At the end of the MASS Alexandria Studio and Study Program 2012, 18 artists took part in a three-day group show, Exhibition 2, July 30 – August 1, 2012.
A Walk, 2012
Video, colour, sound, 4 mins 56 sec
A Walk is an exploration of dreams and reality through the cinematic short-video filmed in various locations in Alexandria. Envisioned as an open-ended journey for forgiveness and solitude, the protagonist, a young Alexandrian man, is confronted by a set of extraordinary visual stimuli, which are at points frightening, bizarre and fantastic, while struggling with his own, far more ordinary personal suffering.
Tempura on canvas
Dome of Parliament, 2012
Clay and metal dish
Mixed media installation
Sign of Prayer, 2012
Plaster and paint
Doa Amen’s individual works tell four stories that have a shared concern with religion, imagery and society. In UFE, the artist conjures a made-up, nondescript brand to label her hand-painted vials highlight the consumerist trait of investing consumerist objects with certain moral values.
Sign of Prayer is modeled on the face of a child who, in a hurried effort to demonstrate his piousness, is marked with a feigned Zabiba, a darkened patch of skin on the forehead that is a result of years of prostration and is found mostly on grown men.
Produced before the dissolution of parliament in mid-June 2012, Dome of Parliament playfully replaces the lid of a cooking vessel with a model of the dome found on the Egyptian Parliament building. Here the artist links government decisions with private, quotidian life, whilst also trivialising the current state of parliament.
Testing symbols, their identifiableness – even in disfigured states – and their complex and sometimes strained histories, Icon is a painting of the star and crescent symbol, a signifier of the religion of Islam, in gold, only the star is missing.
How Hard it is to be Satisfied with Anyone, 2012
Acrylic on wall
Mixed media installation
The artist is interested in the visualisation of letters in morse code, which she painted directly onto the wall, combined with a sound recording of the sentence. Morse code, used during wars and moments of emergency, is here used to communicate a message of love. The quote is taken from a found text by Jean de la Bruyere, the 17th century author, that the artist stumbled upon in Alexandria.
Untitled explores her fascination with the use of the colour white in painting from the 20th century. With subtly different fabrics, painting is interpreted through sculpture and installation and the viewer is encouraged to sense through touch and vision. White, for the artist, also carries with it associations of innocence, marriage, purity, and femininity, sentiments emphasised by images of Manga dolls displayed alongside it.
Lady in Moscow, 2012
Oil on canvas
District (Government Project), 2012
2 framed photographs
Working Power (Government Project), 2012
29 framed colour photographs
These three projects are interconnected and simultaneously tap into, and reveal, the desires and feelings of the artist, participant and viewer. In District (Government Project), and Working Power (Government Project) the artist sees her act as one of translation; conversing with a select group of citizen complaint workers, analysing their responses to a questionnaire and asking them to draw an image of their liking. She then categorises the material produced by these sessions and displays them in a minimal, intuitive fashion to reveal her own associations in an archive of society.
Drawn from Kandinsky’s Lady in Moscow, the artist was fascinated by a black spot, her punctum in the image, which she abstracted in oil on canvas.
In these three installations, the artist interrogates and re-presents materials and objects in a continuing investigation into the creation and dissemination of taste. Most evident with Untitled, unpainted Gympsum ceiling moulds arranged and lit in an unusual manner; the artist also explores the multiplicitous nature of materials. Untitled, a large block of sponge is presented starkly in the space, the artist’s hand absent in the transition from supplier to exhibition. This work along with Untitled, a pre-fabricated fiberglass slide attached to the wall suggest other environments the materials are more at home at; the playground, the inside of a mattress or arm-chair; but also as allegories for how the artist sees the world.
Missing Persons Ad, 2012
Black and white print on card
Missing Persons Ad began as a falsified missing persons ad that the artist submitted to the weekly newspaper Al-Ahram. Without the necessary evidence to support his claim, he chose to display the image, taken amongst his classmates at school, with a title that alludes to the process of the artwork. The work speaks of the distance between the artist and a parent, a distance categorised by absence, whether real or perceived, but equally as a minimal, almost universal gesture.
