IT'S NEVER TOO LATE TO TALK ABOUT LOVE
8 JUNE - 6 JULY 2013
Nile Sunset Annex, Cairo, Egypt
On show were Khaled's most recent works, five projects talking in tandem about dreams, romance, and vulnerability. Wavering between personal and social registers, the pieces were composed of elements as diverse as marble, newsprint posters, iPhone screenshots, and a song by Jacques Brel. Strong material presence combines with the virtual to create an aesthetic at once austere and extravagant.
1- Untitled (Dream)
[Inkjet print: 150 x 100 cm; glass sheets, wooden shelf; hand written sentence; 2012]. “Untitled (Dream) is a composite photograph compiled from hundreds of images taken while on a research trip to Murcia, Spain. The protagonists are the possible toreros of the near future during training sessions for beginners. Ernest Hemingway’s famously quoted that “There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.” The implication is that a sport can only be called a sport by being an event in which the protagonists are able to perform the possibility of their bodies dying or becoming other. Without the usual drama associated with art works that depict this sport, Untitled (Dream) attempts to capture and intensify the everyday industry that produces the event and spectacle of bullfighting. Our eyes scanning the everyday attire of t-shirt and short clad teens, we are led to realize that this is the rehearsal for a future event in which bodies are being trained to perform the possibility of their own becoming other or death, thus this sport is a real sport -according to Hemingway’s classification - because it’s politics of the body appear to be no coincidence but a matter of accumulated training and rehearsal. “ Bassam El Baroni
2- Please Stay Blurry,
[Offset print: 100 x 70 cm giveaway poster; edition of 500; 2013] “Consists of five hundred copies of a giveaway poster stacked against the gallery wall like a sculptural piece. Printed in glossy offset, the image depicts a photo shoot of a couple posing on the peak of a mountain. The subject of the work appears to be the moment in which two lovers enact, capture and record their love. The format and aesthetics of the piece mimics popular mass-produced sentimental posters, with their idealized images of romantic love and their sublime landscapes of desire. But this idealized image is deceptive. The couple is out of focus; the photographer and his assistant are hidden. The decision by the artist to blur the couple is loaded. It refers the thrills and anxieties of uncertain love. But it also breaks away with the conventions of classical photography in which the main subject is sharp. Please Stay Blurry underscores the position of the photographic image as an aesthetically appealing medium regardless of its content, whether its painful, ugly or controversial.” Aleya Hamza
3- Proposal for a Romantic Sculpture
[Video embedded in sculptural form. Video: 5’ loop on iPod Touch; soundtrack: Ne me quitte pas by Jacques Brel; sculptural form: marble and wood, 29 x 29 x 100 cm; tattoo; 2012]. “A tattoo inscribed on one’s body asking a lover not to leave is a gift. This gift is marked onto the body eternally and not given with the expectation of - as is common - another gift in return. The difficulty of giving an equally valuable gift in return is heightened by the fact that the body-inked words “Don’t leave me” indicate extreme vulnerability. But, it is this performance of vulnerability that is ‘the gift’, signifying the intensity of a classic romanticism but, also a kind of cruelty or vengeance. The vulnerability and romanticism presented on an iPod gain weight and strong material presence when embedded in a sculptural form made of marble and wood and echoing the minimalist tradition. Both the act of romanticism embodied by the tattoo film and the formalist act of embedding the image in a minimalist object are acts that monumentalize an unidentified romantic relationship, but this is a broken monumentality. The tattoo will vanish when the body dies, the wood will rot, as for the video looped on the iPod, well, we have no idea where the billions of yottabytes of digital imagery and information will end up, so like today’s marble remains from antiquity’s civilizations, probably only this humble slab of marble will remain in the future making this proposal for a romantic sculpture at once a gift yet a curse, vulnerable yet monumental, and immanent yet ephemeral. What is love if not these binaries?” Bassam El Baroni
4- Do You Have Work Tomorrow?
[Series of 32 screen shots of a staged conversation on an iPhone, transformed into Black and White photographs developed in a dark room; 2013] “In this piece, artist Mahmoud Khaled captures the ephemeral nature of desire as it manifests against a backdrop of a turbulent and perpetually shifting city. A two-hander, Khaled's work presents a staged conversation using Grindr, the locative mobile phone application designed for gay men. Through this simulated act of exchange, Khaled explores the tensions that arise out of a transformative moment – boredom, disenchantment, and sexual frustration. As the narrative unfolds, a borrowed cultural vernacular begins to emerge. Khaled asks which 'heat' is stronger – that of an illicit sexual longing, or the disruptive fire that encapsulates a moment of deep-seated societal change? Khaled captures this dialogue through black and white photographs, which were developed in a dark room. This process – of recalling the historical processes of traditional photography -- re-positions the conversation between these two individuals to a space that is both spatially and temporally non-located. “ Omar Kholaif
5- MKMAEL STORIES - An Image Passionate
[Book; wooden shelves; 2007] "MKMAEL Stories - an Image Passionate is the sole result of the artist’s now discontinued online research project MKMAEL (2003-2005). MKMAEL was the nickname the artist used as a login for the instant messaging system from which he communicated and shared conversations with male contacts from around the region. The letters that make up this online nickname are the first letters of the artist's full name as featured on his state-issued identity card. The MKMAEL project was a discursive attempt at exploring the psychological and sociopolitical aspects of sexual identity construction and reconstruction during online chatting. The artist began the project with the intention of keeping it purely text-based, but gradually discovered that the introduction of specially designed avatars added to one-on-one dialogues the compelling power of the image and the almost infinite possibilities of self-representation. The driving force behind the long hours of instant messaging is, in the artist’s words, "a pressing need to create documents, eventually leading to the creation of an archive that seriously represents and disambiguates this type of relationship and interactivity."
The MKMAEL project was groundbreaking, not in a sensational sense and not in the sense that it was a project of perfection, complete or even entertaining, but in the sense that it was the probably the first visual art project in the country’s history that managed to negotiate a presence for gay issues and questions - in relation to a wider socio-political context. Sometimes a little over ambiguous, the dialogues attest to the online reciprocation of lies, hidden desires, twisted social logic, and feelings of alienation among MKMAEL and his "buddy list." MKMAEL delineated the boundaries between interaction in physical space and interaction through electronic interfaces in an attempt to demonstrate the inscrutable nature of reality in these online environments.
MKMAEL Stories - an Image Passionate has at its core a tactical reinterpretation of Egypt’s once astoundingly popular line of romance fiction pocket paperbacks “Abeer”. In this book, the artist blurs fact retrieved from the chat archive with fictionist narration to create a frustrating recipe for a gay romance story written in the digital age. Many of “Abeer’s” traits have been kept alive by the artist, the idea of the super-romance that is almost too intense thus becoming a little melodramatic, the intrigue, and the unspoken desire. The cover is a take on the original “Abeer” book covers, but the cover illustration does not feature a man and a woman in a close-up shot as usual, but a rather dark icon of lone masculinity where a silhouetted male figure stands facing a sunset horizon with a can of soda in one hand, wearing a rather funny hat. What are we to make of this image? Is it the passionate image the narrator is referring to in the title? The only way the audience can attempt to find out is by actually reading this short story, but don’t expect all the answers to your questions to be revealed, this project is not about revealing but about how art can negotiate the right of certain identities, orientations, and desires to exist." Bassam El Baroni
Special thanks to Doa Aly and Aleya Hamza for the generous help and support for making this exhibition possible.