The Derivative is a bi-annual online publication launched in October 2020, in the midst of unprecedented political, social, economic, and environmental collapse in Lebanon. It is an attempt at building collective vocabularies, registers, and practices able to account for and run against the systemic onslaught we are faced with.

The Derivative is a student of the uprising of Oct 17, 2019; it is first and foremost a rhizomatic object around which to mobilize a diversity of praxes. Experimenting with collective editorial models, each issue is above all an excuse to think and make together and a way to expand and strengthen networks of friends and allies through divergent modes of address, thought, and action.

Every issue of The Derivative starts with three guest editors, each assigned a theme in the form of a three-letter root word (جذر) in Arabic. Each editor then collaborates with five contributors to help unfold the various facets of each theme, as well as an artist contribution responding to each text.

Separation

Hamed Sinno

Ali Cherri, from the "Dead Inside" series, watercolor. 2021
Ali Cherri, from the "Dead Inside" series, watercolor. 2021

clubhouse

Julian Christopher pinged you:                                                                   3m ago

You should join this room. I am talking with Chora Nerval, Gerard Labrunie, and 6 others about “Techniques for Eliminating Breath from Talk Radio”

I am dead, dear listener. This is not a recording. This is not a metaphor. This is not a lie.

I am dead, dear listener, and we are beyond the present.

raħiːl

It happened at border control. It must have been then, unless it started long before I even left. Maybe they slipped something in the food while I was on the inside, and it just took a long time to take effect? That’s probably it. Maybe it couldn’t really militate until we were in the air. Maybe then it’s reversible.

I suppose for the time-being, it doesn’t matter how it happened, or when, just that it did, unless I’m completely fucked up right now. I can’t be. It doesn’t matter.

Okay. Retrace my steps. The taxi driver pulls up to the Beirut Memorial Airport. I get out and grab my suitcase. While I’m paying, someone spits in my face. I look up and see him looking back while walking away with another couple of men. He then asks “what the fuck are you looking at?” adding emphasis to the end of his words so that the feminine suffixes, which are supposed to offend me, carry the burden of his words. He comes to a halt like he’s actually waiting for an answer. Fuck it; I’m getting out, I say to myself, though part of me wants to breach his mouth, feel his larynx between my fingers, wrench it out with a manicured fist, and sing into his flayed neck. I know better than to start anything. No one would help anyway. It is not worth it. Nothing is. Everything means nothing. I look away, pick up my suitcase, and head towards the toilets to wash my face.

That was the last I remember seeing myself, staring back from the bathroom mirror. Look, it’s not like someone else was in there. My eyes just couldn’t focus clearly. I looked older, not like I was aging, just duller. Still though, it was me, no doubt about it, I think. I look like her. What was her name, my mother? The toilets are flooding.
“Bienvenue à l’aéroport mémorial de Beyrouth”

chora

By the time she got to her seat on the flight, she was exhausted. The small air vents in the ceiling whispered shhh continuously, like a mother consoling a choleric child. The turbine engine was a dense milky vapor, languidly thickening below her, a smoky mattress scooping her up, cradling her. The sound moved through her body, fattening her eyelids with bass, stroking her behind her earlobes down to her vocal chords, singing her into the belly of a star, a luth constellé, beyond charactery. “In that long kiss she nearly lost her breath.”

I came to as the captain spoke through the raspy speakers, instructing people to look outside the windows on the right side of the aircraft for an aerial view of Beirut.

I am dead, dear listener, and we are beyond the present.

wːaħʃ

Something was off. My entire row was staring at me. I told myself I was just being paranoid. No one on the flight was Lebanese. I was sitting by the window after all, and they’d just been prompted to look out.

But then I looked over to my left, and both the men sitting next to me swiftly turned their faces away. I couldn’t tell if it was the kind of deflection that was intended to avert shame, like when people at the beach look away as their companions disrobe, even though they are about to be half naked together for the rest of the day, or if it was the kind of deflection meant to alleviate fear, like the way I turned my eyes away earlier outside the airport to avoid engaging a potential aggressor. Maybe it was something in between, the way hardened New Yorkers in subway stations quickly recalibrate their gaze when the beggar they’ve been staring at catches their eye. I imagine in that moment a New Yorker looks away twice with a single gesture. The first is to avoid shame, the embarrassment of their own survival, and the knowledge that it has come at the expense of the beggar’s, the shame of being a disappointment, not just to the beggar when they inevitably ask for money, but to the version of herself she internalizes as a subjectivity, righteous, and right. The second is to avoid looking the basilisk in the eye, the horror of potentially catching abject poverty by trying to alleviate it. It is after all a question of relationality. I suppose, maybe, it would be irrelevant, and the distinction is rendered arbitrary, if fear is just shame protracted outwards. “The working class becomes invisible under late stage capitalism” or something of the sort. Was that Habermas? Regardless, whichever fucker said it was wrong. The world sees them, they just don’t look at them long enough to become them. Insert metaphor about wearing your own oxygen mask before strangling your mother. Visibility and acknowledgement are not the same.