Animated GIFs, collage
An attempt at visualing an alternate reality, Untitled pieces together clues based on hand- and digitally-collaged images of figures and landscapes. Imbuing found images with new properties, the artist presents still and moving images as an experimental process of interpreting illusion, the passing of time and the sense of reality.
Fictions: Part 1, 2012
Video, colour, sound, 6 mins 50 sec
Concerned with the interplay between memory, knowledge, image, and our awareness of time and space, this video presents personal history as a collective narrative. Text, culled from testimonies real and fake, alludes to the subjective construction of memories and is overlaid onto wide shots of an empty building, its features firmly located in the past, yet animated by a lonesome child who skips along its hallways and down its steps.
Video, colour, sound, 1 min 14 sec
This short, looped video is concerned with misconceptions, and the attempt to find oneself or stay true to oneself. The artist performs a simple act of drawing a straight line, an impossible task, as a metaphor for trying to stay in a path and negotiating others’ perceptions. This open-ended video asks the viewer to transpose their own ideas onto this symbolic gesture.
This is not ‘successful’, 2012
Video, colour, sound, 35 sec
Co-direction and cinematography by Mohamed Zedan
A dialogue with a man named ‘successful’, 2012
Multi-channel video installation
Co-direction and cinematography by Mohamed Zedan
A portrait of the Islamic figure, Nageh Ebrahim is told through proverbs and stories. Altogether these moving images form a group portrait of the figure, exploring his idiosyncrasies, stories and personal history. Here the artist takes a nuanced approach to a very serious figure, imprisoned because of the part he played in the assassination of Egypt’s past-president, Anwar Sadat.
In This is not ‘successful’, Lotfy re-enacts an image that was familiar to Ebrahim during his incarceration; a cat trapping its head in a sardine tin, and has become for him a motif of the futility of greed. In the 6-channel installation, A dialogue with a man named ‘successful’, documentary clips sit side-by-side with constructed scenarios. In one Ebrahim gives an interview about his thoughts on political violence while unknowingly, his daughter points a gun hand at the camera, and smiles suggestively. In another Ebrahim methodically eats an orange, and subtly contemplates digesting the skin as well, a habit he developed during his years in prison, when nourishment was paramount.
Mo Nabil & Sarah Samy
Dragon Sleeper, 2012
Mixed media installation
Formed of several elements, including video, props used in its production, photography and sculpture, Dragon Sleeper, also the title of a wrestling move, explores the power of rhetorical material, masculinity, group dynamics and speed machines. With a slickness afforded by the choice of medium, and through post-production, the highly-polished, photo-shopped forms and car showroom-aesthetic jars intriguingly with the surroundings. The artists take the content distinctly out of its original context to reinterpret shaabi-music playing motorcycles and images of men in an embrace to new, peculiar places.
Framed photograph and poster
In Untitled a simple intervention is made into the architecture of the space offering a blocked doorway, an obstructed threshold to an imagined, alternative space.
The artist presents the notion of ‘choice’, in society, school and familial situations, as a fallacy, or a joke in Poster. Paired with a manipulated train ticket from Alexandria to Tanta, it alludes to the artist’s feeling of constant transit and flux, and further, her sense of false choices.
Mixed media installation
Courtesy of Aziz Abaza School, Alexandria
This installation forms a critique of outdated teaching methods and curriculums as observed by the artist in Alexandria, in her own middle school education. Tables, chairs and a blackboard centre around an open book on a teacher’s desk. This is a textbook that could be found in many schools, and is specifically one that is sited by the artist’s art class teacher to describe “what art is”. This work questions education, by taking a close look at the teaching of art in school. How do we teach art? What impact do these formative encounters with art and its meaning have on us as artists and individuals? And how do we construct our own artistic understanding and sensibilities?
Nourhan Elsaied Anwer
New World, 2012
Pen on paper, collage and canvas
Combining photography and drawing, images of ruins in Alexandria are reconstructed through the artist’s elaborate sketches and recalibrations. Form and texture give the images a mechanical, fantastical quality that reveal the artist’s concern with adornment and reconstruction, imagining these forgotten, almost completely obscured sites as a futuristic archaeologist.
