Success at Cairo's L'Atelier
Firefly Tunnels partook in an eclectic mix of art display at Cairo's L'Atelier this past Sunday, March 13, 2011. The evening kicked off with a two hour opening showcasing a double-room variety of American and Egyptian cartoonists. A separate room held the fruit of Fayoum Art Center's six-week Winter Academy, presenting mostly mono-prints, a few paintings, and one sculpture. A TV screen was also set up to run a 104 picture slideshow of images taken by the different Artists during their time at the first annual Winter Academy.
Street performances planned for Saturday, March 12 and Sunday, March 13 were cancelled due to concerns over security after violence erupted in Cairo on Wednesday & Thurday.
Eye-witness accounts say that a gang of thugs crept up behind a group of demonstrators standing near tanks in Tahrir, then attacked. The military reacted, attempting to clear the space by firing tear gas and some live ammunition. Caught between the cross-fire, civilians misunderstood the shots as being aimed at them, and attacked the military, wreaking havoc throughout the square on Wednesday afternoon, March 9. Midan Tahrir was officially closed off to protestors the following day, March 10, so that no tents, signs, banners, or people remain. Some fear this will mean an end to the Egyptian people's voice.
Wednesday's incident occured less than 24 hours after a new Parlimentary law was passed to make inciting riots punishable by death. Demonstrations were being held for many reasons, including as response to the burning of a historic Church on Monday, which killed 13.
Given the order to avoid contentious politics, then, Firefly Artists opted out of the previous idea to dress their puppet up as a Revolutionary symbol of Martyrdom. There were many debates ending on the note that it would look bad, or might be misunderstood, if Americans were leading a "Unify Egypt" campaign throughout Cairo.
"It is better for us to focus on abstraction anyway," one Artist confirmed, "we can say more without being overtly political."
Artists took on the non-verbal challenge by conducting a very successful jam session at Windsor Hotel on Friday, then visiting the L'Atelier Gallery on Saturday to acquaint themselves with the performance space. After agreeing on the stage setting, a lovely nighttime boat ride down the Nile in a traditional Faluka helped clear everyone's head for Sunday's show.
For instance, no more than 5 Artists were to be on stage at once, so as to prevent over-crowding of an idea. Each time an Artist took the stage, other Artists had to wait at least 10 seconds- letting the imagery build- before they could react to a piece. Seating for Artists was arranged in a way to expose the collaborative process, while the bell served as a mark by the Director that an idea had finished.
Each time the bell rang, Artists cleared the stage entirely to begin anew. Some ideas from rehearsal were transformed by a mash with pieces created during Friday's hotel jam session, while other ideas became fresh accents to the very moment of existence.
Several bouts of applause throughout the hour-long performance calmed Artists' previous concerns that this kind of artwork would be non-translatable to a predominately traditional art scene in Egypt.
"We have turned our work into a discipline," one Artist smiled, commenting on the achievement. "It will be interesting to see where it takes us next."