The Cities of Abd El-Salam Eid

Dr. Amal Nasr

The idea of the city has been always a creative preoccupation for the Artist Abd El-Salam Eid.
He may be concerned with the city space. It represents for him the most spacious, and appropriate
exhibition ground for his monumental artworks, which are compatible with his contemporary
concepts. Eid believes that the viewer is capable of penetrating into the core of an Artwork,
and becomes a part of it. The link between the city and the Artist’s Artworks became a fatalist, since
his beginnings, and along his creative progress, Eid has presented several works that adopted the
same title of “The City”: such as city model (1982), Utopia.
Tony Garnier museum- Leon- France, Perplexed City Sao Paulo Biennale- Brazil 2002. When we
observe his series of works about the city, we find that it not only representing a visual impression
about the city as a geographical and urban existence, but also a reflection of that existence in the
Artist’s consciousness and feeling.
Dr. Marie Therese Abd El- Massieh discussed two works by Eid, of that genre, in her book “cultural
representation between the visual and the written”, and she associated between the two works
and general concepts in the relationship of artistic creation, such as the relation between the self
and other cultures, and conciliation between science and Art. She took up Eid’s installation “The
City” 1982, saying:“…the Alexandrian Artists have contested in dealing with contemporary worries,
making use of the Alexandrian Experience, as it represents a plurality of historical and geographical
contexts, which revives local traditional, visual issues, to be assigned for technological updating.
This flaring debate between science and reality, or between science and metaphysics, has brought

about a separation between mystical experience, and rationality, and between Art and science,

