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In 2007, the Festival du Monde Arabe chose the theme “Space Zero” to denote both the shrinking of social space and the urgency of building new gathering places. The “common space” crisis that divided groups and communities at the time, fuelled by continuous manipulation of identity and religious instincts, is now giving way to a widespread sterilization of the existing spaces, affecting every individual on Planet Earth and, on this occasion, establishing a system of total isolation.

At a time when the world’s borders seemed to be crumbling, fractured from within by a modernity that was thought to be irreversible, we saw how fate could strike at the human contour and force us to backtrack. Confined by the walls of our homes and new partitions in cities and adjacent neighbourhoods, spaces are shrinking to the scope of our apartments and sometimes even our bedrooms. The “within” has become a microcosm, with our office or sofa set to form the only real downtown area. We wanted what was big to be small, and now here we are with the small taking over and becoming the big. The mirror of the world has shattered, reflecting the utter fragility of the human condition.

Hear ye, hear ye, society must be rebuilt! How, in this era of relational scarcity, can we bridge the gap?

When, in a world built on flesh and blood, relationships turn into danger or dissidence, they are kept going in the encoded intertwining of the digital world, seemingly a lifebuoy, in the desert of the streets or in the tide of the web. Sharing the same reality binds us more closely and now shapes us: our screens become our windows on our cities, parks and performance venues, all relegated to a little square point that draws us toward infinite spaces rich in unlikely forms of interbreeding, which can be nests of claptrap or of creativity, of sham and robotic tribalism or of fruitful and subversive imagination.

With Espace 01, Worlds to Conquer, we regain awareness of the vulnerability of the gathering spaces in our lives and of the need, without further delay, to forge the reinvented space in the great new home being offered to the human species, namely the digital world! Why not take a ride on this gigantic machine and reach new worlds, making it the substrate of a solidarity that remains to be built, where the thirst for human contact and the hunger for others is being whetted?

Seizing the virtual ball on the fly, the Festival never gives up as it strives to connect diversity with the digital world. It is pursuing its program under the auspices of new technologies, continuing its quest for spaces in common with otherness. If you feel within you a dearth of notes, melodies or dance steps, of movies or of talks about where the world is headed, of unforgettable shows sparkling with smiles and joy, get ready for a journey to Espace 01 being offered by the 21st Festival du Monde Arabe!

Turning to the tried and true in these times of anxiety, with musical styles from the golden age of glorious Beirut or soothing melodies from fabulous Andalusia, not to mention our top original productions, being streamed for the first time, the Festival du Monde Arabe aims to give its audience part of the thrill, the emotion, the exaltation and the warmth that emerge from a true gathering!

Enjoy the Festival!