While healing himself with healthy tomato juice, Egyptian artist Mahmoud speaks about integration, swings, and why Noord needs psychotherapy.
How do you relate as an artist to the Mapping for Tourists project?
I find the project very interesting. I have never worked with mapping before, and I am discovering that it can be a really stimulating process. As long as you are mapping a specific place, you don't only start to understand things about the place itself, but you start to understand yourself better. Normally, when you visit a place, you just follow random patterns of interaction. It's only when you're mapping that you become aware of being a tourist. I'm truly enjoying letting the tourist in me come out to explore Noord.
What fascinates you about Noord?
Coming from Cairo, where every movement within the city takes you at least one hour, I was very surprised by the mental distance that seems to exist between people living in the center, and people living in Noord. Even though it only takes you three minutes by ferry to get from one side of the water to the other, the gap in people’s minds is a lot bigger.
Is this psychological distance part of your project?
In structuring my project, I imagine Noord as a child. If a child has a certain type of complexity, you ought to look at and try to understand its parents in order to understand it. In this case Amsterdam is the parent, and Noord is the neglected, abused child in need of psychoanalysis. I'm going to try to graphically represent a historical time line that analyzes the relations within this ‘dysfunctional family’. I need to find out what the key moments are in the city's history, which have shaped the relationship between the two parts. The outcome will be a moving, hopefully interactive, picture. I don’t like static mapping. In reality maps are anything but static, because the geography changes endlessly. Nothing is fixed when it comes to mapping.
Like the other participants of Mapping for Tourists, you have been living in Noord since June 2010, a few months now. What inspires you?
In the beginning I was attracted to the NDSM wharf. However, after having lived here for two months, I really appreciate the neighborhood we're staying in, the van der Pekbuurt. What I really like is the peculiar vibe. People sit outside their monotonous houses, children are playing, doors are open. I love it! Also, I appreciate it more because I believe that in no more than ten years, not much of it will be left.
What do you think of the gentrification that is taking place?
More money coming in means less village and more city vibe. Hence more tourists and potential customers. I understand why the government and businesses think of it as extremely positive, but do the Dutch families need and want it? I think the local population sees it as something bad. I'm on their side all the way. I really sympathize with this ‘kid’. Raised in a dysfunctional way, I want to point out the deficiencies of its parents.
One of the things I'm interested in, is the North-South line. It's been planned following the north-south axes, completing ignoring the east and west of Noord. It's clearly not meant to serve the people here. It's a trick.
You hear a lot about Noord being very multicultural. Would you agree?
I think so. Lots of races and religions live together without having any mayor problems. But is there real integration, or is there mere tolerance? I wonder!