Interview with MQ Artist-in-Residence Sama Kashef
The artist Sama Kashef is MQ Artist-in-Residence in August and September in cooperation with paraflows. In an interview with Günther Friesinger (paraflows), she talks about how much the residency has enriched her work and gives insights into the projects she has realized during that.
For artists, AiR programs are importat opportunities to get to new places, cultures and, above all, inspiration. How werde the last two month for you in Vienna at the MQ?
The last 2 months in Vienna have been an opportunity to get exposed to different cultures and hear different background stories, some of which were really inspiring.
You live in Cairo, a city that probably has three times as many inhabitants as Austria. What was it like moving from such a megacity to Vienna?
Vienna and Cairo have very little in common in almost every aspect. It was a cultural shock for me for the first few days that I had to get used to by time, which is not all bad because that’s were new experiences come from and personal growth. Talking to people who grew up watching the same cartoons but different news on TV was a frustrating thing at some point. Most people don’t have any input on my culture or how it truly is, just the cliché Hollywood stereotype of people living in the desert and riding camels. Some even thought I had to go abroad because they thought there was no art school in Egypt.
Sama, what projects have you been dedicating your time to in Vienna?
A collection of Photography named Caught and a silent movie called Replay.
In your photo project Caught, which we are exhibiting at the UZ LAB and KOMM.ST LAB, you deal with everyday motifs. What fascinates you so much about it?
My photography work of capturing the street of Cairo and it’s people/cats has always been a joy to work on since my home has different types of architecture and art all in one place. It have been a home to many nationalities before so it has a taste of each one that spent time there. Everyday moments are special to me because they get reincarnated in a different form every second and in a different place, so the moment I capture a man, wearing a Jaliba, walking in old Cairo, there is most probably a thousand or even millions who have stepped in his place before him, wearing the same traditional outfit but on different mission for their day (their own scenarios).
You also created an ArtVideoLoop called Replay for the MQ showrooms. What story does this short film tell?
Replay is a silent movie highlighting the fact that everyone has been born in a different place, time, culture, religion and year. We all go through the same feelings and experiences with a different scenario to make it our own but go through the same feelings and stages of life from the moment we are born till we die. Not only that, but we all come from the same place and die and rest in the same place too. It’s just the same process over and over again hence the name “Replay”.
You work as a photographer, filmmaker, media artist and you are extremely active on social media (@sama__kashef). What inspires you for your artistic work?
My inspiration behind work is the need to do something I can control but still with an element of surprise. I can control which place I go to but I cannot plan the perfect moment to capture an object or a person moving. So I could choose to go to Sinai so the theme will probably be Bedouin or something related to the sea, but I can’t control the subject that I will be capture, it comes as a surprise.
We were both at Ars Electronica in Linz. Where do you see differences and similarities between the media art scenes in Egypt and Austria?
Austria is much more advanced in media art than Egypt, with lot’s of facilities and opportunities for artists to take. Most people who are in charge of the artistic fields back home are not updated on what is happening in the field and how much more it has developed now and also scared of taking a step forward. I think it might take a while for Egypt to make some big changes. It is really a shame that the home of many historical art styles and thousands of years of amazing artworks is now struggling to take a step into the more advanced artistic field.
At the end of an AiR program, the question always arises: How did your residency in Vienna inspire you artistically?
The topic that kept popping into my head is “the norm”, it is really a subjective thing depending on so many factors and it is extremely facinating for me in the future to play around with that concept in mind. Obviously Austria and Egypt have different "norms," and that's what triggered this idea in my head.
The interview was held by Günther Friesinger in September 2023.
Günther Friesinger is a philosopher, freelance media maker, artist and curator.
Since 2006 he is chairman of the Quartier für Digitale Kultur which is located in the MuseumsQuartier and director of paraflows - Festival for Digital Art and Culture in Vienna. He is also a member of the art and theory group monochrom, also based in the MQ showrooms.
Photos: © Sama Kashef