Selected curatorial projects. Please click links for full documentation, and apologies for the state of the page as I build it.
Bilingual pocket guide
Mohamed Abdelkarim, David Degner, Ahmed El Ghoneimy, Samir ElKordy, Saskia Holmkvist, Iman Issa, Hassan Khan, Basim Magdy, Elizabeth Price, André Romão, Ben Russell, Hanaa Safwat, Sarah Samy, Noura Seif, and Mahmoud Tarek.
PhotoCairo 5 is about ways in which reality is splintered and shifts of subjectivity are made. Involving international and local, emerging and established artists, this exhibition explores the ability of art to trigger affective responses within the viewer.
PhotoCairo 5 explores forces at play in reshaping reality, such as paranoia, the act of recognition, and altered states of consciousness. Bodies, materials and knowledges radically unreconciled to their political, architectural, institutional surroundings appear across the show: from the tale of a hysterical dancing spree near the site of the European Parliament, to an impossible monument to the revolution, and the absurd power dynamics of a re-enacted citizen’s arrest gone wrong.
The project takes its title from a passing comment in Harun Farocki’s Videograms of a Revolution, in which existing footage of the Romanian Revolution of 1989 is narrated with attention to the position and motivations of the person filming. The comment refers to the decision – more out of curiosity than conviction – of a state TV camera operator to ‘glance’ the camera sideways at an emerging protest, against instructions. Farocki’s treatment of the material calls attention to this gesture over the depicted event. If art is to handle ‘revolutionary acts’, here the camera operator’s innocent curiosity and bodily uncertainty takes the place of grand representational gestures, yet crucially, allow us to witness the awakening of a radical reality.
Goethe Institut Cairo
Speakers: Angela Harutyunyan; Malak Helmy; Noura Seif, Mahmoud Tarek, Sarah Samy, and Sama Waly; Mia Jankowicz, Basim Magdy, Jasmina Metwaly and May Al-Ibrashi; Hassan Khan
This symposium aims to expand upon the oft-cited truism that it is nearly always ‘too soon’ to make art—not because this sentiment is not usually true, but because it tends to foreclose a reflection on what nevertheless goes on as a creative process in the exceptionally exciting ‘too soon’ moment anyway. Through examining this critically neglected space, and from a position of near-exhaustion, we might locate a link between the revolutionary moment and the artistic one.
How We See – Harun Farocki programme
Co-curated by Beirut and CIC
Beirut 11 Mahmoud Sedky St. Agouza, Giza
Harun Farocki is a German filmmaker and artist best known for his experimental documentaries produced since 1969. In more than a hundred films and installations he draws our attention to the visible and invisible complexities of everyday life, consistently pushing formal boundaries with the persistent eye of a critical observer to raise questions dedicated to social coexistence, power relations, politics, the cruelty of warfare, and the growing dominance of capitalism. With his distinctive camera and montage techniques Farocki assesses the fabrication of perceptual habits and how it is altered by the advent of new technologies.
In collaboration with Beirut, Cimatheque and the Goethe Institut, PhotoCairo 5 will present a series of screenings of Farocki’s works. The recurring theme of labour is the subject of the long-term international research project “Labour In A Single Shot” started jointly with film critic and curator Antje Ehmann. It entails a series of filmmaking workshops, the most recent being Cairo, realised by Beirut in cooperation with CIC, Cimatheque and the Goethe Institutes in Cairo and Alexandria. The screening programme will segue the concerns of the workshop and PhotoCairo 5.
In keeping with the educational remit of many Egyptian art institutions, and with CIC’s investment in peer mentoring in the last months, a number of artists are engaging in a process of peer mentoring in order to develop works specifically for PhotoCairo 5. Artist Doa Aly has mentored the artists Sarah Samy, Noura Seif, Mahmoud Tarek, and Sama Waly. This process is also a form of research for Aly, who has been commissioned to write a text noting the tensions and issues of the formation of young artists; the process is a critically concentrated version of arguably the most successful way artists are ‘trained’: talking to other artists. The commissioned works of Sarah Samy, Noura Seif, and Mahmoud Tarek can be found in the exhibition.
Co-curated with Anna Colin, a Disclosures project
Gasworks and UCL, London September 2010
CIC, Cairo December 2011
Hydrarchy is a two-phase project taking the form of exhibitions and conferences, which approach historical and contemporary examinations of the sea, the ship, and the offshore as remarkable and contested cultural, political, legal and socio-economic territories. While the London project traced a connecting path starting with the common sailor of the 18th Century Atlantic and branching out to the contemporary global economy; the Cairo project will, broadly speaking, conceptualise the Mediterranean Basin, the Suez Canal, and the broader North African context in contemporary postcolonial geopolitics.
