The prison of manhood might be paved with metal car parts, bricks and monumental architecture, at least according to Cairo-based artist Ibrahim Ahmed. Decoding his personal relationship to masculinity through collage works, photography, writing and sculpture – more than 50 works are currently on view at Z2o gallery in Rome until 21 January 2019.
In a spatial narration that is based on his personal odyssey the gallery shows various chapters of this deconstruction throughout the three different rooms. Through locating his personal history as a male migrant, moving from the Middle East to the US and back to Egypt, the artist elaborates an discourse around the aesthetics of embodied domination and the power relations behind the construction of masculinity. The informal and fragile paper works as well as colossal sculptural particles constitute an exhibition that is as multilayered as the complexities of gendered identity. Some of the collage works play with futuristic architecture and design elements, making a comment on the entanglement of potency and buildings, while others negotiate the relationship to the male flesh and the intersection of culture and body making.
Ahmed is en route to break a multitude of barriers. The discourse around the construction of femininity has been an open fire for the last decades, while the public discourse around masculinity took the back seat. Looking at the current global public discourse, rising European Islamophobia and especially the far-right peculiarities in Italy; one of the sharpest transgressions of the show might be breaking with the stereotype of the careless and rash, patriarchal Arab male. What is left to be desired in the conversation is rather situated on the side of the recipient. Is the viewer ready to talk about complex constructions around the materiality of bodies and the social and cultural practices through which particular versions of masculinity are made? Or is it satisfactory enough to pull out the “queer” label?