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Josette and Wissam discussing their collaborative social design project StereoTypo, in the Hamra offices of PenguinCube

November 24, 2012

Photos: Hussein Farran


Members: the PenguinCube design team
Focus: StereoTypo started as an independent project by the members of Beirut-based design collective, PenguinCube.  They created a series of playful exercises with their own font comprised of cartoon-like images  “inspired by a bomb-decorated Beirut and the terror-monger, post 9/11, Arab image”.   In the words of the creators:

StereoTypo is above all, tool for social commentary. With a collection of symbols and icons representing stereotypes commonly associated with Middle Eastern people, places and actions, StereoTypo is a font that aims to not only identify these common stereotypes but also to give the user a tool through which they can create their own statements either through composition or intervention. For this reason it is available as a completely free for use font. PenguinCube is a Beirut based design studio that has, despite its day to day commercial produce, always invested time and energy in self-commissioned, socially relevant, projects.

Stay alert and stereotype this!

A font.
A comment.
A bunch of ideas on your average stereotypes.

Activities: Some of the creative exercises built around in this font include: A newspaper paired the font images with fake writing, mimicing mainstream media’s profiting off the use of historical truisms.  Huge life-size cut-outs of the font images decorated art exhibitions, where visitors can pose with them for photos (at the Homeworks exhibition organized by Ashkal Alwan in 2005, Beirut). A facebook page invites users to download the font to create their own compositions.
Active: 2005 – Present
Contact: See the font at and


Visual artist Mohamed Abdelkarim, co-founder of Medrar

November 21, 2012

Katibe 5 discusses street art & hip hop, at a cafe in Hamra

November 21, 2012

Sanayeh House, a Jadmur Collective project

November 20, 2012

Jadmur Collective
Founding Members: Ghassan Maasri, Mansour Aziz
Focus: The Jadmur Collective represents an intervention into the constant destruction of Beirut’s historic buildings (which are being replaced with new commercial developments). It is comprised of two site-based projects: 3Studios visual arts residency and gallery space, and Sanayeh House arts project/living space, both housed in 1930s vintage apartment buildings schedeled to be demolished sometime in the not too distant future. It is “a way to keep [the old buildings] inhabited, prolong the destruction and open up a private space to public events,” says Ghassan Maasri. The approach differs from that of a public institution concerd with a schedule of events, visitor quotas, and institutional funding. Sanayeh house is funded by renting its rooms to workshop organizers, researchers, artists, and foreign visitors. When the space is not being used for theater workshops, aesthetic presentations, design classes, and contemporary-arts discussions, informal public evens are hosted by a network of artists, activists, writers, and friends, including screen filmings, artist talks, discussion groups and music nights.
Activities: The collective provides temporary living, creating, and sharing space for its ever-growing network of artists. By adopting a non-institutional protocol, private spaces are transformed into public artspaces through informal networks based upon friendships and word-of-mouth publicizing (as opposed to websites and fundraising common to institutional culture). Sanayeh House is an important incubation space for other independant arts start ups in the region, often hosting groups that do not have a permanent space. 98weeks research project held their first workshops here before opening up their own gallery/workshop space.
Active: 2008- Present
Contact: More information can be found by asking around in arts and cultural spaces in the Sanayeh and Hamra neighborhoods of Beirut, where Sanayeh House and other Jadmur Collective projects are well known.

Visual artist Ghassan Maasri of the Jadmur Collective, at Sanayeh House.

November 20, 2012

Co-founders Marwa Arsanios & Mirene Arsanios at 98weeks Research Project

November 20, 2012

98weeks research project
Founding Members: cousins Marwa Arsanios and Mirene Arsanios
Focus: A project space with a library, gallery, and small office in the Mar Mkhael neighborhood of Beirut, this is a place dedicated to arts research, “where artists, cultural practitioners and neighbors are welcome to propose ideas”. The Arsanios cousins conceive of art practice as research, a process that meshes theory with application, and at 98weeks can have a range of outcomes, from reading groups and seminars to workshops, community projects, publications and exhibitions.
Activities: The project opened with a series of walk/performance/narratives, As Long As I Am Walking (2008) with Francis Alÿs and Cuauhtémoc Medina, a workshop in which 14 participants, mainly artists, discussed the transformation of urban topographies and renewal as it is related to recent ruins at sites of the train station of Mar Mkayel and the National Museum in Beirut. It continues with an ongoing series of workshops and exhibitions, changing themes approximately every 98 weeks.
Active: 2007 – Present


Allam and Dia at Medrar for Contemporary Art’s offices and workshop space in the Saida Zeinab neighbourhood of Cairo.

November 19, 2012

Medrar for Contemporary Art

Founding Members: Mohammed Allam and Mohammed Abdelkarim, later joined by Dia Hamed
Focus: Medrar is an experimental platform for young emerging artists based in Egypt. Medrar founded and curates the Cairo Video Festival, an annual event held in tandem with their open source software lab series of workshops for emerging artists, Open Lab Egypt. With year-round exhibitions pairing video art with documentary pieces, Medrar often places in question mainstream media reporting on the Arab world, and the parameters of the Egyptian art scene. is a YouTube channel featuring contemporary arts and culture news from Egypt and the Arab region, using the Arabic language (no small feat in a scene where most art and culture publications and news are in English). features both formal events and informal gatherings between artists.
Activities: By using both fictional and documentary video, Medrar stakes a claim to an authentic voice that is playful and inventive when presenting Arab perspectives on stereotyped issues. In addition to, and the workshop and festival initiatives, exhibitions include Within the Region (2009), a traveling exhibition of short documentaries and experimental video art pieces by emerging Arab artists/filmmakers, addressing local/regional/global issues from insider perspectives. The aim is to address: “[Arab] ideological, political and cultural being, striving to depict different fragments of the reality of their being, in contrast to the stereotypical ways in which they are perceived.”
Active: 2005 – Present