AMMAN – In early 2019, Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim Nehme officially began a two month residency at the curatorial collective platform in Jabal Amman. Coming from Beirut, Nehme was invited by Amman Design Week  (ADW) to explore the capital in the hopes of inspiring a special edition print for the self-proclaimed ‘magazine of possibilities’ he runs: The Outpost. In line with Possibilities, ADW’s theme for its third edition, Nehme conducted workshops, opened a pop-up cafe that used postcards as currency and mapped the capital to discover its possibilities, all as part of his residency. We reached out to Nehme to get a better idea of what he has been up to in recent months and learned a lot about him and The Outpost in an interview:

How was The Outpost formed, and how did it come to be ‘the magazine of possibilities’?

The Outpost was formed in 2012 by myself and a very good friend of mine, Raafat Majzoub. That was at the height of the Arab Spring when the sense of possibility in the region was running high; the possibility that, after years and years of oppression, we could finally tell our story and reclaim the narrative. So, it was very much an attempt to bring together previously unheard voices and give them resonance.  

Possibilities of what?

The possibilities of finding our voice, individually, as well as a collective body living together in a region that shares tremendous history and culture, in spite of the incredible challenges imposed on our movements. The possibilities of listening to that voice and following it to places we’ve never been. The possibilities of speaking our truths. The possibilities of transformation that come from aligning ourselves with those truths. The possibilities of achieving all that our hearts desire, all that makes us come alive, all that is for, not against, life. The possibilities of imagining and manifesting a better world for us and for everyone else. 
The Outpost pop-up cafe, Jabal Amman.

Tell us a bit about your residency in Amman.

Well, the story goes back in time to the first time I was approached by Rana [Beiruti, Director of ADW]. She informed me that the 2019 edition of Amman Design Week will revolve around the theme of possibilities, which felt like a perfect synchronicity. She invited me to come to Amman and stay at platform, their curatorial collective, which is also an artist residency space in Jabal Amman. I ended up coming here earlier this year, in March, and spent two months exploring various ways to engage with the city creatively and purposefully. The outcome of all this will be published in the form of a map and distributed during Amman Design Week next month. We are actually sending to print today! We will also be hosting a jam session on October 11 on the rooftop of platform to officially launch the publication. 
The Outpost pop-up cafe, Jabal Amman.

Back in April, a temporary Outpost pop-up café was seen on one of the Ammani rooftops. Can you expand on that?

Well, yeah, we opened the café for 10 days on the rooftop of platform, which has this incredible view overlooking downtown Amman and its citadel. Amman is a city of many centers, which would perhaps why it’s heavily segregated, but platform sits inarguably in the absolute heart of the city (geographically and historically). Its central location means that it could welcome people from all corners, acting as a bridge, transcending distances and differences, both real and imagined. 
By opening this café, our aim really was to open up our creative process to the entire city. The menu of the café proclaimed that: “In this café, if you play you don’t pay.” The idea was that people could come, order coffee, tea or cake, but instead of paying with money, they had to give back by writing a line or a few. It was very much an attempt to tap into the collective consciousness of the city and excavate what’s hidden beneath the surface. 
Opening this café was also an attempt to propose a model for a new economy, against prevailing models of consumption and capital ownership. In a way, this café — in its premise, promise and program — was an attempt to explore an alternative way of creating and sharing value, and a new way of being with and caring for each other.
From mapping workshop, Jabal Amman.

Tell us a bit about the latest Outpost issue upcoming during Amman Design Week. What can we expect to see?

It’s not really a new issue as much as a special printed edition that somehow captures the essence of the residency and its outputs. It’s essentially a map that provides an alternative reading of the city. I do not want to spoil it before it’s out of the printer, so I’m not going to say much more!

The Outpost is highly regarded for its design aesthetic. How has The Outpost collaborated and engaged with the Ammani design scene during your stay?

In Amman we ended up meeting a lot of people and engaging with many different scenes within the city, not just the design scene. Broadly speaking, I truly think that every person is creative, and what I try to do in my work is to create space for various participants to connect to their creative potential. In Amman, this was evident in the way the café operated, in the mapping workshop we hosted, and the other activations we carried out, like the 40-day challenge with the design students of the German Jordanian University. 
We had 30 notebooks with 40 pages in each. The challenge for the students who took this challenge was to make it to the page every day for 40 days. They could spend one minute or one hour each day; the time they spent was irrelevant, as long as they came to the page. Then, they were free to do whatever they felt like on or with the page… Doodle, draw, write, stamp… Glue things to it or make things out of it… Keep a record, ask a question, leave a trace… It was really all up to them. What really mattered here was their commitment, how far they could go with it, and what could happen as a result of them going all the way. 
From mapping workshop, Jabal Amman.

How has your stay in Amman affected the written content inside the upcoming issue?

A lot. I mean, the entire print is giving voice to the city and letting her tell her story. So, all we did really was act as a channel that transmitted that collective energy on to the paper.

Lastly, you talk a lot about the importance of the imagination. What is the limit?

I think the imagination knows no limits. When you’re in that space of inspired, expansive, continuous flow, you basically tap into a universal source of creative energy, which works in ways that cannot be explained using reason alone. It’s really limitless. 

Amman Design Week will run from October 4 – 12 between Ras Al Ain, Jabal Amman and Al Lweibdeh. Read our interview with director Rana Beiruti to learn more about the upcoming event.

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