[Steim Instrument Lab]: Reflections/Connections (or: The City!)

Here’s a rhetorical proposition: One of the (not so) secret agendas of an artist on an art residency programme is to take time to reflect on his/her person and art practice. This ‘agenda’ is of course goes along other intentions such as developing new work, experiencing working with different people, and to be more informed of the types of practices taking places in distant – or not so distant – locales.

Steim’s Instrument Lab residency programme is mainly about developing our own approach to the notion of electronic instruments (software and/or hardware). On a personal level, I see this residency as a chance to better understand the possibilities that I have not considered before. Most importantly, however, I think that this residency is a chance for me to reflect on my process and own ‘career’ as an artist.

My activity in music started in earnest with the oud, although I had studied classical guitar for many years. In my four years in Tokyo as a visiting scholar and graduate student at Hitotsubashi University, I had the opportunity to constantly think and rethink about my relationship with music and where I would like it to go. It was in Tokyo that I began to experiment with the idea of experimental music and electronics, as opposed to simply playing ‘oriental’ music on the oud (which, as a medium, I felt did not best reflect my own self). I had a similar experience to reflect in London, when I was part of the Red Bull Music Academy 2010: At the RBMA, not only did I work on developing new music, attend lectures by the likes of Steve Reich and Cosey Fanni Tutti (from Throbbing Gristle fame), and meet some great artists from around the world; I felt that I connected with the city of London in a meaningful way. Of course my experiences while working on my PhD at the University of Exeter and while working at Al Riwaq Art Space in Bahrain have also been important in my development and approach.

The main issue I wish to highlight in this blog is that over the time of this residency, I have connected with the city of Amsterdam in my own way as well. I feel that being able to absorb the locale’s social/cultural/historical nuances  enrich an artist’s personal experiences that on some level inform future practices and developments. Being away for someone like me is also a chance to reflect on where I come from and where I hope to go in the future. This idea was triggered while I made a brief visit to Foam Gallery, where I saw a work entitled “Let’s Sit Down Before We Go” by Bertien van Manen. The work “refers to an old Russian custom (???????? ?? ???????): before you leave on a journey, take a moment to think about where you come from, where you are going and why.”

At the Instrument Lab, where we are encouraged to sit down before we ‘go’, I have been thinking about my approach to instruments and my approach to music in general. I am very excited about some of the projects I am in the process of developing (which will have to happen after my current residency ends in a few days). I must also admit that my discussions with the other residents here with me have been of extreme importance, and I learned a lot from each of their approaches.

As an artist and as a person, my experiences and the processes I go through are of great importance to my creative output. By connecting with a city such an Amsterdam (which holds an important cultural position globally) and by interacting with all the individuals I’ve met through Steim, I feel that I have taken one step closer to understanding my own practice and my own motivations better.

And now, I will go back to rehashing my Post-Esoteric (Oriental) Art Music Manifesto based on these findings.

(by Hasan Hujairi)

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