Thanks 4 the Ad/d. 2008

Three punched out printed online profiles, displayed in a 100 x 70 cm framed glass, exterior and exterior structure, wood, paint, curtains, three large light boxes, vinyl, chairs. 


Thanks for the Ad/d is an installation that tackles the difficult position of HIV-infected individuals living in a society which marginalises and often criminalises them. Mahmoud Khaled’s specific point of departure is a series of online profiles of individuals who actively use the web as an alternative platform for communication, whether for personal exchanges or as a source of information on taboo issues still ignored by the official Egyptian the healthcare system. The door to the installation opens into a tiny vestibule leading to a room with three wall-to-wall light boxes bearing text and radiating heat into an oppressively stark carpeted environment. On each light box, a different fictionalised profile of an HIV-infected individual is printed in black on white vinyl. The profiles provide insights into the strengths, insecurities, emotions and desires of the personas they stand for, as well as basic tabled information about their physical appearance and lifestyle. They use the stilted Arabic / English idiom of the online forum communications they impersonate, disclosing as much as they omit, and reiterating the precarious existence of such communities. The installation borrows a range of strategies used in advertising as powerful tools for public communication. The texts combine sensational language with the more persuasive testimonial-driven style of advertorials. Khaled complicates his references to the public sphere even further by fusing the form of the street light box as a public medium for communication with the space of the hospital in which public health is administered. Thanks 4 the Ad/d is a continuation of Khaled’s ongoing investigation of personal identities and loaded socio-political conditions.


"Mahmoud Khaled’s installation Thanks for the Ad/d (2008) focuses on the constitutive omissions defining an anonymous yet intensely intimate forum of communication. The space is an abbreviated L-shaped passage, hardly the size of a dysfunctional walk-in closet and paneled with light boxes on which passages extracted from on-line chats appear in vinyl lettering. The discussions focus topics related to HIV – its transmission, its reality as a lived condition, its threat – and are expressed in a stuttered, sometimes hard-to-decipher English-Arabic internet language mix. Details of identity are filtered out awkwardly; absences and withheld information shape the language. The installation has some of the feeling of a personal research project in the process of being translated into an accessible form. However, this lack of finish resonates, at one level, as true to the nature of the furtive and fragmentary discussions it takes as a subject. Khaled’s installation negotiates the same careful line of obscurity and expression demanded of the Internet chats it quotes."

Clare Davies -The Pretty Lady Paradigm of the Arts Commission, PhotoCairo 4-The Long Short Cut, 2009.


"Thanks for the Ad/d, based on profiles of HIV-infected Egyptians, is not a direct political confrontation with cultural norms. Rather, he focuses on the claustrophobia and silence of living with HIV in a culture where those experiencing the epidemic must remain hidden. The text-based work, presented in a sterile hospital-like installation space, is one of documentation and fiction, a balance between the two. He takes online profiles of anonymous Egyptians infected with the virus and uses a hole punch to eat their testimonies, as if a virus has done its damage. These profiles are exposed like x-rays on light boxes. This is not simply a commentary on disease, but on forced silence. And while the confrontation is primarily poetic, not activist, in quality, one stance can quickly give way to the other. Underlying the exhibit is a critique of the Egyptian health system and its ineffective response to a still taboo epidemic."

Joseph Pearson




Photos © Tarek Hefny, Mahmoud Khale and Photocairo 4.

Commissioned by PhotoCairo4: "The Long Shortcut", curated by Aleya Hamza & Edit Molnar.