Last December the Geothe Institute hosted a panel discussion titled “Artists as Urban Catalysts in Downtown Cairo.” The event was organized by Beth Stryker and Omar Nagati (Cluster) and supported by the Ford Foundation. Invited panelists represented two types of stakeholders in downtown: property owners (Karim Shafei, CEO of Al Ismaelia Real Estate Development, and Bruce Ferguson, Dean of the School of Humanities representing the American University in Cairo), and representatives of cultural organizations (founding member of the Contemporary Image Collective Heba Farid, Townhouse Curator Ania Szremski, filmmaker and co-founder of Cimateque Tamer El Said). The panel was moderated by Mohamed Elshahed (Cairobserver).
The panel aimed to bring together the above mentioned representatives in an open public discussion to re-examine what the organizers called “the classic appropriation of artists as catalysts for urban regeneration by real-estate developers seeking future gentrification,” asking how things might play out differently in Cairo. However, a key word in that sentence is difficult to translate into Arabic: Gentrification. Although the discussion was held in English (with Arabic translation available), it was important to note the untransability of the conversation’s central concept. The unavailability of a direct translation of the term/concept doesn’t mean the processes of gentrification do not exist in Cairo but it points to the need for analysis and theorization grounded in the Egyptian context.
AUC’s downtown campus, much of which is no longer in use, could potentially act as an anchor for cultural activity downtown and provide much needed space for independent artist organizations as well as to its own students to maintain the link between the now suburban university and its downtown urban past. The university has not taken an active role in realizing that potential, however it has made its Falaki Theater available for public performances and events. Al-Ismailia on the other hand is actively engaged with arts and culture in downtown; not only do several arts organizations rent space from the company, Al-Ismailia is also the main sponsor and organizer of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival.
The three arts spaces represented (CIC, Cimateque and Townhouse) while they rent the spaces they presently occupy, their relatively short-term leases mean insecurity and potentially being forced out of their premises due a variety of economic factors. In other cities, particularly in Europe, similar arts organizations were able to negotiate deals with municipalities in which long-term leases were granted, sometimes with no rent, which has helped such organizations thrive by focusing their funds into their creative activities while catalyzing the regeneration of their urban contexts (which municipalities are interested in). Such a process is not possible in Cairo as the state; the governorate (the closest Cairo has to a municipality) does not seek artists as catalysts for areas it manages where underused buildings could be transformed into cultural centers. Nor does the Cairo governorate have a development plan or vision in which independent culture plays a key role in transforming the city. Thus, Cairo’s independent artists and the cultural organizations they establish depend on their relationship to private property owners when it comes to establishing a space. The three speakers on this side of the debate explicated the opportunities and challenges they face in this matter.
It is important to note that Egypt has a massive centralized Culture Ministry with an immense budget and numerous spaces including nearby downtown at the campus of the Opera and in downtown such as the National Theater. However these spaces are often inactive and unwelcoming not only to audiences but also to artists. The ministry’s budgets mostly go into paying wages, not into programming.
Two competing voices emerged from the audience; on one hand some applauded the work of Al Ismailia and its support for the arts in downtown. One audience member argued that as artists “no one owes us anything” and that artists must find ways to establish their spaces without relying on support from private interests. On the other hand, others voiced concern with those sentiments and argued that in the Egyptian context when contemporary art lacks cohesive institutional support, private developers and property owners have an increased responsibility to support artists with affordable spaces.
The panel discussion revealed the need for a mediating entity between the various and sometimes conflicting interests of stakeholders. As moderator I suggested the need to establish a “Downtown Arts Council,” an independent body that incorporates members of the various stakeholders on its board and which acts as a mediator, organizer, advocate and promoter of the arts in the district. Such councils have been established as non-profit organizations in cities around the world for several decades and they have had a key role in the stimulation of cultural and artistic life in those cities. An arts council for downtown Cairo will allow artists to focus on their creative work and not be burdened with logistics while acting as a buffer between the two co-dependent yet unequal (in financial terms) main players in this scene: the artists and the property owners/developers. The institutional structure of arts councils differ around the world and their relationships to the states and ministries of culture also differ and range from direct support by the state to parallel operations and autonomy. Cairo’s downtown arts community and other stakeholders will need to sit down on many occasions besides this panel to decide on which model works best for Cairo’s context.
