Search archive


Common Elements

007 / 8 May 2014

Common Elements (2013)

Common Elements is an installation made from 54 framed text panels, 14 framed c-prints, five wooden sculptures, five painted white plinths, and source panels and captions. The project challenges the stability of memory, something Fawz Kabra discusses in her essay on the project as part of Platform 007, for which Issa has produced this online presentation.



On the work, Kabra notes:

In Common Elements (2013), a systematic methodology enables Iman Issa to contemplate the instability of memory when it comes to the personal and the collective, the singular and the universal, and the specific and the particular, which references both individual and collective histories. It adopts a method of looking into the past and extracting narratives and meanings to assemble new combinations through abstracted texts, images, and sculptures that speak to a particular present and potential future. As opposed to recollections, memory is instead reimagined, allowing for new forms to emerge. The starting point for the installation was a selection of phrases from four autobiographies by Arab thinkers, activists and authors: Mourid Barghouti, Taha Hussein, Nawal El Saadawi and Edward Said – central figures in Arab cultural knowledge, they redefined political and cultural Arab thought and post-colonial theory, a voice for the oppressed and advocates of human rights. What followed was the production of images and objects using those selected phrases, chosen for their personal resonance with the artist – a sort of déjà vu in which the text demands a double take as it becomes absorbed into the familiarity of not the author, but of another.


Read the full essay here.


About the author

Iman Issa

Iman Issa (b. 1979, Cairo, Egypt) is an artist based in Cairo and New York. She studied visual arts at the American University in Cairo and at Columbia University, where she received her MFA in 2007. Her practice deals with questions pertaining to the available forms and methods for representing personal history, perception and experience, and how these intersect with shared and familiar languages. She has participated in exhibitions in Turkey, Germany, Norway, Korea, Egypt, the UK, Ireland and Italy. 


Recent group and solo exhibitions include: Tensta Konsthall, Spanga, M HKA, Antwerp, New Museum, New York, KW Institute of Contemporary Art, Berlin, Sculpture Center, New York, and the Contemporary Image Collective in Cairo. Books include Thirty-three Stories about Reasonable Characters in Familiar Places  published by the Sculpture Center in 2011. In 2012 Issa was awarded the inaugural HNF-MACBA Award.