This Stays Between Us

A Fantastical, Dialogical Archive

Public Presentation by Dena Al-Adeeb & Nada Shalaby

Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland is honored to host This Stays Between Us: A Fantastical, Dialogical Archive, with New York-based artist, writer, and educator Dena Al-Adeeb and Cairo-based artist and educator Nada Shalaby. This collaborative project involves the creation of a fictive archive by two subjects in dialogue, each presenting and responding to personal narratives, images and other material relating to the city of Cairo. The generated archive evokes the space between fantasy and reality, including photographs of visited places, researched images and text from historical documents and popular culture, and animated GIFs combining images of places before and after the revolution.

The project has its origin in their participation in Open Engagement 2015 Place and Revolution. With seven hours of time difference, the artists spent several months during the spring of 2015 chatting via Skype. Their conversations revolved around the intersections of place, memory, and revolution. They explored the role of artists in defining place, participating in socially engaged art, and creating change within community. They explored cultural memory, visual culture and national identity formations, specifically in Egypt, vis-à‐vis the nation state, globalization and revolution.

During the course of these conversations, they decided to focus on Cairo and began reflecting on points of intersection in their personal histories. They started a private blog to share material including personal reflections, photographs, as well as text and images exploring various imagined spaces in the city. The process of selecting images for this online archive instigated a series of layered narratives that spoke to Cairo’s history as well as our own daily experiences in and memories of the city. Following these early discussions, they came to see the archive as documentation of an evolving, subjective process of the performative act of attempting to find meaning and connection in history, place and chance.

The framework of the project encourages collaboration, as others are able to assume the role of the subject they choose and add material to the archive. Therefore, while the title implies the intimacy and privacy of a closed space, the project sets an open framework where collected material evokes the space between fantasy and reality, and where the material is not bound by any specific identity.

Dena Al-Adeeb is an artist, writer, researcher, educator and activist born in Baghdad, Iraq and is currently based in New York. Dena is a Visiting Instructor in the Humanities and Media Studies Department and Pratt School of Architecture at the Pratt Institute. She is also an Adjunct Faculty in the Media, Culture and Communication Department at New York University. Dena is a Ph.D. candidate in the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Department, Culture and Representation track with a focus in Arts Politics at New York University.

Nada Shalaby is a visual artist and educator based in Cairo. Her research-based practice is concerned with the interrogation of uncontested spaces, often involving constructs of language and cultural associations that exist in the public sphere. She holds a Masters degree in Middle East Studies from the American University in Cairo and an MFA in Art Theory and Practice from Northwestern University. She was awarded the Edes Foundation Prize for 2015–2016.

This event is supported by the Oakland City Council and funded by the City of Oakland’s Cultural Funding Program, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the Clorox Company Foundation.