Maha Maamoun’s videos and photographs address the form and function of images that are found in mainstream culture. Her work acts as a lens through which we see familiar images in novel and insightful ways. She does that by making subtle interventions in photographic material that she captures on camera or borrows from various sources. Through an unusual crop, a seamless edit, an odd juxtaposition, an incongruent photomontage, a staged remake, Maamoun shakes up our expectations and toys with our perception.
Maamoun’s approach keeps a balance between what is studied and what is intuitive, leaving room for the incidental to play itself out. She freely mines the public domain for high and low brow images, respectively making videos that have consisted of YouTube footage of material shot live on mobile phone cameras during the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution, excerpts from bootleg copies of popular Egyptian films from the 1950s to the present and a remake of a single iconic image lifted from an experimental French film dubbed with a futuristic account of a different place.
With a keen eye for the absurd and a dark sense of humor, Maamoun’s work pulls on emotional, psychological and cerebral strings. She has been known to reflect on generic and overused national symbols and the ways in which they have been appropriated to construct personal narratives and collective histories. Since 2007, she has completed a succession of projects that take as their starting point the Pyramids of Giza as a visual and literary image.
Working primarily in photography and video, Maha Maamoun’s work has been presented by many institutions worldwide including Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; MoMA, New York; ICP, New York; New Museum, New York; MuHKA, Antwerp; MATHAF – Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Beirut Art Center, Beirut; Makan, Amman; Steirischer Herbst, Graz; Witte de With, Rotterdam; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen and Haus der Kunst, Munich. Her work was also shown in biennials and festivals including the 6th Dak’art Biennial, Dakar; Bamaco 03, Mali; 9th Gwangju Biennale; Sharjah Biennial 10; Transmediale 2014, Berlin and 64th Berlinale, Berlin. Maamoun’s solo shows include Lingering in Vicinity, Gypsum Gallery and The Night of Counting the Years, Fridericianum, Kassel in 2014 and The Law of Existence at Sursock Museum, Beirut in 2017. In addition to her art practice, she has curated and partook in the curating of arts projects in the Middle East and Europe. She is a founding board member of the Contemporary Image Collective (CIC) – an independent non-profit space for art and culture founded in Cairo in 2004. Maha Maamoun lives and works in Cairo and her works are in private and public collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Deutsche Bank, Bonnefantenmuseum, MuHKA, Sharjah Art Foundation, Barjeel Art Foundation, FRAC – Poitou Charentes and the Whitney Museum of American Art.