The release of the book Thawret El Looool (The Revolution of LOOOL) – Chats with Young Egyptian Artistswhich took place on Sunday 31 July on the Contemporary Image Collective premises introduced new research on a generation of Egyptian artists born in the 1980s.
The book launch was accompanied by screening of a number of short films created by young artists. Film screenings aimed to review independent artworks produced lately, complementing visions of young creators depicted in Elias’ book.
“…this book is like a chat room, a discussion board or a roundtable in the form of a printed publication. It is a space for some young artists to share opinions, testimonials or comment on several issues such as: art education in Egypt, the effect of media and popular culture on their work, how they perceive their role in the contemporary society, the art institutions as a financer and exhibitor, their connection with the local art history and the concept of a ‘generation’ in general,” writes Mariam Elias in the opening paragraph of Thawret El Looool – Chats with Young Egyptian Artists.
Thawret El Looool written and edited by Elias, embraces a generation of young Egyptian artists. Elias looks into work and creative development of over 30 Egyptian artists born in 1980s, many of them already accomplished young creators. They all try to define their ways in the world, which on the one hand shrank dramatically with the rapid development of technology, and on the other hand opened new horizons for creative propositions.
“Egyptian art and artists are always classified in terms of generations,” Elias commented to Ahram Online. “Artists and non-artists alike, born in 1980s, share many common nostalgias and memories. They bring them together.”
Thawret El Loool constitutes two years of research. “I started working on the actual data compilation in 2009, yet that data was motored by reflections of the past decade,” asserts Elias. “The decade witnessed the creation of many new publications interested in young artists, new cultural NGOs, the opening of new galleries and art centres, youth salons and collective exhibitions that presented that generation of young artists.”
Elias finds an evident link between the emergence of new tools, the increase of new outlets and the nostalgia that binds the generation as a whole. This is accompanied and amplified by the generation’s experimentation with new technologies – YouTube, blogs, websites, Myspace, etc – which opened new platforms of exposure for their work.
Though classified as a generation that enjoys a special position in Egypt's art history, Elias herself is very careful in labelling. Elias recognises a new lingo characteristic to the generation; a language that cannot be imprisoned in one clear definition. She remains aware of the individualism and authenticity of every artist, as she is conscious about their collective minds.
In her book Elias underscores the individual and conceptual differences, which were not always understood, and were not perceived as a unified language. As such they were not welcomed by what Elias calls “stagnant old moulds.” Their voices stirred many controversies.
The book is divided into six chapters, with the first one presenting what Elias tries to define as the generation’s main characteristics, which she bases on their similar thinking and memories. The following five chapters are chat rooms, which give voice to the artists themselves. Are we dealing with a fixed and unique generation? Does the generation find a valid link with history and Egypt’s artistic heritage? What is the role of popular culture in those artists’ development? What is the role of education? How can institutions help young artists to be recognised and valued by a wider audience? Those and many more questions are replied to by artists themselves.
Published in a bilingual form (English and Arabic), Thawret El Looool is possibly the very first serious attempt on the part of a researcher to understand Egypt’s new, emerging young artistic trends. The fact that Elias was also born in the 1980s made it harder for her to completely distance herself from the study, however, the very same fact gave her an advantage of understanding the collective mindset of the generation. Even so, she is careful to talk on the artists’ behalf and instead she presents their individual voices through five chat rooms.
Thawret El Looool links Elias even more to the minds of people born in 1980s. Her book is a testimony to perseverance and belief that the generation carries a message that needs to be communicated here and now.
Thawret El Looool becomes one of its bravest demonstrations of a critical analysis of this generation. Written, edited and self-published, the enormous effort to wring out this book will definitely open new doors to many creative minds. The following years will bring new studies and add new perspectives complementing Elias’ thoughts, yet without a doubt, Thawret El Looool will remain one of the important works on the subject.
Thawret El Looool – Chats with Young Egyptian Artists can be found in Al Kotob Khan (Maadi), Bikya (Nasr City), Afaq (kasr El Aimi), Everyman's (Heliopolis) among other Cairo bookshops.
Thawret El Looool – Chats with Young Egyptian Artists
By: Mariam Elias
Translated into Arabic by: Ramez Farag
Artists featured in the book are: Aliaa Abo Ouf, Amr Ali, Amr Kafrawy, Ahmed El Azma, Wensh, Abdallah Sabry, Ahmed Sabry, Ahmed Nagy, Ahmed Badry Aly, Aya Tarek, Asmaa El Kolaly, Dalia Abdel Aziz, Dalia El Mahdy, Eslam Zien Elabdeen, Esraa El Feky, Gehad Anwar, George Azmy, Hind El Kolaly, Islam Hassan, Lamia Moghazy, Mai Hamdy, Magdi Mostafa, Mohamed Alaa, Mohamed Mansour, Mohamed Zayan, Mo Nabil, Mohamed Keshk, Nada Adel, Norhan Mohamed, SaraHamdy, Shereen Lotfey, Walaa El Sayed and Wessam Quresh.
Artists whose films were screened during the book launch: Haval Qasso, Aya Tarek, Emad Maher, Hani Sami Lofty, Ahmed Sabry, Marwa Zien, Ahmed El Gohnaimy, Laila Samy, Mohamed Sakr