Studio  April 29, 2022  Sarah Bochicchio

eL Seed on Creating Interventions with Public Art 

Courtesy of the artist.

eL Seed, Declaration. Installed in front of the Dubai Opera House.

eL Seed is a contemporary artist whose multimedia work combines elements of painting, sculpture, and writing. After long periods of research, eL Seed introduces text-forward art installations in different communities, using language to echo messages that are both universal and specific to the location. 

His large-scale interventions can be found all over the world, from Paris to Cape Town to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, always with the intention of using his virtuosic, vibrant, and unique perspective to unite ideas and communities.
As eL Seed joins the roster of incredible artists featured in Museum in the Sky, we spoke with him about the works included in the project, as well as his broader relationship to language, reading, and identity.

Image taken by Anas Al Kassem for the Khaleeji Art Museum.

Sarah Bochicchio: Language is essential to your work. Could you tell me more about your own experience with language and your experience navigating Arabic and French? 
eL Seed: Born in France from Tunisian parents, I was always navigating between languages. Speaking Arabic at home and French outside. Actually, my parents were speaking with my brothers and sister in Tunisian dialect but we used to respond in French. Today, I feel I am trying to carry a tradition. I speak to my parents in Arabic, but they often respond in French.

SB: As a follow-up, I wanted to know: What are you currently reading?
ES: I am reading Leon l’Africain from Amin Maalouf. His books make me travel. I love reading and this is the base of my practice. I used words, quotes from writers. There is a long period of research in my work to find the right words for the right place. Indeed, in every work that I create, there is a message. The message is relevant to the community where I am painting but has a universal dimension so anyone around the world can relate to it.

Courtesy of the artist.

eL Seed, Perception. Installed across fifty facades within the Coptic community of Zaraeeb.

SB: Your work exists out in the open, often vibrantly in contrast to its surroundings. I wonder if you ever think of your work as an “intervention”? 
ES: I do see it as an intervention as I am changing not only the look of a place but also the feeling people have about their own place/community. There is a physical change and also an emotional change. Most of the time, it brings pride to the people of the place. Art in the public space is, by essence, ephemeral. It will disappear at some point but the perception and the emotions left behind is what matters the most.

Courtesy of the artist.

eL Seed, The Bridge. Installed at the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

SB: Could you tell me about the works that are featured in Museum in the Sky?
ES: Originally created in 2013, Declaration was my first sculptural work. It carried a message of love for art and calligraphy. The words were taken from a poem by Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani. After it was destroyed, I recreated it in 2018 for a commission by the Dubai Opera House to make his love declaration permanent. The sculpture stands in front of the Dubai Opera House today and carries the words of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum, “Art in all its colours and types reflects the culture of the nations, their history and civilisation.”
For The Bridge, I was approached by the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art in Ansan, South Korea to create an art piece in the DMZ (the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea). The goal was to celebrate a call for reunification, unity, and mutual respect. The initial plan was to build a bridge-like sculptural artwork that would curve upwards to a height of twenty meters, but stop at the mid-way point. However, due to the security matters within the military zone, the concept was fraught with difficulties and getting permission for the initial idea was difficult. Military restrictions would not allow this idea to be realized so instead, I proposed a horizontal laser-cut aluminum art piece installed on the fence of the DMZ. The art piece spells out the words of Kim Sowol, a poet from North Korea who died before the country became divided.

The art piece feeds the memories of the older generations with the souvenir of one united country and it stands as a reminder for the younger generations that there is a shared culture, language, and traditions and that art can bring people and, indeed, generations together, beyond political conflict.

Courtesy of the artist.

eL Seed, Perception. Installed across fifty facades within the Coptic community of Zaraeeb.

I could write pages about Perception. Actually, I did in my book that documents this incredible journey. In this project, I tried to shed light on the Coptic community of Zaraeeb who have been collecting the trash of the city for decades and developed the most efficient and highly profitable recycling system on a global level. Still, the place is perceived as dirty, marginalized, and segregated. To bring light on this community, I created an anamorphic piece that covers more than fifty facades. The artwork is only visible from a certain point of the Mokattam Mountain. The piece of art uses the words of Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, a Coptic Bishop from the third century, that said: “Anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly needs to wipe his eye first.”

About the Author

Sarah Bochicchio

Sarah Bochicchio is a New York-based writer and researcher. She focuses on history, fashion, art, and gender—and where all of those things intersect.

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