"365 damaskuswien" - an intercultural calendar book

As a unique example for an intermedia transfer, the "Damascus Transfer Project", guided by Christian Reder and Simonetta Ferfoglia, was started 2001 at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Out of this initiative, art works at a high level were developed and presented at the exhibition "urban orient.ation" in Vienna, Damascus and Budapest. "365 damaskuswien" by the graphic artist Angelika Mathis is one of these interdisciplinary works.
The project, which has been awarded with the "Joseph Binder Award 2004" and the first prize at the contest "Innovation Lab 2003", aims at fostering the intercultural dialogue between young people in Syria and Austria.

It is based on an Arabic-German calendar book for pupils in Syria and Austria. Over the period of one school year the book serves them as a daily companion, - giving them an understanding of current aspects of both cultures.
The project has been realised in co-operation with many culturally active persons in Austria and Syria.

A dialogue at three levels
The intercultural dialogue is initiated on a graphic/typographic level, intensified through texts written by persons engaged in different cultural sectors in Syria and Austria, and carried on by the use of the medium as a diary or calendar book.

The graphic composition of the project book has been designed by Angelika Mathis at the University of Applied Arts under the supervision of Fons M. Hickmann.
A rotation of 180” creates a common reading direction for the Arabic and German texts throughout the book and the typographic details stimulate a harmony of the two writing systems. Atmospheric photographs by the German photographer Cem Yücetas add an extra component to the design of the book.

On the "text level", cultural projects are exemplarily presented - in a way that interconnections are created and similarities are shown. Interviews with the movie directors Barbara Albert and Nabil Maleh give an insight into the topic "cinema" in Austria and Syria; short stories by the writers Barbara Frischmuth and Colette Bahna guide through the chapter about literature; and Nikolaus Gansterer writes about his work with the "First Austrian Vegetable Orchestra", while the Syrian singer Rasha Rizk describes her project "Ittar Shamaa" for Arabic Jazz Music. Further texts which cover a wide variety of topics are written by Gebhard Fartacek, Ayman Haykal, Korinna Lindinger, Angelika Mathis, Nora Mourad, Maha Osman, Richard Pettauer, Christian Reder, Petra Rückstätter, Mayssa Sioufi and Stefanie Wuschitz.

Finally, through the function of the book as a diary or calendar book, the dialogue is continued on a third level. The book participates in the daily life of the young people, who are no longer "passive readers" of texts but active users of the diary. This way a basis is created to enable a modern exchange and mutual understanding.

Distribution of the books at schools in Austria and Syria
In October 2004 about 700 books were distributed to school classes in Damascus, in Vienna, in Vorarlberg and in Steyr. The pupils aged between 13 and 18 years participated in the project "365 damaskuswien" as project partners for one school year. Throughout 365 days the books served them as a basis for their cultural dialogue. Further activities like workshops, supporting projects of the teachers and direct mail contact contributed to the intercultural consciousness of the project partners in Austria and Syria.

Graphic and typographic elements of the book
* When two books are joined together, the "logo" of the book (the intersecting numbers of 365) - appears as a metaphor for the dialogue between the Syrian and the Austrian pupils.
* A rotation of 180 degrees creates a common direction for both the German and the Arabic users throughout the book. Consequently the readers are not moving "contra each other" (like it is usually done in Arabic-German books because of the different reading directions) but together into the same direction.
* On the first few pages the (in Syria mainly used) "Indian numbers" and the (in Austria and Syria used) "Arabic numbers" get mixed in a playful way and subsequently lead as a "mixed line" throughout the 365 days of the calendar book.
* On the transparent pages at the beginning of each month the topics of the months (like literature, music, daily life, theatre, movies, internet etc.) are introduced through typographic illustrations and the themes like "dialogue" and "intersection" are visualised and reinforced.
* The selection of the Arabic and the Latin fonts, as well as the used print space, don't create a "separateness of two different writing systems" but a harmonic, typographic coalescence.

Exhibitions and awards for the concept and the design of the project
* Joseph Binder Award 2004 (A)
* Innovation Lab 2003 (A): 1st price
* distinction at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna (A)
* presentation at the exhibition "urban orient.ation", project space of the "Kunsthalle Wien" (A), Beit Barudi Damascus (SYR) and "Kunsthalle Budapest" (HU) 2003.
* presentation at the exhibition "The Essence 2003", 20er Haus Wien (A)
* book presentation at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, 2004 (A)

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