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Maha Maamoun’s videos and photographs address the form and function of images that are found in mainstream culture. Her 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 lowbrow images and 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.
Maha Maamoun talks with curator Qinyi Lim about the development of her works, starting from Domestic Tourism II, presented in The Floating Eternity Project at Para Site, Hong Kong.
Domestic Tourism I: Beach (2005) depicts bathers at Alexandria’s famous Stanley beach. Stanley bridge’s construction extended the waterfront roadway over the sea, while preserving the storied Stanley Beach, a landmark of early twentieth century, golden-age Alexandria. The density of the crowd in the water and the bathers’ conservative dress indicates that the fortunes of the private-access beach have soured and the coastal city’s celebrated cosmopolitanism ceded to a resolutely lower middle class, Egyptian populace. The vibrant blue of the water echoes the image of Alexandria as a popular be ...
“In the couple of years following the 2011 Egyptian revolution, I noticed a rise in the appearance of animals in the writings of people around me. Has this always been the case but I just noticed it then? I started looking and finding more animals, animal news and analogies appearing in the news, talk shows, opinion pieces, literary texts and art projects. Possibly an attempt to revise, or conversely to re-assert, the status-quo and its catastrophic power relations. In this film, I focused on two significant pieces of writing from that period in which animals curiously appeared, not as metaphors, sym ...
Originally produced in collaboration with Egyptian musician Maurice Louca as artwork for his album Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute the Parrot) released in 2014. The artwork conveys the influence of Cairo’s paradoxical subcultures and the microcosmic soundscape of Louca's work.
“I have approached this interview in the spirit of introduction, just as much for myself as for those who may not know her work. The conversation starts at the point of first encounter—the Berlinale—then moves into her personal projects, with a particular focus on publishing. We touch on life as a cultural worker in a pandemic and the Egyptian context.” - "Making Public" : A conversation with Maha Maamoun (2020)
Video. B&W. Sound, 9 min, 2010
Multi-media installation, dimensions variable, 2017
The Subduer was born out of a regular visit by the artist to one of the many public notary offices in Egypt. In these offices, citizens, state functionaries and legal/bureaucratic processes strain on a daily basis to continue functioning with and against each other. In the midst of these tense relationships, or maybe because of them, prayers abound. A slew of soiled and aging sheets of paper, informally pinned or taped on the walls, appear on the walls of these offices.Calling on our higher selves, our finer temperaments, our sense of forgiveness, and reminding us of the brevity of this mate ...
The Subduer installation at Darat al Funun
NIGHT VISITOR: THE NIGHT OF COUNTING THE YEARS
Video. Color. Sound, 8 mins, 2013
“In Night Visitor, again, I am captivated by what others have chosen to look at, as they are prying into this forbidden place, especially when they look away from the overtly 'hot' political stuff: the shredded documents, the torture machines, and instead look at chandeliers, catalogue car models, seize belly-dancing suits, step on pictures of the fallen big-shots, and so on.” – Maha Maamoun in conversation with Aleya Hamza.
Night Visitor (2011) stitches together YouTube footage of the break into the state security building in the wake of the 25 January 2011 protests. “For m ...
Maamoun also co-founded Kayfa ta with Ala Younis, a publishing initiative that uses the popular form of how-to manuals as books that situate themselves in the space between the technical and the reflective. Under the umbrella of Kayfa ta, Maamoun and co-curated How to Reappear, an exhibition on independent publishing shown at MMAG Foundation, Amman and Beirut Art Center, Beirut in 2019.
Maha Maamoun's work examines the form, function and currency of common visual and literary images as an entry point to investigating the cultural fabric that we weave and are woven into. Her work has been presented by 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; Kunsthalle Mannheim; Witte de With, Rotterdam; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia and Haus der Kunst, Munich among others.
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, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg and the Whitney Museum of American Art.