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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art: Bidoun Library
On October 12th, 2010 Townhouse Gallery launched its first exhibition following its summer hiatus, and we couldn't be more excited! As Townhouse is one of the leading independent art spaces in Cairo, the exhibits never fail to impress, immerse and inspire those that have the opportunity to get involved. This latest project is no exception. The visiting exhibition Bidoun Library is held on the first floor of the Townhouse building; so head down to Nabrawy Street; the gallery is located up the stairs and to the left.
The Bidoun Library has been archiving and teaming with collaborators since its first installation in Abu Dhabi three years ago. It is an offshoot project of the leading arts and culture publication of the Middle East, Bidoun Magazine. If you're not familiar with Bidoun Magazine; now is your time!
Since 2008, the Bidoun Library has partnered with art collectives worldwide, including a Lebanese comic’s journal and its latest stop in New York City. Unlike any other exhibition in recent months or even years; the exhibition’s simple focal point is paired with a rich history and philosophical questioning focused on the book as an object of expression.
As many of us know, the value of the written word has become increasingly reduced in recent times. Focusing on the 20th century, the library explores that period when written word, including the book, newspaper and periodical magazine, was in its most tangible form of circulation. The exhibit's collection of written word draws from printed matter from around and within the Middle East, including exhibition catalogues, artists' books and other printed materials. Viewing the book as a means of material production, the concept stems from some of the very first publishing projects that took place during the Cold War; where the written word meets image.
The Bidoun Library covers the entire first floor, including the front room that is lined with the autumn 2010 issue of the Bidoun Magazine titled 'Library.' This issue displays a catalogue depicting the latest Bidoun exhibition held in the USA.
Attached to each issue's cover are one-of-a-kind photographs accumulated by local collector Amgad Naguib. Four different hardback books are suspended from the ceiling by silver chains in the middle of the room, representing varying portrayals of how the Middle East has come to be defined through literature.
In the two middle rooms, shelves are stacked with rows of books, providing the viewer with both a live art experience and a true understanding of the exhibit as it plays out in individual viewers’ actions: books are thumbed through and read out loud by visitors. It compels you to explore and research the materials at hand, most of which are rarely available for commercial sale.
The majority of material located in the room to the right offers a great selection by and for artists, including a copy of the inspiring Art is for the People. Take a seat at one of the long tables and read as long as your heart desires. Lastly, check out the video installation in the back, which conjures up more speculation through the use of musical media.
The Bidoun Library is a collection of books based on a clear vision. While the library itself is an organised institution that collects the written word for archiving and experiencing the depths that these printed materials came from, the exhibit portrays how they are used and understood today.
Showing until November 17th, the exhibition’s hours are Saturday to Wednesday from 10AM to 2PM and 6PM to 9PM, and Fridays from 6PM to 9PM.
Medrar Gallery is an important artistic platform creating a dynamic dialogue and collaboration between contemporary artists in Cairo; something that was strongly manifested in its latest prolific and avant-gardist exhibition, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Crimson Shoe’.
'The Good, The Bad and the Crimson Shoe' is an exhibition primarily showcasing the works of two promising artists; Mohamed El Maghraby and Ahmed Tawfig. The first pieces that caught our eyes amidst observing the exhibition were a series of graphic illustrations that seemed to represent the making of a cartoon. Those were the works of none other than Ahmed Tawfig— a young artist in his twenties and a student at the High Institute for Applied Arts, whose signature style is mainly creating comics, computerized and digital drawings.
Most of Tawfig’s paintings feature a colourful mixture of characters ranging from superheroes with giant wings, to the ugly wicked beings with crooked teeth and dark green skin. One particular piece features a rather grotesque creature on a white background who appears to be either throwing up or blowing fire.
While observing other drawings further into the gallery, we noticed a more realistic approach in the drawings of certain figures and objects. Those were the pieces of Mohamed El Maghraby, who relies on architecture as a visual element in his pieces. El Maghraby uses dotted lines around his drawings as well as other various lines and tiny digital numbers with a barcode— stressing on the idea of consumerism.
Perhaps the most intricate aspect about El Maghraby’s pieces is the idea that he uses a microscope to observe the deeper reality of the objects before painting them; something that he perfectly depicted in a text he wrote for one of his pieces “I always see objects under the microscope to understand what they are, but what If I put the crimson shoe under the microscope? Salma said. Salma’s use of the microscope is purely for informational purposes; the microscope is sort of an eye that Salma sees through, to see the reality of things around her […]”
Born in 1985, El Maghraby graduated from the Architecture department at the High Institute of Technology in 2007. In most of his artworks, El Maghraby experiments using multimedia including drawing, painting, printing and illustration. One piece portrays a delicate painting of a reindeer on a tiny piece of board; the background is completely bare which emphasises that the focus is on the object – the reindeer, rather than a scene.
‘The Good, the Bad and the Crimson Show’ is an enticing, modern and refreshing exhibition. The creations of both artists—though very different, yet complemented one another quite nicely, adding a modern and edgy touch to the general atmosphere of the exhibition. Overall, an exhibition definitely worth the visit for those with an interest in modern art.