As every year, summer gives me some extra day of free time I use to read calmly and carefully the books that I have accumulated in the year and that for one reason or another I could not read. So I took advantage of those hot summer afternoons to read the monograph of Moataz Nasr published on the occasion of the project Moataz Nasr. A bridge between Pisa and Santa Croce curated by Ilaria Mariotti. It was a great book, not only to deepen the artistic practice of Moataz Nasr who I always follow with great interest and attention (and with whom I have always planned an interview that I hope to achieve as soon as possible!) but especially since at the end of the holidays we usually go back to our daily activities with a series of "good intentions" as for an example "Monday I shal begin the diet", "I shall subscribe to the gym", "I shall stop smoking", etc. All good intentions which aim is almost always to restore the "matter", the "body" and not the "spirit". From this point of view then the reading of Moataz Nasr has been very helpful as a call for "good intentions" of a spiritual change for ourselves and society.
Moataz Nasr, born in 1961, is an Egyptian artist always interested in social and cultural transformations and pledged to "activate" the consciences of men and women, to give voice to voiceless maybe because weak or fearful or without rights. In the International art world from 2001 when he won the Grand Prize at the Biennale of Cairo Nasr has exhibited in major events such as the Dakar Biennial (2002), the Venice Biennale (2003), the Sharjah Biennial (2003) ... he has created Darb and Contemporary Art culture Center, a cultural and artistic center for young artists, he has been working with prestigious international galleries.
The context of many works created by Nasr is Cairo, a city of contrasts and alternating phases as that of 2011 when it seemed to have found the courage to shout its ideas and beliefs and then to return to the starting point despite the international pressure, the protests, the blood. But this reference to the Egyptian reality does not prevent his works and practice to acquire a universal value that transcends time and specific place.
For example think about the photographic series Fiat Nasr (2002-2008): the car becomes a symbol of a collective illusion, a broken dream, a reality that we have not been able to preserve or enhance. Fiat Nasr is composed by 16 cubes on whose sides there are the photos of airless tires of some Fiat Nasr. In 1979, the automobile manufacturer Nasr entered into an agreement with Fiat to assemble cars in Egypt with pieces from Italy. This agreement secured the Nasr a period of growth in a more general confidence in the global economic process. Despite the playful aspect of the cube, the airless tire is the exhaustion of that process soliciting reflections on the more general economic crisis that from some years has been blocking many Western countries.
It looks at first sight playful also the artwork Vacanze Romane (2013) an octagon which side I a Vespa connected to the previous and the next by sharing a wheel. The shape refers to the circularity of life and the means by which it is made, the wasp, refer unambiguously to mobility. Central element of the installation is the wheel intended as an element of sharing: only if there is a consistency of action, common and shared action the octagon of life can get going. Do not forget that the octagon is a form of great symbolism: mediating between the square and the circle, the octagon is the encounter between heaven and earth, the union with God, the resurrection and the cosmic balance.
The Maze (2011-2013) is a grass maze created by Nasr in various public spaces in and outside Europe. By using the Kufic, the language in which it was transcribed the Koran, then a sacred language, Nasr writes the popular slogan shouted in 2011 in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, "El Shaab yurid isqaat el nizam" (The People want the fall of the regime) giving in this way to the civil liberty a sacred dimension. The work has different reading levels: the disorientation after the moment of euphoria due to the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 symbolized by the labyrinth, the distinction between who is inside and who is outside the maze, that is, between those who participate and those who prefer to be spectators, the vulnerability of our freedom never fully acquired and consolidated (the grass will grow and the demands of the people will be deleted from the grass fallow), the sanctity of civil rights and Laity.
Then there are those artworks created with matches. For example the series Arabesque I (Lost Heritage) where we find some decorations typical of Islamic culture such as windows, doors and ceilings or the series Khayameya (2012) with motifs from typical Egyptian textile. Many matches, side by side, with their potential flammability witness a social and political situation as that of Egypt: apparently stagnant and property but that at any moment can easily catch fire.
Finally we cannot forget I am free (2012), a work with an instant message: we have to climb a ladder to be able to wear the wings of an eagle. The installation consists of a scale pyramid on top of which there is an eagle symbol on the Egyptian flag from 1953, year of establishment of the Republic. Faithful to the Sufi training (the sufism is a mystical dimension of Islam tending to a deepening inner, a spiritual development, a respect for differences) Nasr says that to get to the top and see what we feel having two huge wings that allow us to dominate the situation we have to follow a path based on meditation and reflection because the freedom is the force that drives us to resist in a troubled country like Egypt it cannot materialize in terms of strength and power, but must have as its founding principle the meditation as stimulating not only of calm and peace but also foresight and wisdom. And this is the condition of the neon sign above the installation referring to the theories of the medieval mystic philosopher Ibn Arabi. As stated in a slogan of the protest movements of 2011 that cites an aphorism of Ibn Arabi "la libertad nos une, la union nos libera" the condition of freedom is inseparable from the network of relationships in which an individual is born and grows but is also inseparable from a condition of sharing and cooperation in a world that no longer believes in a common history, a future or a common project but rewards the individual in his uniqueness, singularity, particularity which is also the main source of our loneliness and marginalization.