April 2008, Adham Faramawy Interview

Tucked away underneath an office building in the London borough of Clerkenwell is a maze of desolate concrete rooms that were once home to the city’s slaughterhouse. The acrid smell of death would once have filled these cavernous spaces and the floors would have been stained with blood. Nowadays the building has become a prime location for one off exhibitions and shows. During London Fashion Week, a fringe event was held here entitled Fashion Film Show, featuring three short films produced by artists, directors and designers. The first of the three to be shown was produced by sometime !WOWOW! member and former Slade University student Adham Faramawy. His gothic and culture clashing videos have already seen him partake in exhibitions at The Tate Britain as well as Istanbul and Berlin and this space seems to firmly grasp the hand of his seductive creation and complement its beauty. The packed room is holding a number of offbeat Fashion Week patrons as well as the usual crowd of London’s art scene, I wonder what the ghosts of the animals that were once slaughtered here make of the angular haircuts and skin tight jeans.

As is often the case with these events, it becomes impossible to pin down Faramawy to discuss his work, so we deliberate and decide on a visit to his Hackney studio the following afternoon, where I can see the environment in which he works as well as the pieces he is currently working toward completing. In vast contrast to the previous evening's surroundings I am greeted with a large white walled room, framed on one side by stunning factory windows. Surrounded by used televisions, stacks of books and fluorescent tube light bulbs we sit down to discuss the journey Faraway has travelled to find himself here.

OGW: Tell me about the Gothic nature of your work, where does that influence come from?

AF: It’s a certain sense of nationalism, and family history. My grand father is buried in the City Of The Dead in Cairo, I have visited his tomb there. Egyptian heritage is very much centred around death, and that’s interesting because it’s exuberant and vibrant as a culture, but its take on death really interests me. So in my earlier work I responded directly to that. But now I live in London and my take on it has been influenced by the culture that surrounds me here.

OGW: The venues you have used to stage exhibitions and exhibit work include a Crypt and an Old Abattoir, what attracts you to these places?

AF: There’s a lot of historical detail to it. With The Crypt, because it’s such a loaded space, we had to work responding to the space. You couldn’t show in there without being aware of it. It’s not a White Cube, and yes the White Cube obviously has its own baggage, but this comes with a whole different set of problems.

OGW: Can you tell me about the video you made for the Fashion Film Show?

AF: It was a collaboration with a fabric designer called David Bradley, we were trying to work around our interests in surface pattern and repetition or mirroring. There were some references in there to Owen Bloomfeild and Guy Bordin. They are art films in a sense but they are very much interested in form and fabric. The way that I took it was to think about things from a more Occult sensibility. It's meant to be about femininity cycles, fluidity and their relationship to the moon. It’s called Moon Head, based on the Sid Barret film, which was one of the small parts of the soundtrack, which was made for the film by two members of different bands called Ipso Facto and These New Puritans. I love both their work and they made it for me specifically which was fantastic.

OGW: Your work as a whole uses many different forms of media, film, music, installation, performance, are all these things vital to the message you want to get across?

AF: 100% vital to my work. It’s important for me to use all these media, the way I make films, it sometimes makes me feel like the film is not quite enough. It doesn’t communicate what it is I am trying to say. When you are trying to talk about something like telepresence, a film still has the same problems as a painting. It still has a frame, and it’s still a window. I want it to be more physical than that. I want the viewer not to feel like they are transported to another place, but for them to physically realise it's part of where they are.

OGW: In one of your pieces, you had a number of televisions stacked on top of each other forming a pyramid, with each one playing a clip from the same film, but at different times. What do you want the viewer to take from this?

AF: Well the physical disorientation is a part of it, but it's conceptually about non linear time. I have been reading a great deal about this and I am very interested in the practitioners who talk about all time happening at once or in a non linear way. Also the idea of progress, like telemedia and, high speed travel, they are changing the human perception of time and space. That’s also why I try to keep things out of 'just a film', because there should be a sense of interactivity for that to occur.

OGW: Is Quantum Theory something that interests you then?

AF: Yes, quite a few years ago now, I went to a talk by someone who is a TV presenter, but he started talking about Quantum Theory, and a sort of cult, I use that word lightly, but I am really interested in them, they live inside a mountain north of Turin, and since the 1970’s have been building down into the rock, and they built a temple. It was discovered and raided by the military, but now it has been protected by the Italian government, because of its outstanding beauty. These people deal with a great deal of Quantum Theory and believe already that they are time travelling. I am interested in their belief and the fact they think this is true.

OGW: What is the basis of all your interest in these things?

AF: Possibility.

OGW: And is that something you wish to open the viewer up to?

AF: I want to communicate it. I don’t like the idea of someone blasting out a manifesto.

OGW: Your work to me has always presented a merger of Eastern and Western cultures, is that something you are keen to present?

AF: It’s important to me. Politically, we..the Arabs, are in a difficult situation. The relationship with the West is an important one, but its so massively complicated. My only way of offering a solution is to mainstream Arab culture. So that it is understood, and no longer alien or other. Also to present the solution of fluidity through identity, you can adopt each other's ways of viewing the world without losing your own.

OGW : Do you think art can achieve this?

AF: I don’t like to say that art is a way of offering solutions politically. It’s my medium, they way I am talking. I’m trying to do it in a lot of ways. For example with These New Puritans, they have the titles on the back of their latest album in Arabic. My little sister actually translated that for them because it was important to me.

OGW: Can you tell me the about the path you have taken to London?

AF: I was born in Dubai, and raised there until I was four or five. Then we moved to London, but my family have all moved away now.

OGW: How do you find it with your family spread all over the world?

AF: For me it seems very natural. I’m not the only person to have family spread over a lot of different countries.

WM'S Oliver Guy-Watkins

Oliver Guy-Watkins is a writer and curator living in London and Berlin. He is the Editor for Big Shot Magazine, as well as having work published in Senses (LA), The Rockit (LA), State Of Art (London and New York), Artrocker (UK) and White Hot Magazine Of Contemporary Art (online). His exhibitions have included a film screening by Tracey Emin and the group show ‘Ruhe Bewahren’ in Berlin. He has self published a book of short stories ‘Plow’d Garlic Hill’, and is currently working on a novella entitled ‘The Toe Thief’. He was born in the idyllic countryside of The Cotswold’s in South West England during the month of October in the year 1979. oliverguywatkins@hotmail.com

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