Youssef Limoud is an artist and a writer. With a poetic use of different mediums, his work addresses the decay of things through time, destruction and human involvement. Limoud recently won the the grand prize of Dakar Biennial 2016 for his installation Maqam.
What drives you to wake up in the morning & what keeps you up at night?
To me, sleeping is work, a ground where ideas and visions arise.
Why art? Your work confronts destruction and violence— what is art’s role amid ruin?
We are surrounded by ruins, physically or metaphorically. Syria, Egypt and some other Arab countries, after the Arab Spring, are clear examples. Art is not about reproducing reality in its physical and often vulgar condition but rather to reflect upon the nature of our reality utilising the aesthetic tools that Art provides. It is about directing the observers awareness towards what is or
What were your motivations to get involved with social justice? What specific issues do you try to address through your art?
A few years before the revolution I started to go regularly to Egypt. Reconnecting with the reality there which is loaded with all kinds of problems and suffering had a great influence on my work. The change was in my approach to the material. I believe that the material in itself has a great
potential to refer to different social and political issues. I am interested in the material and its decay and transformations.
For every pain, there is a pill. For both personal and social “pains”, what is
Making art in itself is a remedy. Meditating and sport also help.
What is a normal day for you like during the artistic process? Do you have
any rituals in the studio?
This changes periodically. But normally it is like this:
The two or three hours from waking up till noon: reading the news and some analytical articles.
From twelve to half past one: Practicing Karate. The rest of the day till midnight: working, reading, watching a movie, meetings etc.
In periods of research and writing, I work mainly at night. I have no special rituals in my studio other than listening to music or to the radio.
What does community mean to you? How does that community affect your creative output?
Community is the extension of the individual. The cultural and artistic work should be directed to the collective awareness.
Can you give us a quick list of influences?
The life and the books of the Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz. Nietzsche`s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The poems of the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska. Henrik Ibsen`s theatre. The Dictionary for Dreams, by Tom Chetwyhd.
The list of the great masters like: Akira Kurosawa, Fellini, Ingmar Bergman,
Tarkovsky. Pasolini, Fassbinder etc they are all source of artistic energy.
Is there anything you would change in your life, if you had the chance? In the world?
- To spend two days a week without smart phone or internet.
- To purify the planet from religion.
Can you share a story about social injustice? How do experiences like these manifest in your work?
In one of my visits to Cairo two years before the Revolution I rented a studio in a very popular area where there was a kiosk for distributing the subsidised bread. Every day I saw a long queue of people standing for hours to get some loaves. This daily scene inspired my installation Bread which depicts nine miserable figures standing in front of a large field of moulded bread.
The figures of this installation I took from a small painting painted in 1948 (when Egypt was a monarchy) by the Egyptian artist Abdelhady Al Gazzar who was jailed because of depicting the misery of the people in that painting which was shown in an exhibition where the king was attending. Using those figures, I wanted to show that since the military coup in 1952 nothing has
changed concerning the condition of the lower classes. It is the same miserable picture of the reality in Egypt during the past sixty years.
Your work in Afriques Capitales is called Labyrinth. How does the symbol of the labyrinth echo the current political and social situations of Egypt, and globally?
The political situation in the Middle East in general, especially after the Arab Spring, is like a labyrinth. No-body knows actually what is going on in the political arena.
Visit Youssef's website to learn more about his practice and see his installations, objects and paintings.
all images courtesy of the artist.