Bassem Yousri (Egypt)
For me art is a language that serves to create a conversation with the viewer. That’s why over the years my practice has expanded beyond the borders of one medium to become quite multidisciplinary. I have created mixed media installations in art galleries, public and street art pieces, awareness campaigns, and experimental videos and documentary films. I am more concerned with creating situations rather than objects.
I am interested in the significance of the seemingly banal everyday activities in the light of the larger context of socio-politics. In that sense, my works have a strong documentary aspect. Moreover, I draw inspiration from mainstream pop culture (movies, TV shows, music, and videogames) while constantly observing how it mostly reaffirms stereotypes, and social and religious taboos. On the other hand, I try in my practice to tap into such sensitive topics and try to push their boundaries. Growing up in Egypt, Ancient Egyptian art has always been part of my visual vocabulary. I got particularly interested in the arrangements found in the tombs. One could consider a tomb the basis for a mixed media installation as it always constituted of murals, scrolls, figurines, and different types of objects made of different materials. I am particularly inspired by the narrative quality of such installations.
Additionally, I constantly investigate the relationship between art and audience. I reject the manipulation of the viewer emotionally and, consequently, intellectually by means of visual seduction reinforcing stereotypes. Thus, I try to achieve what Susan Sontag calls 'the consciousness of form' (1) which leads the viewer, in my opinion, to a more critical stance to what they look at. Additionally, Jacques Ranciere’s investigation of the position of the spectator in contemporary life has been part of my personal exploration. Ranciere rejects a relationship between spectator and a work of art that is based on a pedagogical paradigm. Emancipation, for him, is 'the process of verification of the equality of intelligence' (2). Although I owe a lot of respect to that notion I try to invite the viewer to reexamine the work of art as a constructed image. I try to invite the spectator to become more aware of their physical and intellectual relationship to the image facing them.
(1) “Against interpretation and Other Essays” by Susan Sontag, 1966.
(2) “The Emancipated Spectator” by Jacques Ranciere, 2008.