DAK’ART 2014

11ème Biennale de l’Art Africain Contemporain 09/05>08/06

Wael Shawky

English
français

Al-Araba al-Madfuna 2 : video, 34’ 44", 2013, Courtesy of the artist & Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut / Hambourg.
Dictums: 10:120 : video, 23’ 40", 2013, courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation.
Dictums: Manqia 1 : video, 11’ 10".

Wael Shawky is an artist of synthesis. He has been creating, for many years, a convergence between the artistic memory of the Arab world and the most contemporary situations. He is interested in the manner in which men write history, how they fictionalize it, as well as one of the fundamental thoughts of the arab world: the Arabic literary language, al-fussha.
About ten years ago, he was invited to a village in Egypt, Al-Araba Al-Madfuna. There he discovered the world of researchers of pharaonic treasures, of Cheikhs as they are called in this region— shamans of modern times. The artist tries to “understand” the strange cohabitation in daily life between a metaphysical world made of magic, of spirituality, of fictional narratives related to treasures infused into the ground, and a physical world of more normal village life.
From this experience, a film in two parts was born Al-Araba al-Madfuna 1 & 2. To account for the incongruity he feels, Wael Shawky constructs the script of the film from histories of Mohamed Mustagab (1938 – 2005) — the Egyptian author known for his short stories and literary essays. His writing is marked by a refined usage of the Arab language and by an imaginary world where dream, myth, and reality coexist.
The script of Al-Araba al-Madfuna 2, presented at the Biennale in Dakar, is based on two short stories of the Egyptian writer: L’offrande (The Offering) and les chevaliers aiment les parfums (Horsemen adore perfumes). In the film, we see children dressed as adults, speaking perfect Arabic with adult voices, all in a natural setting floating between dream and reality.
These superposed, antagonizing images (childhood / adulthood, literary language / mundane everyday settings…) provoke a tension in the cinematographic narrative. We watch a story, that of images of the village, while we listen to another story, that of texts recited by adults over the bodies of children.
Dictums: 10:120 is the video of a performance produced on the occasion of the Biennale of Sharjah 2013, in which the artist gathers 30 workers of Pakistani origin. They are invited to sing a recital accompanied by two professional musicians trained in traditional Sufi chant. The chanted words come from curatorial texts of contemporary art world that the artist translated into Urdu.
In this conflation between form and content, the artist questions the contemporary art institutions in their relationships with local communities.

Wael Shawky (born in Alexandria 1971) studied fine art at the University of Alexandria before receiving his M.F.A. from the University of Pennsilvania in 2000. Using a variety of medias such as film, drawing, photography, and performance, Wael Shawky investigates and analyzes the real and imaginary histories and narratives of the Arab world. His multi-latered reconstructions and retellings force viewers to engage in questions of truth, myth, and stereotypes. The artist sees himself as a translator of instances of civilizational transition into form. His ongoing project Cabaret Crusades, begun in 2010, is comprised of series of drawings, objects, and marionette animated films based on the book “The Crusades Through Arab Eyes” by Amin Maalouf. It focuses on the analysis of written history, drawing from a variety of historical sources for inspiration in order to re-present and translate the history of the Crusades with a fresh perspecvitve. The films “Cabaret Crusade: The Horrow Show File” (2010) and “Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo” (2012) were exhibited along with accompanying installations of drawings and objects at dOCUMENTA (13) in the summer of 2012. His work has been included major international exhibitions as Re:emerge, Sharjah Biennial (2013); Here, Elsewhere, Marseille-Provence (2013); dOCUMENTA (13) (2012); 9th Gwangju Biennial, South Corea (2012); 12th International Istanbul Biennial (2011); SITE Santa Fe Biennial (2008); 9th International Istanbul Biennial (2005); Urban Realities: Focus Istanbul, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2005); 50th Venice Biennial (2003). He had one-person exhibitions most recently at KW Berlin (2012) and at Nottingham Contemporary (2011); Walker Art Gallery, Minneapolis (2011); The Delfina Foundation (2011), Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut (2010/11); Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy (2010); Townhouse, Cairo (2005, 2003). Shawky has received many awards for his work, including the Sharjah Biennial Award 2013 for exceptional contribution, the „Award for the Filmic Oevre“ created by Luis Vuitton and KINO DER KUNST (2013); Abraaj Capital Art Prize, joint winner (2012); Kunstpreis der Schering Stiftung (2011); Grand Prize, 25th Alexandria Biennale, Alexandria (2009). In 2011 he was an artist in residence at The Center for Possible Studies, Serpentine Gallery, London. Wael Shawky lives and works in Alexandria, Egypt, and is the founder of MASS Alexandria, a studio program for young artists.

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