Danish and Egyptian artists gathered for the second time, dividing their time between Copenhagen and the fisherman village of Hanstholm by the North Atlantic Sea.
Eight Egyptian and Danish artists spent two weeks together in Hanstholm and Copenhagen to work further on their projects as part of the DEDI Art Symposium “After Confinement – the Tale of Two Cities” program.
By Elisabeth Vang Jørgensen
Photos by Jakob Pagel Andersen
Photography, oil painting, sculptures, textiles, animations, installations, and games. These are some of the many different mediums the eight participants of the DEDI Art Symposium express themselves through.
Coming from widely different backgrounds but with visual art in common, the four Danish and four Egyptian artists spent two weeks together in Egypt in November 2021. During their time in Cairo and Aswan, each artist began working on their own project, while being able to follow the creative process of their colleagues.
In the middle of May this year, the group was reunited for a week-long residency in Hanstholm to continue their work on their projects and a week in Copenhagen to visit various galleries and studios. Haytham Nawar, PhD and associate professor at AUC, and Mette Bielefeldt Bruun, art historian, curator, and researcher, selected the participants and were also facilitators of the symposium.
“The symposium revolves around two themes. ‘The Tale of Two Cities’ with the idea of getting the artists to explore a connection between Aswan and Hanstholm, both cities being located on shores, and ‘After Confinement’ which refers to our post-Covid world,” Mette Bielefeldt Bruun explains.
“The artists could grab onto what they found interesting and inspiring, and as facilitators, we focused more on the process and the dialogue and less on the final product,” she adds.
For illustrator and animator Noran Fikri being part of a group with different artists was the highlight of the Symposium, she explains: “It was extremely rewarding meeting the other participants – I connected with each and every one of them,” she says.
“I really appreciated that we were such a diverse group because this offered me a window to other artists’ creative processes. What things do they notice? What do they take pictures of? What questions do they ask? All of this is connected to their passion and their craft,” she continues.
Exploring Ways of Working
Noran Fikri normally focuses on stylized illustrations with a cartoonish design. She felt inspired by/was attracted to the theme of “After Confinement” and a new space of creativity opened for her: “The Symposium made me want to explore and challenge myself. I didn’t use digital software like I normally do, but instead traditional mediums such as the classic, office photo scanner and a very old photo printing technique called cyanotype,” she says explaining how the mediums mirrored the theme of confinement.
“The photo scanner is used inside an office, while the cyanotype depends on sunlight. This contrast perfectly illustrates the confinement we’ve all experienced during covid with having to stay indoors and now again being able to go out and experience life outdoors.”
Visual artist, Rawan Abbas, works with various mediums but mainly textiles. For the Art Symposium, she worked with a specific embroidery technique and visual imagery from Egyptian folklore.
“During the process, I was trying to think of different images for my projects. At the same time, Albin Werle was experimenting with AI and producing a lot of imagery. It was so fascinating to experience how we went through a similar process despite our widely different mediums, mine all material and his digital,” she says.
The artists spent a week in the small fisherman village of Hanstholm. Surrounded by farms, greenery, the smell of fish, and the stormy North Sea, the landmark of the village is the Lighthouse. Built in 1843 as the first rotating lighthouse in Denmark with the strongest light in the world at the time, the Lighthouse still helps ships navigate by blinking three times every 10th second. However, it has also been renovated and now hosts tourists and artists. During the Symposium, the artists set up their working spaces in the Lighthouse, while some of them tried to incorporate the local scenery into their projects.
Copenhagen-based Julie Nymann has a background in photography and holds a big interest in soundscapes working with enclosing pieces and exhibitions.
Staying and working in the small village had her reflecting on the effects of living in such proximity to the lighthouse: “Every time it gets dark, there is a cone of light. This observation might seem simple or obvious, but it’s really special to experience. The way you get confronted with and are always made aware of its existence is fascinating. Also, it has such a special, characteristic sound. I would love to talk more with the people of the town to work further on the importance of the Lighthouse,” she says.
“I just received a bunch of books from the library about Hanstholm and the Lighthouse. Because I have the privilege of going back easily, I’ll start studying to find a story to pursue and then return to film and produce more material,” she adds.
New Art Worlds
The eight artists also spent a week in Copenhagen, where they got to visit different galleries and the Danish artists’ own studios.
For Rawan Abbas, working with embroidery, one of the highlights was visiting the Textile Gallery in Copenhagen. “The gallery had such a beautiful display. It was great to see such professional work from people with a lot of experience. In Egypt, works with textile are very rare, and often used as sort of a background for another discipline. To see the medium in the forefront, approached and practiced in so many ways was incredible.”
Mette Bielefeldt Bruun elaborates on the time spent in Copenhagen saying: “The idea was for everyone to get exposed to a lot of different art and crafts as a culture meeting on a general level. And at the same time, the Danish participants had the chance to show the Egyptians around and let them enter their art world.”
The willingness to let themselves and others enter each other’s world was fundamental, Mette Bielefeldt Bruun explains: “When we were choosing among the applicants, we were very aware that we wanted participants interested in dialogue. People that had something to bring to the table but at the same time also wanted input from others,” she says. “I believe this is the reason why everyone clicked so fast and really enjoyed each other’s company.”
During the summer, the artists’ work from their time in Egypt and Denmark will be presented in an online catalogue on DEDI’s website.