Sidewalk Salon

18 October 2016 at 6pm
Artscape YoungPlace 180 Shaw Street, Flex Room (#108)

In partnership with Women & Gender Studies at U of T 

We are thrilled to present an artist talk by Manar Moursi about Sidewalk Salon. Sidewalk Salon: 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo is a book by Manar Moursi and David Puig, co-published by Onomatopee (Eindhoven) and Kotob Khan (Cairo) in 2015. The book is an intimate portrait of the capital of Egypt seen from its sidewalk street chairs and the thousands of people who occupy them. These far from perfect, used chairs, which populate Cairo’s sidewalks, speak of the city from below. Acting at times as zoom and as wide-angle lenses, the street chairs are used in this book as tools to explore intimate details and collective aspects of the city.

If strictly speaking Sidewalk Salon is a photographic documentation of original chairs from the streets of Cairo, in a larger sense it deals with the material and human dimensions of a layer of the city. Combining Polaroid photography, interviews, essays, fictions and poems in English and Arabic, this book presents creative practices of design that occur on the sidewalk along with the unplanned interventions in the public space that give Cairo its distinctive character.

As an extension of the book, Manar and David have developed an installation with commissioned video works inspired by the street chairs of Cairo and a map-based website which showcases part of the archive of material gathered during the research phase of their project. The installation was first presented during Dutch Design Days 2015 in Eindhoven and will be exhibited in October 2016 as part of the Iconic City: Cairo Now! City Incomplete section of Dubai Design Week.

A few words from Manar from the talk:

“Sidewalk Salon was focused on revealing the multiple material aspects and effects of the street chairs. This was addressed by the diversity of perspectives we chose in the publication. The images of this book are organized into two sections: walks and thematic series. The walks give a glimpse into our method of urban empiricism and our excursions on foot through the city, in which we documented street chairs by indexing on maps the locations of the seats photographed. The unpredicted paths we followed can be seen as threads binding prayer beads of chairs, in which each chair is part of a sequence and an original part of that ensemble. We chose to highlight three of our walks that covered the neighborhoods of 1) Shubra-Shubra El Kheima, 2) Old Cairo-Zahraa-Dar El Salam-Maadi-Khalifa and 3) New Cairo. We selected these areas to reflect the diverse urban fabrics we encountered in a city that revealed itself as a patchwork of contrasting parts bound together: green islands, cliff-side settlements, cemeteries transformed into residential areas, old neighborhoods in medieval Islamic quarters, endless rows of raw red brick buildings developed along striped agricultural land, and gated communities with malls and wide highways sprouting out of the desert onto the outskirts.”

Manar Moursi’s work spans the fields of architecture, urbanism, design and art. A graduate of the University of Virginia’s undergraduate program of architecture, Manar also holds a dual Masters degree in Architecture and Urban Policy from Princeton University. In 2011 she founded Studio Meem an interdisciplinary design and research studio.

Her design work has been widely published and received multiple awards including the ThyssenKrupp Elevator Architecture Award, the ArcVision Women in Architecture Award as well as the Red Dot and Good Design Awards. Her portfolio includes built projects in Kuwait and Egypt. Her latest product design work launched in the Ventura Lambrate section of the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan in 2014.

In addition to her practice with Studio Meem, Manar publishes regularly, participates in art exhibitions and teaches.

In 2013, she collaborated with nine artists on a series of public art installations in Cairo entitled the “Wonder Box”. These performances recreated through contemporary form and stories, a series of peep shows that traveled throughout the city.

She has participated in group photography exhibitions such as “Layer of Green” at the Contemporary Image Collective in Cairo in 2013. It traveled regionally the following two years as part of a larger show entitled “Next to Here”. For these shows, she documented the amusement parks wedged in leftover spaces in Cairo. The project portrayed the tensions between private and public space by locating in images the intersections between the realms of childlike dreams embedded in these spaces and the harsh reality which engulfs them.

Her writings on urban issues have appeared in Domus, Thresholds, Lunch, Mada, Cairobserver, the Funambulist and Egypt Independent. Her book Sidewalk Salon: 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo co-authored with David Puig was co-published in Egypt/the Netherlands by Kotob Khan/Onomatopee in 2015. She has also published book chapters in Tokyo Totem (Flick Studio, 2015) and in the forthcoming second volume of Modern Architecture in Kuwait (Niggli, 2016).


Sidewalk Salon: Artist Talk by Manar Moursi

18 October 2016 at 6pm


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