Ronnie Close will be joining us to screen and discuss his film work More Out of Curiosity on 13 June.
Q1/ Can you briefly introduce yourself and tell us about some of the project you have worked on?
I am an Irish artist currently based in Cairo, Egypt. My work explores social issues and narrative through the medium of film. The current film project ‘More Out of Curiosity’ looks at a football fan movement in Egypt called the Ultras who mix politics with football. I am an Assistant Professor of Photography at the American University in Cairo. Previously I lived in Bristol and completed a practice-based PhD at the University of Wales in 2010.
Q2/ Your film work ‘More Out of Curiosity’ will be screening at The Mosaic Rooms 13 June – it focuses on the ‘Ultras,’ a group of Egyptian football fans. Can you tell us a bit more about this group and why they are significant in Egyptian politics?
The Ultras are one of the key players in the political debate in Egypt. Although a movement of fanatical football supporters and affiliated to different teams in the domestic league they often joined forces in street protests to remove Hosni Mubarak in 2011. This street activism was tragically played out in the Port Said incident in February 2012 when 74 Al-Ahly fans were killed in suspicious circumstances at a football game. The court verdict a year later found 21 guilty of murder and they were sentenced to death. The Ultras are a non-sectarian, classlessmass movement and pose a threat to the post-2011 Egyptian governments; either Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood or the military backed new president Al-Sisi.
Q3/ Can you tell us a bit about your experience of working in Egypt – did you face any particular challenges/ special opportunities?
I arrived in Cairo to live in January 2012, three weeks before the Port Said incident. This event became a basis for me to engage with the legacy of the 2011 street politics as it became clear that a terrible violent reprisal against the Al-Ahly Ultras had takenplace. I originally visited in 2011 when there seemed to be a real sense ofoptimism and social change however the atmosphere has transformed since thosedays. Over the years there have been some dark times of curfews and extreme violence. But outside of this everyday life in Cairo is amazing and the people are mostly resilient with a very vibrant culture. I feel privileged to live here and if you adjust or connect to the city it can be a very stimulating place to live. For me it’s fascinating to explore and throws up the unexpected regularly as it is a place continually in flux.
Q4/ What are you working on right now? Are you planning any new projects?
I am continuing to work with the Ultras and will develop a 3rd film project that expands the ideas of representation and mediation of events into a long portrait film format. In addition to this Cairo seems to have an endless supply of interesting projects that surface randomly. I am working on a new film work on image censorship in Egypt. This new work will look at the stark difference between outward censorship versus private or hidden desires. I came across some intriguing images accidentally, first on a shared computer and then secondly in art books in a bookshop that have been doctored by a government agency. This traffic and control of imagery is particularly powerful in this context where public discourse is stifled and media outlets are essentially propagandist.
And am also involved in an artist collective called the Ranciere Reading Group in Cairo and we have a number of shared projects. One of which, the Pensive Image, will be included in the Brighton Photo Biennial 2014.