To this end the organizers staged the panel around the critical questions: “How is Cairo different from other cities, such as New York and Beirut, where such cycles of gentrification have taken place? What role may the underutilized AUC campus play in providing a cultural anchor Downtown? What are the advantages and downsides of private sector partnerships between real estate stakeholders and independent artists and arts organizations?” They created this initial forum seeking “to explore potential local strategies for sustaining artists’ access to the generative contributions they make to urban development.”
The arts can be an engine for urban regeneration and development while urban development and investment can enrich the arts, but striking this balance without repeating the mistakes of other “creative city” experiments will be difficult. This panel discussion was an important first step in starting a meaningful conversation. Cluster organized the panel discussion as the first in what they are developing as an ongoing series of stakeholder meetings related to the arts and urban development in Downtown Cairo. Maintaining that conversation, evolving it and reaching useful conclusions and outcomes will be work that the stakeholders will have to carryout for themselves and in cooperation with one another, otherwise such panel discussions risk becoming ephemeral one off events with little tangible impact on the issues discussed therein.
For more information and for a video of the discussion click here.
The second edition of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) kicked off earlier this month. The program lasting over three weeks includes performing arts, visual arts, music, film, edutainment and “urban visions,” a program of free contemporary dance and theater events in public spaces. Festival organizer Ahmed El Attar is clear about his intentions: “to highlight that public space is the space for the exchange of values and practices between people, and that while politics and protest have paved the way in the last two years, art is another legitimate means of engaging with the world.” This is not just another urban renewal cultural event; there are specificities here that make this seemingly familiar concept of employing culture as a driver for urban development different in Cairo in 2013. The Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival is making space “for ideas to be discussed and projects to be planned, for audiences to be inspired and provoked.” While the political landscape continues to be illegible, and while clashes continue to sporadically erupt and while many are waiting by the sidelines to decide their next move, and while questions surround the future of the arts and freedom of expression D-CAF rushes in to actively become part of the conversation and of the process shaping the future of downtown Cairo and beyond.
One of the most successful aspects of the festival is the appropriation of space in downtown in new ways (dancing, theater and performance in public space), reusing spaces that have been closed for years (film screenings in Cinema Radio), or reimagining the uses of already functional spaces (concerts in Shahrazade Cabaret).
[The Great War by Hotel Modern (The Netherlands) - April 16 - Falaki Theatre - Photo by Mostafa Abdel Aty]
One of the performances we attended was The Great War by Hotel Modern, a Dutch visual arts group (four persons) that combines puppets, theater, music, film and performance. The group performed twice in Falaki Theater, part of the downtown AUC campus. Using miniature sets placed on stage with small cameras transmitting images onto a projection, the group narrates World War I in less than an hour combining top down narrative (using a map of Europe with symbols for monarchs and armies) to the scale of individuals taking part in the war and a detailed retelling of soldier’s experiences on the war field. The stage set included various miniature sets for different scenes including a water tank for the scene of a sinking ship and another with dirt, herbs and paper cutouts for scenes involving distant cityscapes and battlefield fighting. All the sets, including the dirt, were shipped from the Netherlands. Making such a performance available in Egypt to a public audience is in itself new. The entry ticket for this event was 20 LE (Students: 10 LE).
