Lesson: Ayman Ramadan: Koshary min Zamman

  • Grade Level: High School (9-12 grade)
  • Subject Area: Art, Global Studies, Literature, Geography
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.
  • Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.Installation detail of "Koshary min Zamman," 2006.

Introduction

Written by artist and Hub Fellow Ayman Ramadan.
Koshary min Zamman is an installation based on koshary shops that features stacks of disposable bowls emblazoned with a fictitious restaurant logo and photographs capturing international political figures eating koshary—a staple carbohydrate meal of the working class in Egypt.
The photographs evoke a criticism on the short-lived peace negotiations that, like koshary, satiate the appetite very quickly and give a temporary feeling of self-satisfaction and contentment. As a part of a “happening” visitors had the opportunity to taste koshary and socialize in this simulated shop in the New Museum theatre.

Objectives

  • Students will learn about the history of the avant-garde movement of the Situationist International.
  • Students will discuss the role of artists in communities.
  • Students will discuss art as a site of intervention.

Vocabulary

Kosary is a carbohydrate-filled meal that has become a staple, inexpensive source of food for the working class in Egypt.
Happening refers to a performance, event or situation meant to bridge the gap between art and life.
Appropriation is an artistic practice of borrowing preexisting forms and/or images to create a new work.

Materials

Ayman Ramadan’s images in the Digital Archives

Lesson Strategy

Look at Koshary min Zamman, 2008.

  • What materials or objects does the artist use in this installation?
  • Who are the figures in the photographs?
  • Why do you think the artist chose these figures?
  • How has the artist altered from the original photograph?
  • Why do you think the containers are a part of this installation?

These images where shown on a screen during the opening night of Koshary Min Zamman. The artist who created the installation, Ayman Ramadan, and fellow artists Nader and Sherif Sadek served koshary from a makeshift stall. Museum visitors were able to participate in the exhibition by eating a casual meal at shared tables, as is typical of koshary restaurants in Egypt.

  • How do you think the artist was engaging the viewers?
  • What does it mean to break bread with someone?
  • How can sharing a meal with a stranger open up a discussion?
  • What ideals were the artists sharing with this self-organized community?
  • How is the artist using metaphor in this work?
  • What concept is the artist trying to make clear in this installation?
  • In what ways do the other parts of the installation support this concept?

Every neighborhood in Egypt is home to multiple koshary restaurants or mobile kiosks that sell koshary on the street. This spicy dish is a mix of carbohydrates—pasta, rice, and lentils—smothered in a rich tomato sauce and topped with fried onions. It is always served in generous proportions and leaves one feeling full and lethargic, content to wait out the time until the next meal. Koshary is delicious, unhealthy, and inexpensive, and many Egyptians eat it frequently, out of financial necessity.
Throughout the twentieth century until today, the Middle East has been the subject of repeated peace agreements, forums, and dialogues. Whether those involved in the talks are Arabs, Europeans, or Americans, the results have generally been the same. Hands are shaken, photographs taken, and the leaders return to their homes feeling much the way someone does after finishing up the last of the koshary in the bowl: content, satisfied, as though the problem of hunger is solved . . . until the grumble of discontent begins again.

Koshary min Zamaan makes this concept clear through the mix of photographic images of politicians eating koshary, piles of plastic containers, and takeaway stickers, the opening night “meal” added a relational element to the work. As Thus, Americans were able to experience for themselves both the appetizing taste and the sluggish hangover of koshary: empty calories, like so much political rhetoric.

  • Based on our discussion about the Situationist International, how would you interpret Ayman Ramadan’s work?
  • What Situationist terms would you use to describe Ramadan’s work?
  • What role do you think the artist is playing?
  • Does art have a role in politics?
  • In what ways can it be a site of intervention?

Homework

Students will research other artists who have explored the ideas of the Situationist, deciding how these strategies may inform their own artistic practice.

Artists to consider:
Gordan Matta Clark
Adrian Piper
Rirkrit Tiravanija
Paulina Lasa

Additional Resources

Georg Simmel, “The Metropolis and Mental Life”
Jan Rothuizen’s Web site
The Last Tourist
Situationist International online
Tarek Zaki’s Web site
Susan Hefuna’s Web site

Lesson Plan: Ayman Ramadan: Koshary min Zamman

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