Interview: The Avant-Garde Blouzaat Crew

الإثنين 22 تشرين الأول 2007

Interview by Omar Z of Fann 3arabi

Whether it’s an innocent Chihuahua staring at you, three generic red bodies with white face masks, a cat who’s promoting a coke can or a rather balloon-like girl asking to switch places it’s all in the new store of Blouzaat. You’re probably wondering that none of these subjects might not completely make sense, but you when you see them visually or actually get to wear them you’ll realise it’s a different experience.

Blouzaat is a new t-shirt/urban art store that is about to open in Jabal Amman. Behind it are 4 members that believe in grunge, details, random inspirations and non-coherency in Art but they also like Cats, Bulldogs, Chihuahuas and characters that do not particularly abide to general beauty standards. Ahmad Sabbagh, a Jordanian designer and type-enthusiast had given the privilege to get to the store-in-the-making and he was kind enough to participate in the little interview.

F3: Ahmad, beautiful artworks I just witnessed. First off give us a little introduction of your own to Blouzaat and who’s behind it.
AS: Blouzaat is a project that explores art, design and music through unconventional means. It introduces a creative culture that allows artists to interact with each other and redefine themselves in a new language that is based on freedom of thought and expression. The concept behind Blouzaat came from four young artists from Jordan and Germany, Michael, Mohamad Assaf, Falk and myself.

F3: How did the idea came to realization?
AS: I first met Michael a few years back when he came to work for Syntax, the design firm I work for. Michael spent a few months in Jordan during which we discovered a joint interest in art, and we worked on several projects together. Michael was disappointed to find that there was no urban art scene in Amman, although we were certain that it had its audience, which led us to start contemplating how to introduce an alternative artistic space through which artists can experiment freely and share experiences, we wanted to build a community in which artists, musicians and any interested individual can express themselves and work together in creating a culture that is free, independent and unique.

The idea was vague and lacked form, until a year later the discussion was picked up again by Mohammad Assaf, who motivated us to give the idea a viable structure, and Blouzaat was born. Blouzaat is to be the space that offers different artists from all backgrounds a venue to interact, share and create. We started with the T-shirts as a medium to communicate our culture, as well as provide a source of income to keep our project running. We were ecstatic to be joined by Falk, who is a renowned graffiti artist experienced in the urban art scene. Falk’s experience added depth to our project and helped shape it into a tangible identity.
… and Blouzaat came to be.

F3: Heard you faced a lot of problems getting things done, how did you manage to overcome these problems without the breakdown of the project?
AS: With patience, compromising, re-planning, hard work, and some heavy arguing.
One of our main debates was about having our products manufactured in Jordan or go for something from abroad to avoid all these problems. But Blouzaat was always about creating something that was original, our own, and made right here, something to be proud of. That concept was so completely ingrained in all of us that even when at times we got so frustrated and disappointed we wanted to give up; one of us was always out there reminding us of why we started out in the first place.

F3: What do you seek in an art work or a t-shirt design? Do the 4 of you agree to certain standards or tend to differ on some scale?
AS: Honestly, I don’t have a clear answer, but what I can tell you is that we never talked about any standards, we are all visual people who tend to communicate and interact visually, and we have reached an intuitive understanding for the visual language and progressive approach we seek, in a T-shirt design or anything else related to this project.

F3: Is typography, and most specifically Arabic typography an important element to be included in your t-shirt designs or not specifically?
AS: Typography, especially Arabic type, plays an important role in the language we communicate, although it doesn’t need to be there in every design, but the overall experience communicates our culture and messages. We are trying to develop type in a way that is fresh and suits our ideas without having to stick to any particular standard or rule.

F3: An idea of a “Blouzaat Playground” came up – would you care telling us more about it?
AS: Blouzaat Playground is the platform where interested artists can use as a stepping stone to share experiences and ideas, and to participate in the art making process.
With Blouzaat Playground we seek to form a creative community that should introduce a new artistic scene to the area, based on shared experiences through experimenting in any form of self-expression.

the corner of “Blouzaat Playground” – exhibiting yet more artworks for sale

F3: What mostly inspires you as an artist and part of this project?
AS: Just look out the window, or walk through the street; everything and anything might get a chain reaction started in your mind, where you start to combine the weirdest things and come up with a hybrid that is much worse than the original. Inspiration is always there, but you should not wait for it to come to you, start with whatever pops in your head and get it out, the inspiration will come while you’re working.

F3: When do you expect the official opening of Blouzaat would be?
AS: Hopefully after Ramadan.

F3: What ‘tags’ or labels would most appropriately match your work?
AS: We’ve decided not to categorize ourselves under any singular label. To the extent that we will not have a constant logo, we will be changing it at least every collection because our artwork, our products, are visually flexible and will always be works-in-progress. The next collection might be completely different than the one we have now, with a whole new expression. We refuse to link ourselves to a certain standard or statement, the idea is to continuously re-invent ourselves. The one consistent element in this whole venture is the name Blouzaat, which will hopefully become synonymous with creative individual expression, establishing itself as a platform for any adventurous young artist.

a view of the 4 paintings up in the store, with mixed styles – for sale

F3: Do you view your project as an international one with hopes of becoming known overseas or just a local one?
AS: We hope to gain a creative reputation to get artists interested in working with us, both locally and internationally. We would like to set up a dialogue between the local artists and those from overseas, which could take the shape of workshops and joint projects, based here in Amman. The first step will be this winter; we will be inviting six artists from Germany to Amman, who will be working on a live graffiti/ mural painting event, which will be accompanied by live electronic music produced by three visiting musicians along with some local artists.

a look into the store – yet in the making (dated 1/Sep/2007)

F3: What would you recommend people thinking about setting up art projects in Jordan and the Arab world?
AS: Just follow your instincts. Look for inspiration from the artists around you and get influenced by them. Work together not against each other. And lighten up. Art is not serious, everything is art, or could be art; it depends on the recipient and the experience he/she receives from it. Try taking every direction to express yourself… you never know which will be the right one for you.
Or, on a second thought, get in touch with us; we would love to work with you if you have any weird ideas that are out there.

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