A Syrian artist and writer sees that the citizen is a step forward
compared with the intellectual and the artist in his sense and vision to the future limits.
Jamal Al Kaisi – Al Qad – 15/11/2011
Artist and short story writer Baseem Rayyes argues that all languages of the world, ranging from body language, vocal in addition to the visual languages cannot fully describe any event depending on itself alone, cannot express it accurately or express its sense to the audience.
Rayyes, a Syrian artist who was born in Damascus in 1970, living now in United Arab Emirates, believes that artists and writers should stick to the street because it is the only thing that nourishes them with the inspiration needed for their work, gives them their subjects on which they depend, not to mention that it is the direction where their goals and aims head to.
Rayyes, the winner of Al-Sharja Arab Creativity Prize for short story, sees in an interview with Al-Ghad Newspaper that the citizen is a step forward compared with the intellectual and the artist in his sense and vision of the limits of the near and far future; and he also shows that he is an implying force that cannot be manipulated with no matter what greatness and hugeness the controlling other's power can be.
Here is the full interview:
How should art stand with the colors of life? What and how did you want to express in the Fourteenth Syrian mural?
In my opinion, the word "how" must be omitted here so that both the question and answer become "Art should stand with the colors of life." Art cannot express its being if it is separated to horizons that do not touch life; man's life in particular I mean, because it is the main base of any human product while everything else is just an accessory in its space.
How can an artist, a writer or a poet with sensors get what others cannot see or hear and comes nearer to things' facts and does not be full with the truth?! Truth which has one phase and may be, sometimes, divided on everyone, especially when we speak of the right of people who have suffered from dictatorship and oppression for decades.
Since the beginning of 2011 I felt that this year will be completely different from the previous year without knowing how, when or where; I had the feeling that hatred has conquered the whole world, so I launched my initiative (A Painting on Every Wall), in which I said that if you want to get a painting as a gift for this year, all what you should do is sending an email to me and the original painting will be delivered to your house. This initiative astonished everyone who heard about it; it brought paintings nearer to the audience and was considered the first (of its kind) all over the world. Then the world started to change and Arab Spring started to the extent that I even thought that the world is about to witness what I called "First World Revolution."
Great events continued to happen that any event really seemed trivial; because of the hugeness of the events, we started to lose the astonishment spirit, so here came the idea of The Fourteenth Syrian mural to be a moment-by-moment documentation of the feeling resulting from observing what is going on in the continuity of events, till that what is said today can no longer fit to tomorrow. The Syrian mural is development of an initiative I launched (A Painting For Every Martyr); but since the number of martyrs doubled and doubled, the initiative turned to be The Fourteenth Syrian mural. I started preparing for this projects several months ago with a team of my friends (Mayyada al-Azem, Faten Hammoudi, Khawla Hasan al-Hadid, Ayed Qazour and Rami Touma); each one of us has a specific task in this project _ I draw, another deals with corresponding and finance, another is responsible of communicating with the press, one for photography and documentation, one for collecting news and other important material and another one for constructing and launching a website for the project which consists of fourteen mural, 3.5 × 2.25m with a full project of 115 square meters.
Does the painting express what short story does not, and which is more powerful and affecting on people's dreams?
I believe that all languages of the world (body language, vocal language and visual language) cannot fully describe any event depending on itself alone, cannot express it accurately or express its sense to the audience. Who can describe the pain of a crying mother who hugs her son with blood covering his head because of a sniper's shot? I once said that in crisis, a part of the brain is damaged so the language must be simple and easy in order to easily express the stream of data among the people who suffer from a crisis such as the crisis of massive death by dictatorship.
Short story says, via their vocabulary, what the painting cannot describe, and sometimes the painting can capture moments which the story cannot narrate. Both painting and short story are ways of expression I usually use respectively and sometimes in a parallel way in order to describe what we cannot normally describe.
I think, since visual language has its vocabulary which was far from the citizen in the Arab countries, that the short story still has more power and effect especially when it is spoken of and narrated among people because it is written whether in spoken or standard language while the painting narrates a story in a completely different language (a pure artistic and visual language).
Edward Said argues that "the task of the intellectual is to disturb the authority." In your opinion, to what extent must the Arab intellectual stand with his whiteness in order to spread his spotlights in the blackness of the Arab cloth which is stained by the politician?
With reference to the first question, the sensor which distinguishes the artist and the intellectual, drives him to distances nearer to the truth which all politician are afraid of; the truth which rearranges the cards they have played to control all power points, and eventually to control people who always used to say, "There is no ability or power except for Allah", until these people have figured out that they also have the ability and power.
Intellectuals and artists "must" (not "should") stick to the street because it is the only thing that nourishes them with the inspiration needed for their work, gives them their subjects on which they depend, not to mention that it is the direction where their goals and aims head to. The citizen in Arab countries is the most important factor, and I believe that this citizen has shown that he has the suitable sensors with which he has realized that the time of change really started.
Thus, the citizen proved that he is a step forward compared with the intellectual and the artist in his sense and vision of the limits of near and far future, and also proved that he is an implying force that cannot be manipulated with no matter what greatness and hugeness the controlling other's power can be. When the people talk, all powers must be quiet in order to listen and do what it says because he knows better that anyone else his own path which he should choose. In both cases it will pay the price, so let it does so after choosing his own path and not the one which was chosen by some of the intruders on the authority.
How do you read the issue of Arab art and creativity development in the shadow of the current spring, and to what extent it will affect our artists and creators in the future?
I have not seen a radical change in art till now. Maybe time is not enough yet to cause such a change; the important thing right now is to change the human psych and return its confidence with its own power. Everyone is talking to himself now and rearranging himself according to his abilities. Some have partially freed himself from the burdens of the heavy past and others are still waiting for the opportunity of freedom.
There can be no art or creativity without freedom. The artist must be free inside, which is the hardest kind of freedom, then he should be free in his dealing with the concepts of life. Personally, recently I started to feel that the characters in my paintings began to free themselves of the lines which were controlling them, and the color began to be independent from his loneliness and went to the worlds of life. Hope is great, so great, and I think that we will live in a completely different world from the one we are living in, so we should be fully prepared to face it.
To what extent does living abroad affect the image of homeland in the works of the artist and the creator, and will he be trapped, sometimes, as a universal artist within the narrow frame of geography?
Man is trapped within his own memory, and he always fights his early memory which he built in his home country. Homeland gets bigger and bigger in immigration. In previous exhibitions, I worked on the idea of "the wall" (Memory of Time on Place- Wall, A Painting on Every Wall, On the Wall and A Wall Grows Next to Me).
After these works, my concept of the wall changed from being a guardian of memory and a store of events on his surface and layers to be a separating boundary between concepts, geography and people where it increases their solitude, till I get to the concept of Time wall; Geographical wall has fallen down, and a time wall appears without our notice. I mean that data is available everywhere, which we will gain as soon as possible no matter what.
This leads to a race with time which eventually leads to the individual's solitude in spite of his virtual connection with the outer world. Place becomes just a memory which may provide or prevent you from a spiritual element; here comes the ability of the artist to defeat the complications of the place by depending on his memory of place or just feeling it.
Living abroad gives man a new culture and strengthens his belonging to the homeland; immigrant, especially the artist, should benefit from this new culture and exploit it in building his own experience which depends on his way of life both in his homeland and abroad.
Translated by: Yazan el-Haj