Ayman Ramadan has created two projects simultaneously during his residency in Amsterdam Noord for the Noord project. Both compliment each other and follow a common thread of mapping out new surroundings and reflecting upon them. Hailing from a different relative, the so-called Mother of the World that is Cairo, Egypt, it is his orientation in this context that becomes the focus of this work. With these two works he is thereby offering the local audience a potentially unfamiliar take on familiarity that borders on invisibility, focusing on the discrepancy of what seems to be trivial to one and most prominent to himself, the other.
Ayman's approach has lead him to form a body of work which reflects an exploration of a both a geographical territory as well as the people which he finds himself living alongside during this temporary situation, while suspended between existing as a foreigner but at the same time being woven into the fabric of the community by association with the established and local institution Mediamatic.
Installation with mixed-media and audio
In Mirrors, the first of his two projects for Noord, Ayman functions as a collector of negative space; his observations and interpretations are based on what has been consciously discarded by others. These remains say just as much to him about the locals of Amsterdam Noord who once owned these objects, as if he could see which possessions to them have been worth keeping in their homes, also thereby what they identify with.
After weeks of combing though the streets of the neighborhood, Ayman has accumulated an eclectic collection of items thrown away by the inhabitants of Amsterdam Noord. He then assembled them to 3D collages on wooden boards. These panels map out the general areas in which the items were found and differ greatly from one another. Ayman thus creates separate units, that, when placed next to each other, resemble the pages of a large picture book or diary. They vary in size because the collages were made with differing number of objects, depending on the findings in the respective areas they are based on.
The panels are an index of that which occurs behind closed doors and remains unseen to the outside world, a piece of the abstract idea of real life and all its secrets. In some cases that is because it is the fringe which has been collectively discarded. Mirrors is Ayman’s search for an authenticity that is undistorted by the subject’s knowledge of his undertaking.
Adding to the visuals are layers of sounds from the streets of the respective areas that play on head phones. While the tracks have been recorded separately, they will all play simultaneously during the exhibition of the collages. This is Ayman’s nod to his home town of Cairo, where the noise pollution is at times overwhelming. At the same time it also balances out the to him unfamiliar utter silence that would take over in Amsterdam Noord after night fall.
Through basing the panels on his impressions of Amsterdam Noord with found objects in a edited and deliberate display, Ayman leaves their individual and collective interpretation open, but invites the audience to gaze through his personal looking glass. The re-assembly of these once-familiar objects through Ayman is now represented with enough contrast to allow the unfamiliar therein to come forward.
Performance, street art (spray paint), photographic documentation thereof
The second project Ayman conceived during Mediamatic’s Noord residency is a marked presence of his physical self in the streets of Amsterdam Noord. It is called 40 Days and consists of him taking long walks in different neighborhoods after dark and leaving his painted shoe prints on certain streets for the residents to see the next morning.
With this work, Ayman combines the opposites of both a concealment and exposure of himself, as well as the anonymous but at the same time unambiguous belonging of the scattered shoe prints themselves to one and the same. It also encases a message to his neighbors of Amsterdam Noord which can be read as anything from vandalism or an unclear threat. On the other hand it can also be understood as someone making a step in a direction, for the color of the paint used is that which is internationally known to represent The Netherlands and is derived from the name of the Dutch royal family: Orange.
After walking and spraying the prints, Ayman would then return to these exact spots again during the daytime and re-walk his own steps. While the traces from the previous nights manage to generate enough interest on their own now, he himself can still walk around the area unrecognized. As if dealing with a ghost, the people who are looking at the painted footsteps see right past Ayman when he stands nearby, disguised in broad daylight. They did not see him before and would continue to see through him. The residents acknowledge Ayman’s steps on the ground but not the person in front of them.
The title 40 Days refers to an age-old Arabic proverb which, loosely translated, declares that adaptation and convergence are inevitable (within 40 days) when two things foreign meet to each other decide to co-exist and do not wish to part. In an attempt to diminish the distance between himself and the yet unfamiliar, Ayman opts to take a step forward and linger.