Tuesday, 20 September 2011


‘The Workshop Series’ will provide a forum for debate on the link between the arts and social engagement in Egypt. Designed and co-ordinated by the Townhouse, the series will stage seminars, guest speakers and ongoing art projects revolving around a particular theme (see the descriptions of the individual workshops below). Each workshop will promote a highly collaborative, participatory engagement in order to develop a rolling conversation resulting in the production of individual works to be presented at Townhouse and disseminated to the general public. The workshops are designed to cater to those interested in a wide and diverse range of mediums including but not limited to film/video, design, creative writing as well as traditional and alternative forms of cultural production.

The Workshop Series will consist of four workshops of approximately nine months duration beginning in October 2011. Participants will commit to one day a week excluding official holidays. Some workshops will be conduced in Arabic only, others in Arabic and English, please see the descriptions below.

All workshops will be documented and results published in a comprehensive catalogue at the conclusion of The Workshop Series in 2012.

Workshop 1 – ‘Multiple Truths’

(Arabic & English)
Application Deadline: Friday, September 30th, 2011.

Freedom of speech may have once been considered a nebulous concept in Egypt, maintained at an unreachable distance. Yet with the ongoing events since January 25th, the Egyptian population has diminished that gap and now stands face-to-face with the possibility for individuals to speak their minds freely. However, for a country whose people have navigated their lives under the influence of suffocating censorship, the task of accepting and comprehending an encompassing notion of freedom of speech can be a daunting one.

Workshop 1 – ‘Multiple Truths’ will address freedom of speech not as a simple solution but instead as a powerful tool that requires responsibility and awareness on behalf of both the source of output and the consumer thereof. Rumor is one example of communication that has become intertwined with truth, as it is undeniable that while certain rumors were intended to inspire, others have brought about confusion, confrontation, and violence. ‘Multiple Truths’ will offer the framework to explore rumor and other aspects of self-expression in relation to truth through discussion and the artistic process.

The emphasis of this workshop being the future of Egypt and its relationship with truth and rumor, ‘Multiple Truths’ will encourage the participants to take a closer look at their surroundings and create dynamic and relevant works of art with seemingly uncontroversial objects, to question assumptions on the appearance and purpose of said objects.

In addition to the above-mentioned media, sound will also be encouraged as a means to further exemplify the complex relationship between interpretation and what is broadly accepted as uncontested fact.

Workshop 2 – ‘Stories from a Generation’

(Arabic only)
Application Deadline: Sunday, September 25th, 2011.

This workshop will focus on developing a discourse on human rights, civil society and social issues in Egypt. The aftermath of the events of January 25th have provided a unique opportunity to expand the discussion and appreciation of rights issues. Workshop 2 – ‘Stories From A Generation’ will take a bottom-up approach, encouraging the participants of this workshop to reflect first on their personal, everyday experiences and to then extrapolate from those starting points a sense of how rights discourse can be relevant to society at all levels, including the most basic. By the conclusion of this workshop, each participant will have written a short story in Arabic, to be published collectively by Townhouse and distributed to an audience of NGOs, schools and other civil society actors.

The potential benefits of attending this workshop and to Egyptian society as a whole are substantial. Participants of ‘Stories from a Generation’ will not only develop significant critical thinking skills and a comprehensive awareness of the everyday impact of human rights, but they will also be equipped to take their gained knowledge and apply it to an extensive understanding of society. Egypt is currently undergoing a period of great change, and, if seized now, the numerous opportunities for civil society discourse and leadership could have a considerable and lasting effect on the future direction of Egypt.

Eligible participants of ‘Stories from a Generation’ must meet the two requirements of being fluent in written Arabic and having recently graduated from university (although there are no restrictions regarding from where or in what subject one must have graduated). The instructors of this workshop will be drawn from a variety of professions, including writers and activists and will encompass a specialist in Arabic composition who will assist the participants in writing their stories fluently and expressively.

Workshop 3 – ‘The Fluidity of Symbols’

(Arabic & English)
Application Deadline: Friday, September 30th, 2011.