[SADAT (Egypt) - April 18 - Shahrazade - Photo by Mohamed Elshahed]
Another event we attended was a concert by SADAT (Egypt-Shaabi) and El Rass & Munma (Lebanon-Hiphop) at the famed Shahrazade nightclub on Alfi Street. SADAT is a popular Shaabi singer; a genre that crossed into the mainstream in new ways after the revolution and which now has an expanding audience crossing through Egyptian society. The concert was electric. The venue made for a perfect location for this kind of event. On most nights Shahrazade, one of downtown’s older nightlife establishments, hosts belly dance performances with a few tables for a predominantly male audience. The audience at the concert was diverse across the spectrum and the place was full. Currently there are few venues in downtown that host concerts or dance parties regularly; such events are often located in more exclusive venues with strict monitoring of those entering (males must be accompanied by females, or if you look not “classy” enough you may be denied entry, and often there is a high minimum charge). None of these obstacles were in place for this party/concert, which may explain the genuine fun that was visibly had by the audience. The entry ticket for this event was 30 LE.
The majority of the festival events are free of charge such as the play Alice by Sawsan Bou Khaled and Hussein Baydoun (Lebanon), which was performed in the Viennoise Hotel. The building, once a hotel but closed for decades, has been used recently by a variety of art events such as the recent photo exhibition Studio Viennoise and the annual Cairo Documenta, adding a new and different kind of venue to the geography of arts and culture in Cairo.
Other free events include the InterLAB/Tele-exhibition hosted in Hotel Viennoise and Medrar Space in neighboring Garden City. Augmented Airspace is another free visual arts installation by Dia Hamed (Egypt) and Lot Amoros (Spain) located in Elwi St, behind the Egyptian Stock Exchange. Face the Vitrine is an installation by Ganzeer & Yasmin Elayat (Egypt), which takes place in a public storefront on Mahmoud Bassiouni St.
The festival’s film program focused on contemporary West African Cinema, an important contribution to the context of Cairo where arts and culture, including cinema, typically look north to Europe and North America, creating a bilnd spot that encompasses the artistic and filmic expressions of the rest of the world including African cinema. The film program is entirely free of charge and the screenings are hosted in the Goethe Institute and Radio Cinema. Films include Blind Ambition by Hassan Khan (Egypt, 2012), Underground/On the Surface (Egypt, 2013), Ai Weiwei: Never sorry (USA, 2012), Burn It Up Djassa (Ivory Coast, 2012), and Hope Travels (Burkina Faso, 2011).
[100Hands (The Netherlands) - April 5 - Borsa - Photo by Mostafa Abdel Aty]
A particularly important aspect of the festival is its Urban Visions program which brings contemporary performances to public spaces and buildings in downtown Cairo but also to Hadaeq El Nil Club, El Badrasheen, Giza and the Ahmed Bahaa el Din Cultural Center in El Doweir Village in Assiut. The program’s performances use “non-traditional sites such as historical buildings, storefronts and alleyways as sites for performances, thus engaging audiences and performers with the city in a new way.” All performances in Urban Visions are free of charge.
Overall this festival is an important intervention in Cairo’s spatial and intellectual public space and it comes at a critical time when questions over arts, expression, and public space are most pertinent. In the absence of a coordinated effort by the state to use its infrastructure, its finances and its institutions such as the Culture Ministry to promote arts and culture, D-CAF contributes to adding to the complexity of downtown’s and Cairo’s arts and culture landscape. The learning curve the organizers have shown since last year’s edition of the festival is commendable.
[TRAFFIC by Tomeo Verges (France) - April 5 - Mahmoud Basiouny - Photo by Mostafa Abdel Aty]
There are critics out there who choose to not take part in these activities, or complain that some events require ticketing or that there are too many corporate sponsors, some are even complaining they don’t like the name because it brings to mind the kind of coffee pointless in drinking. However, self-righteous sentiments such as these might be cool in Brooklyn or East London where other options might be available and where a variety of independent institutions often with sizable budgets organize events, concerts and festivals year round. D-CAF is creating space for Egyptian artists and audiences and providing Egyptian audiences access to international artists who otherwise would not perform in the country. While there are alternative events taking place such as Hal Badeel Festival, they are not competing events rather they are complementary and belong to different calibers.
The Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival goes on until 28 April; catch a show before you have to wait for next year’s festival. You can find the program here.
By Maia Gusberti
C.Scapes emerged of my curiosity and will to understand more about a multi-faceted, highly controversial and contested public space in Cairo. It was realized between 2007 and 2009, when no one believed in the changes happening now since 2011, lots of them in public space.