Le sausage en procès:

Seconds later, I could feel the searing heat of someone’s gaze again, and I turned to see the person to my left staring at my crotch from the corner of their eye. I stared back, waiting for them to notice, but they didn’t notice, until I moved my legs, noticing an unfamiliar heaviness in my pelvis. That’s when they looked up, and we locked eyes for just a split second, during which, and I know this sounds insane, but I swear I was inside their body, looking at mine. That’s when I noticed it. My hands were a few shades darker, more vascular, and they had hair on them. I raised them up to examine them more closely, and there were calluses on the inside of my palms like the kind one gets from manual labor. I turned them around to inspect the outsides, and my right hand grazed against something where there normally would’ve been air. It was a beard.

Then as soon as they looked away I was back in my window seat, staring at my own crotch.

I am in this skin again looking down.
Why is there a cock in my pants?
I am in their skin again looking at my crotch.
How is any of this happening?
I am the flight attendant offering refreshments.
I want to ask “coffee or tea” but I forget the words.

I will be the girl in seat 24 D staring at the flight attendant who will have been transfixed in the middle of the aisle, with her mouth agape as she will stare out the window to her left at the black sun, her arms outstretched as the pitchers of coffee and tea will pour out onto the passengers at her sides.

I was in a seat again. I wanted to sigh in relief, but piping hot tea was pouring onto my lap. I wanted to scream in pain and I wanted more pain. I tried to scream but every time I opened my mouth the sound came to me from across the cabin: a sonorous turbine engine shredding through the air.

I is the bar cart rolling down the aisle on the right side of the plane crashing into the wall separating economy from premium.

He am in the first class bathroom. The toilets are flooding. Some stranger is fucking me. What was her name again, my mother?

I stand up in the aisle with a plastic knife in my hand, and pull my pants down ready to cut, should I find anything objectionable, but it was and it wasn’t, and where there would have been there was no longer, and in place of the un-ownable there was only thrust.

I am the engine, setting myself on fire. I contain plenitude.

How is this even happening.

She am in the first class bathroom fucking a stranger. I disappear myself inside him. We are both trying to return. There is only thrust. We are in C major.

The leather seats are sprouting hair. Goosebumps. Goosebumps.

I will orphan myself to be clean.

I am the baby in the exit aisle screaming in the bassinet for mommy to take me back. I open my mouth to scream but my voice comes out from the speakers. There is no need to scream anymore. Disinherit me as you will.

I will learn your name when I leave you.

Soon, I will shit you out, and there will be no need for metaphor.

The engine is on fire. She is everybody on the flight opening our mouths and chanting engine sounds. There is only sound, almost.

This is not a lie. Dear listener this is happening live. Call now and tell me what you think. This is not a recording. Call now and let mama make it okay. That’s right.

I am dead. I am going to die. Do you hear me laugh when I say this? Or am I crying. I am going to die. Are you close?

The plane is spinning in the sky. The plane is the sky. There is no sky. There is no air. There is no breath. It will be over soon. We are beyond the present. My voice is flooding the toilets. There are no words left. There is only sound.

He is the plane spinning out of control. I is gravity pulling a burning plane into a port stacked with explosives. She will orphan myself to be whole. I will orphan himself to be whole. He am dead.

He                                                       curtain make

hair hair hair wig hair wig wig hair hair

                        96170143512 dial tone

stab crotch. Stab crotch make right.  Make 1-2

    1-2

    Tritone from 5

    Land on 4 major 7

    Back to 1 major 7 then apply dominant.

The toilets have flooded. Someone has wound the piano strings so tight they snap every time I touch my keys. I will orphan an entire generation, that they may never know what you did to them.

Papa can I return to your body? Can I sing into your neck? Will you wash my body and put me in the ground? Will you make me clean? Thakla I will forget your name when I orphan myself. Thakla, did you hear the planes before the explosion? Do you hear me? I am dead. This is not a metaphor. Welcome to New York.