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Artist Talk with Heba Mohamed

12 Questions to Artist: Heba Mohamed

Heba's work ponders the commodification and fetishization of cities, the over simplification, the reduction, and the dilution of complex narratives, histories, visuals, and experiences into easily digestible and most importantly easily marketable versions that takes over cities, turning the city itself into a giant park, a place solely for leisure, a mere simulation of life that enhances disconnection in an experience that is supposed to bring people closer.

TH: Your life without art would be….

HE: Art makes me feel human, because without it, i would be like a machine, just working hard to make money to survive. It makes me feel alive, it makes me feel human, it makes me feel important.


TH: Where do you get your inspiration from?

HE: Talking to my friends. Most of them are interested in all kinds of different art, to share and discuss my ideas with them, really inspires me and helps to get the idea more crystalized. My concepts include concerns about the rethinking of beliefs and thoughts that have been memorized and put in our heads through learning and education. I think that most of these ideas are filled with political goals and are designed to serve them, and they are mainly related to history.


TH: When did you start with the project Informal City Park and what attracted you most?

HE: Right after my first exhibition called “possibilities of what the light might expose” in 2019, Gabriela shared the Informal City Park Part 1 concept with us and we were straight interested to participate in such a project. Then we started brainstorming with Studio Khana. Most attractive was the idea that entertainment is a necessity of life and it permeates our lives in countless forms, direct and indirect, noticed or unnoticed, familiar or not familiar. Every artist approaches this in his own unique way.


TH: What literature did you study during the lockdown phase of the project?

HE: When I started working on the project, I started with the question: “What makes Egypt exotic for the outsiders?” I started reading Eduard Said’s book “The Orientalism” which led me to read some articles from his book “The Question of Palestine”, as well as the article “Palestine: memory invention and space”. Then I asked the question more general, because I started thinking that every city and every country has a certain image that pops up when we mention its name. Maybe it’s not exotic but I’m sure it’s more interesting than in real life.


TH: What is your work about?

HE: My work is about the idea of turning the city itself into an interesting material, into a huge amusement park, by creating a false or fake image, or by turning the city itself into a pure leisure place. A mere simulation of life that reinforces remoteness while being an experience to bring people closer.


TH: How do you see the interplay between amusement park and slum?

HE: For me, the place itself (slums the city) is an amusement park. Every place has its own narrative and its own story whether it’s true or false. I think slums have very amusing – and interesting – unexpected visuals. Because of the lack of planning and randomness, they lead to new and exotic narratives and visuals that are born out of coincidence.

TH: How was your working process, the interactions with the other artists and the relationship to the exhibition space?

HE: This time my work was different from sculpting, I was the director. I had to direct the film and I had to edit the voice of the music. The interaction between the artists wasn’t so easy because of the coronavirus, but in the last weeks, we started meeting on a weekly basis. This gave us a real push, as we started sharing the work progress and were able to support and help each other.


TH: How do you look at your hometown today? Has your perception of the city changed?

HE: I look at my hometown now as a raw material of art and a good stage for doing art, despite all the circumstances due to the dictatorial rule. However, this will stimulate the young artists to come out with free and true art.


TH: What moments will you remember in the future when you look back on the informal city park project?

HE: The moment I will always remember, is the first time when I saw the final and complete version of my artwork. During the process, which include filming, recording, editing, I was unhappy with it and unsure of what I was doing. Especially because I wasn’t working with my medium. However, when I saw it, I felt satisfied and was excited to show it.


TH: What do you enjoy about your life as an artist?

HE: I like that it is a big adventure every day. Going through new and different topics from different aspects, learning new skills and leaving the comfort zone to make things, that’s what I call art.

One thing I like about conceptual art is that I can do my own research. I read and study something, not from the perspective of a scientist, but using my own philosophy and point of view doing so.


TH: What is great art for you?

HE: Great art is that kind of art when I see, I feel like I am living a new experience.

It is that kind of art that gives me a different feeling or different thoughts about a thing I see on a daily basis. I might have never seen it that way, it is that kind of art that says I’m here, the art that makes a change or expresses the change. It is that kind of art that goes beyond physical existence and becomes immortal.


TH: Your next projects, exhibitions. Where can people see you?

HE: In Cairo I guess,…

Translation: Christine Lewis

Foto: Gustav Franz (2-4), Heba Mohamed (1)

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