Shady El-Noshokaty »Stammer – A Lecture in Theory«
»Stammer – A Lecture in Theory« ist die erste Einzelausstellung des in Kairo lebenden Künstlers Shady El-Noshokaty (*1971) im deutschsprachigen Raum. Sie konzentriert sich auf die Auseinandersetzung El-Noshokatys mit dem Medium der Zeichnung. Diese Auseinandersetzung reflektiert den Zusammenhang von Theorie und einer durch persönliche Erfahrungen und Emotionen geprägten (künstlerischen) Praxis.
Die Zeichnungen fungieren in ihrer fantastischen, aber auch beklemmenden Motivik als ein »Archiv der Emotionen« – Tagebucheinträgen vergleichbar. Sie verbinden Elemente mythologischer und anatomisch-pathologischer Illustrationen zu einer unaussprechlichen Traumwelt. Eingebunden in die Präsentation dieser postsurrealistischen Zeichnungen ist El-Noshokatys Videoarbeit »Stammer – A Lecture in Theory«, die den performativen und physischen Akt des Zeichnens aufgreift. Ein Vortragender bemüht sich, mithilfe eines Lehrbuches über eine bestimmte Lesart des Dualismus von Mentalem und Körperlichem zu referieren. Immer wieder wendet er sich einer Schultafel zu, um die abstrakte Theorie in eine ebenso abstrakte Zeichnung zu überführen. Beidhändig und weit ausholend scheint der Zeichnende eine naturwissenschaftliche Darstellung oder ein Diagramm überpersönlicher und universaler Art geben zu wollen. Jedoch dringen im Versuch einer Vermittlung theoretischer Gehalte ständig Störsignale des Psychischen an die Oberfläche und beginnen, die Kontrolle über den physischen Akt des Zeichnens zu übernehmen. Am Ende okkupieren diese die Form der Vermittlung der theoretischen Gehalte selbst und führen genau jene Konsequenzen der dualistischen Theorie vor Augen, die das Lehrbuch in seiner objektivierenden Sprache nicht vermitteln kann. Shady El-Noshokaty vertrat Ägypten auf der 48. Biennale di Venezia. Als Teilnehmer in der Gruppenausstellung »Africa Remix – Zeitgenössische Kunst aus Afrika« war er in einigen der bedeutendsten Museen der Welt vertreten. El-Noshokaty lehrt als Professor an der Heluan Universität in Kairo Malerei und Grafik. (C) PARROTTA CONTEMPORARY ART STUTTGART BERLIN

Shady El-Noshokaty »Stammer – A Lecture in Theory« (Engl.)
"Stammer - A Lecture in Theory" is the first solo exhibition in German speaking countries by the artist living in Cairo, El-Shady Noshokaty (* 1971). It focuses on the fight between El-Noshokaty and the medium of drawing. This struggle reflects the connection of theory and one of personal experience and emotions shaped (artistically) into practice. The drawings work in their fantastic, but also oppressive subject matter as in "Archive of Emotions", which is comparable to a journal entry. They connect elements of mythological and anatomic-pathological illustrations to an unspeakable dream world. Embedded in the presentation of these post-surrealist drawings is El-Noshokaty's video work called, "Stammer (A Lecture in Theory)", which entails a performance of the physical act of drawing. With the assistance of a text book, a lecturer attempts to speak on a particular interpretation of mental and physical dualism. Repeatedly he turns around to a blackboard in order to transfer the abstract theory to an equally abstract drawing. The drawing seems ambidextrous with large gestures wanting to show an out-of-person and universal type of scientific construction or diagram. While attempting to relay this theoretical content, a constant interference of the Psyche comes to the surface and begins to take control of the physical act of drawing. In the end, the occupation of the form of relaying the theoretical content itself shows, right before your eyes, the exact consequences of the dualistic theory, which the text book in its objectified form cannot relay.
Shady El-Noshokaty represented Egypt at the 48th Biennale di Venezia. As a participant in the group exhibition called "Africa Remix - Contemporary art from Africa" he was already in some of the most important museums of the world. El-Noshokaty teach as a professor of painting and graphics at the University of Cairo Heluan. (C) PARROTTA CONTEMPORARY ART STUTTGART BERLIN




Alternative zur offiziösen Stillleben-Malerei: die Workshops von Shady El-Noshokaty. Das Video „u, me, us“ von Hosam Hodhod (2004) zeigt die Ohnmacht der Studenten

Ein Bündel Mensch.

Von Sonja Zekri, Feuilleton, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 24. Januar 2008.

