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A participatory public art project that explores how art, design, and visual culture impact communities in Cairo, Egypt. Read more

Cairo, Egypt Public Art
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This project was successfully funded on April 1, 2012.

A participatory public art project that explores how art, design, and visual culture impact communities in Cairo, Egypt.

Cairo, Egypt Public Art
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Design + Performance

This is the second full week of workshops for Public Space: Cairo, and we're talking about performance. We're looking at examples in the United States (like the Yes Men), Europe (Situationists), and Egypt (Mahatat and Tahrir Monologues). Members of Mahatat will be coming in on Wednesday as our weekly guest artists, and we excited to chat with them as a class, especially because after reviewing some of their work in class, the participants had a lot to say about the way they worked, how to increase engagement, and started developing a trajectory for relevance.

Last week we talked about design, and the conversation was fiery. After showing slides of Jenny Holzer's work (a personal hero of mine), the class erupted into questions of language and perception and accountability. Almost half of the class didn't even consider it to be art, but instead, just random words thrown up on a sign. The other half saw power in taking over a billboard or LCD screen or theater marquis and thought it caused them to look again, to be surprised and horrified by the content. The class on the whole seemed to prefer Stefan Sagmeister's approach of declaring personal statements instead of Holzer's truisms (often politically charged) and felt they had more space to consider its relevance and felt more comfortable approaching the work, even though there are obvious overlaps. This made a lot of sense after hearing that some participants noted a disdain for purely political graffiti and street art, instead yearning for more socially relevant work, more personal, more universal.

The participants are so vibrant, fearless, thoughtful, and critical. They are most interested in creating work that follows their own contexts, and I think this is why the graffiti movement has been so important here. Though street art was not as abundant as it became a year or so ago, it had been around for years, some estimating maybe ten or so years, maybe longer. With the revolution, the ability for artists to create their work in public opened to a scale not seen before because the policing fell away with to other, more immediate concerns. (Before the revolution, and to a smaller degree today, you could be arrested for even taking a photograph in public.) Artists felt a freedom in creating in public that has allowed for a much greater exchange of ideas, representation, and dialogue. The participants appear quite eager to see how public spaces will develop in the next year, two years, five years. They have faith that the work will not be derivative of other cultures (they are very aware and careful around influence) but instead, the work will reflect current and past Egyptian culture, creating deep pathways for artists to work as Egyptians and for Egyptians, in the multiplicities of truths and visions that exist therein.

best,
jenna

ps: workshops photos coming soon!