REHAB EL SADEK
Updated: Nov 3, 2022
Rehab El Sadek is an Egyptian artist who has worked globally for over 25 years. Her work is deeply influenced by her Sudanese ancestry and other ancient histories. Through the use of different repurposed materials, El Sedak alters both physical and conceptual spaces. She interrupts visual planes, casts lights, and throws shadows to expose the dynamic layers of reality and experience --- pulling the viewer into a meditative questioning of the systems and powers at hand.
AIR: Have you been an artist in residency before? If so, where?
El Sadek: 2021 McColl Center for Art + Innovation, Charlotte, NC (Virtual)
2021 Corsicana Artist and Writer Residency, TX
2020 MacDowell Residency, Peterborough, NH
2020 Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT
2020 The Good Hart Residency, MI (Virtual)
2019 Art Omi Residency, Ghent, NY
2017-2018 First Artist-in-Residence within a city department, Austin’s Watershed Protection Department 2004 Thami Mnyele Residency Award, Amsterdam, Netherlands
2003 The Townhouse Gallery International Residency, Cairo, Egypt
2001 Vasl Artists’ Association Residency/Trinagle Network, Karachi, Pakistan
2000 3rd International Artists Residencies, Kuona Trust, Nairobi National Museum, Kenya 1998 Gasworks Artists Studios, London, UK, the first of a series of residencies by artists from the Arab world, a collaboration between Gasworks and UNESCO-Sarvath El Hassen Bursaries for Culture and Art
AIR: Impressive! Artists residencies seem to be a big part of your practice, especially in the last five years. Can you talk a little more about that?
El Sedak: As my art practice is primarily a conceptual one, community is near the heart of everything I do. As an immigrant, art is the primary (and, perhaps, only) tool I have to find commonality and make connections with other people.
What were some productive residency experiences, versus some that might have been non-productive (if that has ever happened?)
I have to admit, every residency has its own special experience. For example, at MacDowell, besides the charm of location, people, and the gift of time—it’s a melting pot of creatives from different disciplines, therefore there’s always something new happening. Another example was my time at Gasworks Studios in London, which was my first residency ever. The open structure of the residency helped me to freely navigate London as a city full of progressive art, its culture, and the time focusing on digesting all, to form a body of work inspired by the busy city experience.
El Sadek: What drew you to apply to the Bemis Center?
As an artist passionate about a wide-range of intellectual areas, I welcome the opportunity to inspire and be inspired by fellow artists working in other disciplines. Bemis is an opportunity tailor-made for artists who work outside tradition! By mission and reputation, Bemis is known for its supportive environment for artists like me who work outside tradition and are willing to take risks. I work at the intersection of conceptual and traditional art, archeology, and architecture. I use not only traditional materials but also light, shadow, memory, and the Arabic language. My inquiry-based, cross-disciplinary approach aligns with Bemis values. I’ve had my eye on Bemis since the late 1990’s so becoming a resident was a dream come true.
Documentation of the installation created at Bemis.
Slide 1: Image courtesy of Curt Gettman.
Slides 2 & 3: Image courtesy of Colin Conces.
AIR: What were some of the expectations coming into the program? Did you have an idea of the work you would be making?
El Sedak: I knew at Bemis I would be coming into a supportive environment and be given the gift of time to work without worries. My only plan was to work with new materials and at a larger scale than I usually do.
AIR: How was your experience at Bemis?
El Sedak: My time at Bemis was very joyful! Our cohort was quite harmonious. I found it pleasant to be among the other artists but I also found it a golden chance to immerse myself into a work-camp experience. It was a great opportunity to spend my time working day and night—alternating between the sky-room on the fifth floor and researching/reading in my studio.
AIR: Can you talk about some of the work you produced in residency?
El Sadek: In the residency I went through two important phases. In the beginning I started by digging out and repurposing old materials from the “magic dungeon” on the fourth floor! I challenged myself to work on a large scale and respond to the site—integrating elements in response to the columns, textures, floor, and windows. I suspended sculptures from the ceiling and added movement. I had great time observing the sculptures in the dark, documenting its shadow when illuminated from different angles.
In the second phase, I used my previous observations of the natural light of the sun hitting from the arched window but this time decided to focus specifically with the negative presence of the architecture. I got the idea of a temporary changing installation, integrating walls of gauze—-gauzing the architecture, and receiving the light structure on these walls of gauze. I spent many many joyful hours by myself, meditating while wrapping columns, building walls, and creating multiple layers that would magically change throughout the day.
AIR: So this work is really a direct response to the site. That’s great you were able to explore scale and react to its specific architectural features. What were you researching during this time? Did that inform your approach to this piece?
El Sedak: I came to Bemis open to possibilities—experimentation was the plan. The research was a continuation of how we hold spaces; to create a physical and emotional shared experience through my work and projects. As my art is focused on creating spaces—placemaking can be a poetic act and a tool to build community. So, the space on the fifth floor of Bemis, watching the city from above, unfinished, bathed with natural light, created a container-structure, I could follow and learn from.
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