I first came to Cairo as an artist in residence in 2006. The streets and public spaces of Cairo instantly draw my interest because of its contradictions: its ever changing multi-layered use, the spontaneous inventions, its livelihood vs. its unwritten rules and regulations, the social restrictions, the emergency law — all these complexity I couldn’t understand intrigued me to study it. It became an intensely instructive artistic and personal approach towards a city and its people I wouldn’t miss ever. While working on C.Scapes I felt diving into a topic much more complex I’d ever imagined. It opened door after door, question after question. I conducted interviews with people from different socio-economic backgrounds in Manial, Maadi, Ard el-Lewa, Rehab City, Heliopolis, Wust el Balad, etc. In the film the presence of the interviewees is indicated through their voices only. I filmed from the confines of private space; from behind windows, curtains and from rooftops, instead of filming on the streets. Initially, this choice was a reaction to restrictions on filming — but to work around the constraints, to find alternative angles and perspectives to approach public space inspired me and were finally deeply influencing and enhancing my project. My aim was a dialog between the inside and the outside, between imagination, reality and the image, between myself, the interviewees and the audience.
Rewatching C.Scapes now obviously uncovers that people in my film precisely pointed out the role of the street as a highly contested, sensible social and political space. They commented — sometimes quite direct, sometimes between the lines, on its role as a lively room, a symbol for freedom and expression and their descriptions became a barometer for the underlaying implications of control and oppression, of a paralyzed society’s hopes, demands and dreams — beneath the daily struggle in this densely populated, multi-layered, segregated city.
Many things changed since I worked on C.Scapes.— I can only talk about from a distance, after following the upheavals, some success and lots of drawbacks from afar. I only visited Cairo a single time since 2011. Egyptians reclaimed the street, reclaimed what should be public, are filming and documenting daily confrontations, struggles and conflicts with all means handy. Camera and public domain are now tools and means of negotiation and resistance of awakened, conscious and politicized citizens.
When watching C.Scapes now, I feel joy — about the liveliness and awareness of people, about their strength to take back what’s instantly theirs: the public space (and lots more). Having in mind what happened since I collected interviews in 2007/08, C.Scapes becomes a so much more complex document than intended. There are comments in C.Scapes touching me deeply, make us thoughtful, make us reflect on what’s happening … It’s the experience of the dense reality about which we’re being told — to realize: it cracked, it’s in process, people demand their space to breath — they protest, live, even dance — express their life in the streets, in the public sphere that is legitimately and evidently theirs. C.Scapes was intended to be an ongoing dialogue between the interviewees and audience. And its interesting to listen and remember what was phrased and dreamt about aloud before the seed was planted for change …
C.Scapes a project by Maia Gusberti
37:00 min, Video HD
Concept, image and editing: Maia Gusberti
Sound: Mahmoud Refat
Interviews, translations, assistance: Shahira Issa
Locations:Yasser Naeim & Shahira Issa
© Maia Gusberti 2009
supported by Pro Helvetia Cairo, BMuKK Austria
http://www.maiagusberti.net o C.Scapes Video
more Information and texts
Kino im Kunstmuseum Bern (CH) 2013
Connect, Art between Media and Reality, Shedhalle Zürich (CH), 2011
Swiss Art Awards, Art Basel, 2010
Aeschlimann-Corti Award, Kunsthaus Langenthal (CH), 2010
Where are you, Pro Helvetia, Townhouse Gallery, Cairo 2009
C.Scapes, Stadtgalerie, PROGR, Bern 2009
D-CAF is coming back to Downtown Cairo,
opening its doors to the public from 4-28 April 2013
Egyptian contemporary artists and performers will be joined by leading international names in a month-long calendar of independent music, performing arts, film, visual arts, street performances and workshops.
