Home > Biennales, Video Projects > “The A77A Project: On Presidents and Superheroes” opens at the Bamako Biennale for African Photography

“The A77A Project: On Presidents and Superheroes” opens at the Bamako Biennale for African Photography

This year, I’ve been invited to show my 2009 work,“The A77A Project: On Presidents and Superheroes”, at the Bamako Biennale for African Photography. It opens in Mali today.
“The A77A Project” is a 3 minute single channel video, combining 2 and 3 D animation and internet extracted imagery.  It’s an ironic investigation into the ‘hybrid’ nature of the Egyptian identity and the social changes that I have personally lived through, both growing up and as an adult in Egypt.

“The A77A Project” explores the complex figure of the ‘super-hero’. From Osiris to Batman, this universal force for good has been created by all civilizations to ward off evil. In this work, two figures come to life on the surface of one of my large-scale paintings. Through cartoon animation, they leave the canvas and posses an unsuspecting passer-by (3D figure) to create Anubis, the jackal headed god of Ancient Egypt, traditionally associated with death and the afterlife.

The newly resurrected Anubis takes us on a walk through the streets of modern Cairo, witnessing paradoxical citizens and situations. These range from the chaotic and comical, to the uncomfortable, as the god strolls past mountainous heaps of refuse, protestors attacked by thugs and citizens pleading with rows of helmeted riot police. Anubis moves through these scenes of poverty and disorder with cool detachment. He is my silent narrator in this matter-of-fact documentation of the current state of the streets of Cairo and the deterioration of a city centre once described as among the most beautiful in the world.

Running as a soundtrack to the god’s journey through Cairo is a looping disco tune and the 1967 resignation speech of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Echoing over the desolate scenes of the city, his words remind us of the collapse of the Pan-Arab ideology in a modern Egypt where “the super heroes of religion” have replaced this superhero of the Arab world.

For me “The A77A Project” tackles that ‘difficult to define’ notion of Egyptian identity’ by addressing its main constituent elements: time, past and present, the superhero or the role model, the process of cultural recycling, contemporary visual imagery in their kinetic and static forms and the sacred values versus the neo-consumer values of globalization. These elements really interest me. They have shaped my video and painting work over the past fifteen years.

 In creating “The A77A project” I used images extracted from the internet; I also took my own photos using my telephone and a compact pocket camera that was ready in my canvas bag wherever I went. Most of the time I shot during daylight, as the precision of images was not as important as the overall changing cityscape. I stitched all images in linear pattern to create a single backdrop cityscape where the superheroes would dwell. To complement my work, I incorporated powerful images taken by anonymous authors, removed their backgrounds on Photoshop, and inserted them on the visual track as backdrops for my super heroes.

What intrigues me about this type of “democratized” practice, made available by anyone for everyone, is that it becomes an open source of information, beyond the reach of censorship…” Such widely sourced imagery gives the work a sense of being, not the individual account a single citizen, but a kind of shared or collective experience.

The A77A project has screened at the Artos Foundation, in Nicosia, Cyprus (2009), LUMEN_EX Digital Awards, Spain (2010) and 17th African Film Festival, New Museum, NY, USA (2010).

  1. marya
    January 4, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    That’s a great initiative you took opening up your studios to other artist. That’s a great personal contribution to the egyptian revolution. I’ll try to attend one day. marya

    • January 11, 2012 at 3:00 pm

      Thank you Marya for your nice words! Would love to have you at the studio – just let me know when you intend to visit.

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