Egypt’s ASCII initiative at the first Alternative Art School Fair in New York

Ahram Online , Monday 21 Nov 2016

ASCII was launched three years ago by Egyptian contemporary artist and educator Shady El-Noshokaty

International Alternative Art School fair in New York (Photo: courtesy of ASCII)

Egyptian initiative ASCII project was among 50 international alternative educational initiatives selected at New York’s first Alternative Art School Fair, which took place on 19 and 20 November.

The ASCII Foundation was launched in June 2013 by contemporary artist and professor Shady El-Noshokaty. The foundation seeks to supplement formal art education in Egypt by providing a contemporary curriculum that provides young artists with insights into the latest trends in global contemporary art practices.

The Alternative Art School Fair is organised by Pioneer Works, and brings together experimental schools from 11 countries, mostly from the USA and Europe.

A press release states that the participating schools “operate with a wide range of methodologies, missions, and theoretical approaches that see the artist as a defining figure in the development of new methodologies for hybridised disciplines…. even when relatively small in scale. These exploratory schools provide vital models of cultural critique and broaden the prevailing expectations of classroom environments and means of dissemination.”

Each school was represented at an interactive booth amid a programme of workshops and talks.

Clocktower Productions livestreamed exclusive interviews with the participants, to be archived after the fair.

On Facebook, ASCII shared some of the statements that were highlighted by El-Noshokaty during the discussions.

El-Noshokaty probed the issue of identifying what the terms alternative and parallel mean. He argues that using these terms is not the right way to describe ASCII and the projects at the fair, as these terms are still confined within a box that sees them in relation to the established institutional system.

“The traditional institutional system is failing, any attempt to rescue it is a waste of time. Challenging and standing in opposition to the idea of a ‘system’ is what we believe. Not to work in parallel or to be named 'alternative,' because positioning our ideas as ‘alternative’ proposes the existence of other forms, making this position not as revolutionary or as different as it should be,” he said

“Creating another kind of ‘system’ is not a good idea, we rather prefer to it as an ongoing, radical, productive, creative ‘initiative’. Always changing and always experimental, we should care more about the educational process not the products. Those initiatives should not be a part of capitalism politics, they should never accept being labeled as either parallel or alternative,” El-Noshokaty added.

From the Arab world, the Alternative Art School Fair also included Spring Sessions from Jordan, an experiential and communal learning experience and arts residency program in Amman.

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