Natürlich geht es gleich wieder um die Nackten. Um menschliche Körper, ein Motiv in der Kunst seit den Höhlenzeichnungen. An der Akademie der Schönen Künste in Kairo dürfen keine nackten Körper gemalt ...


"Der Baum im Hause meiner Grossmutter"

Jenseits des Mainstreams –

zeitgenössische Kunst aus Ägypten

Basler Zeitung, 5. Dezember 2007, von Jasmina el Sombati

In Ägypten hat sich eine lebendige Kunstszene etabliert. Kritik an der Gesellschaft ist

sichtbar, den Hauptfokus richten Kunstschaffende jedoch auf die Suche nach der eigenen Identität. ...


On Being an Artist - Interview with Hossam El Kholy

One of the most famous artworks of Shady El Noshokaty is his series of figurative paintings; ...



The poetics of offal

Sonali Pahwa speaks with Shady El-Noshokaty, who has turned to human organs in his recent work.

Dull organs sunk in formaldehyde vats are resurrected in a glowing afterlife in Shady El-Noshokaty's drawings and paintings currently showing at the Townhouse. The artist's early training was as a figurative painter but in this series a focus on the aesthetics of the human figure gives way to a fascination with the more grotesque forms of organs. The idea that the body contains no end of shapes feeds El-Noshokaty's ruminations on matter in eternal transformation as well as his search for new material for his art.
"Natural studies are a style of art that I like," he begins, "but there is a metaphor in each of my studies. The idea of death is central to them and is placed alongside its supposed opposite of birth, with its sense of hope and newborn purity. The juxtaposition lets me suggest the human being as organic matter in the mode of destruction and fana', and the material of the body in all its physical states and expressions. In Egyptian culture life and death are parallel and are often at the same level of being. Resurrection and immortality are basic elements of our heritage."
In drawings of disembodied brains and fused animal- human forms one senses the ebullience of El-Noshokaty's discovery of disregarded matter as well as its more subtle spiritual dimensions. As an instance of the premise that human beings are "like any living creature but for their spirit and their ideas" he sketches similarities between the shape of the brain and that of a pomegranate. You may spin out the suggestion of an absent illuminating spirit, or just enjoy the way the artist generates uncannily familiar forms through his exploration of organic matter.
El-Noshokaty is unpossessive about this series of his artwork. "I do drawings for myself," he confides. "They are like talk -- I don't think about them too much. In the same way that I might re-word a sentence that doesn't come out quite right the first time, I draw certain images over and over. They form a kind of diary of my thoughts. Drawing is a very personal language and I use it to talk to myself. When I want to communicate more directly with people I use video."
This is an unexpected transition -- though perhaps less so for those who have seen El-Noshokaty's recent installations. He elaborates: "There is a strong relationship to the moving image in my drawings and paintings. They develop, and you can see time moving through them." His shift in media is motivated by El-Noshokaty's current preoccupations. The PhD thesis he is preparing is on changes in Egyptian middle class identity in the past decade as a result of new media such as satellite television and the Internet. Video works better, he believes, as a way of addressing identity in this newly mediated social world.
"If I had used a video in this exhibit many of these people" -- gesturing at the random patrons of the café next to the Townhouse -- "would probably have come in to see it," he asserts. "They know about the video image. The language of the medium is familiar to them. So when I bring something from my personal history into video I have to think about how the viewer can come to feel a part of the work. Video is communicative, in this way. Through my drawings I can only ever really learn about myself."
The conceptual distinctions take shape in El- Noshokaty's newer work in mixed media. An installation at the Nitaq festival of 2001, The tree in my grandmother's house, incorporated video, photography and wax sculpture. "Each medium had a specific role," he explains. "To represent the house of a dead person I chose photography, because it is about fixed images, frozen and dead. The details are all visible and you can sense that the place is empty of spirit. The video added an element of live performance which was interactive. It allowed a dialogue between the viewer and the live image."
El-Noshokaty acknowledges that this was "a very private, personal piece", though its aim of elaborating upon middle-class identity is an extension of the artist's larger interest in this changing social milieu. "The question of identity is clearer in my multi- media work. When I use media that can record reality in the form of vital moments, in which you can see the details of a character, it enables a clearer expression of society and its personality. I take ideas for art from people at large and then I reveal to them what I have made of them. This is easier done in a popular, present medium like the moving image."
It is not common to find an artist seeking cutting-edge forms while at the same time being engaged with the question of identity. But El-Noshokaty is part of a generation of Egyptian artists who feel their new social position needs to be theorised.
"My generation -- which includes Wael Shawky, Moataz Nasr and Amal El-Kenawy -- felt dissatisfied with the available forms of art and the direction of the art movement in Egypt. We were trained in conventional genres such as painting and sculpture, and when we travelled abroad we realised that the movement here was absolutely out of touch with contemporary artistic languages. We had to learn multi-media forms. And we have begun to build a new language with clear features of identity."
Other learning experiences for El- Noshokaty came during the Venice Biennale and a sojourn at the Art Institute of Chicago.
"There was a real feeling of missed contact between us artists and the outside world. No one knew about Egyptian art. It isn't surprising, when you consider that there are very few curators and critics who give us publicity. Things are now improving. Earlier, a collective exhibit or a biennale would go through the government, which would send its stock artists. Now festival organisers send over curators who look around. They meet with government artists, private gallery personnel, and conduct a thorough search. That is why people like myself have a chance now. "
El-Noshokaty has himself been engaged in training next-generation artists through university teaching jobs and, more recently, workshops. The latter approach is a compromise in face of the fact that "we don't have professional ways of teaching media in Egypt." Visiting artists are brought in to teach young students to use media that are ubiquitous and yet rarely incorporated into their education. "The new generation already has a lot of experience with media," El-Noshokaty states, "they just need a vocabulary for expressing themselves through this media."
Regeneration seems an apt trope for his experiments with art and artists. The metaphors of rebirth in these strangely vital drawings of sub-human life forms multiply. The widening circle of echoes underlines the spiritual side of El-Noshokaty's art.



