An Object Resembling an Artwork treads the line that separates art from object, the intentional from the incidental, and ritual performance from the infra-ordinary. Ahmed Shawky Hassan first draws the viewer into the gallery, the studio, or the museum space and then implicates them in worlds of meaning-construction that surround art. In the end, all of the actors at play – the curator, the artist, and the viewer – are made complicit in the pre-conceived assumptions that inform the space, the work.
Inspired by a predicament he encounters at a government museum in Cairo, Shawky forces the viewer to choose one of two approaches to artwork: to conceive of a work of art in formalized, sterile isolation or in contextualized, situational conjunction. Inevitably, Shawky’s inflected presentation begs for a consideration of the latter; a reading of an object compounded in meaning by its relationship to the happenstance environment.
Ahmed Shawky’s six protocols – a series of columnal texts couched in red velvet – echo Walter Benjamin’s unguarded (and, indeed, opioid induced) acute perception and sharpened focus on his environs, as demonstrated in his own protocols published a century earlier. Through an intertextual series of spatial and physiognomical observations, Shawky dissects the spaces often taken for granted, and questions the standardized practices of art’s creation, display, and viewership.
A result of three years of research on institutions in Paris and Cairo, the castings, charcoal renderings, ready-made-objects, and video are displayed in a way that permeates multiple layers of institutional critique. The works in the exhibition challenge the very space they occupy, the institution (both literally and figuratively), the immediate environment, and the established customs and conventions of exhibitions.
This exhibition is supported by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture