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Organized by the non-profit collective Medrar for Contemporary Art, the seventh edition of the Cairo Video Festival will run from 10 - 25 December 2015, showcasing an official selection of video art and experimental films by 116 artists from 38 countries, with 24 works that were handpicked by Medrar’s team from Egyptian and international artists.
The screening program will take place every other day at Zawya Cinema in Downtown Cairo and the French Institute in Mounira. Besides the screenings, the festival features two ongoing exhibitions of films in both Medrar for Contemporary Art in Garden City and the Contemporary Image Collective in Downtown.
Highlights of this year's curated program of invited works by Medrar’s team include Marina Abramović's The Scream, (Serbia, 2014), Adel Abidin's Three Love Songs, (Iraq, 2010) and Vincent Borcard's War (Switzerland, 2014-2015). The Festival will also feature works by several Egyptian artists including: Ahmed Ghoneimy, Ahmed Shawky, Emad Maher, Hadeer Omar, Mark Lotfy, Malak Helmy, Mohamed Nour, Nork Zakarian, and Omar El Zohairy.
On the closing night, there will be a panel discussion at Medrar with several video artists reflecting on the festival and talking about video art and experimental films from the region.
Q&A with Medrar's director and festival co-founder Mohamed Allam:
How has video art developed in Egypt?
In the 90s there were some experiments in video art in Egypt but experimental film has a history in Egypt, since the 60s and 70s. Both genres are not very well documented or archived. Video art got stronger in the 2000s and now it's considered normal to be in a gallery and stand in front of a screen whereas before this was not the case. It came in the media art wave (video, sound, image); it introduced new mediums for visual artists to engage with. As time went by and technology normalized, video is arguably now seen in the same way as a painting. This allows the art movement to focus on content and possibilities and not rely on its novelty to impress.
Who are the artists involved in video art in Egypt?
Many artists that have achieved international recognition work mainly with video such as Wael Shawky, Hassan Khan, Sherif El Azma and Hala El Kousy. Besides these established artists, many young artists are involved in video art and engage with it as a medium. Young Cinema directors who are experimenting are also shown in galleries in Egypt and their work can be accessed through the visual arts sector such as several who we will be showing their films in this year's festival such as Ahmed Ghoneimy and Mark Lotfy.
Where can one find video art in Egypt?
Unfortunately there aren't libraries or archives to watch video art yet. Townhouse has archives available to the public of the artists who they work with. Medrar also has an archive that people will soon be able to access in its entirety. The Goethe Institute and Rufys have a website that collects Arabic short films and video art, and on it there are many films available to watch online.
In terms of spaces to find video art exhibited regularly, there are Medrar, Townhouse, CIC, Cimatheque, Zawya, Salon El Shabab, Darb 1718, Gypsum and Nile Sunset Annex. Sometimes even profit based galleries like Mashrabia show video art. You can also find exhibitions at foreign culture centers such as Goethe Institute and the French Institute.
Why did Medrar decide to start a video festival?
When Medrar first started as an artists' collective many of us had started producing video art, and we didn't know where the works would be screened. So we decided to have a festival to screen our work and see work by other people working with this medium. It was 2005, so you have to take into account that the internet wasn't as widespread as now. It was more challenging to view video. The first edition only had Egyptian artists and we realized that there is potential to expand this festival to a more international arena and allow artists and audiences in Cairo to not just see the work of their local peers but also videos from all over the world.
And how has the festival developed from that point till its 7th edition this year?
The festival has been growing and sharpening each year, especially with our growth as an organization. At the beginning we used to host the festival in one location (Goethe Institute and CIC), then we started having a proper space to showcase, so we hosted the fifth edition in our space in Medrar for the first time in 2013. Since then, we've been focused on expanding the screening spaces and collaborating with other non-profit, profitable and even governmental art spaces to allow the festival to grow. We've also been focused on creating screening programs from the festival to show throughout the year in various spaces in Cairo and other cities.
7th Cairo Video Festival 2015
10 - 25 December 2015
Video art and experimental films by 116 artists from 38 countries.
Medrar for Contemporary Art
Contemporary Image Collective