Judith Bihr “The Subversive Potential of Calligraphical Structures in Contemporary Egyptian Art within a Transcultural Perspective”

The Subversive Potential of Calligraphical Structures in Contemporary Egyptian Art within a transcultural Perspective

Calligraphical lines constantly appear in contemporary Egyptian artworks. These structures arose from a traditional artistic heritage loaded with different significances and symbolism. Contemporary artistic concepts use these lines and structures in a transformed way in order to generate new meanings and often combine calligraphical lines with graffiti-structures. These “Calligraffiti” present an exceptional conjunction between past and present, words and images. Emphasizing political or social messages, the artwork becomes a kind of popular literature. Deferring the readability of the writing to the formal and expressive shape, the calligraphical line turns on the other hand into an aesthetic art concept. These transformed lines are reflected critically with regard to their significances in a contemporary cultural discourse. Therefore, they mean more than just an iterative review of the past art heritage. They rather allow statements on current events. However, the use of calligraphy in contemporary artistic concepts is not a purely Egyptian phenomenon. At the global level, one can observe a certain revival of calligraphical structures in many contemporary cultural discourses. Calligraphy thus offers an ideal comparative framework for a methodical discourse across cultural and epochal entities. It gives the opportunity for a dialogue across cultural borders and has a high research potential for a history of visual culture and knowledge production from a global perspective.

Judith Bihr studied Literature, Fine Arts and Media studies between 2004 and 2010 at the Universities of Konstanz, Germany and Cairo, Egypt, and graduated with a Master of Arts. Since October 2010, she has been a doctoral candidate and scholarship holder at a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne. She has just completed her PhD in the Department of Art History at the University of Cologne. Her dissertation, titled “Patterns of Ambivalence. Ornamental Structures in Contemporary Egyptian Art – a transcultural perspective”, examines the critical and reflective potential of ornamental patterns and calligraphic lines in modern and contemporary art concepts from Egypt within a postcolonial context. Her work also explores the methodological challenges of a Global Art History with a special focus on Egypt and the Middle East. She presented several papers on contemporary Egyptian art in various venues including the Conference “SEN. On Lines and Non-Lines” at the University of Tokyo, the Third Annual Conference of the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Turkey and Iran (AMCA) in New York and the EUME Summer Academy “Aesthetics and Politics: Counter-Narratives, New Publics, and the Role of Dissent in the Arab World” in Cairo. During her studies, Judith Bihr has worked as a freelancer for different magazines and journals addressing the topics of art and culture. She was a member of A.R.T.e.s. gallery, a non-profit gallery led by PhD candidates of the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School, for which she organized exhibitions, lectures and talks with international artists. She currently works on a book project based on her dissertation.

 


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