A Memorial to Failure. 2013
Engraved crystal plaque and HD video; 19.55 min, color, sound.
On the pretext of a studio visit, an influential cultural figure visits an art student. Roles shift, vulnerability becomes professional, and failure celebrates itself as an infinite process.
In 2012, the well known theorist Franco “Bifo” Berardi conducted studio visits with artists on an independent international post-graduate study programme in Beirut, Lebanon. One of these artists was Mahmoud Khaled who was trying to recover from an artist’s block induced by current socio-political complexities. Instead of showing Berardi his work, Khaled decided to interview him, asking questions related to the conditions hampering his creativity. What remains is a trail of thought in which Berardi thinks about failure, revolution, social change, art, and activism – the same issues that occupy the artist but that also frustrate him. While we listen to Berardi’s determined voice the camera takes us on a non-linear journey in birds-eye view through the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Jounieh, Lebanon. Shot while on cable car rides in both these cities, the vast scenic views in slow motion transmit a sense of relaxation, a sense of looking at things from an objective distance, but also of inspection. The juxtaposition of Berardi’s insights with this imagery of open spaces paints an abstract portrait of the artist’s inner psyche as he struggles to unleash his creativity from the confines of artist’s block.
Engraved crystal / marble plaque accompanies the video. This item commemorates a moment of acute awareness the artist had. It is the moment when he was able to perceive the connections between moving in a cable car suspended in mid-air and the idea that failure is evident and should not be feared put forth by Berardi at the beginning of the video. The documentation of that private moment is the artist’s memorial to failure.
Produced by: Robert Matta
Credits: Colouring and post production: Belal Hibri (Rez Visual , Beirut)
Thank you Akram Zaatari, Christine Tohme, Joe Namy , Amal Issa , Aya Tarek , Nermine El Ansari and Xenia Bergman. Courtesy the artist and Gypsum Gallery , Cairo.
"The endless framing is a subtle example of his use of humor, but it is also evident in his creation of a fictitious trophies for the worst work of art. Placed at the very end of the gallery, with its own spotlight, it congratulates an artist for his apparent failure to understand his medium or use it in inspiring and new ways. Perhaps a tongue-in-cheek gesture, it also serves as critique of award-giving artistic competitions that set artificial standards for evaluating art that exclude alternative or radical possibilities.
The trophy is accompanied by a video of footage, filmed from above, of a cable car crossing mountain peaks in Lebanon and Brazil. There is a voiceover, an edited audio track of Italian thinker Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi meditating on the role of art and the artist during a studio visit he paid to Khaled in 2012. The unwavering filming angle, the deliberate slow pace of the cable car, and the subject being filmed (nature) all coincide with the same preoccupations the artist has about what the “proper” subject matter for contemporary visual art is. How can artists communicate through their work their interests and inspirations? The voiceover reminds us of a deep-rooted expectation of a certain role artists and art should play, or toward which they have to assume a particular position. " By Ismail Fayed - Published on Mada Masr **