Perceptions of Perception

The Prague Post

Artist ponders how we see things in hybrid creation

“How can I do an art piece about perception when I don’t understand what it is?” Artist Karim Talaat asked himself as he began work on his master’s thesis for the Academy of Art, Architecture and Design.

Talaat may have answered his own question by producing 2210 Layers – part sculpture, part book and now on display at the Canadian Embassy – but a resolution to the larger query of what perception actually is appears to have remained elusive.

Talaat had read 89 peer-reviewed research articles and three books in trying to find out how people form opinions for his thesis. Every one of those sources was retyped, printed, cut and bound into this 2,210 page, 38-centimeter-tall tome, which remains technically “”pocket-size”” at 12×18 centimeters.

“[The book] goes with the methodology of how we are formed; the layers you are exposed to make you,” he said. “Talking, researching, meeting people – it all adds to who you are and how you perceive things.”

Talaat says his initial question of how people form opinions goes back to visiting museums with his mother as a child.

“She would like a piece; I would hate it,” said. “I have learned that everyone looks at art in a different way, and their own opinion is founded in what they’ve learned and been exposed to.”

The display at the embassy is small, tucked into a corner of the lobby. Under one Plexiglass case sits the book, closed and upright and very tall. In the second case, the book is splayed open like a rainbow.

For some lighter reading, the sources in the book have been compiled into a mini pamphlet, eight doubled-sided A1 sheets of paper, with the bibliography of every book and article contained in the book. Whether or not you choose to explore the topic as in depth as Talaat, he hopes the display is thought-provoking.

“There’s more than one way of looking at something, and you need to be open to different perceptions,” he said. “I’m not a scientist but an artist, and the scope of vision toward art is different for artists and doctors.”

Talaat, from Toronto, originally came to Prague three and a half years ago on a study exchange program. He decided to stay to complete his master’s degree, which he has now received. He’s also started his own event management company, Sensoria Productions, which among other things promotes art in unexpected places, like the Canadian Embassy.

“This is our first exhibit. We don’t really have an exhibition space; usually, we collaborate with other galleries or museums,” said Pavla Bartcková, public diplomacy officer for the embassy. “I thought the extent of the piece was perfect. It doesn’t invade the space, and now people coming here have an art piece by a Canadian artist living and studying in Prague.”

For Talaat, the concept of perception remains an open question.

“Every methodology refutes another. This project itself refutes everything else,” he said. “The writing is about everything, but it’s open to all interpretations, which means it has no grounding in how we think. ? What is art if not a caricature of a moment? This is a caricature of understanding how we see.”

Replicas of the 2210 Layers original take five weeks to make, and interested parties can purchase one for 40,000 Kc ($2,000).