Reem Marji and Yazan Setabouha_Photo by Darah Ghanem_Daftar Asfar_2018.jpeg

In middle school, collective notes would be secretly passed around the classroom asking for opinions on a hot topic or announcing a last minute plan before the weekend. These notes slowly morphed into sketches of combined drawings and text as they went from hand to hand. The lasting imprint as it reached the last student would not be the news or the announcement but the ways of experiencing them jotted into the margins or sprawled across the page. They became maps of interpersonal relationships, as if the plan to spend our Friday behind the water tanks already occurred and this note carried the choreography of how we stood, moved, and discussed so little of what was sketched out for us.

Our memories of the notes came back to us when we learned about Daftar Asfar’s initiative at Art Dubai. A travelling sketchbook, now in its third edition, is passed on between artists each of whom fills four pages with the first and last page as a space of collaboration with the other artists. These sketchbooks have travelled between hands and in turn travelled to multiple countries including the UAE, Jordan, and the US to name a few.

spreads from DAFTAR ASFAR #1

The pages differ in form and content between each artist, sketches sprawl and detach from one another and a slow mergence begins not of assimilation but of raw materials of observation. In this way, the work in the hands of the viewer does not present a collage of different artists but embodies what Michael Taussig calls for new ways of seeing and the sketchbook as the initial space of its occurrence. Daftar Asfar operates as an opportunity to experience what can be missed when sketches and writing turn to their finalized form in resolved artworks and essays. The sketchbooks become a scrolling blueprint that has a self-awareness to never realize itself into a house but can offer the potential of the many meanings of building within a community.