For three days in December, in a windowless basement off a small street with nothing other than a discreet sign to designate it, Alexandria’s arts crowd — and many visitors who came especially from Cairo — had a chance to experience an ambitious exhibition of works by some of the most interesting contemporary young artists in Egypt.
MASS Alexandria is a study/studio program for emerging artists with a range of different ages and experiences to spend over one year developing their practices and rethinking what an artistic practice can entail, culminating in an exhibition in which their final projects are displayed.
[An] installation [was] accompanied by a super-8 video that gives the impression of a personal archive, performing the study of the camera and its filmic materiality. Sabry’s aesthetics of study entail both the literal development of a technique, one that involves trial and error to test the possibility of a hypothesized effect (the chlorophyll prints), and a personal rumination on sites of memory. In doing so, her work provides an intimacy with light, as something tangible, something that lives and dies, and hosts potential for nurturing and healing.
Meanwhile, the notion of “study” was performed specifically as a staged act within Mohamed Adel Dessouki’s work “Naoum’s Cache.” With two videos on opposite walls and a vitrine table in the center that encases archival materials and notebook pages, this installation reinterprets the legacy of the late Egyptian architect Naoum Chebib (1915–1985), who designed the Cairo Tower. The act of studying this architect becomes both a performed fictional act and an actual mode of research, mixing autobiography with a fictional biography of Naoum’s “notebook” — “looking at the role of archives in shaping historical knowledge,” the artist said — and examines problems of accessibility and scarcity of materials.
The use of creating a system as an aesthetic strategy was also manifest, yet in a much subtler way, within the work by Tasneem Gad titled “The Anticipation of Sight.” Although it also included a room-sized installation, and with interactive instructions, this was a much quieter work. Primarily using photography and text, the work embodies a well-composed mix between the insinuation of a room (through lined wall demarcations that match the perimeters of the carpeted floor), and the presentation of a cartographic collage, between a display of individual images and the architecture created through their arrangement together.