A New Commission for an Old State
7 March - 18 April 2018
Gypsum Gallery is pleased to present A New Commission for an Old State, Mahmoud Khaled’s second solo exhibition at the gallery following his first one in 2014. In this site-specific show, the artist explores associations between aesthetic and political cues that accompany recurring waves of rebranding nationhood. Khaled’s research-based approach imbeds archival sources in an artistic narrative. He attempts to critically engage with the burden of a nostalgia to a fabled golden age and state-sanctioned processes of constructing collective memory.
Reenacting formal and conceptual aspects of memorials, Khaled focuses on three iconic artifacts within the Egyptian context. The first is a gated summer resort in Alexandria called Maamoura built by the state shortly after Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power to accommodate the new elite of the “rebranded” (post-1952) Egypt, a significant yet painfully understudied monument of modernist architecture in Egypt.
The second is a landmark text titled “Maamoura's Victims” written by Judge Hassan Jalal, a harsh critic of the Egyptian monarchy. Published in 1955 in a renowned Arabic literary magazine, the text reports on the horrendous conditions and systematic tortures in a prisoner camp on the deposed King Farouk's properties, which later became the land on which Maamoura was built. Jalal’s text serves as a reference to the political layers of the exhibition, bridging different epochs in the history of modern Egypt.
The third artifact is a 1961 film by Youssef Chahine titled “A Man in my Life”, a remake of Douglas Sirk’s “Magnificent Obsession” from 1954. “A Man in my Life”, a relatively unknown work within Chahine’s filmography, started production in Maamoura a few months after the resort officially launched in 1959. The story revolves around the life of a fictitious architect who is known for his remarkable modernist style and who has built one of Maamoura’s most memorable buildings, which is used as a backdrop in the opening scene of the film.
Khaled utilizes building materials such as glass, marble and mosaic tiles that have been widely used in nationalist architectural projects in Egypt. These materials are mixed with photos, texts, screenshots, and found-footage video - all presented together an installation that borrows from the language of public memorials. A New Commission for an Old State is fueled by an urgency to grasp and make up for the absences that are inherent in the construction of remembrance.
Mahmoud Khaled (b. 1982) studied fine art at Alexandria University in Egypt and Trondheim University in Norway. His work - spanning video, photography, sculpture, installation, sound and text - explores what is real and what is hidden, disguised or staged. His solo shows include A New Commission for an Old State at Edith-Ruth-Haus, Oldenburg (2016); Proposal for a Porn Company, Galpão VB | Associação Cultural Videobrasil, São Paulo (2016); Painter on a Study Trip, Gypsum Gallery, Cairo (2016); It’s Never Too Late to Talk About Love, Nile Sunset Annex, Cairo (2014); When Meanings Face Glossy Surfaces, Contemporary Image Collective, Cairo (2010) and I Never Wanted to Be Alone in a Room, BALTIC Center for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2010). His group exhibitions include 15th Istanbul Biennial; 13th Sharjah Biennale; Terra Mediterranea - in Action, NiMAC Arts Center, Nicosia (2017); Hips Don't Lie, Centre Pompidou, Malaga; Electronic Superhighway, Whitechapel Gallery, London and Complicity, Sultan Gallery, Kuwait (2016). In 2012 Khaled was awarded the Videobrasil In Context prize, in 2016 he was shortlisted for the 2016 Abraaj Art Prize. Khaled lives and works in Trondheim and Alexandria.