Meeting Points 8: Both Sides of the Curtain, Cairo
May 25 to 28, 2016
The Windsor Hotel, downtown Cairo
As a first chapter of Meeting Points 8: Both Sides of the Curtain, a group of artists were brought together to spend four days in Cairo thinking, presenting, and sharing ideas and artworks. Envisioned as a working studio, the artists were invited to investigate the site, forge new collaborations, and engage each other’s art practices. While there, the curators and artists also presented a nightly program of performances and talks in the public spaces and some of the guest rooms of the Windsor Hotel, where the group was staying.
Every evening began in the Barrel Bar and as guests arrived, one of the curators gave an introduction to the night’s planned events.
Afterwards, everyone was led up to the fourth floor by a different guide each day, including Osei Bonsu (writer and curator, London), Raimundas Malašauskas (curator MP8, Brussels/Vilnuis), Mohamed Mansour (engineer and musician, Cairo), and Nile Sunset Annex (artists, Cairo), who each gave their bespoke tour of the building.
Six guest rooms on the fourth floor were converted into a collective studio for temporary and ongoing projects: Sandra Straukaite (fashion designer, Vilnius) created a small atelier in one room, designing and producing a special series of garments with Egyptian tailor Mr. Gameel. Straukaite also collaborated with Alaa Abdullatif (artist and musician, Cairo) and Elena Narbutaitė (artist, Vilnius) on a sound experiment creating a duet between the sound of the sewing machine, an improvised soundscape by Abdullatif, and recordings in which Narbutaitė asked various participants and audience members “how is today different to yesterday?”
Each evening included presentations of improvised works and new collaborations, as well as existing projects like Doa Aly’s (visual artist, Cairo) choreography Free Radicals, performed by Noura Hassanein (dancer, Cairo) with a score by Alaa Abdullatif. Marnie Slater (visual artist, Brussels/Wellington) worked with the Egypt-based artist collective Cairo Bats on a new adaptation of her performance By Written I Mean Made into a bilingual reading incorporating set elements found in the city. The text is a mix of fragments of dialogue Slater encountered in a folder of ephemera belonging to artists Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore.
Each evening Nida Ghouse (writer and curator, Bombay) read from her Lotus Notes, a series of writings on the Afro-Asian Writer’s Association’s periodical Lotus, and the span of political and cultural events associated with its history. The final reading became a hyper-textual performance, with related passages planted for audience members to read aloud along with a presentation of photographic and video documentation from the time.
Myriam Lefkowitz (performance artist, Paris) led nightly sessions for participants and guests, designed to heighten physical experience of the surroundings by testing sensory boundaries. Keith Hennessy (choreographer, San Francisco) instigated multiple improvised scores and other kinds of anarchic events such as his “sculpture animator” – a colorful blanket made by Sandra Straukaite and Mr. Gameel – which traveled around the Windsor, creating spontaneous sculptures.
Latifa Laabissi (choreographer and dancer, Rennes) presented Samouraï, a performance after Japanese Grotesque, a Valeska Gert choreography from the 1920s. Additionally, on one if the evenings, a series of short film documents of the German cabaret artist’s performances were screened on the Windsor roof, with an introduction by Christophe Wavelet (curator MP8, Brussels/Paris).
After sunset on the second night, guests and participants gathered on the Windsor’s roof again for a screening of Roy Samaha’s (visual artist, Beirut) A Secret of Secrets — the night-time sounds of Cairo providing an impromptu soundtrack for this silent film. The roof also boasted a site-specific environment by Sidy Benamar (visual artist, Amman), which employed fabric, lights and water features to create the atmosphere of an oasis in downtown Cairo.
Rico Scagliola and Michael Meier (visual artists, Zurich) initiated several points of creative connection during their time in Cairo. Their ongoing documentation of events were presented on the final day, placing each photograph in the exact location it was taken. They also collaborated on a new sound work, Windsor Confidential, with the hotel’s concierge Mohammed, in which he tells personal stories interspersed with observations about the art activities taking place. On the final evening, they staged an oil wrestling match set to a musical soundtrack by Alan Bishop and Maurice Louca of the Dwarfs of East Agouza (musicians, Cairo). The four days culminated in a celebration at the After Eight dance club, featuring a set by Cairo DJ-duo Aross Aringa (1127 and Alas).
Rico Scagliola & Michael Meier