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D-CAF Festival: 'InterLAB Cairo-Dresden' at Hotel Viennoise
We can't say that D-CAF didn't warn us what was coming; for weeks, they've been hard at work preparing for their takeover of Downtown and this weekend saw the curtain finally raised on a month of culture in Egypt's Capital. We went along on Saturday afternoon, to the dusted down Hotel Viennoise, which opened its doors to InterLAB Cairo/ Tele-Exhibition, which will run for the entirety of the festival's program at two venues in the city – Downtown's Hotel Viennoise and Medrar in Garden City. The two venues are linked in real-time and all the pieces allow users in one venue to interact with those in the other, using bazaar and innovative ways.
The venue is dingy and run down in the artiest of senses; its walls are adorned with graffiti and peeling wallpaper, either as an original feature or for artistic effect, we couldn't decide. Inside the gallery, the venue has been bought bang up to date with the whole place, dressed to the nines in Wi-Fi and all other sorts of flashing devices, which no doubt do marvellous things.
The exhibition is a collaborative work featuring five German artists from Dresden, and another five from Cairo. Who can say whether these ten geniuses are computer geeks or artistic souls, but what they've come up with is somewhere in between the two and in that realm, they've done something pretty fantastic.
First off, we ventured into a small curtained-off booth, where a computer screen with a camera attached scanned us, then turned our image on the screen into a mustached gentleman, a beautiful temptress and many more creepy characters. Once we had found our favourite new look, we pressed print, and way over in Medrar gallery our photo was produced, while on our side, photos of those who had visited Medrar were stuck on the walls.
Through another door along the eerie corridor, we entered a new artistic dimension, which experimented with what technology can do with sound. We could hear extraterrestrial beeps coming from behind a door hung with a heavy curtain and upon entering we found a web of lasers across the ground and a speaker system set up with a light sensor atop it. By pointing the lights they have hung from the ceiling at the sensor, a recognisable, musical tune could be produced, however, for most of us, they were more of screeches than melodies.
At the end of the corridor another room contained half a dinner table, seemingly mid feast, with a large screen set up at the end of it, which was connected via Skype to the other half of the table over at Medrar. A virtual tea party can be had with strangers on the other side of the city, and the cushions on the seats contain sensors which when sat on make lights flash on the table's estranged half.
This is not an exhibition for those who are still reeling from the marvels of colour TV, or who fear a robotic revolt any moment, as this gallery marks another step on the way to technology's domination of the world. But it also reveals its softer side to science. Billed by D-CAF as 'the creative playground', we certainly had a lot of fun there, and the artists' abilities to master and adapt technology to their creative whims is fascinating, promising an exciting future for both art and technology.
While the late Inji Efflatoun has become known for her colourful paintings, Safar Khan Gallery’s current exhibition shines a light on Efflatoun’s ink-on-paper collection, ‘Freedom After Prison’. Utilising the chosen materials through different techniques, Efflatoun created a diverse collection of sketches, which depicts life in the Egyptian countryside.
In some of the paintings, Efflatoun used staccato pen strokes to form the scene. One of them is ‘Rest Time’, in which the artist drew the masses of resting workers, adding a touch of detail here and there to break the detachment of the outlines.
On the other hand, other paintings boast a flowing outline, especially the ones including palm trees and greenery. In one of the best pieces in the exhibition, Efflatoun not only studies the form of palm leaves, but she also adds a creative touch to this simple form, filling the thin outline of the element with waves of ink, using the wide tip of a black marker.
Merging between the previous two techniques, Efflatoun drew a number of scenes that portray the dwellings of the peasants. For example, in one of the paintings, the artist used a continuous outline to draw the houses, while pen strokes were used to form the shape of other details, like palm trees or straw ceilings. Where necessary, Efflatoun used the wide tip of the marker for creating shades.
Though the different shades of ink are dominant in this exhibition, the gallery shows four paintings in colour, three of which are by Efflatoun herself and the fourth is by the exhibition’s guest of honour, the late Taheya Halim.
While two of Efflatoun’s were placed in near the front desk, making it difficult for the viewer to have a close look at them under the stares of the curators, the third, which portrays the artist while working in a simple set of brush strokes, is placed amidst the other ink paintings. However, being the guest of honour, Halim’s Painting, which depicts a Nubian couple seated on a bench, is centred on the wall facing the entrance.
And whether in colours, or merely painting using ink, ‘Freedom After Prison’ is sheer proof of the artist’s brilliant ability to create animated paintings using different mediums.