The Status Hour Audio Journal podcast recently featured an interview with Heba Y. Amin, an Egyptian artist and academic. Perhaps best known for her part in covering the set of “Homeland” in subversive graffiti, Amin spoke about her other projects and the way in which art can be politically powerful, particularly in responding to and reflecting rapidly shifting political landscapes.
Amin’s work explores political narrative, revolution, and surveillance. She expresses these themes through interesting metaphors and jarring juxtapositions and disruptions. “But that is the power of art,” she said, “because you have this freedom to put these things together in a way that, in any other kind of context you would not be able to put it together. And my hope is that with my work I can put forward these things that allow people to make connections and contemplate these issues in ways that make them think about more complex narratives, not these shallow one-dimensional narratives that are often presented in the media. If anything that is what I attempt to do with my work.”
A partial transcript of the interview appears below:
Adel Iskander (AI): You said a lot of really important and jarring words: ephemerality, trespassing, ambiguity, and hallucination. Listening to those terms I was actually immediately struck by the extent to which they are congruous with another project that you worked on which is Homeland: Hackjob—and you have to credit me for not starting with that.
Heba Amin (HA): [Laughs] Right, I am now constantly being introduced as the Homeland hacker.
AI: I think most of our listeners would probably be familiar with that particular intervention. But it accrued (sic) to me that there is a fair amount of parallel between these two interventions. I mean, voices that were expressed in The Homeland Hackjob are basically, again, faceless voices that you guys had to trespass to produce that kind of work. You were invited, [HA: Under a different premise]. So, can you tell us about the parallels between these two works and how they relate to each other in as a contemplative experience?
HA: Yeah, sure. I mean, it is really interesting actually to look back at these projects and see that somehow this Homeland incident really does fit within the broader themes of my work, because I really was not so conscious of it. There was something very instinctive—again you know in the same way that Project Speak to Tweet came about. There is something very instinctive about what I did and I guess it has now become a natural reaction to these kinds of things. When the Homeland opportunity came about, of course my initial reaction was we clearly need to use this opportunity and see how far we can go with this. And you are absolutely right; there are a lot of parallels because we are also dealing with these ambiguous public, urban spaces. One thing that was really interesting about the Homeland set that we put this subversive graffiti in this hyper-realistic Syrian refugee camp. That in and of itself was really a fascinating thing because Homeland was attempting to create a very detailed set of a Syrian refugee camp while really addressing the Syrian narrative. So, it was again about putting narrative into space and so, even though we put graffiti that was not related to the Syrian narrative, we later were invited to make a film about this Homeland Hack.
Read the full transcript and listen to the interview here.