Twenty-five is special. This, the twenty-fifth issue of Bidoun: Art and Culture from the Middle East, responds to the Egyptian revolution that began on the 25th of January. (Twenty-five is also the median age of the Egyptian people.) In April and May, a group of Bidoun editors took over the first floor of The Townhouse Gallery in downtown Cairo, five minutes from Tahrir Square, to better understand what happened, and what did not happen, during the eighteen days of revolt, and after. We wanted to think critically about art and revolution and whether it was possible to make a magazine that wouldn't totally betray either. And so we walked around and looked and talked and—especially—we listened.
Bidoun 25 is the result, a rough and ready document, bristling with words—the product of over fifty unique interviews in Arabic and English, along with roundtable discussions, political party platforms, TV transcriptions, overheard dialogue, public apologies, dreams, tweets, and email forwards. Conversations and as-told-to tales appear amid found texts of every kind, from soap-operatic Mubarak family melodramas to post-revolutionary paperbacks to lists of looted antiquities and a compendium of negations found in news headlines (from "EGYPT IS NOT LIBYA" to "ZIMBABWE IS NOT EGPYT, HONEST.") Bidoun 25 is our most collaborative issue yet, produced in concert with dozens of Egyptian writers, artists, architects, and activists (including guest editor Yasmine El Rashidi). The result, we hope, is a kind of composite portrait, at once disjointed and revealing, partial but not trivial.
Inside, you'll meet the first family of the revolts, an intergenerational (and confusingly named) activist band that includes, among others human rights lawyer Ahmed Self El-Islam, computer whiz Alaa Abd El Fattah, and Sanaa Seif, a seventeen-year-old whose new magazine, Gornal, was born in Tahrir Square. You'll encounter Ramy Raoof, an activist and new media maven famous for tweeting while being chased by police, as well as Mahmoud Othman, a writer whose 2007 sci-fi novel, Revolution 2053 prophesied a revolution in Egypt that spreads through the Internet. You'll listen in as an activist who stormed the interior ministry leafs through her monumental security file, and hear the story of how news anchor Shahira Amin quit her job on state TV rather than propagandize against the revolution. Legendary feminist author Nawaal El Sadaawi is at once vindicated and vexed by the revolution; contingency artist Ganzeer is vindicated and vexed by his conversation with Bidoun, especially in re: his project to paint a street mural for each of the 846+ people killed during the eighteen days.