While a symbol may be of definite origin and proven to have served an original purpose, it can just as well transform into a charged force of propaganda that is entirely detached from these beginnings, either though active appropriation or the organic evolution of images and ideas. Building upon both broader connotations and subliminal power as it makes its way through a community, a symbol is much more than a mere product of its creator. Within Egypt, symbols that are currently in use originate from a range of sources that span no less than multiple millennia – and the profusion of their current meanings is just as varied as the individual users themselves. These interpretations, whether intentionally or passively acquired, in turn influence the way in which one reads a symbol and perceives its implications. Workshop 3 will explore ‘The Fluidity of Symbols’ within Egypt and the relationship between symbol-based propaganda and the people of this country. With the events following January 25th, the red-white-black of the Egyptian flag has become the prime example of a symbol whose meaning is reliant on context. The revolutionaries use it to promote the dawn of a new era in Egypt, while the opposing side flies the flag in support of Mubarak’s regime and what the country once was. There is one flag and one Egypt, but the use of this national symbol is subject to ever-multiplying conceptions of Egypt.

This plurality of meaning is relevant not merely because of our copious interaction with symbols, but also because of the current culture of appropriation and replication. To enhance the understanding of how symbols evolve and can take on significant social meaning, Workshop 3 – ‘The Fluidity of Symbols’ will focus on understanding the reason why particular symbols are actively used as, or naturally become, avenues of expression over others.

The objectives of this workshop include the cultivation of meaningful, productive debates relating to the links between symbols and their representative power. Specific focus will be given to considering the social meaning of symbols and their place in contemporary Egypt. These theoretical aspects of the workshop will lay the groundwork for participants to appropriate and refashion symbols in a practical manner.

Workshop 4 – ‘Accessible Advocacy: Tackling Sexual Harassment in Egypt Through Mobile Phones’

(Arabic only)
Application Deadline: Friday, September 30th, 2011.

When the inaugural Cairo Festival for Mobile Film took place in 2007, its significance lay in the reality that filming in the public space was not considered socially acceptable in Egypt, at best. Yet the success of this event, as well as that of mobile phone video workshops and festivals of its kind, which have since taken place internationally, testify to the medium’s growing potential and importance in today’s social climate. Previous to January 25th, individuals would use the camera feature on their mobile phones with utmost discretion, not only due to social confinement, but out of the justified fear of random and unproportionally harsh crackdowns by government and police on those who would be singled out as having made such recordings in public. There has been a drastic change in this regard, as countless ordinary people have since used and continue to utilise their mobile phones as a means of documenting events ranging from peaceful marches to police brutality in the streets. Mobile phones are able to bring the proof and magnitude of these events to wider audiences due to the accessibility of both the medium itself and the footage it can capture. These devices are now seen as vital tools used to focus in on and expose social issues by making the captured videos available to a public unprecedented in scale.

Workshop 4 – ‘Accessible Advocacy’ will utilise this environment, which has become sensitized to the use and importance of mobile phones, to address and tackle the widely documented presence of sexual harassment in Egypt. During this workshop, the participants will discuss how harassment plagues current day Egypt and the ways in which this can be questioned and highlighted in brief videos. The workshop offers an opportunity for serious debates across gender boundaries and for both to have a better understanding of how individuals experience and interpret sexual harassment. The videos shot within this framework will be recorded and edited on the mobile phones of the participants. Technical instruction on editing techniques and other aspects of filming with a simple device will be offered throughout the course.

Once the videos have been produced, they will be screened at Townhouse and distributed freely to NGOs, schools and members of the public interested in raising awareness and encouraging debate.

How to apply for the workshops and guidelines for submitting your work:

There are no application forms for this workshop series – applicants are asked to submit the following in Arabic or English, respectively:

– Your basic contact information

– C.V. with indication of your Arabic and English proficiency

– A motivation letter tailored to the specific workshop you are applying for

– Up to five relevant samples of your work, regardless of the medium (images, texts, audio files, videos, URLs, etc.)

– A checklist of your submitted work (with information related to your submitted work samples, if desired)

Technical guidelines for submitting your work samples:

– Images: Max. 100 dpi and max. 2000px on the longer side

– Texts: Published or unpublished

– Audio and video files: Up to 10 minutes each. Submit either URLs if available online (preferred) or via one of the following upload services only: Dropbox, Rapidshare, yousendit, Wetransfer

All submitted work samples attached to your application email must list your last (family) name, followed by an underscore and the file name. For example: Hala Fahmy would submit her images as Fahmy_(title of image).jpg or her texts as Fahmy_(title of text).doc.

Please submit your application in ONE EMAIL to:

Alexandra Stock at alexandra@thetownhousegallery.com (10 MB per email)

Subject: Workshop 1/2/3/4

(Please indicate the number of the workshop you are applying for in the subject line of the email. If you are applying for more than one workshop, please submit as many applications and indicate the order of your preference, for example Workshop 3 / first choice).