egyptian pavilion chronicles an anti-colonial uprising through film at venice art biennale

egyptian pavilion chronicles an anti-colonial uprising through film at venice art biennale

art 0 shares connections: 17

wael shawky’s drama 1882 spans film and sculpture

 

Wael Shawky’s Egyptian Pavilion at the 60th Venice Art Biennale is a dramatic parable confronting historical minutiae and notions of sovereignty, chronicling the Urabi uprising between 1879 and 1882. Theatrical and dreamlike, the exhibition titled Drama 1882 partially responds to the Biennale’s theme Foreigners Everywhere, examining the nation’s revolution against British imperial dominance through immersive, contemporary, and imagined narratives.

 

The central work is an operatic film which across eight chapters allegorizes a moment in the summer of 1882, when a café fight between an Egyptian donkey-keeper and a Maltese instigated riots that left 300 dead and the city a site of devastation. The characters sway and spin like puppets and marionettes to hypnotic hums sung in classical Arabic, capturing the revolt’s catastrophic anti-colonial nationalism. The narrative extends across tangible artifacts from the film’s sets, including vitrines, sculptures, paintings, drawings, and a Murano mirror relief.

egyptian pavilion chronicles an anti-colonial uprising through film at venice art biennale
image courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Lia Rumma, Barakat Contemporary

 

 

fact and fable: the egyptian pavilion on the urabi uprising

 

Egyptian artist Wael Shawky, a multidisciplinary storyteller, typically draws on historical and literary accounts of the Arab world which he interpolates with his own imaginations. The 45 minute-long musical Drama 1882 for the Venice Art Biennale is a rendition of an original play directed, choreographed, and composed by Shawky himself. Filmed in a historic open-air theatre in Alexandria against the backdrop of handmade sets and period costumes, it choreographs the violent Urabi Revolution which in turn catalyzed the British occupation of Egypt until 1956.

 

There is the sense of make-believe, connected to the idea of having a show, like theatre. There is no theatrical performance in Drama 1882. The background is moving in slow motion, as if in layers. In the end this makes the work like a moving painting, with the performers and soundtrack being elements in this composition,’ he notes. Essentially, Shawky’s documentation intertwines fable, fact, and fantasy, and past and present, to invert — or entirely challenge — understandings of truth around this tumultuous yet pivotal moment in Egyptian colonial history.

egyptian pavilion chronicles an anti-colonial uprising through film at venice art biennale
image courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Lia Rumma, Barakat Contemporary

 

 

critiquing colonial narratives at the venice art biennale

 

Wael Shawky’s multi-layered critique of colonial history and contemporary society invites critical discourse at the Egyptian Pavilion in dialogue with the Venice Biennale’s overarching theme Foreigners Everywhere. For Shawky, ‘this is a moment of global political urgency and revolutionary change. It seemed paramount to represent my country with a strong message at this time. To reflect on the historic occupation in Egypt felt timely, pressing, and important.’

 

The Pavilion is commissioned by the Egyptian Ministry of CultureAccademia d’Egitto, and supported by Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Galleria Lia Rumma and Barakat Contemporary alongside Gratus Foundation, Riad Armaious and Natalie Ashba, Masha and Shihab Shobokshi, and Mai Eldib.

egyptian pavilion chronicles an anti-colonial uprising through film at venice art biennale
image courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Lia Rumma, Barakat Contemporary

egyptian pavilion chronicles an anti-colonial uprising through film at venice art biennale
image courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Lia Rumma, Barakat Contemporary

egyptian pavilion chronicles an anti-colonial uprising through film at venice art biennale
image by Mina Nabil | courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Lia Rumma, Barakat Contemporary

egyptian pavilion chronicles an anti-colonial uprising through film at venice art biennale
image by Mina Nabil | courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Lia Rumma, Barakat Contemporary

drama-1882-wael-shawky-venice-art-biennale-designboom-14

egyptian pavilion chronicles an anti-colonial uprising through film at venice art biennale
image courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Lia Rumma, Barakat Contemporary

drama-1882-wael-shawky-venice-art-biennale-designboom-15

image courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Lia Rumma, Barakat Contemporary

egyptian pavilion chronicles an anti-colonial uprising through film at venice art biennale
image courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Lia Rumma, Barakat Contemporary

egyptian pavilion chronicles an anti-colonial uprising through film at venice art biennale
image courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Lia Rumma, Barakat Contemporary

egyptian pavilion chronicles an anti-colonial uprising through film at venice art biennale
image courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Lia Rumma, Barakat Contemporary

egyptian pavilion chronicles an anti-colonial uprising through film at venice art biennale
image courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Lia Rumma, Barakat Contemporary

egyptian pavilion chronicles an anti-colonial uprising through film at venice art biennale
image courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Lia Rumma, Barakat Contemporary

egyptian pavilion chronicles an anti-colonial uprising through film at venice art biennale
image courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Lia Rumma, Barakat Contemporary

 

 

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project info:

 

name: Drama 1882

artist: Wael Shawky

commissioner: Egyptian Ministry of CultureAccademia d’Egitto

program: Venice Art Biennale 2024

location: Egyptian Pavilion, Giardini, Venice

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