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Artist Talk with Layla Nabi

12 Questions to Artist: Layla Nabi

Layla's work is about spaces, their structures and their connection to seemingly mundane human actions. This specific work focuses on city structures as transit spaces. In Layla's installation, City parks are seen as transit spaces: a shared space where people come together and bring their food or beer. They play games, sit, drink, eat, all the while being surrounded by strangers. Seeming from the outside like they are having their own private intimate actions next to each other, complete strangers sharing what they normally wouldn't, all connected by their search for „nature “and relaxation.

TH: Your life without art would be…

LN: In a way probably easier, but I would miss all the legitimacy to focus on subjects one wouldn’t normally do…

TH: Where do you take your inspiration?

LN: In the moment mostly from transit spaces in cities. Like train stations, the actual space in trains, busses or trams. How we move in those spaces, what happens with human behavior because of the objects living in those spaces. Even a gas station becomes a sort of romantic dreamland, it contains a small shop with little snacks and drinks, car stuff, little stuffed animals, usually a little restaurant area, flowers and also sandwiches. Its the absurdity of it, made by the opposites that creates a sort of romantic and narrative place. 

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

LN: I started in 2019, when Gabriela told us about the project and the concept. I liked the idea of being in contact with the artists from cairo and creating a communication that opens up an opportunity to share different understandings of spaces. Sadly the pandemic didn’t allow us to meet so far..

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

LN: I read a lot of books about european racism in preparation for a workshop I had the chance to give. But also books written by turkish Gastarbeiter*innen who described their experiences when working in Berlin in the 60s. The book „Perspektiven metropolitaner Kultur“ by Ursula Keller, also influenced me during this time, as well as „Fremdsprechen“ by Esther Kinsky.

TH: What is your work about?

LN: The work shown at A&O Kunsthalle is called „BBQ gathering“, which is about city parks and their structures. How it becomes a transit space, where random people come together to share the space for a certain time, bring their food, beer or games and sit next to each other. Or even have BBQ parties right next to each other. It is about the absurdity of the behavior forced by the space and the city surrounding it.

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

LN: I wouldn’t necessarily see any interplay between those very contrary places. Also me as an European person I don’t feel any connection to slums, as I haven’t been in one. I also fear that we might have a too white view to it, as it is not really a place or structure we get confronted with in Europe. Therefore I think I’d rather like to put the focus on amusement parks, as it is kind of sad that we need a wonderland just for the sake of amusement. A complete fake world made to amuse and thrill. Almost like a dystopia version of a human disorder.

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

LN: As I said earlier, sadly we didn’t have the chance to meet in person. I was impressed how StudioKhana managed to curate the exhibition, while not being able to see the space and just by the given information of our works . I felt there was a somehow weird shift of analog works, being discussed in a digital way, to then be translated back into an analog exhibition. This shift made the whole exhibition project at the one hand difficult but on the other hand created a new translation and opened up further possibilities.
It was interesting how there were so many parallels in our works, subject wise. Everyone chose a specific space to get deeper with for their work, but I felt like the search to understand the structures of those spaces were similar.

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

LN: Whenever I walk through a city park now I see the curiosity of it. The people sitting next to each other on a sunny day, the park becoming more and more crowed…

TH: What moments will you remember in the future when you look back on the Informal City Park project?

LN: The problems of building up an exhibition and not being able to see all the participants because of the pandemic. But also on the other hand being able to see all the works of all the artists next to each other in the actual exhibition. 

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

LN: Probably that I am always learning from and with other people and their perspective on things.. With each project I am learning new skills which push me more forward. I feel like being an artist really brings you a sort of freedom, but the consequences for this type of freedom can also be quite tough, therefore I have a great network surrounding me with people and friends who support each other, whenever help is needed.

TH: What is great art for you?

LN: Art that creates a resonance, like a memory or association, which can be different for every viewer. But to be honest, the question of great art is always changing and really depends on the artwork, the moment I am looking at it, the space it is shown, etc..

TH: Your next projects, exhibitions. Where can you be seen?

LN: I will be showing my diploma work at the diploma exhibition at HfBK Dresden in July this year.

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

LN: Whenever I walk through a city park I see the curiosity of it.

 

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

LN: I will remember the problems of building up an exhibition and not being able to see all the participants because of the pandemic.

 

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

LN: That I am free to do whatever I feel like doing next.

 

TH: What is great art for you?

LN: Art that creates a resonance, like a memory or association, which can be different for every viewer.

 

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

LN: I will be showing my diploma work at the diploma exhibition at HfBK Dresden in July this year.

Translation: Christine Lewis

Foto: Gustav Franz

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