A Contemporary Artist vs. A Con Artist, 2012
Painted text on 13 light boxes
A dozen statements, taken from the artist’s ongoing interview project are written on glowing neon boxes, peppered around the space. The interview consists of responses he gives to the question “are you an artist?” a means of exploring the current climate of contemporary art, and the cult of personality, with a tongue-in-cheek emphasis on certain stereotypes, perceived pre-requisites or trends.
Site and Vision, 2012
Mixed media installation
A collection of ephemera that visualises the artist’s thinking process, from childhood to adulthood; of what it means to be an artist. Pasted over and on top of each other on the wall, these materials explore the act of recording, archiving, and presentation, the screens acting as a visual metaphor for seeing and being seen, whilst functioning to create a contemplative, almost domestic environment.
Nowhere Place, 2012
Mixed media installation
This site specific installation turned the disused elevator shaft into another space, a nowhere place where light and water danced and pulsed to the natural, amplified sounds of the machinery of the elevator. The artist transformed and reinvented the atmosphere of the overlooked shaft into a space with its own voice, light and function.
MASS Alexandria: Exhibition 2
To mark the close of the MASS Alexandria Studio and Study Program 2012 we are pleased to present Exhibition 2, a group show of the work of 19 participants in the 7-month program, from July 30 – August 1, 2012.
The Cairo Seminar
May 9 – June 9 2012, The Cairo Seminar: Studium.
July 1 – July 8 2012, The Cairo Seminar: The Seminar.
The Cairo Seminar is a study and exchange program between Kassel and Alexandria comprised of two parts: The Cairo Seminar: Studium and The Cairo Seminar: The Seminar.
The Cairo Seminar: Studium was a collaborative study program at MASS Alexandria that involved nine students in the discussion of dOCUMENTA (13) in Alexandria, the collaboration in the installation of the artworks in Kassel and, finally, the development of The Seminar back in Alexandria. It aimed to give the students not only new skill sets and ideas, but access to subjects and materials not usually found in traditional educational spaces.
THE CAIRO SEMINAR: THE SEMINAR
Different venues in Alexandria and Cairo, Egypt. July 1 – 8, 2012.
The Cairo Seminar: The Seminar, is a series of breakfasts, readings, lectures and discussions, as well as collective dinners, in significant venues in the city of Alexandria with invited participants (grouped into Key Notes, Instruments, Chorus, Accompaniments and Preludes) between July 1 and 8, 2012, during the exhibition in Kassel. While most activities take place in Alexandria (in place of Cairo), the title of the seminar is meant as a subtle reinstitution of a city, in its historical role, in real time—today.
The seminar takes as its subject two very simple principles: sleeping and dreaming. “Without sleep,” Russian architect Konstantin Melnikov argued, “fresh air will do little for our health.” He was referring to his proposed building, which he named the “Sonata of Sleep,” in which hundreds of workers could sleep at the same time. (In Russian, the words for to sleep and to dream have a common word.) This example, referring both to an architecture of order and the highest moment in Modern revolutionary ideas of change and human adaptation to the “new system,” is cited only as one instance of the themes discussed. That the dream state and waking reality might be on an equal footing and that the sensory world is a dream from which one must awaken is a proposition from which the seminar departs. Since no one morphology of the dream phenomenon is either sufficient or comprehensive, the seminar adopts a hybrid composition of philosophy and psychoanalysis, expanding out towards art and its phenomenology, art theory, and literature, to elucidate the oneiric phenomenon from a vast array of perspectives. The seminar proposes an archaeology of the dream, a philosophically inflected excavation that celebrates the contingent and ambiguous as signifiers of truth conceived as proportionate to, but not prescribed by, nature, and therefore its political potential for today’s state of affairs.
The Cairo Seminar: The Seminar is a jointly conceived program between CIRCA and dOCUMENTA (13), and is hosted by MASS Alexandria and Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum (ACAF). Initiated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Artistic Director of dOCUMENTA (13), and Sarah Rifky, Director of CIRCA (Cairo International Resource Center for Art), the Seminar is also conceived with Chus Martinez, Head of Department, dOCUMENTA (13), Adam Kleinman, Agent for Public Programs for dOCUMENTA (13), Bassam El Baroni, Director of ACAF and Wael Shawky, Director of MASS Alexandria.
