Watkins College of Art, Design & Film is pleased to bring to Nashville the group exhibition Beyond Classification, featuring contemporary photography and video by women artists from Egypt, September 3-24 in the Brownlee O. Currey, Jr. Gallery on campus. Curated by Dr. Nagla Samir of the American University in Cairo, in collaboration with Greg Pond, professor of Art and Art History at the University of the South, the show was first presented at Sewanee’s University Art Galley earlier this year (Jan. 13-April 12).
Beyond Classification, which offers diverse strategies for communicating about current political and social conditions in Egypt, will conclude with a curator’s talk by Greg Pond, on Thursday, September 24, at 6 p.m., and a walk through the exhibition and small reception. Admission is free and open to the public.
The nine young artists represented in Beyond Classification developed their work in the past few years, as the power of electronic and social media to generate political change became apparent with the revolution that unseated President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The photographic and video work of these artists embraces that power, even as it responds to the continued social and political upheaval faced by the country. Through multiple perspectives, the exhibition deliberately aims to counter any simplistic picture, and to provide points of view often lost in representations of Egyptian experience in popular media.
Many of the artists included in the exhibition address questions about identity and religion. What is it to be a Muslim woman? What does it mean to be a woman artist in Egypt today? How do non-Muslims perceive Muslims? While some of the artists in the exhibition explicitly address feminist concerns in their work, others would resist the label, preferring to cast their work as addressing universal human concerns. The artists included in the exhibition use art as a tool for confronting constraints, deflating stereotypes, representing experience, and forging connections.
“I worked with Dr. Samir in 2008 on an exhibition in Cairo, and one of the artists in our current exhibition, Marwa Adel, was involved in a previous exhibition,” said Professor Pond. “So much has changed in Egypt since that time. These artists all developed their artistic practice through the series of political revolutions that began in 2011. I wanted to provide perspectives on the changes occurring in Egypt that were not conveyed via international news media. It was also important that this exhibition be made by women, who have little opportunity to reach audiences in Egypt or abroad. I contacted Nagla and asked her to curate this exhibition with me. These artists hold a variety of perspectives on the events that have transpired around them and changed their lives. Some promote radical and progressive social change and others represent conservative religious viewpoints. Our goal was to challenge notions of Egyptian culture and what it is to be a woman in Egypt with this compendium of voices.”
Cairo-based Nagla Samir is a contemporary Egyptian media artist and culture operator. Her artwork combines multiple media (photography, digital images, video and installation) and explores both social norms and spiritual experiences. Samir has had several solo exhibitions and has participated in national and international group exhibitions. Her curatorial projects include IMAFY (International Media Art Forum for Youth), A Survival Guide and Liberation: A Process Review. She founded and directed Passage 35 contemporary art center, and worked as Director of the Sharjah Art Gallery. Samir holds a Ph.D. in Visual Communication and M.S. in Graphic Design, and teaches in the Visual Culture Program, Department of the Arts at The American University in Cairo.
Asmaa and Hend Elkolaly are media artists based in Cairo. Identical twins, they received the same art education and work closely with one another. They have been active in the art scene for the past ten years, and their often-controversial work has been a part of several group exhibitions for young and rising artists.
Mai Al Shazly is an Egyptian photographer and artist born in Cairo. Her abstract and conceptual photography has been exhibited in the 22nd Salon at the Cairo Opera House, at the Egyptian Culture Center in Rome, and in the Emirates Photography Exhibition in Abu Dhabi. She was named an honorary member of the Fédération Internationale de l’Art Photographique in 2011.
Marwa Adel’s photography and graphic design, and particularly her depictions of the female figure, confront controversial issues for contemporary Egyptian society related to gender and identity. Adel has exhibited in solo shows in Cairo, Alexandria and Dubai, and in group shows in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, Senegal, London, Sweden, and Germany.
Marwa Benhalim, a Libyan Egyptian Art student, was graduated from the Camberwell College of Arts, London in 2009, and is pursuing her studies in Visual Arts and Film at the American University in Cairo. She has participated in group shows in the Cairo Atelier and the Cairo Opera House.
Nouran Sherif graduated from the Faculty of Applied Arts in 2012. Her multimedia work includes sound, video, paintings, installations, performance, and photography.
London-based photographer Sara Bayoumi holds an MA Photography at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. Bayoumi has participated in exhibitions in Cairo and London, and is represented in the online exhibition Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices, hosted by the International Museum of Women.
Filmmaker and visual artist Yousria Ghorab lives and works in Giza, Egypt. She studied at Helwan University from 2000 to 2004, and completed a diploma in multimedia from ITI, Information Technology Institute, in 2006. Her first film, Similarity (2003) received an award for independent cinema from the Goethe Institut in Cairo. She has participated in multiple group exhibitions in Cairo.
Currey Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 2 to 4 p.m.