For information on D-CAF 2013 program please visit: www.d-caf.org
and d-caf blog: www.d-caf.org/blog
[Alice, a play presented as a world premiere in this year’s D-CAF, by the Lebanese Sawsan Bou Khaled and Hussein Baydoun]
The Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) opens its doors to the public for the second year, from 4-28 April 2013. After the successful launch of the festival last year, D-CAF is back with a rich program of contemporary performances and visual arts to be shown in historic locations and outdoor spaces in downtown Cairo. D-CAF is currently Egypt’s largest international contemporary multi-disciplinary festival and, throughout the month of April, Cairo audiences will enjoy a wide variety of independent theatre and dance performances, music concerts, visual arts exhibitions, film screenings and workshops.
D-CAF 2013 will feature some of Europe’s leading independent acts who will perform in Cairo - many for the very first time - alongside artists from Egypt and the region. For organisers this broad diversity of art forms and performers is what makes this festival unique: ” At D-CAF, we’re not presenting a single art form or a single trend. Rather, we’re trying to give Cairo audiences a snapshot of what is available, worldwide, in contemporary art today,” says Festival Director, Ahmed El Attar. “We’re trying to make the experience as varied as possible to cater to the widest possible audience”.
As a result of this focus, D-CAF’s month-long program of events will this year encompass around 130 international and Egyptian artists presenting work in a variety of art forms: this includes the D-CAF performing arts program which will include several internationally acclaimed acts such as Algerian Director, Kheireddine Lardjam’s play “End/Igne” performed by Compagnie El Ajoud and Anatomia Publica, a contemporary dance piece choreographed by renowned French choreographer, Tomeo Verges, who will also stage two original dance creations with Egyptian performers specially created for D-CAF. Dutch Theater Group, Hotel Modern, is also among acts featured and will bring their iconic theater piece “The Great War” to Egypt and the Arab world for the very first time. The D-CAF music program this year celebrates modern sounds representative of the streets and the revolution in a series of Thursday night concerts, throughout the duration of the festival. A star-studded line up of music acts will include America’s celebrity DJ Khadafi Dub, Tunisia’s Emel Mathlouthi and Egypt’s Dina el Wedidi and SADAT.
[The Dutch company Hotel Modern’s piece: The Great War.]
Building on the success of last year, D-CAF will once again present its Urban Visions program, a rich calendar of contemporary dance and performances taking place in the streets around Tahrir Square. These include the Netherlands Dance Group, 100 Hands who will be performing in Egypt for the very first time.
The festival’s visual arts program is this year curated by Cairo-based independent arts institution, Medrar for Contemporary Art, who will be exploring the digital frontier of contemporary visual arts through a series of collaborations between Egyptian and international artists. The D-CAF film program will explore underground and resistance cinema with a special focus on Contemporary West African Cinema. Meanwhile, the Edutainment program will offer a series of public seminars and workshops, including workshops for artists and for children delivered by Britain’s renowned Bootworks Theater Collective.
According to Ahmed El Attar: “We want to use D-CAF as a platform to attract, into Egypt, regional and international performers who are shaping the world of contemporary art but whom Egyptian audiences rarely get to see. The Festival also hopes to create opportunities for collaboration and cross-fertilisation between these international names and Egypt’s own thriving independent arts scene.”
Goethe Institut [5 El Bostan Street, Downtown, Cairo]
December 8, 2012
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Tamer El Said, Filmmaker, Co-founder of Cimateque
Heba Farid, Artist, Founding member of Contemporary Image Collective (CIC),
Project Coordinator of the Photographic memory of Egypt program for CULTNAT
Bruce Ferguson, Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the American University in Cairo
Karim Shafei, CEO of Al Ismaelia Real Estate Developments
Ania Szremski, Curator, Townhouse Gallery
Moderated by: Mohamed Elshahed, Founder and Editor of Cairobserver.
This panel discussion explores the role that artists and arts organizations are playing in the development of Downtown Cairo. A direct dialogue between representatives of Al Ismailia Real Estate Developments and The American University in Cairo with artists and cultural organizations currently staking out cultural outposts downtown (including Townhouse Gallery, Cimateque, and CIC), the panel re-examines the classic appropriation of artists as catalysts for urban regeneration by real-estate developers seeking future gentrification. How might things play out differently in Cairo? How is Cairo different from other cities, such as New York and Beirut, where such cycles of gentrification have taken place? What role may the underutilized AUC campus play in providing a cultural anchor Downtown? What are the advantages and downsides of private sector partnerships between real estate stakeholders and independent artists and arts organizations? Through critical conversation this forum seeks to explore potential local strategies for sustaining artists’ access to the generative contributions they make to urban development.
