Guideposts, Medrar for Contemporary Art, Cairo, Egypt, 2022.
How to Build a City with Two Nails and a Wire, Gypsum Gallery, Cairo, Egypt, 2022.
Where Do We Go from Here, Fiendish Plots Gallery, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA, 2020.
Guideposts, Two site-specific installations commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE, 2016.
Characterized by visual clutter, provisional assemblages, and a hybridity that suggests new meanings for commonplace objects, the prevalence of this vernacular aesthetic is a physical manifestation of an infrastructural vacuum. In this space of potentialities, new strategies of versatile problem-solving emerge, highlighting an acute awareness of temporality and mistrust of anything but the lived present. The artworks in this project respond in various ways to this state, edifying structures that give tangible form to strategies of self-reliance in an amorphous and evolving urban space, and to the forms of social interaction they inadvertently create.
I developed this body of work between 2016 and 2022, where I investigate the form and function of structures born of a culture of improvised troubleshooting in a shifting cityscape. The various pieces take their cues from the creative pragmatism that has created the trademark vernacular aesthetic that permeates public space in Cairo. In Guideposts, I investigate what I term the “institutional aesthetic” — a slapdash approach to problem-solving that I first noted in government buildings, but which is also prevalent in public spaces.
Appearing at first as an incoherent mishmash of materials, the playful, mixed-media wall sculptures retain a functionality that bypasses conventional notions of urban planning and utilitarian design. Their lopsided grids of pipes, bulbs and wires display a disregard for a streamlined form, presenting instead a visual randomness that is purposefully constructed to circumvent a specific material reality. A state of excess characterizes the works, intentionally creating a sensory overload that foregrounds conflicting claims over public space.
I combine each sculpture with absurd textual injunctions and sometimes interactive elements to present a tongue-in-cheek probe into the existing authority of artwork over the spectator. In doing so, I also question the dissonance between the demands of institutional authority and the hybrid, inconsistent facade through which they are communicated.
Text courtesy of Gypsum Gallery (modified)