Book// Sidewalk Salon: 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo
Manar Moursi and David Puig
Sidewalk Salon: 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo is an art book that presents a portrait of the capital of Egypt as seen through the lens of the thousands of curious chairs that dot the sidewalks of Cairo. With a documentary photographic approach, our book seeks to present the creative practices of design that occur on the sidewalks along with the unplanned interventions in the public space that give Cairo its distinctive character.
Manar Moursi of studio meem and David Puig of ediciones de a poco present in their art book a curated collection of alternative views of Cairo’s ever-changing urban scene. This city has generated a lot of attention since the 2011 uprising. Their take on Cairo departs from the overtly political approach that has prevailed since then in the media and in a wide range of publications, and proposes an intimate perspective of the city exploring its material culture, presenting an emblematic object of its streets and giving voice to its users. The result is nevertheless a critical inquiry into the unequal socio-economic, gender and power dynamics at play in the public spaces of the city.
This book is the result of 3 years of collecting more than 1000 Polaroid images of the street chairs of Cairo gathered in neighborhoods as diverse as Shubra El Kheima, Khalifa and New Cairo.
The images in the book gives the reader a glimpse into the editors’ method of urban empiricism and journeys on foot through the city, in which they have documented street chairs by indexing on maps the locations of the seats photographed. The series sections reveal common formal characteristics of street chairs, while shedding a light on multiple techniques of recycling and redesign that people use to repair and improve their seats. Some of those series group together particular types of seats widespread on the streets of Cairo, like armchairs and sofas, or curious pairs of twin chairs also found regularly on the pavement. Other sequences focus on the life cycle of chairs, showing different phases of their decay—from their amputations to their final collapse—or the miracle of their recovery with the help of various prostheses.
While the bulk of the material presented in Sidewalk Salon: 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo is visual, the book also include several interviews conducted with street chair owners and users. From fruit sellers and parking attendants to poets sitting in Tahrir Square, each revealed their own perspective of the city in flux. Short pieces of fiction and poems inspired by street chairs, commissioned for this project sought to bring the reader closer to the occupants of street chairs.
The visual identity and the design of Sidewalk Salon: 1001 Street Chairs of Cairo have been developed by the Dutch designer Sandra Kassenaar.
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