Reda Abdelrahman: Creativity in a Time of Crisis
How has this pandemic affected you and your creative output? How are you adapting to the new realities?
First, I must admit that I feared for my health and life, and I was also concerned about my family. So, I took all the recommended precautions from the beginning. On the artistic level, the epidemic closed my exhibition titled I Am Everybody, which had just opened at the end of February at the Snug-Harbor Culture Center, and was sponsored by The New York City Cultural Affairs. It had to close just 15 days after our well-attended opening night. Of course, all the accompanying events were cancelled, and personally my dreams were dashed. As a result, this invisible enemy deeply reoriented my life and caused me to do some serious personal evaluation. I did not start creating again until a month after the “shelter-at-home” directive started. And this was on my “Stop Motion” artwork called Under Quarantine.
Please share any insights you have learned from this “lock-down/self-isolation”? Also, is there a special role you feel artists can play in response to the pandemic?
This self-isolation is not alien to me, because artists tends to be isolated already by the nature of their work. As New York became the epicenter of virus infections in the US, the challenge however has been the weight of responsibility I have felt in preserving my life in order to preserve the lives of those closest to me. I think the task of the artist is to create first and foremost, and some artists will find themselves responding creatively to this epidemic and others will not. However, this time period will result in important innovations, albeit sometimes in indirect ways. There is a sense that all is lost in having to face the fear of the unknown. I do think that art online will remove the old rules of showing artwork. After this crisis, most artists, art directors and art institutions will work more online. This will sway the scales and allow younger artists to emerge more strongly in the future.
Stop Motion video: “Under Quarantine”
How do you think this will affect artists, the art world and how people interact with art? How do you feel this crisis might reshape our societies in general?
I think that this crisis will alert people, artists and all sections of society, of the importance of science and why we should prioritize it. This epidemic did not differentiate between rich, poor, black, or white, or Christian, Muslim, believer, unbeliever, etc. And many sought to deny or escape it. It was the scientists, doctors and their collaborators that stood in the gap for us all. So, I believe that as we learn this lesson, we need to increase our funding for scientific research. At the same time, the role of the artist will not change, because both art and science are in the same fight against ignorance. However, I believe that there will be sweeping changes after this crisis in how art manifests itself.
Reda Abdelrahman is one of Egypt’s leading contemporary artists. Born in Ismailia, Egypt and having studied at the University of Minya at the College of Fine Arts, he is known for relating his ancient Egyptian heritage to contemporary life in his artwork. Reda was a founding artist with CARAVAN, and he is passionate about using the arts as a means to build bridges between the cultures and creeds of the Middle East and West. Reda’s artistic career has taken him around the world, from the Middle East to Latin America, to Europe and the USA. He is resident in New York City.