which has had caused an internal schism to the individual. That internal gap, within the individual,
may be patched up, in case of reforming the relationship of the self with other cultures.
Abd El-Salam Eid has taken up this problematic issue in his installations. This is evident in his three
dimensional work “The City”, which he exhibited at Venice international Biennale 1982. It’s a visual
expression of a divided planet, in which the individual is roaming everywhere, tossed about by a
whirlpool, which is pushing him to the edge of an abyss…! This installation is composed of scrap,
and selected stuffs from surroundings, taking a fan shape. The first city is raised upon a base
embracing two cupper vessels, in a horizontal position, with their façade towards outside. Perhaps
they suggest a deep crater at both sides of the globe. The vessels are separated by extending
verticals. These old wood columns may represent connecting or separating links and forms may
suggest an architectural, industrial buildings or skyscrapers. Upon one of them, there is a miniature
human figure drifting on the horizon.
Revolving around the architectural structure could turn this installation, of varied figures and materials,
into an indicative process: instead of visualizing the two installed vessels as separated units,
with conflicting orientations, we can conceive both as opened to all directions, to become integrated
and not contradicted. The separating verticals are blending old and the new, mythical and artificial,
natural and cultural. This suggests proximity between Eras, and tangency between contrarieties.
The varieties of materials suggest elapsed times, changing and diversified cultures. It is a reminder
of cultural layers, which has been carved into the history of Alexandria. It extends its help to the
viewer to accept its cultural variability. Intellectual obstacles that emerge during transition eras push
individuals to retreat to cultural eras that are compatible with their ideological constitution, which
in turn infect the cultural integration with a remarkable dissociation. This Installation is seeking to
go beyond cultural schism with an embodiment of the city as a space, where natural and cultural
elements had been blended together, for a straightening of the relationship between the individual
and his environment.
Marie Therese has also discussed the second city. It is “Utopia1993”, a work that has been selected
by the national center for plastic Arts, for an international museum. It was ceremoniously inaugurated,
to be a n honorable imprint upon the contemporary memory of French Museums.
Marie Says: “.. When a personal subjective experience is associated with cumulative engagement,
then, it becomes an inter subjective experience, and thus providing for an interactive debate between
cultures. Abd El Salam Eid is aspiring at establishing such debate in his monumental mural
City 2- Tony Garnier museum, Leon-France. In this mural, there are three columns engraved with
multiple visual languages. They had been divided into icons, mythical figures, and diagrams in letterforms.
It is hard to interpret these engravings in a single cultural concept. Signs are forming a
visual texture that reiterates the formation of Egyptian, and the world culture, through their mutual
relationships among cultural terms. To represent the elements of association and disengagement,
which are simultaneously link and discriminate between cultures, we find that this composition rises
Questions about the difficulty of assorting its signs, in the context of a particular cultural heritage.
It may represent a temple’s façade, or a virtual image, transmitted through an electronic set. The
viewer is facing several signs that could be of pictorial or electronic references, and he has to deal
with them without fixation in a central location, or trying to arrive at their final formation. In fact, this
installation is touching the relationship between Science and Art, between East and West. An integrative
one that go beyond contrasting dualities. Technology is in a bad need for a spiritual touch.
Technology is not only an outcome of intellect, but also it is the product of an iron will, or a deep
faith, resulting from the oriental metaphysics. That spiritual touch had inspired the West in the era
of Enlightenment, which had been turned into a motive for action, sparked the Industrial Revolution.
There is a need for understanding the soul of Science, and the science of Art, a need for an inquiry
into modernity, through the memory. We must reevaluate the past, through modern innovations, So
that the individual may find a position in the world of tomorrow.
The third city of Abd El- Salam Eid, “the bewildered city”, which was exhibited at Sao Paulo Biennale
2002. In this work, the artist is founding a cosmic city, a condenser of a peculiar trip. The Artist
is obsessed with life, art and history. As if he came out of all the cities, and all the places he travels
to collect all the things he loves, pick up of the countries, streets, and alleys. He carried them on
his shoulders, walk, and walk. When he became overburdened, he cast them as an integrated city,
which is kneaded with long years of experience and all fragments, encroachments, and shining of
thought. A complex of visions.
Thus the structure is completed… his performing expertise, which is excessive in its simplicity and
complexity, his exalted humanity, and the dimensions of his unique interlocking character, among
the rational, poetic, and spontaneity.
The Artist has condensed the world into a group of buildings that permit departure and travel through
times. He puts them on a white area of spectral color that suggests flight. He dealt with what we can
call supreme installation, where he establishes a relationship among various aesthetic images.. He
puts his superimposed touches of civilization, and thus creating certain tension between times, that
are relevant to them. That sort of tension produces, in turn, an amazing awakening pleasure, which
was accompanied by a fly of soaring and imagination. Eid is administering that entire kaleidoscopic
domain with capacity, inviting us to live, dream, and fly amid his buildings, which had obtained from
each era its most beautiful aspect, and from each sort of art its soaring spirit: an Aztic statuette..
The brute naive power in its mysterious secrets, which may rush in any direction without account.
Indeed the presence of that statuette, gave rise to important suggestions and symbols. a circle
that is emerging from the solid lump, in a dynamic state that suggests a volatility of its constituents,
but in a magnetic field. This means that it is in a state of movement, but still attached to that disc,
which determines its magnetic field. Astonishing condensation of fabrics, small ornaments are also
embedded. Materials that lost their relevance with reality became a part of strange entity, which is
picking up everything around, exactly like the memory of a conscious Artist. A glass skyscraper with
an oriental flavor embroidered with “Dantella”, it has velvet windows and ethereal doors, that attract
souls, which are streaming there, and thus we might hear the traditional Andalusian “Muashahat”
(cantatas). The Artist presents all that through an integrated work that based upon establishing a
plenary space, where the concept of Arts unity have been manifested. An Artwork that conveys the
accumulation of human arts history, and the man’s bearings of interaction with them. But the Artist
still maintaining his artistic memory with all its vocabulary, in an affluence, which travels across the
history of Art, and paying respect to all arts of civilizations.
The Artist says about that work:
“..I could not resist the forces of attraction, the art work that iam exhibiting is also carrying the name
of the city, but it is not a Utopia, but the bewildered city…the roaming, which conveys an endless
sum of human imprints.. So it is plowing the waves of struggle and anxiety…you can say a world
city or the world in a city. When I started my work, everything turned to colors and forms.., turning

every structure to suggestions, spectra and times experienced by human days and still.. Only

vision, which is still maintained… it is shooting behind truth and imagination.. Pushing materials,
elements, and colors along the road of expression, through the language of form, inciting the others
to discover the hidden meaning among the bewildered cities.. , the roaming.., the neighboring..,
the embracing.., the close together, and the interlocked… upon the earth and under the sky of the
cosmopolitan city of Sao Paulo
In the Biennale Catalogue, Prof. Dr., Ahmed Nawar says, in the introduction:
When the Artist formed these solid geometrical rows, through cubes, rectangles, cones, cylinders,
and semi circles. In addition to that, an organic shape made of ropes, together with the deeply
engraved ABC civilizations, that are reminiscent of the walls of Egyptian temples, frames of the entrances
of churches and mosques, the circular monumental wall of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the
suspended statues on these imposing structures, and finally the miniatures upon these figures… All
of them have been conceived as significant visual alphabets that point to the human latency, which
is contained within the city. Indicating man’s active and collective energy in complementary space
for this structural system that is emerging from them, in an eloquent expressive vocabulary. Indeed,
It is a dissolution of the city man into the innermost depth of the Artist Abd El-Salam Eid
The Artist is dreaming with a new form of Architecture for the city. Even his installations represent contemporary
innovative ideas for architecture such as the three dimensional models: the City and horizons
of the twenty one century. In addition, many his paintings are bearing the fragrance of the city.

 

Dr. Amal Nasr