Campaigning Cairo is a project initiated by Dina Kafafi, Fred Meier-Menzel and Mikala Hyldig Dal and is supported by the Townhouse Gallery and the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute mixing art with academia. The project will result in a publication that will present the findings of the ongoing project on visuality in post-revolution Egypt. The organisers have started to invite artistic as well as academic contributions on the subject matter of their research, with a deadline of 28 September.
The project explores the progression of political visuality, or how visuals are used in the political arena in Egypt. One of the main focus points is how political, social and economic issues in contemporary Egypt are represented visually and aesthetically or as the organisers put it more lyrically, how they “utter themselves in the realm of aesthetics.”
The project’s founders want to explore everything from semiotics of propaganda to secular versus religious representation as well as class and gender relations in visual political representation, to name but a few.
One of the project founders, Dina Kafafi, explained that the initial idea came during a exhibition in the Townhouse Gallery, called “The Politics of Representation,” where printed, visual material including posters, flyers and banners was collected and made available to viewers on a computer in the gallery space so as to create a platform where all the information would be concentrated and thus could be analysed.
As interest grew in the exhibition the German University in Cairo Professors Fred Meier-Menzel and Mikala Hyldig Dal were keen on taking the exhibition beyond the initial idea by involving their students. They envisioned creating a publication, which will be the final product of Campaigning Cairo, in which texts and analysis projects will be grouped to further explore the theme of the “Politics of Representation” from a research-oriented, academic perspective.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the project is the founders’ enthusiasm to bring academic research to a public venue, clearly showing their desire to create a dialogue among everyone with an interest in the subject matter. They hope to involve researchers, political analysts, anthropologists, artists and people who are merely enthusiastic about the theme.
The idea to launch the event in the Townhouse Gallery is likely to attract a wider audience, Kafafi added. The idea is a welcome change in general academic discourse, as academia is, more often than not, limited to its own ivory tower where disciplines can be somewhat disconnected from reality. A recent example of this would be those disciplines that deal with the Middle East and which did not predict the Arab Spring.
There is no information yet on how the research will be presented exactly as the call for submissions has just gone out. And while there is plenty of information on the project itself, there is, understandably, not as much information on the final event. Those details will emerge as the submission deadline nears and the data has been accumulated.
While there are no specific criteria for applicants who are interested to send in their submissions, they must include their curriculum vitae. Kafafi, however, also emphasised that the founders did not want to limit their findings to academic analysis only and that “visual experimentation and observations” are encouraged.
She added that while submissions do not necessarily need to be finished projects, they do need to have a clear direction and substance, with an emphasis on research and avoiding redundancy. She stressed that the focus is on analysing these submissions to explore the visuality of political identity and how political parties and candidates choose to communicate visually within the public sphere.
The deadline submission is 28 September and submissions can be made in the form of essays, prints, photographs, videos and other material.