Interview

A Cross-Cultural Mosaic

Three artists from Tunisia and four from Germany collaborated on an artwork in a Cologne exhibition hall in front of an audience. Qantara.de spoke with Etienne Szabo, one of the participants for Germany.

Three artists from Tunisia and four from Germany are collaborating on an artwork in a Cologne exhibition hall in front of an audience. Each artist creates 10-14 (50X60cm) pasteboards. The result is a mosaic that will be exhibited on the floor and the walls. The artist’s approach to the materials, their use of space and the rhythm of their work in this public space will become visible and accessible as an interactive/artistic dialog between two seemingly different cultures, writes Maria Schmidt Dionsko, artist and initiator of the project, in the catalog. The artistic dialog will be continued in Tunisia in the coming year as the city partnership between Cologne and Tunis celebrates its fortieth year of cooperation. The German artists will then be the guests of their Tunisian colleagues. Qantara.de spoke with Etienne Szabo, one of the participants for Germany.

How did you experience the collaboration with your Tunisian colleagues?

'Tunis - Cologne'

​​Etienne Szabo: There was a very nice working atmosphere. The entire afternoon was reserved for our work together and the time was used well. As an artist one has the advantage of sharing your work with others. This doesn’t necessarily happen at a verbal level. We react to the various results of our work. It is up to you whether to engage in a discussion or not. I worked in a room together with a Tunisian colleague. There were constantly comments and statements to react to.

What was the result of your work during the collaboration?

Szabo: I worked with hair dyes. I understood this globally, that all hair colors come together. Those with black hair want to be blond, the blondes want to be black haired. The whole world comes together on this point.

What do you find is “Oriental” about the work of your Tunisian colleagues?

'Tunis - Cologne'

​​Szabo: The colorfulness I would say is Tunisian or Oriental or North African. One artist worked Arabic characters into his work, in an abstract form, but it was clear. Otherwise we are very similar in terms of figuration.

Tunisian artists know a lot about contemporary Western art. But the opposite is not true. Is the project able to change something about these unequal starting points?

Szabo: Next year we’ll be working in Tunisia on a collaboration. Then those of us on the German side will gain a better understanding and will be confronted with the culture there. We’ll be working on location and we’ll find out how much freedom we have and to what extend we are accepted.

Etienne Szabo is of French origin and lives and works in Cologne. He works in the areas of painting, photography and installations.

Interview: Mona Naggar, Qantara.de

© 2003 Qantara.de

Translation from German: Patrick Lanagan

“Der bewegte Tisch,” an exhibition project of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Internationaler Künstler Akt 1 e.V. Köln, until 17 October at the Kunstforum, Alteburger Wall 1, 50677 Cologne.

The following artists are participating in the project “Der bewegte Tisch”: Etienne Szabo, Daniel Neumann, Abderrazak Sahli, Baker Ben Fredj, Maria Schmidt Dionsko, Peer Boehm, Sami Ben Ameur

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