Visions of Contaminated Memories
mini-DV, stock images and footage & text
Three-Channel video, 5 minutes, 2007
Producer: Sharjah Biennale
Sharjah Biennale, UAE, 2007
Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany, 2007
Front Screen: Memory Spam
When I was five, I fell madly in love with Abla Fadeela, the lady who tells beautiful stories in the official Egyptian radio; I would do anything to marry her at that time.
When I was fifteen, I became obsessed by the John Kennedy assassination. I kept a VHS copy of the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald that was transmitted on air and invaded the homes of unexpected viewers back in November 1963.
I thought then that I would never see another live assassination.
When I was 16, I was shocked to know that the president I was told was the first, was actually NOT the first president; there was a nicer president before him that stayed in power for around two years.
I realized to my disbelief that we were only taught and fed false history.
When I was 18, I watched the assassination of “the then” president live as it happened.
Ever since I lost interest in presidents.
Today I am 43, I watch the news with my two kids, we put the volume at zero, and lay bets on what protagonists are saying: usually there are no new news, only recycled spam.
Some time ago, I decided to relive my own memories my own way.
Right Screen: The Desert
The desert for me represents the static.
It is the safe haven and preserver of memories; there is a sacred archeological awe when we talk about it in Egypt, for it keeps 3/5th of the planet’s antiquities, the memories of the ancestors.
Memory is history; the good history for me is the different Cairo I was born in and to, the Cairo where I grew up of the late sixties and seventies; I had a bicycle; I climbed mango trees in the gardens of villas around the three-floor apartment block where I lived with my parents and younger brother.
At that time, people around me as a child looked different, dressed differently, talked differently, and strange enough, behaved differently. People were tolerant, friendly and attractive then.
My kids are born in the same city; there are no mango trees to be seen anywhere anymore. People today look different than my childhood days, dress differently, talk differently, and consequently behave differently.
The openness, elegance and tolerance of the same citizens perished in a massive wave of cultural regression, noise, pollution and over-crowdedness of people, ideas, thoughts and distorted beliefs.
My desert keeps my memories.
Today with decades of cumulative social and political effervescence, and the subsequent change of values, model answers come from film, and from whoever has a louder voice, be it a right wing religious platform, or a nationalist body.
Even the most sacred became marketable: tapes and catalogues of preachers speeches are packaged and sold alongside belly dance VCDs and VHSs and pop singers cassettes, in grand surface commercial outlets as well as in simple cassette kiosks in the corner of downtown Cairo streets.
In visions of cheeseburger memory, a protagonist, his blood saturated by the intake of urban city medicines, flooded by advertising imagery and bombarded by Hollywood action film, impersonates his favorite Hollywood heroes. In his head reality is mixed with fiction, facts are mingled with delusions, and the result is confabulation of all his city experiences, a cosmopolitan city of billboards, noise, pollution and violence, and set of behaviors and attitudes manipulated by Hollywood, violence aesthetics and excess consumption of the senses.
Left Screen: The Sea
The Sea, and the river for me represent the kinetic.
Flowing water represents for me the continuous flux and flow of ideas, of thought and of ideology; everything and every single drop is ephemeral in its place, always in motion, never twice in the same place.
In Egypt, where I grew up, we have two identical expressions for both the sea and the river: “tarh el bahr” and “tarh el nahr”; both have the same identical meaning: the “proposal” of the sea, and the river respectively.
The term in current Egyptian slang has a much more powerful meaning: the throw-up (puke) of the sea (or river).
To me, the successive flux/flow of proposals of ideology and thought over the past decades have been generous and massive; what we kept of it and adopt today is only the throw-up.