A Conversation with Artist Abed Al Kadiri on The Mailbox Project

During the global lockdown in March 2020, the Lebanese artist and publisher launched an initiative to unite Middle Eastern artists across the world through art


Rebecca Anne Proctor



Making of the Sketchbooks of The Mailbox Project at Dongola, Courtesy of Dongola Limited Editions



What inspired you to start The Mailbox Project?


The project stemmed in the beginning from my experience working on my own artist book for the first time ever during the lockdown. It was an extreme relief to finally have a moment of serenity. At the time I was tackling personal issues in my life through my artistic practice which then became the artist book. From this intimate process, I came up with the idea to transform my experience from the personal to the collective by inviting my friends to try the same method. What made that project more tangible is the fact that all airports and public spaces where closed except the cargo, so I remembered the quote of John Baldessari when he said: ‘It’s difficult to put a painting in a mailbox.’ I read this quote a few days before the launch of the whole project—that became as solid as it is now—and from this quote the whole vision of the project came into reality. So, we started buying papers and producing ‘the artist book’ and the project took the shape we know now. We then sent them to selected Middle Eastern artists in different cities around the world.


Detail from Faisal Samra’s Artist’s Book Pandemic, Courtesy of the artist



How have you observed that artists have used the book to create their art? Have you noticed that the project has pushed them to experiment in different ways?


Though many of the artists are familiar with the concept of the artist’s book or have previously worked on artists’ books, at least half of them in this project have never used or practiced through an ‘artist book’ before. Definitely, this was a great experience for them. Nearly all of them were in touch with me throughout the process to explain how they were experimenting and working on the idea. For instance, after working on this project many of them will now consider the artist’s book to be part of their practice. The feedback was very rewarding from these artists whether they did an artist book before or not because all of them had the opportunity to connect with the idea by reflecting on the current global situation.


Hoda Tawakol Artist’s Book, Courtesy of the artist



As many nations, including Lebanon, reopen after months of lockdown, do you find that artists are creating in the same way?


I think the pandemic and quarantine was an intense experience and whether the artist managed to work during the lockdown or didn’t, I'm sure that this experience has changed something in our perspectives. I think all artists were sensitive towards the new situation and the life and the circumstances we’re living in.


Detail of Hoda Twakol Artist’s Book, Courtesy of the artist



What are your aspirations for the project? Do you wish it to become a book and also an exhibition?


The project is ambitious and we’re hoping that once the artists have completed the books, the works [the books] will see the light in a good space. Hopefully, we will collaborate with institutions that are interested to show the resulting work of 57 Arab artists working in different countries around the world, and of course as a publishing house via Dongola, which I co-founded, we are keen to document this experience in a book.


Detail from Kevork Mourad’s Artist’s Book, Courtesy of the artist



Work in Progress, Zoulikha Bouabdellah in her studio, Courtesy of the artist



Work in Progress, Zoulikha Bouabdellah in her studio, Courtesy of the artist



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