Last month I attended Raed Yassin’s performance and video Horror is Universal (The End), part of the Beirut Art Center’s Museum as Hub at the New Museum. A visual and sonic mash-up of 1970-80s Egyptian B-movie and Arabic music, Horror is Universal (The End) did not so much show the horrific as it did imply that the framework in which we associate horror (tension, camp, atmosphere) can still be constructed with references outside of mainstream U.S. and Europe.
For the last eight years, Raed Yassin has been undergoing a lifelong project of deconstructing Arab popular culture by sampling audio and visual material from TV, radio, pop songs, and feature films. “Horror is Universal” (The End) is considered a milestone in his evolving oeuvre: a multimedia saga performed live by the artist, it involves mixing and rearranging video extracts from dozens of ’80s Egyptian B-movies on screen, while spinning vintage LPs of popular Arabic music and incorporating electronic instrumentation and singing, to create a unique yet disturbing soundtrack progressing towards a chilling finale. It is, in essence, an attempt at fabricating a non-existent genre in twentieth-century Egyptian cinema—horror—by splicing together the viewers’ collective memory of those all too familiar ‘scary moments’ reenacted by the cheap cinematic production of yesteryear.