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Artist Talk with Rana Samir

12 Questions to Artist: Rana Samir

Interested in the process of choosing, keeping and collecting and what drives and motivates these actions, Rana looks into this practjce and what it could possibly reveal about us. Using a personal collection to investigate into personal memories, forming connections between past and present, and looking differently at Cairo.

Her work is curently being exhibited at a&o Kunsthalle in Leipzig until 28 May. ​

TH: Your life without art would be…

RS: Muted.

TH: Where do you take your inspiration?

RS: Personal history, the Internet, streets, markets, conversing with friends, other forms of art.

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

RS: Two years ago, artist Gabriela Kobus emailed us, the artists and Studio Khana about her project Informal City Park and its concept, proposing the idea of a group exhibition combining artists from Cairo and Germany.

What interested me the most about Informal City Park was the potential it provided for exploring what fun meant in relation to a convoluted contrasting metropolis like Cairo and my connection to it. What fun meant to me personally, then and now and how I was seeking it.

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

RS: The majority of the readings I did during lockdown were research oriented. Reading artists’ statements and philosophies, researching into various concepts related to urban spaces and architecture.

TH: What is your work about?

RS: In my work I look into what motivates the practice of choosing, keeping and collecting and what it could possibly reveal about us. Using a personal collection to investigate my memories, forming connections between the past and the present and looking differently at Cairo. Expanding on this dynamic, I look into my collection in connection with Cairo. Opting to view the city as a collector, its collection holds its people, its streets and its establishments, each containing their respective layers, forming a convoluted, perpetually extending web.

Highlighting the personal and urban collection reflects a mutual interaction

Showcasing public green spaces in the city like a botanical garden and a zoo, display a vast array of fun leisurely activities taking place.

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

RS: Amusement and fun are innate characteristics of humans. I see an unbreakable, constantly evolving relationship between the two.

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

RS: We met up with artist Gabriela Kobus during her visit to Egypt in 2019 and a discussion about Informal City Park took place.

Then we started meeting up, myself and fellow artists here with StudioKhana, once a week, brainstorming potential ideas and visuals.

Working with StudioKhana and fellow Egyptian artists for a second time was a great opportunity.

I also got the chance to video chat with fellow German artists, which was great too. 

I am not sure yet how to feel about an exhibition space I only came to know virtually. It’s something to think about especially given our current circumstance around the world.

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

RS: I think Cairo can be quit challenging to take in and fully digest, visually and/ or conceptually. Oftentimes I am urged by a sense of alienation, detachment and fascination that relates to it. The way I perceive my city is an ongoing evolving process, a complex exhausting relationship.

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

RS: I think Informal City Park project was a very unique experience. With the current global pandemic that kicked in 2020, while all of us were working on the project, new layers were added to it.

Main moments to me were when I was visiting public green spaces in Cairo, for my project and just for spending some pleasant time, before and then during the pandemic when it was allowed once again to visit public spaces.

I remember observing how people went about their day, how I personally started taking in my surroundings in this extraordinary circumstance.

All this while getting back on track with my project.

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

RS: I think being an artist taught me certain qualities like having a critical mindset for analyzing and evaluating. Also being an active learner and seeker. Constantly getting introduced to new concepts is something I do enjoy.

TH: What is great art for you?

RS: Art that brings forth parallel ways of observing and analyzing. Art that showcases parallel history narratives. Art that you always recall.

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

RS: I am working on new ideas for exhibitions this summer in Cairo. I am also experimenting with new media, combining different media together.

Translation: Christine Lewis

Foto: Gustav Franz (2-4), Rana Samir (1)

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