The Franco-Tunisian calligraphy artist eL Seed crafted an up-to-the-minute digital collage using the ubiquitous video chat service Zoom, with a tremendous new-found popularity as people around the world are confined to their homes amid the coronavirus lockdowns. The initiative relied on a group effort, gathering 49 strangers onto one virtual chat, each composing a crucial part to complete the larger artwork, whose prints will be sold to raise funds for hospitals in Paris, where he grew up, and Gabès, where his family hails from.
Artist eL Seed’s distinct Arabic calligraphy can be found on facades across the globe, consistently emphasizing the commonalities of human existence and unifying different communities despite cultural and geographic differences… this time around, his work truly transcended all borders, hosted in the virtual sphere.
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I believe the pictures in the previous post don’t do justice to what really happened on this Zoom 'meeting'. I am writing this with a huge smile on my face, and so many friends told me they were smiling for hours after the call. 49 homes from all around the world: Nigeria, USA, Portugal, Italy, China, Canada, UAE, Qatar, France, UK, Netherlands, Pakistan, Tunisia, Rwanda, Egypt, and Romania. The best part of it was not the artwork (I did my best to make it look as perfect as it should be), it was the ambiance, the energy, and the love everyone shared during the call. I got goosebumps every time I watched this today. @aloeblacc and @mayajupiter 's performance was uplifting and inspiring. The lyrics fit perfectly with the circumstances we are all living today. From Netherlands, Norah, Yarah, and Rosa showed us that talent doesn’t know age. I am their biggest fan! For over an hour we were all at the same level, in unison, sharing the same human condition. It was out of this world. I didn’t realize what was happening until the call was over and the participants left one by one. Everyone from wherever they are will have an impact on someone elsewhere in the world. Art is just a pretext. We did this to raise funds for a cause. I will edit an edition of 49 lithographs from the original artwork used for this project. Half of the proceeds will go to the hospital Ambroise Paré in @villedeboulognebillancourt , where I grew up in France, and the other half will go to the hospital Mohamed Ben Sassi of Gabes, where I am originally from in Tunisia. #artisapretext #thankyouall #elseed #fromNYtoTunis #KigalitoLA #MilantoCairo #SharjahtoLondon #KarachitoLisbon #LagostoMaastricht #Boulbi #Gabes 🎥 @mehdykhmili
Pieces to the puzzle
A fragment of the larger, completed artwork was sent to each volunteering member, by eL Seed, prior to the scheduled video chat, for them to appear in front of the backdropped image for the duration of the call.
At 1PM EST, on April 26 2020, each participant logged in at their specific time slot with their respective virtual backgrounds. eL Seed explains on his Instagram account: “I just had to synchronize the participants, shape the final picture, allowing people to enter the Zoom call according to their position on the artwork. Each person was a single instrument playing a solo. Person by person, I could witness the artwork taking shape. I had to trust everyone to do his or her part so we could create the artwork together. “
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I always say Art is a pretext. Yesterday night, I was more than ever convinced by this statement. Through Art and technology, 49 people from many different countries and backgrounds were united to share a unique moment of humanity. During this difficult time, what I miss the most is the human interactions that I live when I do my art projects. I believe we all have this heightened need for social interaction these days. André Malraux said: ‘Art, is the shortest path from one human being to another human being.’ I depicted the words of the French Novelist in Arabic on an artwork that I divided in 49 pieces. Each piece was sent to a person, all around the world. Then at 1PM EST time, on April 26 2020, everyone logged in with their respective virtual backgrounds. As the conductor, I just had to synchronize the participants, shape the final picture, allowing people to enter the Zoom call according to their position on the artwork. Each person was a single instrument playing a solo. Person by person, I could witness the artwork taking shape. I had to trust everyone to do his or her part so we could create the artwork together. Their part was to be on time, have a good internet connection and a laptop. It was amazing to see each person entering the room and to their surprise, being greeted by people from all over the world whether they knew them or not. There was an undeniable comradery that was genuinely endearing. The best part of it was not the artwork, it was the ambiance, the energy, and the love everyone shared during the call. This wouldn’t have been possible without the talented @aloeblacc who performed throughout the call, and the performance of the amazing Dutch dancers @norah_yarah_rosa . For over an hour we were all at the same level, in unison, sharing the same human condition. I didn’t realize what was happening until the call was over and the participants left one by one just as I had added them. Thanks to all of you who were there yesterday and also @tamir_ali_ for being an amazing artistic director , @hatem.jaziri @malikbettaieb @mehdykhmili and @ouahidb @dima_masoud and @bernardo_arnel for being the best team someone could dream of.
49 countries were represented including Nigeria, USA, Portugal, Italy, China, Canada, UAE, Qatar, France, UK, Netherlands, Pakistan, Tunisia, Rwanda, Egypt, and Romania.
As if it weren’t enough, a few famous guests were also of attendance, notably the chart-topping American singer Aloe Blacc, who serenaded the group throughout the call, alongside his wife and fellow singer Maya Jupiter. Dutch dancers Norah, Yarah and Rosa, Instagram stars who appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, also had an opportunity to liven up the group by showing off some of their moves.
Giving credit where credit is due
This project is far from his first that made waves internationally. A few years back eL Seed won the UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture and was named a Global Thinker by Foreign Policy for his project ‘Perception’ in Cairo. Despite his young age, he also managed to collaborate with Louis Vuitton on their famous ‘Foulard d’Artiste’ where eL Seed’s signature traditional Arabic-inspired calligraphy made an appearance in fuchsia and golden filigree, overlaying the Parisian luxury label’s classic monogram.