Wael Shawky: al-Qurban is the first major London exhibition of the Egyptian artist Wael Shawky. The show will feature the worldwide premiere of the artist’s latest film Al Araba Al Madfuna II (2013).
In addition to Shawky’s new film, the Serpentine exhibition will include the two films that comprise his Cabaret Crusades series: The Horror Show File (2010) and The Path to Cairo (2012). In these films Shawky uses marionettes to enact key events that occurred during the Crusades. Exploring the notion that there is no single historical truth, Shawky re-tells the crusades from the Middle Eastern perspective, using classical Arabic, the language spoken in news bulletins and in the Quran, to frame his narrative with a voice of authority.
Shawky’s new film Al Araba Al Madfuna II (2013), which will premiere at the Serpentine exhibition, re-tells Egyptian novelist Mohamed Mustagab’s parables, Horsemen Adore Perfume and The Offering. By using children to enact the stories with adult voices and dress, Shawky leaves an open-ended interpretation to the work. Alongside the three films, Wael Shawky: al-Qurban will showcase a selection of flags and drawings, many of them new works, and will present a display of ceramic marionettes made by the artist, that feature in his film The Path to Cairo.
Wael Shawky was the recipient of the Ernst Schering Foundation Art Award in 2011 and the Abraaj Capital Art Prize in 2012. His films, installations and performances explore history, culture and the effect of globalisation on contemporary societies using multi-layered historical reconstructions to navigate the territory between truth and myth. In 2011, Shawky undertook a residency with the Serpentine’s Edgware Road Project, which was organised in collaboration with the Townhouse Gallery, Cairo and the Delfina Foundation, London. The Serpentine’s Edgware Road Project focuses on Asian and Middle Eastern culture, with Wael Shawky: al-Qurban a continuation of this dialogue.
In addition to his work as an artist, Wael Shawky runs MASS Alexandria, the first independent studio study programme for young artists in Alexandria, Egypt. Shawky has held solo shows internationally, including at Kunst-Werke Institute, Germany (2012), Nottingham Contemporary, UK (2011) and the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (2011); and has presented work at dOCUMENTA 13 (2012).