The Egyptian revolution prompted a shift in my work as an artist. I started to work less on painting in my studio and, responding to the revolution as an event made by the public, I began to work in public. This change in my practice continues as I continue to make work that invites interaction and responds to what is happening in the moment.
The idea for If I Were President came from the presidential campaign posters that started taking over all of the public spaces in the city in 2012. The posters might have slogans or huge pictures of the candidate, but there was no space for dialogue with the public. This one-sided relationship, in which the candidate makes a promise to the people—‘Freedom (hurrya, حرية), Justice (adala, عدالة), In God’s Name (bismillah, بسم الله)’- without explaining how to achieve it or even what it might mean, drove me to make posters with which the people could have their own presidential campaign.
In 2012 and 2014, during two separate Egyptian presidential elections, I posted thousands of blank posters in and outside of the city center of major Egyptian cities with only the words, “If I Were President.” The blank space below this statement gave a platform for people to write what they want, but others could come after them and edit or add their own ideas. In this way, every poster in the city said something different while being part of the same campaign.
I then created videos based on interviews in the communities and screened them in the same neighborhood. The project was replicated by BBC Arabic in Yemen and Tunisia during their presidential elections.