This program is curated and organized by Beth Stryker and Omar Nagati/Cluster with support from the Ford Foundation and the Goethe Institut. It is part of a series of activities sponsored by the Ford Foundation that aim to provide a platform to facilitate communication and learning among Egyptians working on issues affecting the urban environment.
الفنانيين كمحفز للعمران
معهد جوته: 5 شارع البستان – وسط البلد
السبت 8 ديسمبر، 2012
من الساعة 6 إلى 8 مساءا
تامر السعيد، مخرج، الشريك المؤسس لسيماتيك
بروس فيرجسون، عميد كلية العلوم الإنسانية والاجتماعية، الجامعة الأمريكية في القاهرة
كريم الشافعي، الرئيس التنفيذي لشركة الاسماعيلية للتطوير العمرانى
انيا سريمسكي، المنسق، تاون هاوس جاليري
تحت إشراف: محمد الشاهد، مؤسس ورئيس تحرير كايرو ابزرفر
تسعى هذہ الجلقة إلى خلق حوار نقدى ما بين مطور العمران ومؤسسات مالكة لأرصدة عمرانية (الإسماعلية و الجامعة الامريكية) من جهة، ومؤسسات ثقافية وفنية ذات مواقع متقدمة فى عمران وسط المدينة (تاون هاوس جاليري، سيماتيك، مجموعة الصورة المعاصرة) وذلك لإستكشاف الدور الذى يلعبة الفنانون فى تطوير وسط المدينة، وتطوير رؤى بديلة ومستدامة للإطر المؤسسية والمالية للساحات الفنية والثقافية (منهم من يتعرضون لخطر الإنتقال خارج وسط المدينة بنهاية عقودهم الإيجارية قصيرة الأجل). وسوف يتم التعرض لأمثلة إقليمية ودولية بمدن أخرى من خلال رؤية مقارنة لدراسة دور الأرصدة االثقافية والإقتصادية فى تطوير الثراث العمرانى لوسط المدينة.
ينظم هذہ الجلسة كلا من بث ستريكر وعمر نجاتى بدعم من مؤسسة فورد ومعهد غوته. وهى جزء من سلسلة من الأنشطة التي ترعاها مؤسسة فورد والتي تهدف إلى توفير منصة لتسهيل الاتصال والتعاون بين المصريين العاملين على القضايا التي تؤثر في البيئة الحضرية.
Photo Cairo 5: more out of curiosity than conviction
14 Nov – 17 Dec 2012
Photo Cairo 5: more out of curiosity than conviction is a large-scale contemporary art project in Downtown Cairo.
14 November-17 December 2012
Preview: 8pm, 14 November
Artists: Mohamed Abdelkarim, David Degner, Ahmed El Ghoneimy, Samir ElKordy, Saskia Holmkvist, Iman Issa, Hassan Khan, Basim Magdy, Elizabeth Price, André Romão, Ben Russell, Hanaa Safwat, Sarah Samy, Noura Seif, Mahmoud Tarek, and Sama Waly
Townhouse Factory Space (information point)
Contemporary Image Collective (CIC)
Mahmoud Bassiouny st shopfront
PhotoCairo 5 is about ways in which reality is splintered and shifts of subjectivity are made. Involving international and local, emerging and established artists, this exhibition explores the ability of art to trigger affective responses within the viewer.
PhotoCairo 5 explores forces at play in reshaping reality, such as paranoia, the act of recognition, and altered states of consciousness. Bodies, materials and knowledges radically unreconciled to their political, architectural, institutional surroundings appear across the show: from the tale of a hysterical dancing spree near the site of the European Parliament, to an impossible monument to the revolution, and the absurd power dynamics of a re-enacted citizen’s arrest gone wrong.
