Portalis Collaborator Interview – Marwa Ali

What influences did you draw on for this project?

Mostly my influences were drawn from the Hollow Earth exhibition, while also considering the Epilogue of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. This text resonated with a previous project and helped enhance my understanding of the representation of caves as a safe space, and as a space of transformation.

What processes did you use in your work?

As this is a collaborative process, it was vital to work with each collaborator to plan the process of documentation. This included visiting the workspaces of each artist and designer to learn about their process while photographing their work in progress.

Marwa holding a digital camera

Did you try new approaches for this project?

Most of my documentation process has been influenced entirely by how the artists worked, so to adapt my process according to others was a new approach for me.

What feelings or meanings do you imagine your work conveys?

With the photography for this exhibition, it was important to convey the artists and designers and their processes in a natural and documentative setting - to portray the essence of discovery through making or designing. Whilst working, I referenced Hollow Earth, which presented how caves have been used as a spaces for making and displaying art.

Marwa holding a digital camera

How does your work for Portalis relate to your past work?

My specialities are in architecture and documentary photography are influenced by personal experiences. In my work there is always a recurring theme of investigating and discovering what spaces are used for. I am also interested to see how spaces have been used by public audiences, and in understanding how spaces are created by practitioners in architecture, engineering and so on. Documenting for Portalis after a trip to the City of Caves, reminded me of processes from previous projects - of learning about and photographing historical and cultural landmarks.

Will this project influence some aspect of your future practice? If so, what and how?

Absolutely. Working alongside each collaborator has helped enhance my creative thinking skills and my ability to develop solutions for problems in future projects. For Portalis, my role was to document everything behind the scenes, and the process of offering and receiving artistic ideas was enlightening, as well as contributing ideas to how material space was designed by the interior architects. Being part of the planning process meant I was aware of the things I needed to consider when photographing work. Also, working alongside Graphic Designers helped me to produce images to compliment the colour themes of Portalis visual identity.

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