Thursday, February 24, 2011

Local Artist Dwyane Butcher interviews Paul Garner about "From Cairo to Memphis"

(reposted from 

Paul Garner is an artist and musician born and bred in Shreveport,
Louisiana, currently residing in Memphis, TN. Paul is preparing to graduate with his BFA from the Memphis College of Art in May 2011. He is an active member in the MemphisISC.

Dwayne Butcher: Can you talk a little bit about the upcoming event, From Cairo 2 Memphis?

Paul Garner: The event is being held Friday, February 25th from 6-9pm in the
Callicott Auditorium at Memphis College of Art (1930 Poplar Ave). We
have several speakers talking on a range of subjects related to the ongoing revolutions across the Mid-East. I’m also really excited, because we’re going to be going LIVE with a few folks in Cairo, to get some perspective and analysis from the Arab world. We are also going to have a panel Q&A. 

Scheduled speakers will include Dr. Rob Canfield, Ahmed Zaafan (via skype),
Zeina Salem (via skype), Saad Kamel (via skype), Neal Gammill, Ahmed
Elnahas, Merci Decker, and Justin Sledge. 

DB: Why did you decide you needed to have such an event?

PG: I was at a group meeting at the (Mid South Peace and Justice Center) to discuss recent FBI raids on peace activist groups. The Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt had just happened and a lot of folks wanted to do something in solidarity with the people. We established a committee and organized a very successful demonstration at the intersection of Poplar and Highland, calling for the immediate step-down of Mubarak, an end to US funding of dictatorships, and to show solidarity with the Egyptian people. It was great event, but the situation has continued to develop and the spirit of revolution has spread. We felt that we needed to do an event specifically aimed at education, awareness, and hopefully generating a more informed dialogue between members of the Memphis community.

DB: Was MCA open to the idea? Do they have any special requests about
such an event? Are they helping you in any way?

PG: We are happy that MCA has agreed to let us use their space for the
event, and I believe there is an opening for an illustration show
dealing with topics of social justice going on simultaneously that
evening. The Student Alliance at MCA are really the folks responsible
for securing the space for us to use and we’ve had a lot of
co-operation from different faculty members and administrators. I
think it’s really significant to have something like this going on at
the Art College because it’s important that young artists are in tune
with current social/political events, especially with what we’re
seeing develop right now in the Middle-East. I think it’s a really
exciting subject for art-makers.

DB: What would you like to see happen as a result of this event?

PG: I think the main goal of the event is education, awareness, and
continued community participation. We plan to do a call to action and
provide attendees with sources for more information on ways to get
involved. Memphis International Solidarity Committee (the people who
put this thing together) are still getting organized as a group and we
hope that this and other up-coming events will foster participation
from anyone who wishes to be included. Also, more information will be
available at our new blog,

DB: Is it just about Egypt and the Middle East? What about recent
uprising in Wisconsin?

PG: Actually, one of the main focuses of the event is exploring the
various connections between the United States and the Middle East,
which includes the relationship between the struggles taking place in
the Arab World and here at home.

DB: Do you make socially conscious work? Can you talk a little bit
about your own work?

PG: Yes. Most of my work gravitates toward satire or social/political
commentary. Over the past four or five years, I have made
socio-political issues a main focus of my work. I’ve done several
pieces that deal with urban sprawl and homelessness in Memphis, which
is a huge problem here. I feel like the ability to create images is a
powerful gift. I am fascinated by the roles music, poetry and visual
art making have played as means of progressive resistance to
oppression throughout history.

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