المدونة المصاحبة للبينالي
Extra-Biennial Blog

Extra-Biennial activities in Cairo: Kimberli’s Travelogue, Chapter 1

Townhouse

This was my second visit to Cairo, and I continued to be impressed with the Townhouse Gallery as a vital center for art and community. Housed in a cluster of buildings in the mechanic’s district in downtown Cairo, its cultural presence is inclusive, expansive, critical, experimental, provocative, and constructive. The program is focused on contemporary art and criticism as well as community outreach. It encompasses a variety of spaces and activities: a non-commercial gallery, a community art library, studio spaces, meeting rooms, spaces for skills-based workshops, an archive of artist works, an artist-in-residence program, a curator-in-residence program, a theater, an all-purpose warehouse space, and a gift shop. Soon it will include a building with 20 studios to be given to artists for a period of 2 years.

Townhouse Gallery, photo by Sylke Meyer

Townhouse Gallery, photo by Sylke Meyer

Enormous credit must go to William Wells, director and founder of the Townhouse Gallery, for setting up a truly dynamic cultural space. The organization has carved out a space where art can live, breathe, and propagate. Newer organizations like the excellent Contemporary Image Collective (CIC) have been successfully taking root in this fertile environment.

Townhouse operates on a model unlike most in the US. In America there tends to be a division between organizations involved in contemporary art programs, and those concerned with community outreach through the arts. They are largely separate art worlds with separate constituencies and agendas. It is instructive and inspiring to see them joined in an organization like Townhouse.

For more information on Townhouse, see http://www.thetownhousegallery.com

PhotoCairo4: The Long Short Cut

The first art event I attended on this trip was the opening of the multi-venue exhibition PhotoCairo4: The Long Shortcut, curated by CIC director Edit Molnar and CIC curator Aleya Hamza, which opened on Dec 17, 2008 and runs until January 14, 2009. In addition to showing in the exhibition spaces of Townhouse and CIC, there were also works installed in what was labeled as “downtown apartment” and the Hungarian Cultural Center. It was great fun navigating to the downtown apartment from a nearby artist studio: the trip included more than a few wrong twists and turns, and was a wonderful opportunity to catch unplanned glimpses of the city.

Photo Cairo poster - photo by Sylke Meyer

Photo Cairo poster - photo by Sylke Meyer

When we finally found the exhibition flat, located in a multi-story what-seemed-to-be-1930s-building, we were rewarded with a compelling installation of artworks. In the first two rooms plus the hallway, hung at a low centerline, were a series of ghostly photographs of Cairo interiors, taken from 1973-2003, by Bernard Guillot and titled “The Waiting Room.”.In the back of the apartment, a collection of video projections each got their own room (which was great). There was a lovely work by Doa Aly entitled “Tress of Hair” based on a poem by William Blake and enacted through the movements of dancers.

Highlights at other PhotoCairo4 locations were Maha Maamoun’s video “Domestic Tourism II – The Film” at CIC which uses found footage of the pyramids to map a cinematic and iconographic trajectory; and at Townhouse, Hala Elkoussy’s “On red nails, palm trees and other icons,” a salon-style installation of photographs; and Hassan Khan’s 4-channel video installation “The Hidden Location.” A clearly organized, well-written publication is available free of charge, and contains a helpful map of the venues. Two symposia serve as bookends for the exhibition.

The treasure hunt format of PhotoCairo4 has the effect of bringing the city squarely into the exhibition itself. To read and interpret the artworks in this show is to navigate urban space. Since Cairo is far from the hushed white cube, the normative contemplative environment for art viewing is appropriately disrupted and ultimately enriched by the city itself.

More information at: http://www.photocairo4.com

2 Responses to “Extra-Biennial activities in Cairo: Kimberli’s Travelogue, Chapter 1”

  1. Mo Says:

    this town house is my grandparents home

  2. Anonymous Says:

    used to be**