By Maha ElNabawi
The demographic cohort born between the 1980s through the late 90s has been branded with popular culture titles such as Generation Y, The Millennials, MTV Generation, and Generation Next. But how does one define the culture of this generation?
Mariam Elias’ first self-published book, “Thawret El-LooooL,” aims to do just that. “The book examines the idea of a ‘generation’, within the realm of art and culture, while questioning whether any group of individuals/artists living in the same time form a ‘generation,’” Elias told Daily News Egypt.
The launch of the bilingual (Arabic/English) book was held on Sunday at the Contemporary Image Collective (CIC) gallery in downtown Cairo, alongside a screening of 12 short films by some of the books’ featured artists.
Elias said, “I decided to do a film screening at the book launch because I wanted the film to be a visual continuation of the research in the book. The book focuses on art, but I also wanted to touch on film as some of the themes such as far-fetched dreams, self-expression, and effects of media transfer into that medium as well.”
One notable film titled, “How to F**k Your Mind,” by Aya Tarek, portrays a graffiti artist’s instant rise and fall from fame. The animated film is packed with Tarek’s personal experiences with the media and how it could have affected her.
The Alexandrian native has gained a whirlwind of popularity in the past few years with her infamous socio-political street art and cameo in Ahmad Abdalla’s feature film “Microphone.”
“Thawret El- LooooL” features over 30 artists born in the 1980s. The artists were primarily selected according to their contribution in recent exhibitions including Townhouse Gallery’s fourth edition of “The Pick” which occurred in June 2009, and also the last two editions of the Ministry of Culture’s “Youth Salon,” which took place in March 2009 and May 2010.
Both exhibitions aimed to introduce, cultivate and expose the work of a new generation of artists from diverse educational backgrounds using an array of mediums including paintings, video installations, drawings, mixed media and more.
When asked about the reason for naming the book, “Thawret El-LooooL,” Elias said, “It plays of the internet slang abbreviation for ‘laugh out loud’ — everyone thought our generation was weak before [the Jan. 25 Revolution], now we are being accredited with change and progression.”
Clearly the title pays homage to the digital age of communication which not only inspired Elias but the artists featured in the book. It may be safe to say that artists and writers alike are harnessing social technology to comment on how these advancements in communication are changing our global culture.
In an innovative internet infused layout, Elias examines the world of visual art in Egypt by providing readers with a keen insight into the challenges and opportunities afforded by the current generation of artists.
The book includes five “chat-rooms” where artists comment and share opinions on matters like, “art education in Egypt, the effect of mass media and pop-culture on their work, the public’s perception on visual arts,” providing a rare portal into their psyche.
In one such “chat room,” Aya Tarek states, “In my opinion our orientation towards computer and technological advancement has created a difference between older generations and ourselves.”
“Thawret El- LooooL” attempts to survey the effects of the local socio-political and cultural paradigms of the 1980s and 1990s in the hope of determining a collective visual commonality in the memory of the artists.
Elias, who has worked as a freelance art critic for various local publications, analyzes the work of each of the 30 plus featured artists, attempting to find reoccurring themes and tendencies shared among this group.
Written in a simple, unfussy language catered for the ‘Generation Y’ readers, “Thawret El-LooooL” is a welcome contribution to the study of emerging Egyptian artists, pop culture, and art education.
Mariam Elias book signing.