Exhibition: The stars were aligned for a century of new beginnings by Basim Magdy

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Basim Magdy’s exhibition is heavily focussed on film, but also incorporates elements of painting, drawing, collage and photography.    According to the exhibition website:

“Basim Magdy’s work is rooted in dreams, scientific theory and failed utopian ambitions. Full of humour and quiet melancholy, his works reflect on the present social and political climate and our collective failure as, in the desire for progress, we repeat the same mistakes over and over again in a recurring cycle of aspiration, action and defeat.”

I walked around this exhibition (spread over three floors!) with a growing sense of bewilderment.  Magdy’s films, were eerily beautiful; with flashes of abstract colour and sound, all overwritten by a lyrical (yet incomprehensible) prose.  However, watching the films, felt like wading through the flow of another person’s stream of consciousness.  None of the films that I saw, really provided any sense of closure, instead they posed questions, which left me feeling as though I was struggling to comprehend a strange and incomprehensible world.

Magdy’s films, if taken at face value, seem to present a rather dark portrayal of a post apocalyptic future.  However, there is a lot of humour in his work, and as Omar Kholeif comments in the accompanying book (Would a firefly fear the fire that burns in its heart?), there is something “beautifully optimistic about the farcical defeatism of this work” (p. 82).

I left the exhibition feeling like I had failed to understand the majority of it.  In part, this is why I bought the book, because I wanted to take my time and look at some of the individual works in more detail.  Perhaps after I have finished looking through the book, I will revisit the exhibition.  I strongly suspect that I will get a lot more from it on a second (or even third) viewing.