The project takes its title from a passing comment in Harun Farocki’s Videograms of a Revolution, in which existing footage of the Romanian revolution of 1989 is narrated with attention to the position and motivations of the person filming. The comment refers to the decision – more out of curiosity than conviction – of a state TV camera operator to ‘glance’ the camera sideways at an emerging protest, against instructions. Farocki’s treatment of the material calls attention to this gesture over the depicted event. If art is to handle ‘revolutionary acts’, here the camera operator’s innocent curiosity and bodily uncertainty takes the place of grand representational gestures, yet crucially, allow us to witness the awakening of a radical reality.
17 November, Goethe Institut, Bustan St
Contributors: Mia Jankowicz; Angela Harutyunyan; Malak Helmy; Noura Seif, Mahmoud Tarek, Sarah Samy, and Sama Waly; Basim Magdy, Jasmina Metwaly, and May Al-Ibrashi; Hassan Khan.
Since early 2011, in common with many of their international colleagues, Egyptian artists have been subjects of a debate concerning their relationship to politics as artists, activists, or citizens.
This symposium aims to expand upon the oft-cited truism that it is nearly always ‘too soon’ to make art—not because this sentiment is not usually true, but because it tends to foreclose a reflection on what nevertheless goes on as a creative process in the exceptionally exciting ‘too soon’ moment anyway. Through examining this critically neglected space, and from a position of near-exhaustion, we might locate a link between the revolutionary moment and the artistic one.
Harun Farocki screening programme
24-28 TBC November, Beirut
Harun Farocki is a German filmmaker and artist best known for his experimental documentaries produced since 1969. In more than a hundred films and installations he draws our attention to the visible and invisible complexities of everyday life, consistently pushing formal boundaries with the persistent eye of a critical observer to raise questions dedicated to social coexistence, power relations, politics, the cruelty of warfare, and the growing dominance of capitalism. With his distinctive camera and montage techniques Farocki assesses the fabrication of perceptual habits and how it is altered by the advent of new technologies. In collaboration with Beirut, Cimatheque and the Goethe Institut, PhotoCairo 5 will present a series of screenings of Farocki’s works. The recurring theme of labour is the subject of the long-term international research project “Labour In A Single Shot” started jointly with film critic and curator Antje Ehmann. It entails a series of filmmaking workshops, the most recent being Cairo, realised by Beirut in cooperation with CIC, Cimatheque and the Goethe Institutes in Cairo and Alexandria. The screening programme will segue the concerns of the workshop and PhotoCairo 5.
The Edge of the Image screening programme
5-11 December, Cimatheque
The Edge of the Image is a work in progress programme that observes the filmmaker’s attempts to deal with the technological transitions of the medium throughout the history of cinematic language. Through five films and a discursive platform, and in the context of a time of larger transitions, this programme re-questions the transitional periods in cinema history, and investigates moments when the image has pushed its edge and risen up against its given boundaries.
In keeping with the educational remit of many Egyptian art institutions, and with CIC’s investment in peer mentoring in the last months, a number of artists are engaging in a process of peer mentoring in order to develop works specifically for PhotoCairo 5. Artist Doa Aly has mentored the artists Sara Samy, Noura Seif, Mahmoud Tarek, and Sama Waly. This process is also a form of research for Aly, who has been commissioned to write a text noting the tensions and issues of the formation of young artists; the process is a critically concentrated version of arguably the most successful way artists are ‘trained’: talking to other artists. The commissioned works can be found in the exhibition, and Doa Aly’s text will be published alongside the PhotoCairo 5 catalogue in March 2013.
PhotoCairo 5 is dedicated to the memory of Shaymaa Sabra, beloved member of the CIC staff who passed away on 28 October 2012.
Curatorial essay by Mia Jankowicz, click here.
For more information see the PhotoCairo 5 Facebook page.