Exhibiting artists: Mathieu K. Abonnenc, Ayed Arafah, Goldin+Senneby, Laura Horelli, Melanie Jackson, Bouchra Khalili, Anja Kirschner & David Panos, Paul McCarthy, Uriel Orlow, Otolith Group, Femmy Otten, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Xaviera Simmons, Take To The Sea, João Pedro Vale, Lawrence Weiner.
Conference contributors: Shaina Anand & Ashok Sukumaran (camp), Amy Balkin, Angus Cameron, Iain Chambers, Annie Rebekah Gardner & Kelsy Yeargood, Lisa Lefeuvre, Marcus Rediker, Take To The Sea.
The Alternative News Agency 1 & 2 (2010-2012)
Participants: Shady El Mashak, Karim Mansour, Shaimaa Ashour, Abdulrahman Mansour, Amira Mortada, Moustafa ElShandawely, Mohamed Ezz Eldin, and Mohamed Eid.
The Alternative News Agency was first conceived as a response to CIC’s history of training photojournalists. While technical training was strong, there remained little space for photojournalists to join a critical discussion with other makers. The ANA focused on an encounter between junior photojournalists and emerging cultural figures whose practice overlaps the visual, the public, and the political: citizen journalists, documentary photographers, artists working in photography, and activists.
An intense two-week workshop focused on cross-disciplinary discussion on what a political image can be, and invited sessions led by artists, curators, historians, editors, and lawyers. Following the workshop, participants were tasked with developing a photo-story, still a neglected form in Egyptian news photography.
The shared topic was the November 2010 Egyptian Parliamentary Elections, interpreting this as widely as they liked. In order to avoid performatively validating the act of ‘voting day’, and to refocus in on underlying issues, participants were required to hand in their stories the day before the elections.
From this group, eight stories were created, and made into a bilingual publication. Stories took numerous approaches and covered topics such as the environmental decay of Nile Delta villages; the use of public parkland in Cairo; the repetitive graphic style of election campaign posters; the attitude of working Egyptians towards the political campaigns; arresting portraits of three independent candidates; a day in the life of a female Muslim Brotherhood candidate; a documentation of withered political posters; and a rumination on the contrast between the statements on banners and the world in which they’re displayed.
Retrospectively, the project also happens to represent a small, subjective window of Egypt’s political and social tensions in the weeks prior to the revolution of 25 January, 2011.
This publication is now out of print. View the digital publication here. Please note that as issuu.com does not accommodate right-to-left publications, you must flick to the ‘back’ page to see it in the right order.
Information on the Alternative News Agency 2 to come.
Propaganda By Monuments
Co-curated with Clare Butcher at CIC
Taking its inspiration and title from a satirical short story by the South African writer Ivan Vladislavić, in which a South African businessman attempts to buy Leninist monuments from postcommunist Russia for refashioning into new heroes for post-Apartheid South Africa. Propaganda By Monuments was an exhibition, publication and events programme that looked at the unexpected roles of nostalgia and cultural transfer in the (re)construction of societies. The publication presented new essays as well as the first translation of the story into Arabic.
Exhibiting artists: Hasan & Hosain Essop, Angela Ferreira, Dan Halter, Runa Islam, Iman Issa, Ahmed Kamel, Kiluanji Kia Henda.
Screenings and texts: Amy Halliday, Ivan Vladislavić, Fernando Sanchez Castillo, David Maljković.
The Paper Trail
Residency and solo exhibition of Francesc Ruiz at CIC, October 2010
Francesc Ruiz’ practice physically intersects fictional narratives with the urban structures and social settings they refer to. Much of his work starts from the possibilities of the comic book, a fascination that stems from their capacity for illicit circulation; their role in social commentary; their supposedly lowbrow status; and the possibilities of visual narrative.
In April 2010 I invited Ruiz on residency at CIC, to developing new works for an exhibition in October. Newsstand was a recreation of a Cairo newsstand, in which the stones that typically hold down the newspapers began to have their own conversations. The Green Detour was a nine-issue comic book that appropriated four familiar characters from Egyptian comic book history, and set them on an existential tour of the city, looking for themselves in today’s Egypt. While the first issue could be picked up at CIC, and readers had to follow the characters on their fictional wanderings across Downtown Cairo in order to find the distribution point of the next issue.