Made in Cairo: Time and Time Again
Shady El Noshokaty

By Fiona Fox

Shady El Noshokaty is a leading exponent of video and new media art in Egypt.  As an artist and teacher he is constantly exploring new means of personal expression and encouraging his students to look within and beyond themselves for inspiration, echoing his own artistic development.

El Noshokaty studied at Helwan University’s Faculty of Art in Cairo and graduated in 1994.  He was part of a new wave of young artists in Egypt, whose ideas, energy and aesthetics aimed to shake the arts establishment out of their modernist slumber.  The annual Salon of Youth exhibition was at the time their principal platform, and the competitive nature of the show was a powerful means of driving artists to interrogate new forms of expression. Many names that are familiar on the Egyptian contemporary arts scene today – Wael Shawky, Amal Kenawy, Mona Marzouk, Rehab el Sadek - had their first public outing at the Salon.

Up until 1994, El Noshokaty’s work was principally concerned with figurative painting.  His first major art project, a series called “The Bed”, drew on his experiences as a conscript in the military.  He describes the series as a kind of angry soap opera in which the central protagonist embodies emotions, fears and traumas that he had experienced during his national service.  The series was conceived on a week’s leave from the military when in a creative frenzy he produced some two hundred drawings and then twelve large paintings.  Four were subsequently submitted to the Salon of Youth and awarded first prize in painting, effectively launching El Noshokaty’s career.  Many opportunities opened up and over the following years he was frequently selected by the Ministry of Culture to represent Egypt at exhibitions and art fairs abroad. 

1999 was a watershed year: El Noshokaty had his first solo exhibition, showing the whole series of his critically acclaimed “The Bed” at The Townhouse Gallery in Cairo, also the gallery’s inaugural exhibition.  A few months later he was chosen to represent Egypt at the 48th International Venice Biennale.  This built-up El Noshokaty’s international renown and was also crucial on a personal level, opening his eyes to the wider contemporary art world.  He resolved to escape the label of “Egyptian artist”, solely pre-occupied with the Egyptian condition, and sought to widen his horizons:  “After Venice, I felt I had to re-learn and start studying again.”

On returning to Egypt, El Noshokaty presented papers and proposals to numerous international institutions and in 2001 was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to spend six months studying at the Art Institute of Chicago.  He had visited a few years previously and been impressed by the scope and open-minded nature of the faculty.  It was here that he gained skills that were to deeply influence his future output – digital editing, contemporary art animation and media art practices.  He had already experimented in video media in his work “The Tree of my Grandmother’s House” (March 2001), a psychological study of death, grief and mortality, but in Chicago he reached a new level of sophistication technically, and creatively felt a sense of liberation.  These experiences and his exposure to innovative and excellent tutelage instilled in him a strong desire to be a teacher as well as practitioner: “It made me understand how much could be achieved in advancing the arts in Egypt with good education whereby every student is treated as an individual with his or her unique creative perspective.”
El Noshokaty’s experiences in Chicago increased his self-awareness as an artist and he began to fully understand the power of looking inside and drawing on his own life, memories and desires for inspiration.   Similarly, although his work had always begun with drawing and would continue to do so - he describes drawing as a way of talking to himself - after Chicago the language in which his final works were realised diversified and El Noshokaty became known for working in video installation, sound, graphic and digital technologies.   He strongly believes that every subject demands a particular medium and up to this day continually shuffles between more traditional practice – painting and drawing - and new media.  

