Tunisian-French calligraffiti artist eL Seed’s immediately recognisable style has adorned walls, art galleries, and most famously, entire neighbourhoods. Now, he’s taken the quarantined world’s most ubiquitous cultural novelty – the Zoom call – as his newest medium.
“Art is the shortest path from one man to another and a bridge between nations,” reads the calligraphy in the background of a composite image of 49 participants on video conferencing tool Zoom. The quote is by French novelist and former minister of cultural affairs, André Malraux, and is both the goal and means of the artwork.
The final image was created by eL Seed sending each of the 49 participants a piece of the print to use as their virtual background. As even the most casual of Zoom callers would tell you, however, the final “installation” was a techno-logistical feat, not least of which because Zoom presents callers in a random order in gallery view.
For over an hour – navigating fluctuating internet speeds in locations as far reaching as China, Pakistan, Tunisia, Italy, the UK, Rwanda, and Romania – eL Seed ushered in participants, one by one, according to their position in the artwork. On his Instagram, he likened himself to a conductor: “Each person was a single instrument playing a solo. Person by person, I could witness the artwork taking shape. As the conductor, I just had to synchronise the participants [to] shape the final picture.”
For that hour while the image took shape, the participants spoke, listened to US musicians Aloe Blacc and Maya Jupiter, and watched insta-famous Dutch dancers Norah, Yarah and Rosa perform. “For over an hour we were all at the same level, in unison, sharing the same human condition,” wrote eL Seed.
eL Seed will be selling prints of the artwork on his website, with half of the proceeds going to the hospital of Boulogne-Billancourt, where he grew up in France, and the other half to hospitals in Gabes, the Tunisian city where he is originally from.