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Indepth Arts News:

"Contemporary Arab Representations, Cairo"
2003-05-17 until 2003-07-27
Witte de With Center for Contemportary Art
Rotterdam, , NL

Contemporary Arab Representations is a long-term project which includes seminars, publications, performances and presentations of works by various authors - visual artists, architects, writers, poets and intellectuals but also actors of social and political life - with the aim of encouraging production, circulation and exchange between the different centers of the Arab world and the rest of the world.

The project thus aims to tackle heterogeneous situations and contexts which may sometimes be antagonistic or conflictive, in order to acquire more specific knowledge about what is currently going on in different regions of the Arab world, to look at the complex dimensions of esthetics in relation to social and political situations, and to encourage people to think more openly about the role played today by cultural practices in our own locations, under our own circumstances.

Different in this regard from the rest of Middle East (Syria, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine and Jordan) Egypt has a heightened awareness of its own continuity, with a deep-rooted tradition, geographically, socially and historically. Political and geographical identity is not an issue in current debate. But literary and artistic experience can be conceived of as a struggle to achieve both individual freedom and political liberation. Historically, countless structural limitations (mediocre academic training, restricted access to information, lack of public space and debate for cultural life) obstructed the development of the modern movement in Egypt, often ending in academic/official production for the gratification and profit of the establishment.

A new generation of Egyptian artists is now emerging, encouraged by the support of private initiatives and benefiting from a wider pool of references circulated through the globalized urban network. The challenge is probably to articulate and consolidate a critical culture able to deal with the many complexities of the contemporary Egyptian context, and to oppose the simplifying procedures of standardization and codification at work in the dominant visual culture produced by globalization, and indirectly, by the "agendas" of a few large cultural organizations.

This project aims to introduce an open constellation of works developed independently from any institutional support by authors using very different media and strategies in order to confront the bewildering urban and social realities of contemporary Cairo.

Sherif El-Azma
Interview with a Housewife, 2001

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