For the Independent Art Studio & Study Program 2012, we have enrolled 21 artists (15 full time, 6 part time students). The program began on 27 January and will run until 31 July 2012.
MASS Alexandria, founded in 2010 by the Alexandria artist Wael Shawky, is located in the east-Alexandrian neighbourhood of Miami. It is a 440-sqm space housed in the basement of a residential building to provide an opportunity for independent study and learning for artists in Egypt. The basement is a shared studio, meeting, screening and performance space. Through its program, MASS Alexandria aims to complement existing art education schemes, with a focus on the conceptual aspects of artistic production. Monthly workshops, seminars and lectures are led by artists, art educators and curators. Through the exploration of contemporary artistic practices, the program also encourages students to work closely with cultural, artistic and scientific ideas in the fields of art history and theory and inter-disciplinary studies.
MASS Alexandria launched its Pilot Studio Program in October 2010. The four-month program was extended for an additional three months, in response to the Jan25 Revolution in Egypt.
The program culminated in a 3-day exhibition in May 2011. The Pilot Studio Program included 12 students selected through an application and interview process in September 2010.
During the Pilot Studio Program, MASS Alexandria hosted lectures, talks, conversations, workshops, seminars, studio visits, critique sessions and discussions with a roster of local and international artists, curators and educators including: Adriano Pedrosa, Curator of 12th Istanbul Biennial; Alex Freedman, Curator, NYC; Amal Khalaf, Curator, Serpentine Gallery, London; Angela Harutunyan, Curator, Art Historian, American University Cairo (AUC); Alexandra Stock, Assistant Director, Townhouse, Cairo; Bruce Ferguson, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, AUC; Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Artistic Director, documenta 13, Kassel; Devon Youngblood, Graduate Student, Harvard, Research Fellow, Townhouse, Cairo; Janna Graham, Curator, Serpentine Gallery, London; Judith Wielander, Curator of 2nd Bordeaux Biennale; Klaus vom Bruch, Artist, Professor at Academy of Fine Arts Munich; Lindsay Lawson, Video Artist, Berlin; Luigi Coppola, Artist, Curator of 2nd Bordeaux Biennale; Mai Eldib, Client Developer, Sotheby’s, NYC; Mai Elwakil, Cultural Editor, Al Masry Al Youm (English Online); Malak Helmy, Artist, Writer, Cairo and San Francisco; N’Goné Fall, Independent Curator, Art Critic, Paris/Dakar; Ryan Inouye, Assistant Curator, New Museum, NYC; Sarah Rifky, Curator, Adjunct Professor, AUC; Soren Thilo-Funder, Artist, Copenhagen; Susanne Pfeffer, Curator, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Wael Shawky, Artist, Founding Director of MASS Alexandria and William Wells, Founding Director of Townhouse, Cairo.
MASS Alexandria offers short programs to supplement existing art education. It focuses on nurturing conceptual and critical thinking towards artistic production. MASS Alexandria is the manifestation of Alexandria-based artist Wael Shawky‘s aspiration to create a space for art practice, learning, opportunities and new encounters, fostering new generations of artists, in the East Alexandrian neighborhood of Miami.
A combination of workshops, seminars, lectures and tutorials are led by artists, art educators, historians and curators. With an emphasis on contemporary art practice, through the programs we encourage students to work closely with cultural, artistic and scientific ideas, thinking about art laterally and across disciplines.
Twelve new candidates are admitted into each program (7 months), with the possibility of extension. Interested applicants should wait for the upcoming open call in September 2011.
MASS Alexandria ran its Pilot Studio Program from October 2010 until May 2011. The upcoming Program 1, will include four practice-based workshops with artists, two theoretical seminars with visiting curators/art historians, in addition to one-on-one tutorials with artists and curators and a collaborative research project. LEAP will be developed over the course of Program 1, a reading/writing workshop for Learning English for Artistic Practices. Program 1 will include one study trip (4-6 weeks) and an internship. Participants will be required to show work in context of an end of program exhibition as well as to present the outcome of their research.