The art exhibition to commemorate the second anniversary of Darb 1718 provokes a dialogue on how the definition of what can be classified as art has changed over the years.
From video installations and animation to collages, a puppet and even a bar lounge and neon signs, the exhibition titled “Fames: Family Vaudeville,” has it all.
Co-curator Juan Pedro Fabra Guemberena says, “This show is not bound by any theme or common factor but by the collaboration between artists.”
The exhibiting artists are all members of the same ‘family.’ Power Ekroth, curator for the show, clarifies: “The world of the artists is like a traveling circus. You meet the same people again and again, at different art exhibitions, and over a period of time, they become like your family.”
This family began eight years ago when Ekroth came to Egypt and met Moataz Nasr and collaborated with him on a project. Six years ago, Ekroth met co-curator Fabra Guemberena at an exhibition in Alexandria, where she had traveled with other artists. Soon the idea grew between them to do something in Egypt and when the upcoming anniversary celebrations at Darb presented an opportunity, they got their friends from the art world together to bring to fruition their collaborative effort. This mixing of business and pleasure has resulted in some wonderful creations.
Fabra Guemberena is also an exhibiting artist — his collage, fashioned from Egyptian newspapers, is inspired by Cairo and has many layers to represent the city’s multiplicity. It looks like a billboard and gives the notion that the city is headed towards doomsday and even takes up for the southern countries as it reads “The South Shall Rise Again.”
The non-Egyptian artists traveled spent two weeks in Egypt to create the works on display, which have been influenced and directed by the conditions given here to produce.
Goran Hassanpour from Sweden was inspired by the recently concluded general elections in Egypt and his exhibit consists of an electoral box together with arrows or darts fashioned out of ballot paper. The display invites the audience to try to get the darts through the bull’s eye in the box — not an easy task and possibly a commentary on how difficult it can be to choose the right parliamentarian.
Self-portraits by Egyptian artist Nabil Boutros are interesting and could be any of the faces that one finds on the crowded streets of Cairo. Saba Naim, also from Egypt, photographed people on the streets of Cairo, printed the photos and then added details that she thinks are missing — such as threaded flowers to a lady’s headscarf and pins on the photograph of a man whom she perceives to be in a lot of pain.
Puppeteer Hannu Raisa put up a poignant performance on opening night with his puppet. He told the story of his father, a combat soldier who had been shot by the Russians at the Finnish-Russian border during the World War II. He spent a week in Egypt and used Arabic language newspapers, folded and bent to make the puppet.
The oven in the garden adjoining the main building at Darb has been converted into the Cobra Bar by artist Carl-Michael von Hausswolff, who doubles as a very gracious bartender. Von Hausswolff clearly believes in exorcising his demons and has tried to get over his fear of snakes by preparing this highly unusual drink, mixing huge quantities of water with a tiny drop of cobra venom.
According to the artist, he liked the bar idea since it is a social place and wanted to initiate a discussion as to what can be regarded as a drug and why one drug is legal and another is not. “It is all about expanding your mind and focusing and dealing with your fear,” Von Hausswolff told Daily News Egypt.
Though he is yet to taste his own concoction, he pours it out for the brave-hearted who dare drink the “poison.”
If shopping is your scene, then artist Bjørn-Kowalski Hansen has created a whole range of iconography t-shirts, posters, fliers etc, replicating the icons of the subculture spawned by “northern soul” — a music and dance movement that started in England during the late 1960s.
Other interesting work includes that of Nermine Al-Ansari who has juxtaposed hard-hitting ink sketches of what appear to be beasts on fragile paper. They seem to be collapsing violently and are quite the opposite of fragile. Then there is Tobias Bernstrup who has animated himself in a video and encourages the audience to dare to be different.
Loulou Cherinet deals with the nuances of the “male gaze” in her two films in which she shows some Japanese men observing a woman while sleeping; and, in another, men sketching a sleeping woman.
The exhibition is on display until the end of January.