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Gallery Misr: 'Tank Girl' by Nadine Hammam
Every now and then you find an art exhibition in Cairo that is completely different from all the others, to the point where you can’t stop Tweeting about it or taking pictures to put up on Facebook. This is exactly what happened when we stepped into Gallery Misr where ‘Tank Girl’ by Nadine Hammam was on display.
The first thing that caught our eye was the blue banner covered in pink letters, with the words: ‘GO LOVE YOURSELF’. The pieces, by Cairo born and raised Hamman, are mixed-media and focus mostly on gender dynamics and investigate the relationship between the public versus the private, the external versus the internal, which are key to Middle Eastern society.
Tank Girl is about the most primitive search for attention, affection and passion. It highlights the elusive yet complex relation of love and sex; something that, in contemporary social context, ties into the traditional overbearing Egyptian society. Hammam’s paintings suppose a stronger, more independent and more elusive female persona.
From an aesthetic point of view, Hammam’s pieces are multilayered and her use of colours pops. One example shows a female figure with a glittery bunny in between her legs, with text reading ‘Just Love Me’. The same colours are used in most of the series; mainly primary colours red and blue. Her piece ‘The Girl with a Hole in Her Heart’ features a woman sitting down with condom wrappers in the place of her heart. One of the best pieces, carrying the title of the exhibition, is ‘Tank Girl’. A woman sits with her legs straddling an army tank with the phallic shaped turret of the tank in an erect position and seems to be ejaculating rats.
Another very nice piece shows a woman sitting in a seductive pose with ‘You said you wanted me, so here I am’ written on her body. Condom wrappers make another appearance in a piece with two women back to back with the text ‘I need a revolver more than I need you’. The word revolver is made out of the wrappers while some words have a small white line with the text ‘Love me please’. We were also quite impressed with the ‘For How Long Will You Love Me’, which shows the word ‘me’ between the legs of the female figure.
If you want to purchase a piece by Nadine Hamman, you will need a fair amount of money. Pieces are between $8,000 and $20,000. They might be relatively pricey but then again, it’s worth it. The exhibition is an absolute must see and kudos to Nadine Hamman for tackling this subject in such a brilliant way.
The Contemporary Image Collective’s current exhibition is a confusing, chaotic and ultimately cutting review of the relationship between what we see and what is real.
The artists included in the exhibition are a diverse group from international backgrounds who have been brought together by CIC in Cairo and London’s Tate Modern. Over the New Year, London got a chance to see the exhibition and this month it’s opened in Cairo.
The gallery is filled with nine video installations, all playing simultaneously; some are silent, some have headphones, some blare through the gallery, mingling with other soundtracks. Kasia Redzisz and Aleya Hamza have curated an exhibition that asks viewers to re-evaluate the faith we put in the legitimacy and reliability of information we receive. The inventive and entertaining ways in which this is done make it a very effective art show, which has implications for the modern human experience.
In most of the pieces, there is neither context nor a cohesive message contained within it; instead, the disjointed construction of the films and unreliable narratives in them remind viewers to be guarded against mistaking impressions for truths.
The films make use of interview footage, Youtube clips, archived images, film clips, plain text,\ and sound to obscure the meaning conveyed in the image. The first piece we saw, Powerchord Skateboard (2006), is a highly personal work by Cairo-based artist, Sherif El Azma, which set the tone for the exhibition. With two screens in the corner of a room and two sets of headphones, viewers watch the film made of disjointed images, sounds and videos that seem out of sync with each other. The images then appear to tell a story, yet there is enough ambiguity in the editing to allow viewers to make their own associations from the chronology of the clips.
A Middle Aged Woman (2009), by Ján Mančuška, explores the same premise through a text which changes in its meaning depending on which words are highlighted and which are faded out. Although the entire work comes from a single, original paragraph the meanings created through various compositions are diverse and illustrate the fact that one source may have multiple readings, depending on which elements of it are considered.
Laumann’s work stretches this central idea to its limit through an exposition of a conspiracy theory that names the work, Morrissey Foretelling the Death of Diana (2006). In this film, a sage and collected voice details are erratic yet seemingly interlinked, leading to the theory’s controversial conclusion: viewers are encouraged to believe the version of an event offered through images and facts. This revelation is unnerving, but the show’s insistence upon validated truth is captivating and inspiring.
The implications of this experience are more practical than could be expected from such a bizarre and disjointed collection; in this age of incessant streams of information, which come at us through the internet in an immediate and unfiltered format, the practice of scrutiny against what we see and hear is all the more necessary. This exhibition simply asks us to displace our sense of certainty and facilitate our critical abilities for a more robust interrogation of truth.