Ahmed El Attar has become a trademark for the contemporary art scene in Egypt. Starting with Orient Productions and Studio Emad Eddin, the latter of which having become a hub for receiving artists passionate about alternative arts, Attar would proceed to crown his artistic expertise with the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF), which he initiated in 2012 and which aims to showcase the cosmopolitan aspect of art. For D-CAF’s meanwhile 8th edition, the press team has sat down to discuss this year’s interesting artistic highlights with Attar.
Q: What are the highlights for this year’s edition?
This year boasts interesting performances in all aspects. We are starting off with a highly-acclaimed Danish play, Dust, which promises to provide 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 also continuing our focus on women by presenting talented female artists, notably including the American band, T Sisters. In addition to singing their own repertoire, they will be performing together with Egyptian singer, Shereen Abdo. We are closing this year’s programme with Nissam Jalal, a Franco-Syrian flutist, who works internationally. Moreover, we are offering special workshops led for example by Abou Bakr Shawky, Yomeddine’s film’s director, who will be giving a directing workshop, to be complemented by a film production workshop offered by his producer and wife, Dina Emam.
Q: As in previous editions, this year you will also be hosting more interactive performances. How do you perceive the Egyptian audience’s interaction over the years? Have they grown to understand and accept it as an art form?
Of course. Our audience rates for these types of shows increase and expand one year after the other, allowing us to consistently attract a variety of new spectators. The audience has been following us and has therefore seen D-CAF come to assume an important name in the Egyptian art scene, introducing new art genres. So, it’s developing so fast.
Q: We would like to ask you about the concept behind this edition’s poster design featuring a ‘Luffa’? What does it stand for?
This is a contemporary perception in arts and basically refers to the whole concept behind contemporary arts: blurring the limits between what is art and what is not. That is to say that art becomes art upon the artist’s vision to render it such. Art is not supposed to give clear answers as well.
Q: This is the second round of the New Media Arts program, what will be this year’s focus in contrast to what was presented last year?
The main event is our production of the new video mapping piece — in fact for the very first time in Egypt and only at D-CAF. This year’s piece has been conceptualized by Egyptian digital artist, Islam Shabana with the support of Josh Garner, who is a British technical director. We are really looking forward to seeing this mapping piece by an Egyptian artist presented at a historical building Downtown. 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 will be presented to the wider public.
Q: We have become used to D-CAF presenting its shows in unique and new settings. How about this year’s venues, are there any new ones?
This year we will return to the meanwhile renovated Al Sharifain Street, with prior stages of its development having been witnessed during D-CAF’s first outdoor performances in the festival’s first three editions. We will also be presenting at Tamara building, an old place which has been restored into a new space.
Q: Since the birth of D-CAF’s, the visual arts have become an essential part of the festival program, what are the reasons for its absence from this year’s edition?
You know, visual arts are very costly. Today we have various other organizations which specialize in this field and produce very interesting productions. But what we can say is that D-CAF is blending visual arts with more technology — as we are with our video mapping shows — thus offering 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 of this edition?
We are hosting the first inclusive dancing piece, which will feature local disabled artists who have been trained by professional choreographers. This is the first time for D-CAF to host a performance produced in its entirety by Egyptian artists. The piece will feature one artist with disability, to be accompanied by a musician at a time.
Q: Do you believe that D-CAF, with its unique artistic content, has managed to reflect the way in which the Egyptian art scene has evolved over the last few years?
D-CAF has filled an important gap, which has been really missing in the Egyptian art scene: introducing Cairo’s audience and art professionals to world performances in a constructive manner. We have been presenting a lot of cutting-edge work within different art branches of course, becoming a role model over the years for presenting an alternative art narrative as well.