Welcome to “do it ” at Townhouse, a world where artists’ instructions prevail, where the people fulfill and re-interpret these instructions as they please, and where creative expression has been woven once and for all into the fabric of daily life.
Three artists invite us to interrogate the past: its sights, sounds and emotional textures. But in interpreting them there has been an aversion to nostalgia.
Where Hazem Harb asks us to reinstate the heritage of historic Arab architecture (Roots, 2015), Ahmed Zaazaa instead demands we turn our attention to the ever-evolving here-and-now of Cairo’s informal housing (To Dwell, 2017).
Similarly, where Ahmad Ghossein invites us to collect audio letters recorded on cassettes from the ‘80s and early ‘90s (Intimate Secrets to be Published, 2015), Sondos Shabayek instead re-tunes our ears to an equivalent, present-day obsession: Whatsapp voice-notes (Intimate Voice-Notes to be Published, 2017).
In a separate interpretation of the same instruction (Unsent Letters, 2017), Shabayek asks us as individuals to re-visit the past, but not to linger over what was said. Rather, she challenges us to verbalise what we were unable to say at a particular moment in our lives, what we failed to say to someone, what we wished we had said.
Lastly, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige instruct the institution hosting “do it بالعربي ” to re-evoke, and then partly erase, “what had been exhibited a year earlier to the day” (2016). But a year ago to the day, due to outstanding circumstances, Townhouse was not in a position to display an exhibition. Instead of evoking and erasing a past creation, therefore, we have aimed to evoke and recreate a past erasure.
Two further artists’ instructions defy literal interpretations all together.
Etel Adnan incites us to liberate ourselves through self-expression (2016) – “the future is not the past,” she tells us, “not yet, always new, and be new with it.” Mohamed Abo Elfath has responded by taking her exhortation as the basis for an improvised performance, made new from moment to moment by the involvement of the audience.
Secondly, in a mind-bending set of culinary instructions, Lara Baladi entices us into her kitchen of paradox and synaesthesia (An Exquisite Corpse, 2015). In the style and spirit of the surrealist game it is named after, we had a go at cooking up her “exquisite corpse.” Perhaps you can prepare it more fantastically!
You are invited to take part, respond, and offer us interpretations of your own
This Cairo iteration of “do it ” has been co-ordinated and curated by the Townhouse staff.
The “do it bil 3arabi ” publication contains written instructions from over 70 artists from the region that anyone can interpret to make a new work of art.
Co-curated by Sharjah Art Foundation Director Hoor Al Qasimi and Serpentine Gallery co-Director Hans Ulrich Obrist, “do it بالعربي ” is a new iteration of the ongoing “do it” publication and exhibition project originally conceived and curated by Obrist in 1993.