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‘Field Statements: Images from Tahrir Square’ at Institut Francais d’Égypte au Caire

Institut Francais d’Égypte au Caire: ‘Field Statements: Printemps Arabe’

reviewed by
Anne de Groot
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Institut Francais d’Égypte au Caire: ‘Field Statements: Printemps Arabe’

The French Institute in Mounira frequently holds exhibitions and other
interesting cultural activities. The current exhibition being held at the institute is ‘Field Statements: Printemps Arabe’.

The group exhibition is held
in cooperation with the Ninth Rencontres de Bamako African Photography
Biennale. Les Rencontres de Bamako is a
cultural event focusing on international issues of contemporary photography and
video. It includes exhibitions, professional meetings, workshops, public
screenings and catalogues, which aims to serve as an inspirational catalyst for
artists in Africa. This year’s edition of Bamako decided to honour the Egyptian
revolution.

‘Field Statements’ exhibits the work of thirteen Egyptian photography
and video installation artists sharing their first-hand experiences with the
events of January 25th and the demonstrations in Tahrir Square. The
exhibition is held on the ground floor just behind the reception on the way to
the garden, where the restaurant is located. The exhibition is a
combination of photographs, paintings and collages. There are a little over
twenty pieces.

The most interesting parts of the exhibition are the works by Ahmed El
Shaer. His work is very much a mixture of modern culture and history. He has a
piece of Nasser in an 8-bit Atari style that makes him look like a video
game character. This reviewer found it difficult to understand the precise
meaning of the piece, though.

El Shaer’s best piece is a collage of a camel. Around the borders of
the painting are soldiers, Facebook, Twitter and a bottle of vinegar as well.
The piece refers to the battle of the camels in Tahrir while Facebook and
Twitter represent the pivotal role that social media played in documenting the revolution. Vinegar was used
by demonstrators to wash their eyes during the teargas bombardments, and is a
symbol of the primitive yet practical and intelligent solutions that drove the
revolution.

Nermine Hamman focused through her five
photographs on the allegiance
between Muslims and Christians during the revolution. Most of her images
show people from both religions hand in hand while demonstrating in Tahrir.

The works of Hala Abu Shady are collages of various photos overflowing and overlapping one another. The shots are mostly of women participating in the
demonstrations in Tahir.

Khaled Hafez’s contribution comes in the form of a video installation. The twenty-minute
video shows live images from Tahrir. The video is interesting, but
unfortunately, the lack of available seating in front of the screen may make standing for twenty minutes a bit tedious. Additionally, two photos of Hafez’s ‘Field Diaries’ collection are displayed at the exhibition. The images were taken by Hafez during his time in
Tahrir and reflect his personal viewpoint on the revolution.

Though the exhibition is interesting and displays some new talent on the
scene, its material is neither new nor refreshing: the images of Tahrir bring
nothing new to the table, especially after the past ten months of Tanrir over-saturation with exhibitions, books, videos and so on.  However, the exhibition is worth a visit, if
only to view these personal experiences of such established Egyptian artists.

360 Tip

The Institute's restaurant is a great spot for a light working lunch, thanks to their free wireless internet.

Best Bit

Ahmed El Shaer’s work stands out as the most interesting element of the exhibition.

Worst Bit

The screening of Khaled Hafez's twenty-minute video is not presented practically. The exhibition's theme of the revolution has been excessively repeated in the past ten months.

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