The Cairo Seminar

The Cairo Seminar was a study and exchange program between Kassel and Alexandria comprised of two parts: The Cairo Seminar. Studium and The Cairo Seminar. The Seminar

The Cairo Seminar. Studium was a collaborative study program in which ten students from MASS Alexandria engaged in discussion about dOCUMENTA (13) in Alexandria, collaborated in the installation of artworks in dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, and finally, participate in the development of The Seminar in Alexandria. The Studium program aimed to give the students not only new skill sets and ideas, but access to subjects and materials not usually found in traditional educational spaces. 

The Cairo Seminar. The Seminar was a series of breakfasts, readings, lectures and discussions, as well as collective dinners, in significant venues throughout the city of Alexandria, including MASS Alexandria and Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum (ACAF). Invited participants (grouped into Key Notes, Instruments, Chorus, Accompaniment, and Guest Accompaniment) gathered between July 1 to 8, 2012, during the course of the exhibition in Kassel. While most activities took place in Alexandria (in place of Cairo), the title of the seminar is meant as a subtle reinstitution of a city, in its historical role, in real time—today.

The Seminar took as its subject two very simple principles: sleeping and dreaming. “Without sleep,” Russian architect Konstantin Melnikov argued, “fresh air will do little for our health.” He was referring to his proposed building, which he named the “Sonata of Sleep,” in which 100s of workers could sleep at the same time. (In Russian, the words for to sleep and to dream have a common word.) This example, referring both to an architecture of order and the highest moment in Modern revolutionary ideas of change and human adaptation to the “new system,” is cited only as one instance of the themes discussed. That the dream state and waking reality might be on an equal footing and that the sensory world is a dream from which one must awaken is a proposition from which the seminar departed. Since no one morphology of the dream phenomenon is either sufficient or comprehensive, the seminar adopted a hybrid composition of philosophy and psychoanalysis, expanding out towards art and its phenomenology, art theory, and literature, to elucidate the oneiric phenomenon from a vast array of perspectives. The seminar proposes an archaeology of the dream, a philosophically inflected excavation that celebrates the contingent and ambiguous as signifiers of truth conceived as proportionate to, but not prescribed by, nature, and therefore its political potential for today’s state of affairs. 

The Cairo Seminar was supported by Goethe-Institut Alexandria and Goethe-Institut Cairo.