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Darb 17 18: 'Maspero'
Maspero, Egypt’s state TV building is no stranger to ridicule; for generations, its giant plump cluster of offices has been associated with an ailing government that gambles on partial media.
During the eighteen days that toppled former president Mubarak, protesters criticized the notorious establishment, often right at its doorstep. And as the fight for free press continues across Egypt’s squares, artists featured at Darb 17 18’s recent exhibit pay tribute to the last 50 years of forceful, faulty state indoctrination.
The first piece, titled Man Made, explores the notion of one’s outlook being obscured by an external force. Moataz Nasr Eldin juxtaposes an image of a young man blinkered with an eye patch with an image of a horse looking straight and steady, with its blinker tied around his eyes. The message is clear; Egyptian state media, like a blinker, has long tightened our visions, ensuring that we do not see the other side of any story.
Engy Ali’s Sanzaru portrays the absence of state media from the childhood of many Egyptians.
'I don’t remember what was usually on Wednesday night, and I don’t remember who I watched Friday shows with,' she says about her digital collage that duplicates an image of three chimps that can’t hear, see or smell.
Set against an abstract geometric background, the stifling of one’s senses is both powerful and comic, perhaps due to the chronic ineptness embodied in Maspero’s catalogue of broadcasts.
On the adjacent wall stands Adham Bakry’s Blueprint, a stark, sky-high mural stencilling the TV headquarters next to what looks like a map of its interior, in way of inviting someone to hijack the building, put an end to its unearned grandiose status and lift the shadow that it casted on Egyptians for decades.
In a series of sketches drawn on cardboard, Ali Abdel Mohsen, who is also the curator of the show, toys with the common belief that Maspero has long been regarded as the government’s mouthpiece, depicting both its anchors and the subjects invited on air as large megaphones.
While Khaled Hafez’s love-hate relationship with state media, capsulated in a video installation, ends silently with him watching news on mute with his two children, May El Hossamy’s affair is one with a concrete end: a grave titled Maspero 1960-2011. For both artists, the lies propagated by the Egyptian media are falling on deaf ears, but the question is when the rest of Egyptians will catch up.
Currently showcased at Zamalek Art Gallery’s Venue II, An Introduction to Voidness is an exhibition featuring a collection of exquisite bronze sculptures by Nathan Doss.
Doss’ unique sculpture pieces stand out inside the spacious gallery, with his style evokinga sense of the mystical, particularly when it comes to the lean stick-figures he has created, which appear to be stretching and reaching out for something.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect in those pieces is that though they feature both an object and a figure; the artist incorporates the two in such a way that they appear as one. In fact, in several of Doss’s sculptures, the viewer needs to apply much more focus in order to single out the figure entwined with the object.
One particular piece demonstrating that approach features a tall, lean figure thrusting a shovel into the ground. Both the man and the shovel are similar when it comes to their long, wiry shapes which have been merged together as though they are one.
A second sculpture depicts a man entangled within a kind of webbed-frame, though he doesn’t appear stuck or imprisoned by it, but rather part of it. This presents us with an entirely new object.
The title An Introduction to Voidness may be a reference to Doss’s style, which evokes many pieces containing holes similar to the ones we see in a honeycomb or a sheet of wire mesh. An Introduction to Voidness can also indicate a different kind of emptiness; one that exists inside a human being.
Born in Mallawy, in 1971, Doss earned a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts in 1993. His subject matter varies within his sculptures,though most of his work is quite figurative and there is a small number which is more difficult to interpret due to a more abstract style.
With an intriguing collection of small scenery, birds and people all created from bronze and incorporated into one dazzling display; An Introduction to Voidness is a highly recommended exhibition with so much to offer; especially when it comes to some insights into Doss’ interesting sculpting approach.