The concept of ‘Imagining the Book' emerged out of the need to support cultural & artistic interaction in the global context, through encouraging and celebrating diversity, plurality and the multiplicity of voices. This event, conceived and organized by Dr. Mohamed Abu El-Naga, an independent artist and was implemented jointly with the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which has become a home for cultural expression and interaction in the region as well as internationally – providing a base and perspective from the ‘South'.
The first event of ‘Imagining the Book' was successful in achieving its aims and generated a creative energy among participants (internal and external) which stressed the need for the continuation of such efforts in the future. The support of leading figures from the Bibliotheca, Dr. Ismail Serag El-Din, Director of the Bibliotheca, and Mr. Sherif Mohie El-Din, the head of the artistic programs, was an important factor which ensured the success of the event.
Dr. Ismail announced that ‘Imagining the Book' will become the first Biennale for the Bibliotheca which concerns itself with the artistic book and the books of artists. This announcement was received with great appreciation, as the concept itself has to evolve and re-formulate itself based on the actual lived experience and testimonies of the artists and the continued dialogue between ideas and artistic experiences, an element which is unique to this Biennale.
The spirit of cooperation and coordination between the organizing groups was also an important factor contributing to the success of this venture, as was the high level and diversity of the artistic products.
Participation in the first international exhibition was as follows:
120 artists from 25 countries.
64 Arab and foreign artists participating in the art workshops.
30 artists participating through their work.
56 Egyptian artists.
The International exhibition was held in four halls and art centers in Alexandria.
The two main exhibition halls in the bibliotheca, where 77 artists participated with their products from the workshops.
The Alexandria Atelier, where 15 artists exhibited their work.
The French Cultural Center, where 17 artists exhibited their work.
The Goethe Institute, where 9 artists exhibited their work.
The concept for ‘imagining the book' is based on the idea of the book as a work of art. This contemporary artistic form transcends the idea of the book as a bearer of knowledge. In its place the essence of knowledge takes the place of the essence of the book. Christine Nelson explains that “This idea was born through a long period of human history, and comes to us from the discourse of the 10 th century A.D Islamic philosophers, who expounded the concepts of the hidden and explicit, transference and the unity of being, all concepts which unify the medium with the objective or mission”. Within this concept the form (medium) is bound to the content (idea) in a breakable unity - as expressed in the idea of the book as an ‘artistic work'.
This idea, of the book as a work of art and the artists work as a book, was discussed in the international seminar held over two days, in which a number of artists, academics and critics, took part. In addition, the seminar also listened to the artists' own testimonies.