Ahmed El Attar has become a trademark for the contemporary art scene in Egypt. Starting with Orient Productions and Studio Emad El Din, which has become a hub for receiving artists who are passionate about alternative arts, Attar crowned his artistic expertise with the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) in 2012 so as to prove how art is cosmopolitan. For this 8th edition, D-CAF’s press team has discussed with Attar the interesting highlights that the festival holds for this year.
Q: What are the highlights for this year’s edition?
This year holds interesting performances in all aspects. We are starting with a well-acclaimed Danish play, Dust, a fascinating theatrical experience. Additionally, we are holding the Arab world premiere of Crazy but True, an interactive installation performance by the British artist, Ant Hampton.
We are continuing in our focus on women as well through presenting talented female artists as, notably with the American band, T-sisters. They are going to sing together with Cherine Abdo in addition to singing their own repertoire. We are finalizing with Nissam Jalal, a Franco-Syrian flutist, internationally. Moreover, we are having special workshops by Abou Bakr Shawky, Yomeddine film’s director, who would be giving a film direction workshop in addition to his wife and producer, Dina Emam, with her workshop on film production.
Q: As in previous editions, you are hosting more interactive performances this year, how do see the Egyptian audience’s interaction over the years? Have they started to understand and accept it as an art form?
Of course. Our audience’s rates increases and extends a year after another for these shows, allowing us to gain a variety of new spectators. The audience has been following us and they have seen D-CAF growing as an important name in the art scene in Egypt, introducing new art genres. So, it’s developing so fast.
Q: We would like to ask you about the concept behind the poster’s design for this edition with a ‘Luffa’? What does it stand for?
This is a contemporary perception in arts and basically, this is the whole concept behind contemporary arts: blurring the limits between what’s art and what’s not. That is to say that art becomes art upon the artist’s vision to make it as such. Art is not supposed to give clear answers as well.
Q: This is the second round for the New Media Arts program, what would be the focus for this year in difference to what has been presented in the last year?
The main thing is that we are producing the new video mapping piece, for the very first time in Egypt and only at D-CAF, in this year with Islam Shabana, an Egyptian artist, and the support of Josh Garner who’s a UK technical director. We are really looking forward to see this mapping piece by an Egyptian artist presented at a historical building. Another interesting show is Bloom by the French artist, Mathieu le Sourd, who will be also giving a workshop for video designs. This is the first time that video mapping pieces would be presented to the wide public.
Q: We have been used to D-CAF presenting the shows in new settings, how about this year’s venues? Are there any new ones?
In this year, we are coming back to Sherefen Street after its renovation which has witnessed D-CAF’s development in the first three editions, especially with our first outdoor performances. We would also be presenting at Tamara building, an old place which has been restored into a new space.
Q: Since D-CAF’s birth, visual arts has become an essential part of the festival’s program, what are the reasons of its absence from this year’s edition?
You know, visual arts are very costly. And today, we are having other organizations which have specialized in this field, producing very interesting productions. But we can say that we are blending visual arts with more of technology, as we are doing with our video mapping shows, thus giving more attractive, avant-garde productions. Also, we wanted to streamline our film program by giving it more space during the festival.
Q: How about the disability integrated performances for this edition?
We are hosting the first inclusive dancing piece presenting local disabled artists who have been trained by professional choreographers. This is the first time to have a 100% Egyptian artists in a performance. The piece would feature one artist with disability accompanied by a musician at a time.
Q: Do you believe that D-CAF, with its unique art content, has managed to reflect the way in which the Egyptian art has evolved in the last few years?
D-CAF has filled an important gap which has been really missing in the Egyptian art scene: introducing Cairo audience and art professionals to world performances in a constructive manner. We’ve been presenting a lot of cut-edge work on different art branches of course, becoming a role model over the years for presenting an alternative art narrative as well.