The A77A Project: On Presidents & Superheroes
Single-channel video, 2009
2 & 3-D animation, internet-extracted images, video footage & music score
Artos Foundation, Nicosia Cyprus, 2009
LUMEN_EX Digital Awards, Spain, 2010
17th African Film Festival, New Museum, NY, USA 2010
Every civilization looked for the imaginary super-hero for protection against evil forces, from ancient Anubis to modern Batman. In the fifties and sixties, the voice of president Nasser echoed from the Atlantic ocean to the Persian gulf, was broadcast live, every citizen stopped to listen to the superhero of modern times. Today, with the collapse of the Pan Arab theory and ideology, superheroes of religion took over, with their centuries-old dress codes and primitive behaviour.
The 3-minute work probes, ironically, social changes I personally lived through my childhood, adolescence and adulthood in Egypt.
The initial concept of on presidents and superheroes was drafted to probe several issues I usually address in my video work as well as in painting, the central notion of “identity”, an impossible-to-properly-define entity. I am particularly intrigued by the 6 elements that formed my art projects for fifteen years, namely: time, past and present, the superhero or the role model, the process of cultural recycling, contemporary visual imagery in their kinetic and static forms, and the sacred values versus the neo-consumer values of globalization. All elements combined play in a formula that creates an Egyptian hybrid identity that I have seen developing over the past two decades of my creative practice.
For the A77A Project: on Presidents & Superheroes, I used a battery of techniques I used in my previous two videos: Visions of a Contaminated memory (2007, Sharjah Biennale) and The Third Vision Around 1.00 pm (2008, the 3rd Guangzhou Triennale, the 2nd Thessaloniki Biennale); I wrote the script, while collecting stock footage and images from different sources. For the A77A Project, I used for the first time telephone imagery posted on different bloggers’ spots, contemporary real street imagery taken by lay non-professional citizens through their telephones and compact digital cameras. I even joined the hundreds of bloggers by posting my own images; I used telephone camera and a compact pocket camera that was ready in my canvas bag wherever I went; most of the time I shot during daylight, as the precision of images was not as important as the overall changing cityscape. I stitched all images in linear pattern to create one backdrop cityscape where the superheroes dwell. To complement my work, I grabbed tens of brilliant images taken by anonymous authors, removed their backgrounds on Photoshop, and inserted them on the visual track as backdrops for the superheroes.
The intriguing part is that such “democratized” practice, made available by anyone and available for everyone, becomes an open source of information much away from censorship and intellectual property rights constraints.
The work, through animating two figures out of one of my large-scale canvases and making them, in cartoon animation, “possess” a 3-D figure to metamorphose into one of my favourite ancient gods, Anubis.
The newly created and possessed Anubis dwells in the streets of urban Cairo today, intermingling with street paradoxical citizens and situations. The video incorporates my painting elements and moves them in animation. The work documents the current state of the streets of Cairo, once described as one of the most beautiful downtowns in the world.
The music score for the video was created from free source digital loops, and mixed at a professional sound studio to incorporate the soundtrack of the famous Nasser resignation speech of June 1967.