Egyptian-born Marwa Benhalim has been interested in power dynamics
and politically based work since her undergraduate studies at The American University in Cairo.
Since arriving in the US to study at Southern Methodist University, Benhalim found a faculty
and community open to her artistic concerns, guiding and challenging her to discover multiple disciplines.
“Having the space and materials to experiment with techniques opened the door for me to explore new ways to think about my ideas.
Throughout the past two years there have been professors pushing me to think theoretically about why I am doing something. So it’s grounded in a better way.”
She took advantage of open studio hours with professors of other disciplines,
working with the film department and even directing a film last year under the mentorship of the film department’s Assistant Professor, Amber Bemak.
“It was good to be engaged with other departments.
It’s a little more difficult to be interdisciplinary because the arts building doesn’t help you; it’s big and divided.
There’s the art side, theatre side, and the music department is in the basement.
So it’s harder to work with other people, but there have been situations where I was able to.”
Benhalim began experimenting with different ways to explore notions of power from the point of view of an international student in a new environment.
“The concept of power is something I have been interested in for a very long time, since my bachelor’s degree.
In the MFA program I tried to experiment further and really push the concept.
Especially struggling with this idea of being a foreigner in the From left to right:
Marwa Benhalim, Manual of Political Laughter 1; Marwa Benhalim, The Chair US
and talking about power and control in regards to my experience here and what that means.”
A cultural symbol in Egypt, the chairs found in marketplace and tea shops have become a symbol of power for her to research and apply her theories to.
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