In 1944, when Vienna was heavily bombed by the Allies during World War II, Asmahan a Syrian princess, singer and film diva, sang “Layali Al-ons fi Vienna / The Euphoric Nights in Vienna” as part of her film “Passion and Revenge”. The song celebrates Vienna as a place of youth and beauty; in her own words “heaven on earth”, “a city full of love and music which upon hearing the birds weep and sing along”. With this song, Asmahan manufactured an Arab fantasy for the European city; even though she had never visited Vienna neither did the writer nor the composer.
A myth of Vienna has been created that has affected desires and hopes of travellers and immigrants from the Middle East until today and shaped their expectations of a presumed paradise whispered to them by her.
The dominant presence of this song until today unintentionally puts Vienna (as a European city) and the Middle East in a constant confrontation. With this confrontation, we find ourselves trapped between the manifestation that has been created by Asmahan and the reality. Hence, these questions now arise, considering our current political situation, does it make more sense if this song was made nowadays? What if Vienna was not randomly chosen for this manifestation? Is it only about Vienna? Or could it be any other European city, for example, Paris?
Layering and juxta-positioning disparate elements and fragmented pieces of the Vienna that Asmahan sang with the show space.”Here and Elsewhere” is a site-specific video installation which aims to bring this confrontation to a meeting point. By (rotoscoping) extracting Asmahan from the original video; which depicts her standing on a fake theatre stage portraying European Architectural elements, and compositing her back with another staged space within the exhibition space. By copying the same Camera movement from the original video into the new one, this overlapping imagery convey the feeling that this could be the original stage of the song, Nevertheless, something does not seem to add up, as we do not see the presence of Asmahan only but other elements from the original video sneak into the new one as well giving the work an unsettling, morose quality.