Ehab El Labban on curating 25 Years of Arab Creativity

The former head of the Cairo International Biennale talks about the collection, which he worked on for a year.

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How did you select the artists?

I selected a prism, a philosophy, to define the exhibition and also selected the artists participating in this exhibition, who can achieve and represent this view.

What was your primary aim with the exhibition?

In order to attempt to introduce an image or a perspective scene about the features of today's Arab art, I had to first pave the way for the artists to introduce their own philosophy, without imparting any external factor that would confuse their own individual thoughts. We set a certain framework for them to explore within and to work through.

What are your priorities as a curator?

I consider myself - as a curator - a curious individual, and am constantly following what is going on in the Arab and international arena and being influenced by it. In turn, I aspire to co-influence this environment and particularly elements that most impact me. It is my belief that those who occupy themselves with art administration, through any position, bear a great responsibility because, whether they want it or not, they direct according to their choices, practices and thus affect the audience, be it in a negative or positive light. In light of this, I always seek to be very careful with what I introduce.

Does Arab art bear the marks of its culture and heritage?

Certainly, there are society features and many different cultural characteristics and it is certain that the distinct effect of these cultures grows inside those who are raised there, especially artists who, according to social norms, become expressive of the features that comprise their traditions and culture. However, we cannot generalise because the themes and forms of the artistic expression have become so varied and cannot be separated from the happenings around the world. As technology has evolved, so too has the inspiration behind arts, especially with the opportunities it offers people to learn what is happening anywhere in the world. Therefore, we cannot decisively separate the global definition of art from Arab art.