“I’m really happy that we’ve been able to foster an environment of theory and criticism that is also paired with action and engagement.”
I’m currently in Cairo, working on a project called PUBLIC SPACE: CAIRO, a series of workshops on visual culture in public space. There are fifteen participants — a mix of visual artists, designers, architectural students, ecologists, photographers, writers, and curators — coming together to take a critical look at the shifting public spaces in Cairo and the visuals we find therein. We’re looking at everything from graffiti and street art to performance (professional and public routine) to design and signage. The participants are each creating their own proposals for new work as well, and they’re taking as many forms as there are participants. I’m really happy that we’ve been able to foster an environment of theory and criticism that is also paired with action and engagement. The participants are critical of the culture and the dynamics that are happening in public space in Cairo now, and I think in a lot of ways they’re a big part of the new generation of artists and thinkers that will be creating the trajectory for art and design that involves and engages the public.
My own work has been more research-based, eventually shifting and taking shape as drawings and prints, the same way I created the prints for Reverb + Echo after spending time in Haiti. I’ve been sketching and drawing and taking notes and writing a lot, taking in those parts of a city and a place that define the context and the culture, most obviously the people, the architecture, the typography, the literature, the slang, and the mythology.
But it’s also the intangibles: the grittiness of Cairo, the weight of the air, the sharpness of a glance, the complex odor of an alleyway. I’ve also been reading a lot here, and writing letters too, and I think all of these processes and pieces are going to be making their way into the drawings and prints (though so far, they exist as sketches and notes).
I’m realizing that vulnerability is the difference between these new sketches and the work from Haiti, a process of understanding the fictions that I bring with me, and how my own mythologies color the contexts, changing them, but collaboratively, creating something new. I’m a bit surprised I hadn’t realized this as much in a drawing until these past couple of months, but that awareness of vulnerability is exactly a large part of what determines how engaging and penetrating public art can be.