Soon after returning to Cairo, El Noshokaty was invited by The Townhouse Gallery to take part in their 2002 Open Studios project that offered the public an insight into artistic practice through studio visits and seeing artists at work.  Influenced by his experiences in Chicago, El Noshokaty took the idea to another level and over ten days invited students to come and curate a space with him.  Together they offered ideas and worked to create an interactive artistic environment, complete with video lab and photographic studio.  This was the first experiment of its kind in Egypt and combined El Noshokaty’s skills as teacher, practitioner and collaborator.  The resulting project was subsequently exhibited at The Townhouse.

As a teacher El Noshokaty is known for advancing new media, video and installation practice, the only teacher in Egypt working in this capacity.  He encourages his students to experiment and use the language that they feel most comfortable with and in today’s world with ever-expanding digital networks, for many young students this is new media.  On a personal level El Noshokaty says he gains great satisfaction from his dual role as teacher/artist and believes that the disciplines enrich one another.  He also strives to advance and promote contemporary arts practice in Egypt, giving a new generation the opportunity to flourish under the same circumstances as he did in Chicago.

El Noshokaty’s work has been exhibited all over the world from Frankfurt and London to Beirut and Tokyo.  He was one of the most prominent Egyptian representatives in the high-profile exhibition Africa Re-mix, a show that continues to tour the world, and is currently showing work at an exhibition in Bonn, Germany called A Gift from The Last Millennium, alongside fourteen Egyptian contemporaries.  He continues to work as Adjunct Instructor in the PVA Department, teaching courses in contemporary issues and as Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Art Education at Helwan University in Cairo.   El Noshokaty recently completed his PhD in “Media art and New Egyptian Identity”


State of the Arts Education

By Clare Davies

Egypt’s arts and arts education system dates from before the Nasserist Revolution and has since evolved into a wide-reaching and exclusively state-run national system. The College of Fine Arts was originally established for the benefit of expatriates in the first decade of the nineteenth–century; the Applied Arts College was developed in the thirties to train creative professionals outside of the fine arts; the Faculty of Arts Education, founded in the early fifties, began with a year-long degree program for students from the other two arts colleges. All three institutions currently hold a central position in the country’s advanced arts studies system and operate under the umbrella of Helwan University in Cairo. Alexandria University opened an arts faculty in the sixties and the universities of Minya and Luxor launched their own programs in the eighties. The American University in Cairo offers one of the only private fine arts programs in the country. Smaller arts colleges are common in mid-sized towns throughout the country. Graduates of the Faculty of Arts Education frequently lead local primary and secondary schools arts programs. The following notes on the state of contemporary arts education in Egypt are based on a conversation with arts educator and artist, Shady El Noshokaty.

An intensive, phased exam taken during the last two years of high school determines the program and field of study for which students may qualify. The arts track is relatively non-competitive, although each educational institution within the arts system differs in terms of academic prerequisites. Art school graduates go on to work in a variety of fields, including graphic design, primary and secondary arts education and skilled crafts; their education seems to provide an adequate preparation for work in a local market. Other students aspire to become professional artists. However, its difficult to claim that these faculties offer students the opportunity to develop the independence of thought and the critical and creative skills often sought in an artistic practice. As in earlier stages of the educational process, the potential for imparting a valuable fine arts education is restricted by a semi-official policy of marginalization reflected in a significant lack of support for teachers and its limited resonance in surrounding social contexts. What this system does offer is a common sphere within which those with a real commitment to their own work and artistic autonomy can attain some visibility with other like-minded students and artists, as well as define a realm of artistic activity outside the institution.

The general crisis in arts education stems from a wide-scale stagnation of creativity within (or at least fostered by) state institutional systems, inadequate preparation and a general lack of incentive for young arts educators, as well as a co-option of “artistic authority” by an aging generation of arts professionals. The state-run status of arts institutions has tended to translate into a particular symmetry with contemporary national rhetorics and their impact on the succession of artists’ movements that have managed to claim a presence in art department faculties or alternatively, have found themselves inconvenient to these same departments. Mobility and educational experience outside of Egypt also have their impact on artists who returned with different artistic priorities and educational agendas.

