Opening: saturday december 1, 2007 6.00 pm
Claudio Poleschi Arte Contemporanea presents Wael Shawky's first solo show in Italy, in the deconsecrated church of San Matteo in Lucca.
The Egyptian artist, born in 1971 and residing in Alexandria, studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of his city and at the Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He has been exhibiting in Egypt since 1994 and internationally since 1997 (Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna), and participated in major exhibitions such as the 6th International Cairo Biennial in 1996, (where he won the Grand Nile Prize), the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003 (in the section Smottamenti at the Arsenale, curated by Gilane Tawadros) and at the 9th International Istambul Biennial in 2005 (curated by Charles Esche and Vasif Kortun). 47th October Art Salon Belgrade, 2006 (curated by RenÃ© Block) Petroliana, Moscow Biennale, 2007 Moscow Museum of Modern Art. Riwaq biennale, Ramallah 2007 (curated by Khalil Rabah) He also took part in group exhibitions in important institutions for contemporary art such as The Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art, Cairo (since 2001) Artists Space, New York, 2003, MACRO, Rome, 2004 and 2005, Platform Garanti of Contemporary Art, Istanbul, 2005. Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin, 2005, Hellenic American Union, Athens Frieze Art Fair The Artists Cinema, London, 2006. Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, 2006. Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerland, 2006. Tate Modern, London, 2007. Kunstmuseum Bonn, 2007.
Now the artist is partecipating in Meeting Points 5th that takes place in Teatro, Tunis; The Townhouse Gallery, Cairo; Center Estral, Beirut; Jesuits Cultural Center, Alexandria; CCF Galerie, Damascus; International Academy of Art Palastine, Ramallah; Theatre National Mohammed V Foyer, Rabat; KVS, Brussels; HAU DREI, Berlin.
His production, mostly comprising videos and video installations, but since 2006 (Boundary Lines, No Man's Land, Action Field Kodra, Kalamaria, Salonicco, curated by Pier Luigi Tazzi) also drawings, takes the form as a construction of figural scenarios in which old cultures, such as that of nomadic people and farmers, come into conflict with the currently dominant culture on a global scale, that is urban culture. In the same way, not only a great spiritual and religious tradition like that of Islam clashes with an equally winning tradition of modernity, with its playful, materialistic and consumeristic aspects, but also word with languages. So hybrid shapes arise, shapes that do not withdraw into themselves, not self-referential, on the contrary they affirm the co-existence of divergent components and the persistence of values in the multiple statute of culture in today's world. Shawky's work is not so much "to not forget", as to affirm unavoidable presences, that on the contrary, the dominant culture tries to obliterate, to marginalise and downgrade, often reaching more or less explicit judgements of criminalisation, all in the name of a universal homogenisation.
The work presented in Lucca is the second part of a series entitled Telematch, after the name of the German television show of the 70s, which went on for two decades all over the world, from Southeast Asia to the Caribbean, from the Sub-Saharan Africa to Latin America, and known in Italy as Giochi senza frontiere.
Telematch Sadat concerns the re-enactment of a crucial event in recent Egyptian history. On October 6, 1981, the military parade took place in Cairo, the same that every year celebrated the only Egyptian victory of 1973, during the conflict of the Arab countries led by Egypt against the State of Israel since its establishment in1948. An armed group, probably belonging to the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, after infiltrated into the army, assaulted the presidential stand and shot, among others, President Muhammad Anwar Al Sadat. Having succeeded Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1970, he had determined that only victory and had been awarded the Nobel Peace Price in 1978 for the Camp David Peace Agreements that were to lead to peace between Egypt and Israel the following year. In spite of his supposed deep religiousness, he was advocate of a liberal and lay state. After the assassination, Sadat was immediately succeeded by his vice president, General Hosni Mubarak, who is still the Egyptian president.
The film, made in Egypt in recent months, in co-production with Claudio Poleschi Arte contemporanea, re-enacts the military parade, the assassination and the funeral of Sadat. It is the main component of an installation specially made for the ex-liturgical space of the deconsecrated church of San Matteo. The actors are mostly male and female children.
Wael Shawky's Telematch Sadat is the first exhibition of a series conceived and curated by Pier Luigi Tazzi for the deconsecrated church of San Matteo in Lucca. The aim of the project is contemporary art's openness to the world through the presentation of European and non-European artists and through a reflection on the crisis of the European conscience and its culture.
(P. L. T.)