested past relevant and accessible in the present given the continuous and targeted attempts to either erase or appropriate these documents of a once emancipatory sense of presentness? Is all that is left for us a sense of trauma lived as a painful re-enactment of the past in the present? Have these “live-streams of consciousness” turned into databases of defeat, archives of amnesia?

This symposium looks at the legacies of vernacular video produced in times of urgency and distress. It brings together various projects that seek answers to these questions in various forms of experimental archival and historiographical practice and theory. Kaya Behkalam will give an introduction and walking tours of his newly developed web application augmented[archive], which turns downtown Cairo into an interactive, site-specific archive. The media collective Mosireen will speak about their online archive 858, probably the largest collection dedicated to vernacular videos on the Egyptian uprising, which has just been launched online. The film maker and scholar Alisa Lebow will present her online documentary Filming Revolution, a meta-narrative about video practices during and about the Egyptian revolution; and Knut Ebeling, philosopher of media theory at the Berlin art academy KHB, who has written extensively on archival theory, will turn our attention to how to approach the present through the lens of (media) archaeology.


Nov 24, 2017
5:00 pm Introduction by Lina Attalah
5:15 pm Kaya Behkalam: augmented[archive]
The Augmented Archive explores the changing medialities of the archival in its transition from a mode of recording and storing to a means of transmission. It is built as an iOS/Android app, employing GPS data, Augmented Reality and video streaming technology.  It makes the various layers of a story, a city available site-specifically, i.e. at the location of their initial recording via GPS and mobile devices. Users of the app can thus explore the urban space through various layers, juxtaposing different layers of time onto a specific site as they are passing through it. Its media framework is conceived as an expanding, interactive platform enabling its users to contribute to this archive, by recording and uploading videos and other contributions to the narrative architecture themselves.

5:45 pm Knut Ebeling: From Seeing History to the Archive of Trauma
How can we revive the past – of site specific political actions and uprisings? How can we write a history that has lost its temporal and spatial index? And how can we transform the written documents of the past into a vivid testimonial of traumatic experiences? Starting from a historical epistemology between seeing and reading history, the lecture rotates around the question of what it means to establish an archive of past political actions and traumatic experiences. It will concentrate on the relation of archives and sites, of trauma and its site-specificity. It adapts concepts of archive and »speculative archaeology« (Behkalam), site and witness to the practices of the Egyptian activists during the 2011 uprisings and their 2017 followers.

6:30 pm Break

7:00 pm Mosireen: 858, An Archive Of Resistance
858 is an initiative to make public all the footage gathered by the Mosireen Collective since 2011. Some of the footage has been seen before, in videos we edited and uploaded to YouTube. But much of it is being made publicly accessible for the first time – this is the raw, unedited footage shot and gathered over the years. Throughout our journey working to build the 858 archive, we wrestled with questions related to security, timing and ownership; we found ourselves battling nostalgia, trying to make sense of an event we had lived through while watching it from a distance; we searched for ways to keep this massive trove of material alive, to counter the state’s narrative and preserve our collective memory. On launching, the archive has 858 hours of indexed, time-stamped video material along with thousands of photographs and documents. All together they present thousands of histories of revolt told from hundreds of perspectives.

7:30 pm Alisa Lebow: Filming Revolution
Filming Revolution is an interactive data-base project about independent and documentary filmmaking in Egypt since the revolution. Practicing a new type of film studies, and serving simultaneously as an archive and an interactive research tool, the project brings together the collective wisdom and creative strategies of media-makers in Egypt, before during and after the revolution. The website consists of 30 interviews with Egyptian filmmakers, artists, activists and archivists, discussing their work and their ideas about how (and whether) to make films in the time of revolution. The video interviews with the activist-practitioners were conducted in Egypt between 2013-2014. To prepare the material for this project, Lebow edited all of the video interviews into short thematic segments and has worked with a programmer to devise an original platform whereby algorithms link the material by theme, person, or project.

8.00 pm Roundtable discussion

Nov 25, 2017
Tours with the augmented[archive] app through Downtown Cairo with Kaya Behkalam at 11:00 and 13:00. Number of participants is limited, so please register in advance by sending an email to, stating your full name, phone number and preferred time slot.


Kaya Behkalam is a visual artist, living in Berlin and Cairo. He obtained an MFA in Media Art and a BA in Visual Communications at the University of Arts Berlin; currently he is a PhD Candidate in Artistic Research at the Bauhaus University Weimar/Germany. From 2012-2015 he served as an Assistant Professor of Time-based Media at the Art Department of the American University in Cairo and as the director of the Sharjah Art Gallery. For his work he has been awarded various stipends and awards, such as the Dialogue Award of the European Media Art Festival 2012. Among other places his art works have been shown at the HKW and Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin, Berlinische Galerie, Queens Museum, Eye Beam, and Sheila C. Johnson Design Center New York, Centre Pompidou Paris, Reina Sofia Museum Madrid, Azad Gallery Tehran, Kunstverein Heidelberg, the 3rd Guangzhou Triennial, and IDFA Amsterdam. He is the co-editor of a series of books on contemporary Egyptian artists (2015-2017, Revolver Publishing, together with Anneka Lenssen), as well as the publication “Damascus: Tourists, Artists, Secret Agents” (2010).

Knut Ebeling is professor for Media theory and aesthetics at Weißensee – art academy berlin. Numerous publications on contemporary theory, art and aesthetics, recently: Die Aktualität des Archäologischen – in Wissenschaft, Medien und Künsten (Mithg.), Frankfurt am Main 2004; Das Archiv brennt (together with Georges Didi-Huberman), Berlin 2007; Archivologie. Theorien des Archivs in Philosophie, Medien und Künsten (Mithg.), Berlin 2009; Wilde Archäologien 1. Theorien materieller Kultur von Kant bis Kittler, Berlin 2012; Wilde Archäologien 2. Begriffe der Materialität der Zeit von Archiv bis Zerstörung, Berlin 2016; There is no Now. An Archaeology of Contemporaneity, Berlin 2017.

Alisa Lebow is a Reader in Film Studies at University of Sussex. Her research is generally concerned with issues related to documentary film, recently to do with questions of “the political” in documentary. Her books The Cinema of Me (Wallflower, 2012) and First Person Jewish (University of Minnesota Press, 2008) explore aspects of the representation of self and subjectivity in first person documentary. She is also the co-editor of A Companion to Contemporary Documentary with Alexandra Juhasz (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015). She is a filmmaker as well, whose work includes For the Record: The World Tribunal on Iraq (2007), Treyf (1998) and Outlaw (1994). Her most recent project, Filming Revolution, combines her scholarly and practical work in an interactive documentary, which will soon be published by Stanford University Press. She is currently serving as a 2017-18 EUME Fellow at The Forum for Transregional Studies in Berlin.

Mosireen is a media collective formed during the Egyptian revolution. From 2011-2014 it held a space in downtown Cairo that was a revolutionary activist hub dedicated to supporting and producing citizen media of all kinds – including publishing videos, providing training, technical support, campaign support, equipment, screenings and events, alongside hosting an extensive archive of footage from the revolution. At its height Mosireen’s YouTube channel was the most watched non-profit YouTube channel in the world. It remains the most watched non-profit channel in Egypt. Campaigns and initiatives Mosireen supported include No To Military Trials for Civilians, Kazeboon, Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, Freedom for the Brave, and Tahrir Cinema, amongst others. Mosireen’s latest project is the 858 archive.


[image credits: Roger Anis – Goethe-Institut Symposium / Kaya Behkalam, Photo of Screenshot from Youtube video “Prayer Of Fear” by Mosireen]