The Digital Daftar

This edition of Daftar Asfar is the collaborative brainchild of the founders of follow the halo and Daftar Asfar. Rather than a physical traveling sketchbook, this sketchbook came to life through the inboxes and digital devices of over 25 artists from the region based all over the world. Email addresses and Dropbox folders were filled to the brim with the communication and work of these artists.

In retrospect, these digital tools have been a catalyst in how this project came together and spilled across time-zones, deadlines and other commitments. As the co-founders of this project reflect, communication and, for lack of a better word, selflessness have been at the forefront of developing this project together. The curators and the artists included in this project gave to it so freely, without looking for reward or compensation, but purely for the exercise of a truly interesting collaborative experiment.

Both Daftar Asfar and follow the halo were founded on the spirit of collaboration. Daftar Asfar has been a labor of love that generated a solid and committed community of creatives through their physical traveling sketchbooks, which began in the Middle East and reached as far as New Mexico. follow the halo is a child of the internet, a digital zine that supports emerging artists from the Middle East and beyond, through commissioning original works. It only took one meeting for the two to realise that a digital version of the traveling sketchbook was the only possible way forward.

Aligning with the spirit of Daftar Asfar, the artists of this edition were required to create works collaboratively. While in earlier editions artworks were physically intersecting, this edition was designed on the basis of a more abstract methodology: we asked each artist to leave an instruction for the artist to follow. This was inspired by Hans Ulrich Obrist’s travelling project – Do It – an instruction manual that became an obvious way to allow an artwork to evolve from one form into another, each page resulting in a sort of metamorphosis.

As the digital travelling sketchbook was underway, a few patterns began to emerge. The contributing artists were using digital tools to create their artworks, and the instructions were also treated like poignant works of art. Audiences are invited to not only view this Digital Daftar as a way of absorbing the works, but to also think of these instructions as creative prompts to inspire one’s own practice.

What also became evident throughout the project was the hunger for collaboration from artists in and around our region. The enthusiasm that we were met with when approaching contributing artists was always electrifying and sometimes just downright surprising – we weren’t expecting so many to willingly contribute so much of their art, and ultimately, through the instructions, themselves too.

On a final note, we’d like to mention that although the team have rarely met in the same physical space, our conversations have spilled over Whatsapp groups, long email threads, the occasional phone call, and otherwise, large amounts of time volunteered to maintain the momentum of the Digital Daftar. In an era where excessive communication and digital noise is so prevalent, this project became a testament to the spirit of the creative community within and behind it.