basim magdy

basim magdy

When Thought Evades the Great Thinker

Basim Magdy’s (b. 1977 Assiut, Egypt, lives in Basel, Switzerland and Cairo, Egypt) practice is grounded in an interest in iconic images and objects outside of explicit historical investigation or political referencing. His work concerns itself with the social implications of such symbols, and how they transform over time and in changing contexts into a mix of legend and bizarre cultural constructions and encounters. Often employing the language and forms of science fiction in his work, Magdy reveals something essential about human nature and desire by presenting worlds where the impossible becomes plausible reality.

In his short film My Father Looks for an Honest City, 2010 the protagonist, torch in hand, walks amidst the rubble of dreams - acting out a premonition of a fantasy dystopian future that is in fact the present. The film is built around three key elements: The intimate quality of the title referencing his own father; a re-enactment of an anecdote relating to the Greek philosopher, Diogenes the Cynic, who was known to carry around a lamp in daytime purportedly to find an honest man; and a dismal landscape of failed modernist housing blocks. As in his other works, the film has an uncanny quality but his familiar humoristic playful imagery is in this case absent. The very real landscape coupled with the tragic and abandoned desolation of this identifiable man confront the viewer with the reality of a city that has failed before it even had a chance to be born.

Part of a large collection of photographs that Magdy has been developing for several years, is Every Subtle Gesture, 2012 also on view. The images appear to be a form of documentation or a specialized archive, but in fact they are all disparate snapshots of some kind of fragment, and that seems to be the only strand binding them together. The phrase accompanying each snapshot encapsulates it as a surreal moment or part of an imaginary tale. The series as a whole follows no discernable narrative or plot, but the little clues Magdy offers beckon the viewer to turn this ambiguity into a magical story of their own.

Standing tall between these works is a metal arch Time Hole, 2012 leading nowhere and with no clear way in or out. Seemingly carnivalesque and lighthearted, this sculpture presents itself as the gateway to infinity no matter which way you pass through. This physical metaphor brings the show together revealing what is perhaps its central theme: Since we are always in the middle of a story, isn’t reconstructing the past or speculating on the future a futile exercise?

Magdy’s work appeared recently in solo and group exhibitions at Transmediale, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2012); Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin/Madrid, Centre Pompidou, Paris; Argos Art Center, Brussels; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; Institut Mathildenhöhe, Darmstadt; 1st D-O ARK Underground Biennial, Konjic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCa), North Adams (2011); 2nd Ateliers de Rennes Biennale d’art contemporain, Rennes; DEPO, Istanbul (2010); Kunsthaus Baselland, Basel/Muttenz, Newman Popiashvili Gallery, New York (2009); MARCO - Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Vigo, Spain, Townhouse Gallery, Cairo (2008); Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (CAAC), Sevilla, Spain, Apexart, New York; Le Fresnoy, Tourcoing, France (2007); la Caixa Foundation, Barcelona; Sala Rekalde, Bilbao; Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai; SAW Gallery, Ottawa (2006); Momenta Art, New York; Hiscox Art Projects, London (2005) Neue Kunsthalle St. Gallen, St. Gallen, Switzerland and Art in General, New York (2004) among others.
In 2012 his work will appear in La Triennale, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (curated by Okwui Enwezor and Newtopia, a project taking place at different venues in Mechelen, Belgium (curated by Katerina Gregos), Project 35, ICI – Independent Curators International, New York (selected by Nat Muller) and at AR/GE Kunst Gallery Museum, Bolzano (curated by Luigi Fassi).

Mai Abu ElDahab

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