Art from a parallel universe

Wouldn’t you like to live in a little neoclassical palace? Egyptian artist Rana ElNemr has the run of one – at least for this semester. During her term as designated Artist in Residence at LMU’s Institute of Art Education, she is living in the Ebenböck Villa in Pasing as the guest of Munich’s Department of Cultural Affairs, which owns the building and makes it available to selected artists on a temporary basis.

Rana ElNemr is designated Artist in Residence at LMU's Institute of Art Education. Source: Philipp Thalhammer / LMU

Rana ElNemr is designated Artist in Residence at LMU’s Institute of Art Education. Source: Philipp Thalhammer / LMU

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From her desk, Rana ElNemr has a wonderful view of the trees, shrubs and hedges in the gardens that surround the villa, which are laid out in the French style. Such a view can indeed provide the initial spark of an idea for a new work, she says. The central impulse that animates all of her work is the desire to understand how one experiences one’s passage through space and time, and to capture the essence of this experience in a photograph or a film, in texts and conversations. Gazing at nature, beyond the window, while strolling in the city or from her favorite spot in the garden of the Ebenböck Villa, triggers reflections on the spiritual dimensions of our surroundings. Contemplation of a single tree or an everyday object prompts her to ask how space and time expand and acquire new significance for our minds and bodies. The combination of observation and imagination enables her to create a parallel universe and explore its philosophical and physical implications. “First of all, I respond strongly to things that I see – things that have something to tell me. I don’t mean to say that I only have to look at something and know immediately what it is telling me – that comes at a much later stage – intuitively,” ElNemr explains. “Only then do the secrets, vulnerabilities – even the political messages – concealed in things reveal themselves to me.”

An exhibition of her work opens on January 22 at 7 PM in the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts (Max-Joseph-Platz 3). Entitled “fine structure constant”, it emphasizes the interaction between the works themselves – paintings, sculpture and videos ¬– and the space around them. “The title of the exhibition refers to the fine structure constant in physics, a dimensionless number whose value cannot be derived from other known constants of nature, but must be measured empirically. It’s intended as an invitation to visitors to contemplate, observe and measure relationships and interactions,” says ElNemr.

Rana ElNemr lives and works in Cairo. She has become well known both in her native Egypt and beyond, primarily for her visual essays, which typically transcend the boundaries of traditional genres. She was a founding member of the Contemporary Image Collective (CIC), which was set up in Cairo by a group of independent artists and photographers in 2004. During her stay at LMU bietet ElNemr will present a seminar on “Exploring the Realms of Personal Associations with Language”, in which students are encouraged to engage with theoretical and conceptual issues as well as the inventive and practical aspects of artistic creation.

The project “Artist in Residence: Art, Ideas and Communication” was initiated and developed by Professor Anja Mohr and Günter Stöber at the Institute of Art Education. LMU’s partners in the venture are Munich’s Department of Cultural Affairs and the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. Funding is provided by the Leinemann Foundation for Education and the Arts and the program Lehre@LMU. The project is only one of range of initiatives designed to enhance awareness and appreciation of art that have been instituted by the Institute of Art Education. Details of the events specifically connected with the tenure of the current Artist in Residence can be found here.

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