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Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Exit: Contemporary workshop allows artists to look beyond the boundaries

The workshop was held at Dar Ward, between 7 and 21 July, and the next edition will be held at the end of this year preceded by an open call for to the artists who wish to participate

Amina Abdel-Halim, Friday 25 Aug 2017
Exit. Contemporary Art Project
Exit. Contemporary Art Project (photo: Bassam Al Zoghby
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In a quiet house on the Alexandria Desert Road, creative minds take a respite from the smoke-drenched chaos of the capital.

Freed from the havoc of car horns and busy streets, the artists paint, sculpt and film at ease, under high ceilings and luscious trees.

The first edition of the Exit. Contemporary Art Project workshop, organised by the non-profit organisation Creative Community Platform (CCP) and curated by sculptor Ahmed Magdy, was held in Dar Ward, between 7 and 21 July.

A group of artists from Egypt and abroad, consisting of Osama Moneim, Mariam El-Kasbany, Nehad Saeed, Bassem El-Kassabi, Nedim Kufi, Mohamed El-Mazrouei, Kady Mattar, and Ahmed Magdy, remained at Dar Ward for a period of two weeks, experimenting with different mediums and materials.

Exit. Contemporary Art Project
Exit. Contemporary Art Project (photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

“We wanted to bring together artists who work with different mediums, and bring them to 'exit', create beyond the pre-conceived boundaries of a certain medium, experiment with concepts and ideas,” project curator Ahmed Magdy told Ahram Online.

Magdy, along with architect and CCP founder Yasser Askar, wanted to gather a varied group of artists, in terms of both profession and age.

Another criterion for selection was the artist’s interest in experimenting and creating works that differed from their past endeavours.

“The purpose was not to create something visually different from the artist's’ previous artworks, but rather explore their respective mediums, experiment with different ideas, concepts, and present their creations in innovative ways,” explained the curator.

Exit. Contemporary Art Project
Exit. Contemporary Art Project (photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

The location itself played a key role in the artistic process. Dar Ward is a house designed by Yasser Askar, in which he lived for some time.

“The high ceilings, the furniture, the greenery, the distance from the city, all provided a quiet and serene environment for the artists to develop and create. It all helped them reach a more restful state of mind, allowing them to think outside the box,” said Magdy.

Exit. Contemporary Art Project
Exit. Contemporary Art Project (photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

Askar, who has always taken a great interest in the arts, dreamed of creating an artistic platform for cultural events and workshops of all sorts.

His dream was brought to life when he founded the CPP and organised the Exit. Contemporary Art Project.

“Yasser’s vision is that art can move people, help see different perspectives. Because the Exit. project is not funded by any organisation, it is not bound to serve any particular discourse, or work in the interest of a certain entity,” said the sculptor.

Exit. Contemporary Art Project
Exit. Contemporary Art Project (photo: Bassam Al Zoghby

The Exit. Contemporary Art Project workshop is an exceptional one indeed.

While most workshops focus on a certain artistic medium, the artists at Dar Ward worked with a wide range of materials and techniques.

“Some artists, like Nedim Kufi or Mohammed El-Mazrouei, were solely creating conceptual artworks. Others, like Mariam El-Kasbany, were working with sculpture. We also wanted to have a filmmaker document the experience and create a short movie about this group of artists, practicing and exploring their respective mediums. The talented Bassem El-Kassabi took on that role.”

Exit. Contemporary Art Project
Exit. Contemporary Art Project (photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

Magdy and Askar did not wish to limit the artists in any way, and thus refrained from setting any deadlines or restraining themes.

“Yasser and I did not want to tell the artists when or how to do their work. They were free to experiment with new materials and take the time they needed to master them, they could even stray entirely from their original idea. With most workshops, this is not the case: participants usually work within a framework and along a certain timeline to ensure that everything is ready in time for the exhibition,” Magdy explained.

Exit. Contemporary Art Project
Exit. Contemporary Art Project (photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

The products of the workshop will be exhibited in September, but the exact date has not yet been decided.

“We agreed to submit our works on 10 September, and we will exhibit them in Dar Ward for three days--the house also serves as an elaborate gallery,” said Magdy.

“However, we realise that the place is quite far from the cultural centre of the city, so we will eventually move the artworks to another gallery downtown, but the final location remains undecided.”

Exit. Contemporary Art Project
Exit. Contemporary Art Project (photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

The next edition of the project will be held sometime between November 2017 and January 2018.

Starting next month, the CCP will hold an open call for all artists around the world who wish to participate.

“For this next edition, we hope to gain exposure and gather more international artists. We will attempt to recreate all the positive points from this past edition, and work on the downsides and challenges we faced. For instance, there are some materials we were not able to provide, which is something we hope to resolve next time,” concluded Magdy. 

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