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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 on show at Zamalek’s Ubuntu Art Gallery is a diverse and exhilarating exhibition of visually stimulating sculptures by Khaled Sirag.
Ubuntu’s generous spacing allows you to stand back and clearly observe all the sculptures that the artist offers us and there are many thought-provoking pieces to captivate the mind. One that we found particularly interesting is the collection of ceramic vases, which are elevated from the ground using rope rather than on a plinth as one would expect. The shapes and sizes vary of these vases though the markings and polished exterior are quite similar.
Sirag primarily works with ceramics and, in this exhibition, most of the sculptures feature at least some component of this material, though he incorporates other materials within these pieces. He began his learning journey with ceramics in 1988; he was often inspired by nature and history, which is clearly demonstrated, in his final creations. This is apparent in one of the larger pieces, which features some kind of plant growing upwards from a glass vase filled with stones; now this is not your typical plant for the proportions are rather obscure and it has been turned upside down meaning that the roots are facing upwards towards the sky. The glass vase at the bottom is filled with white stones, though Sirag has added his ceramic touch at the rim of the vase using an emerald green finish to emphasise on the natural essence.
Looking around the gallery, it seems that the artist takes ordinary ideas and then turns them into bizarre works of art, where nothing quite seems to make sense, yet they say art should evoke curiosity and pose many questions and Khaled Sirag has left us with so many.
Another piece that stood out to us was a kind of collage-come-mosaic set out on the wall on two separate boards; they are side by side and together they form two wings which could be angel wings though considering Sirag’s passion for nature it is also feasible that they were inspired by a large bird.
It’s interesting to note that Khaled Sirag has won seven ceramic competitions in total and has participated in many exhibitions both in Egypt and overseas. Ma’at Changing Colors proves to be a pleasing exhibition inspired by those natural elements we find all around us.