COLLECTIVE BREAD DIARIES: A TASTE OF PROTEST

Haytham Nawar

BREAD AS AN ACT OF PROTEST

Looking back at the political history of the world, one finds that almost every revolution was triggered by a piece of bread. From Cairo to Tehran, Khartoum to Versailles, acts of protests have always instigated with the price of bread rising. Even today, bread is still regarded as the best tool through which capitalism, power, and social class.

are determined.

THE DIARIES

The vigorous events that echoed in the streets of Cairo throughout the 25th of January revolution have had a huge impact on my personal perception of bread in both cultural and political contexts, as an Egyptian citizen and artist.

 

“Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice”

 

These were the very chants cried out by thousands of people concisely expressing their economic, public, and social demands, echoing wildly throughout the streets of Egypt

in January 2011.

This prevailing wave of flour power was the seed from which a deep personal interest in bread evolved and further developed. I felt the urge to visually express my perception of bread, communicating the great significance of which it had become to me. From this, stemmed the project “Bread Diaries” back in 2011, which involved a diverse series of bread drawings, silk screen prints, and monochrome photography, delivering to the viewer an unusual visual interpretation of what they perceive as the “staff of life”.

 

The more I realized how bread was the trigger behind innumerable protests worldwide, the more I came to view it as a universal potent act of protest. The significance of bread surpassed its traditional boundaries that have long been rooted in our cultures and heritages. Bread went from merely being a nutritional necessity upon which people heavily rely on since the dawn of agriculture, to becoming a universal language through which people communicate their demands and views; one that people from all over the world agreed to utilize as an act of protest.

 

For that sole reality, the second version of the project, “Collective Bread Diaries: A Taste of Protest”, came to being as an art installation at which people from all over the world are granted the opportunity to draw and share their personal visual representations of bread, eventually forming an array of visual diaries, with each diary peculiar to its creator. Each bread drawing symbolizes the voice through which boundless acts of protests have been once remarkably echoed and recorded throughout the history of humanity.

 

A number of 100+ black vector drawings of bread were collected, alongside my own, from people from all over the world, via Mechanical Turk. The wide variety of bread diaries included individual submissions from Chile to China, South Africa to Denmark, as well as my home land, Egypt. These visuals were then recreated by a machine on large paper rolls at the exhibition area. The different representations of bread occupying the space became the physical setting where one’s intangible emotional values of culture, history, and traditions were no longer abstract ideas, but were rather transformed by a machine into physical depictions that are re reflected and perceived by a vast audience. The original drawings were collected in a catalogue, documenting the variety of drawing and illustration styles that were featured in the project, from participants from all over

the world.

 

The project is a timeless ongoing experience, one that is subject to further development as time goes by.

THE EXHIBITION


The opening of the “Collective Bread Diaries: A Taste of Protest” exhibition took place on the 5th of April, 2018 at the UCLA Art|Sci Center Gallery.

The exhibition featured a live performance of a machine (ROLAND: CAMM-1SERVO) that recreated the collected drawings of bread, in which the drawings’ vector files were sent from the computer to the machine’s system to initiate the drawing process. 


Ultimately, over sixty bread drawings were machine-generated on 10 meters long and 60 cm wide sheets of paper that have been hung on the gallery’s wall throughout the exhibition’s running period. The audience witnessed the live mechanical generation of the drawings that were previously manually created by individuals from all over the world.

Individuals roamed around the gallery inspecting the countless types of bread, each belonging to a certain country and its people, drawn on the rolls of paper in varying size, and the meticulous strokes forming each drawing. The original bread sketches, diaries, shared universally via MTurk, were documented in the exhibition catalog for

visual reference.

 

This comprehensive journey of visual expression emphasizes the conscious perception of one’s distinct identity. In essence, “Collective Bread Diaries” attempts to push the boundaries of human machine interaction, investigating the infinite possibilities set by the context of collective intelligence.

 

This project was exhibited at the UCLA Art|Sci Center Gallery as part of my Fulbright Visiting Artist/Post-doctorate research fellowship

 

A special thanks to UCLA Art | Sci Center + Lab, Fulbright Commission in Egypt, The American University in Cairo and

to everyone who shared their distinctive voices of dough, making this project happen