Wael Shawky : A retrospective

Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Turin, Italy
03 Nov 2016 - 05 Feb 2017

Wael Shawky : A retrospective

Wael Shawky, Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo, 2012.

The retrospective of Wael Shawky (Alexandria, Egypt, 1971), held at the Castello di Rivoli, presents a series of film works, sculptures, and new wooden high-reliefs inspired by the Crusades and narrated from an Arab rather than a European point of view.

The artist transforms the space of the Manica Lunga, whose walls have been painted blue, into a spectacular stage design. The exhibition itinerary, unfolding across a construction of towers inside of which Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File (2010) is screened, leads visitors towards a hanging garden with twenty-six sculptures on display at the sides. Then there is another construction that calls to mind a minaret: inside, Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo (2012) is shown. The exhibition continues with a series of photographs of marionettes and ends with the third video in the trilogy, The Secrets of Karbala (2015). “Visitors – writes Marcella Beccaria – are swept off into the distant past, the echoes of which are nonetheless recognizable in our unstable present of Middle Eastern wars and new uncertainties.”

Inspired by Medieval Islamic sources like Usama Ibn Munqidh and Ibn al-Qalànisi—as well as The Crusades through Arab Eyes (1983) by the Lebanese historian Amin Maalouf—Cabaret Crusades lingers upon the Church’s military campaigns in the Holy Land. The artist begins his story with the first Crusades, from 1096 to 1099, staged in the first chapter of the Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File. It then continues with the First and Second Crusade, which took place between 1099 and 1145, represented in Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo. These works bypass the more traditional notions regarding the clash of civilizations between the Western world and Islamic cultures. The use of marionettes instead of real actors allows the trilogy to be magical in tone and seemingly different from the violent and macabre subject described. Shawky used antique marionettes of the eighteenth century from the Lupi Collection in Turin for the first film and custom-made ceramic ones for the second work.

The Secrets of Karbala is the final chapter in the trilogy and uses glass marionettes from Murano. These glass marionettes blend human and non-human animal traits. The work also mentions the Battle of Kerbela (680), the main and tragic event that ultimately led to the division between Shiites and Sunnis even today. The story ends with the capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204.

The trilogy treats the issue of history and human events overwhelmed by ambition and rivalry, by betrayal and violence.

The exhibition opening: November 2 at Castello di Rivoli is drafted by Marcella Beccaria and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev.

In conjunction with the retrospective at Castello di Rivoli, the Fondazione Merz in Turin will also showcase Wael Shawky, the winner of the first edition of the Mario Merz Prize, with the focused exhibition Wael Shawky: Al Araba Al Madfuna curated by Abdellah Karroum. On view from 2nd November 2016 until 5th February 2017.




All content © 2024 Contemporary And. All Rights Reserved. Website by SHIFT