Basim Magdy – An alligator in the clouds
Ruins, mysterious machines, plants, skulls, cranes and modernist constructions; Basim Magdy (1977, Egypt) subjects us to a surreal and sharp view of the world. His paintings, photographs, installations and films reveal a dreamlike universe that is disordered. KM21 presents Magdy’s first exhibition in the Netherlands.
Each medium has its own specific function, beauty and unique possibilities to convey ideas. For example, Basim Magdy thinks the great thing about film is that you can ’think in moments’. A film consists of moments that pass, images that disappear again. Very different from painting, where you create an image from scratch. “Painting is pure fiction,” says the artist.
Magdy always knows how to give his work – whether it be films, paintings or photographic works – a poetic layer, by incorporating observations of absurdities in everyday events. “There is so much randomness in what happens in our lives. I try to emphasize the absurdity of that by looking at things that might go unnoticed in everyday life – it’s just what we pay attention to.” He is also influenced by science fiction, comics, nature documentaries and the apocalyptic tone of Bible stories. In a colorful way, and with humor, he mixes fiction with historical references, in which the present and the future are constantly intertwined. Moreover, there is always room for the imagination of the viewer who has his own personal experiences, emotions and logic.
In his films and photos, Magdy works analogously, so he films on 16mm. Since 2014, he has been using chemicals to manipulate his work. He processes photo prints with household products such as baking powder, Coca Cola, Sprite, vinegar or disinfectant alcohol.
Absurdity of death
The pivot of An alligator in the clouds is Magdy’s latest film FEARDEATHLOVEDEATH about the absurdity of death and the impossibility of understanding it. Transition – the transition from one thing to another – is a common thread in the exhibition. Magdy made the recordings for FEARDEATHLOVEDEATH while traveling. “My films always evolve during the process. After seeing the shot images, new ideas come up and the work grows like a collage, to which I keep adding layers. I find it fascinating to follow different stories, from the past, present and future, side by side. I also involved my two young daughters in making the film. For example, there is a chapter about a little girl’s voice, inspired by my daughter’s made-up language that had only one word: ‘banana’.”
Another series that will be featured in the exhibition consists of small and medium sized photographic works composed of more than one image and sometimes text to explore a hypothetical history: what could have happened. History, according to Magdy, is usually written either by people with power or by people who can write. “So there is an unknown infinite history of people that we know nothing about. We have no idea of their lives because either they were not powerful or their story was not passed on through written language. As a result, so much has been lost, not only physically, but also in memory as memories fade.”
Magdy’s work moves between light and dark, humor and seriousness, reality and fiction. Past, present and future become poetically entangled, beyond the boundaries of time as we know it.
Basim Magdy (1977, Egypt) lives and works in Basel. Recent solo exhibitions have taken place at Röda Sten Konsthall, Gothenburg and MHKA, Antwerp. His work is part of the collections of, among others, MoMA and Guggenheim in New York, Center Pompidou in Paris and Sharhah Art Foundation.