Since January 2011 there has been a flourishing art/performance/dance/music scene in Cairo, but space has been limited. There has also been an exponential interest in the city, its architecture, and urban space. With limited resources, artists and artist collectives, performers and musicians have been making due to find space to meet, practice, perform, and create. This maybe an opportunity to create a new kind of art space in Cairo, a space that is not just a gallery, but rather a center, a meeting place for Cairo’s emerging creative forces.
Pictured above is an ideal candidate for a Cairo Art Center, perhaps an institution similar to the Beirut Art Center, New York’s PS1 or Barcelona’s CCCB. The building was the American University in Cairo’s library until the university moved to its new campus several years ago. It is now unused and vacant.
Why an art center: Because there is interest, there is demand for space, and there is a growing art movement that can not be accommodated in traditional institutions.
Why this building: Its location in downtown, proximity to the Tahrir Square and its location in relation to downtown’s other art/cultural spaces (this will enrich downtown’s art network and add to the city center’s cultural life).
The building is also an ideal candidate for an art center because of its architecture. Raw concrete, high ceilings, large open spaces. All it needs is for the interior to be stripped, minimal additions using smart cheap design for new spaces such as a cafe/bookshop, and simply designed offices, meeting rooms, etc. Also a colorful neon sign on the building facade would be nice.
Can it work? This initiative must be led by the AUC administration, as the university owns the building. AUC must be a partner and a host for this new and public institution. Business sponsors such as real estate firms investing in downtown can support the project in addition to regional art collectors and sponsors. Funders of art institutions/programs such as Ford can help. Finally, corporate sponsorship can help fund the space.
A minimal staff for the maintenance and management of the building in addition to running the cafe, bookshop and art/architecture library will be needed.
The main purpose of this possible art center is to create an open space for Cairo’s creative forces to meet. Meeting rooms and studios in addition to gallery space and multipurpose rooms can host lectures, talks, events, openings, performances, etc.
There are many details that would need to be decided but this is merely a proposal for a way to reactivate a fantastic building in a central location with a much needed program.
Just something to consider.
D-CAF, Downtown Contemporary Arts festival, is Egypt’s first major international multidisciplinary art and cultural event since the 25th of January revolution.
Over the period of 3 weeks, D-CAF will present around 14 music concerts, 15 theatre and contemporary dance performances, as well as a visual arts exhibition, artist lectures, film projections and workshops bringing together over 150 artists from Egypt, the Arab world and beyond. For the full program and more information click here.
By Mona Abaza
Mohammed Mahmud Street, also known as sharei’ uyuun al-hurriyyah (the street of the eyes of freedom), is becoming an iconic space. The street has been recently discovered by numerous photographers and passersby, not only for its mesmerizing graffiti but also for the curiosity it has raised; for the remembrance of the martyrs who were killed there; for journalists who still want to investigate the violent events that took place around that area during the course of the past year and follow-up on how the quarter is coping with the barricades and walls erected by security forces; for its dwellers who suffered not only from skirmishes but also the use of lethal- and tear- gas by anti-riot police during successive clashes; for its popular cafés juxtaposing the murals; and, last but not least, for those who still remain nostalgic about popular life around the old campus of the American University in Cairo (AUC).
Mohammed Mahmud is one of the main streets leading to Tahrir Square. It includes the back entrance of AUC. This street will remain a memorable space for the revolution because it witnessed some of the most dramatic and violent moments this past November, December, and February, including the gassing, killing and disfiguration of hundreds of protesters by Egyptian police forces. During these events, police gunmen and trained snipers had reportedly targeted (and in some case eliminated) the eyes of protesters.
In the aftermath of clashes between protesters and security forces that took place between 19 and 24 November 2011, Mohammed Mahmud Street witnessed the erection of a cement block-stones-wall that cuts it in the middle and separates it into two different areas. It also witnessed the destruction of this same wall in February 2012 by the revolutionaries and residents who at the time were engaged in similar confrontations with security forces. It later witnessed the construction of more walls and barriers that blocked various side streets leading to the main parallel Sheikh Rehan Street, the location of the monumental Ministry of Interior, currently protected by tanks and wired checkpoints.