The 2010 Townhouse Independent Study Program (ISP) was born of the gallery’s experience in running curatorial workshops since 2007. It addressed the need to build a local base of individuals with the necessary knowledge to consider a career in the arts-whether in curating, critical writing, research or academia. By maintaining a strong focus on the different modern and contemporary art histories of the Middle East, the ISP pilot purported to instigate regional knowledge sharing while feeding into ongoing efforts to document contemporary art practices in Egypt and the broader region.
After issuing a call for applications in December 2009, a group of 22 participants was selected, the majority from Egypt, but also two Jordanian and a Bahraini participant. They came from diverse backgrounds and included artists, art historians, arts managers, journalists, writers and documentary filmmakers.
The ISP pilot ran from January through June 2010 and was structured around monthly seminars centering on the history and historiography of modern and contemporary Arab art. The program alternated critical seminars questioning the way regional art history is (and has been) written with survey courses chiefly centering on art practices in Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine and Iran. Prior to the events of early 2011, there were plans for the Townhouse ISP to be restructured and opened as a one-year program in cooperation with The American University in Cairo, but it ultimately remained a one-off project.
The Townhouse ISP was initiated and organized by Laura Carderera and was supported by Arts Collaboratory, the Goethe Institut, the Dutch Embassy in Egypt and Pro Helvetia.
The ISP seminars discussed Inquiries into the History of Arab Modernities in the Visual Arts (Rasha Salti and Kristine Khouri), contemporary Egyptian art (Clare Davies), the emergence of modernism in the region with emphasis on Lebanon and Palestine (Kirsten Scheid), contemporary Iranian art (Shiva Balaghi), contemporary Palestinian art (Adila Laïdi-Hanieh), critical introduction to Visual Anthropology and how it intersects with Visual Culture and Art – with particular emphasis on Lebanese video and photography (Mark Westmoreland), and a critical seminar on the future of the field (Dina Ramadan with Sarah Rogers).
The ISP participants were Ahmad Moez, Alexandra Stock, Atiaf Alwazir, Dominique Ellis, Eman Abdou, Fatenn Mostafa, Fatma Hendawy, Friederike Koppe, Ghada Kabesh, Hani Sami, Heba El-Cheikh, Heba Farid, Kegham Djeghalian, Lina Attalah, Maha Al Sahaf, Mai Elwakil, Mohamed Abdelkarim, Noura Al-Khasawneh, Philip Rizk, Samah Hihawi, Shuruq Harb, and Sophi Elsamni.