Blasts from the Past – Lara Baladi Int. – Nov ’06 Int.

Posted: October 17, 2008 in Art, Culture, Journalism, Society

Everyday People:

Lara Baladi, Image collector & Mixed-Media Artist



Lara Baladi was born in Lebanon to a Lebanese family that had lived in Egypt to witness the first days of the revolution before returning to Lebanon where Lara was born. The family then returned to Egypt with the start of the civil war. They then chose to go to France where they lived. Lara took leave to study in London then returned to Paris with her newfound love for photography and art. But it would be years later in Cairo, the city where she lives, that she would have one of her first significant exhibitions. The third in the fresh history of the townhouse gallery of contemporary art, ‘4 women’ would showcase the works of 4 artists living in Cairo; Huda Lutfi, Sabah Naeem, Dina Ghareeb and Lara Baladi.




What about photography drew you to take it up as a profession?


What first attracted me to photography was the way things or situations cold be fascinating but when photographed, they became flat. The challenge then was how to keep in the photograph, and even go beyond it, that thing which was fascinating about life.


Why the big collages?


I moved to a different kind of practice due to the lack of technical possibilities in Cairo, which led me to make all these big collages; big pieces that use a multitude of images rather than enlarge an image and work on perfecting the technique.


Photography is a powerful tool of expression, how can one maximize the resonance of the image within the audience?


Photography holds many different possibilities, and different people work at a different pace. The results depend on the practice and the person. Some people are obsessive, spontaneous or conceptual, stage images, etc. It is a very personal choice and a continuous process. By continuously working, one’s work, language continuously evolves and deepens.


The work itself reveals its limits and opens new creative doors. Inside existing works, the seeds for the next works are already present. In the end, all the works are related in the same kind of way Russian dolls are contained in one another. What matters is to continue the search, to ‘peel the onion’.


When you work away from commercial constraints and more towards Art you have much more space and freedom to elaborate a discourse. Usually these works are more personal, more reflective, more conceptual and also manage to keep all these personal qualities one puts in the process without losing integrity along the way.


If art is a language.. What dialects are not spoken in Egypt?


In Egypt, press articles about artists and art exhibitions are rarely able to look at art productions from a larger perspective and to contextualize them within the larger International Art world.

There is a fairly big community of artists in Egypt but there is no criticism of art, no discourse around art or very little. People who produce art in Egypt often need to exhibit in other countries before their work is noticed or analyzed in a professional way.


What else does the cultural scene in Egypt lack?


Freedom obviously. The essential element: freedom of expression. There is a very clear impossibility to do certain works or talk about certain subjects here.  A lot of my works which were and still are influenced by this environment, talk about certain subjects in metaphorical ways or ways that are not confrontational. Having to always work in those limitations and managing to get your point across can be challenging but on the long run very limiting and oppressive. It unfortunately tends to push creative forces outside the country instead.


Interests in artists?


Less and less I am interested in seeing one piece of work. I am more interested in seeing the continuity of the work in one artist’s life and understanding how that work falls into their own process of research. It’s almost like a chemical laboratory where the chemist will make his experiments until he finds a formula. I think artists work in that way in the sense that they take elements from their environment, their knowledge, their experiences and they transform them into something else, into work of art.


Latest project?


The last work I did was a commission for Images of the Middle East in Denmark. It was 20 projections on 20 screens along one kilometer of sea shore. It was something I was working on in the summer when the war started in Lebanon. I shifted a little in terms of the direction I was working on. I was obsessed like most of us with the news, following the course of the events and the number of deaths increasing everyday.

The images I used were the accumulation of icons from the West to the Middle East, from Christianity, Hinduism to Islam, from consumerism to Art, from past to present.  They were ‘unfolding’ like a sketch book, notes and metaphors across the sea, looking back at September 2001 to the world we live in today -in appearance simplistic (the global effect) but in reality extremely complex.


The popular appealing surface of the images was a way for the viewer into something entertaining. Yet, underneath that familiar surface, questions were raised and at times unsettling.



Heroes ?


Everybody and nobody. I think there are heroes everywhere in our daily lives.  We can all be heroes in our own life depending on the way we manage life challenges.






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