Rigid curricula inherited from the fifties, limited exposure to a diversity of practices and artistic traditions, restricted arts materials and facilities, little incentive for independent initiative and in many cases, little to no choice in the selection of professors, unsurprisingly combine to create a situation of creative despondency. Students who take their artistic ambitions seriously must go to great lengths to explore the opportunities outside those they’re offered at school to develop skills, obtain material resources and pursue an independent practice.(1) However, departing from a professor’s self-referential standard of artistic merit often entails relinquishing the limited recognition and opportunities that stand to be gained from high academic standing. What does it mean to work as an artist within a framework that champions uncritical reproduction?

Some alternative points of reference do exist. El Noshokaty points to the private secondary-school educational institutions popping up at a great pace around Egypt’s urban centers in terms of providing an alternative to the state-run approach to arts education at the primary and secondary levels. These institutions follow a relatively less centralized model than government schools, making strong electives part of their selling point. However, it remains to be seen to what extent these institutions will invest in innovative teachers and non-conventional approaches to arts education. These benefits are also limited to those students who can pay for the privilege.

At the university level, El Noshokaty is enthusiastic about the growing wave of independent initiatives lead by a younger generation of arts educators. These independent initiatives are driven by student interest and facilitated by teachers who are often themselves practicing artists. They are conducted within the context of the educational system in a manner that parallels, but also departs from, established courses, representing an important indication of the possibility for change from “within”.

El Noshokaty’s recent workshop in video art at the Faculty of Arts Education is an example of this trend. A screening of the students’ work was held at the newly established Contemporary Image Collective (CiC), an artist-run initiative dedicated to the visual image. The event was packed and students stayed on afterwards to discuss their work with established artists and each other. The screening offered an interesting example of the promise held by innovative teacher-led initiatives within the educational system, as well as the promise offered by the growth of the independent arts sphere (in this case, the recent launching of CiC) in offering a widening field of opportunities and support for young artists willing to define their own practice.

The increasing relevance of an arts field committed to critical awareness and independent thought can only occur with the support of teachers, students, artists and arts managers. This in turn, depends on inserting a condition of mutuality into a series of relationships too often defined by mutual exclusivity. Strengthening ties between these groups outside of the sphere of state-sponsored activity represents the possibility for a truly sustainable independent arts sector in Egypt.

(1) Shady tells me stories of students going to the traditional potters’ quarter of Fustat to circumnavigate bans on student-use of kilns and an absence of training in throwing and glazing. Another story involves students organizing figure drawing sessions outside of those provided in class that feature the same models their professors used in the seventies, now considerably older and covered from head-to-toe.



interviewed by Predrag Pajdic, February 2007

When we met recently in Cairo I had the pleasure to visit your home/studio, which was full of drawings. You told me you use them as a storyboard, your way to develop an idea and to see it through to your final work. Why drawing?

As we talked when we met in Cairo, for me drawing is a medium of thinking process and emotional expression. It is like talking in the form of one's diary, very personal yet direct. I draw all the time and anywhere I happen to be. I think of it as my original language with which I could express myself fully and understand the process of my ideas developing. This is the real function of drawing for me, it is like a sequential mirror of one's world identity.

Cairo's art scene fascinates me. Your generation of artists is making their mark on the international scene already.
What is the driving force behind this success?
What is your driving force?

My generation grew in totally different environments, socially and politically, but we also have this awareness of our own diversities. Egypt has a real, strong unique character that looks like a transparent layer of old cultures mixed with popular and modern, and the contemporary. Actually this mixture is visible in our features, in our lives. Most of us are simply focusing on our work and our daily life with its fine details.

You mentioned your new idea for work 'The Breath'. Could you please tell me more about it?

'The Breath' is an audio video installation where the image, one shot in a slow motion of a drowning mosque (in water), is not used as an Islamic symbol since one could hardly even recognize the defined character of its kind. But what is visible, I hope, is its unique spiritual effect, as one can be aware of the environment that has a kind of religious history or spiritual activity. So the image was used purposely to evoke a multi religious metaphor, the same as the spoken word AMEN (heard in the background), which also has the same allegorical union and meaning, I believe.

Almost all prayers in world religions use it as the final word of a prayer. When pronounced or heard by many people at the same time, this word almost connects/unifies in the same spiritual moment, all lives as one. In this instant, with this breath, one could arrive at a higher spot from which to detach oneself from this endless drowning spiritual space (the world we live in). In the work, the word AMEN is repeated in an endless loop.

'The Breath' aims to unify all deferent religious perspectives in one. It is about finding a way to communicate through our social and cultural differences, which has become a universal misunderstanding, an immense conflict between the Middle East and the West; the reason for raising hate and wars.