Holding Rehearsals


"The police can’t hold what’s already held. At the same time, what’s already held is all that we can hold."
Fred Moten & Stefano Harney in: All Incomplete (2021)

The exhibition Holding Rehearsals at La Loge (18 January - 7 April 2024) traces a lived social infrastructure of care, solidarity, and struggle, demanding accountability for recent cases of police and state violence in the context of migration border controls in Belgium and France.

For more than two decades, more than four hundred people have died trying to cross the English Channel from France or Belgium. European agreements and bilateral treaties between the United Kingdom, France, and Belgium have turned the Calais area into a deadly border zone due to the heightened militarization of border surveillance. This intensified border security in the area has also led to a surge in attempts to cross the English Channel via Belgium. This has resulted in fatalities there as well. On the night of the 16th to the 17th of May, 2018, Mawda Shawri, two years old, daughter of Phrast and Shamden, sister of Hama, was shot dead by a Belgian police officer during a car chase on a central highway near the Belgian-French border.

In response to these deadly Channel crossings and other events at these borders, that make people wounded, humiliated, or burdened, an extensive network of both undocumented and documented activists has built a resilient infrastructure aimed at countering dehumanizing and necropolitical migration policies. In the Mawda case, for example, activist initiatives such as the Comité Mawda Justice et Vérité and #Justice4Mawda countered the dominant modus operandi of the authorities and the media, which invested in the criminalization of "migrants" instead of focusing on the scandal of police impunity.

Holding Rehearsals begins with the recognition that the practice of hearing is central to the activist solidarity around the deadly Channel crossings. Following from this, I have organized hearings on the case of Mawda Shawri and other deadly Channel crossings, assembling the stories and reflections of resident activists - both undocumented and documented. In listening to the testimonies concerning these cases, the listener works at figuring scenes of truth-making, support, and transformation, enabling a process of building collective capacity for resistance that often extends beyond the apparent and the articulated. In these hearings, justice becomes grounded not as an abstraction, or as a rule book, but as a sensuous landscape.

The project was exhibited at La Loge in Brussels, from 18 January to 7 April 2024. The exhibition presents a 3-channel video installation, a single screen video work, a 2-channel video installation, and several guest contributions in the shape of a library, a spatial scenography, and documents in relation to sonic work.

The public programme of the exhibition plays a central role in activating, contextualizing, and bringing multiplicity to the exhibition. The programme allows the many assemblers of this project, and the activist network to which it is dedicated, to host and reassemble themselves. It includes assemblies, workshops, readings, screenings, conversations, and other forms of collective (un)learning.

Image caption: Holding Rehearsals by Robin Vanbesien, 18.01-07.04.24, La Loge. Courtesy of the artist and La Loge. Image Lola Pertsowsky