The Egyptian artist Wael Shawky is a storyteller: historiographical and literary sources form the starting point for his concentrated film narratives, in which he interweaves myths, facts, and fiction. The actors, backdrops, and costumes, music, and text each become self-contained narrative voices and through their interplay, fracture ossified views of history. His poetic staging of historical events allows the concealed backgrounds of current thinking and actions to emerge and enables us to think anew about the past and the present.
In the three-part film, Al Araba Al Madfuna, Wael Shawky uses child actors whose lines are then dubbed in Arabic with adult voices. Shawky blends stories of the village from literature with his personal experiences to create a detached, surreal narrative of a semi-fictionalised place.
Wael Shawky was born in Alexandria in 1971 where he lives and works. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX, USA (2021), The Louvre Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, UAE (2020), The Polygon, Vancouver, Canada (2020); ARoS, Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus,Denmark (2018); Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Yinchaun, China (2017); Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy (2016); Fondazione Merz, Turin, Italy (2016); Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2016); Fondazione Merz, Zurich, Switzerland (2016); MATHAF, Doha, Qatar (2015) and MoMA P.S.1, New York, NY, USA (2015); K20 Düsseldorf, Germany (2014-15); Serpentine Galleries, London, UK (2013-14); KW Contemporary Art Institute, Berlin, Germany (2012); Nottingham Contemporary, UK (2011); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, USA (2011); Delfina Foundation, London, UK (2011) and Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy (2010). He has participated in Lahore Biennale, Lahore, Pakistan (2020); Desert X, Al Ula, Saudi Arabia (2020); 14th Istanbul Biennial, Turkey (2015); the 11th Sharjah Biennial, UAE (2013); Documenta 13, Kassel, Germany (2012); the 9th Gwangju Biennial, South Korea (2012); SITE Santa Fe Biennial, NM, USA (2008); the 9th Istanbul Biennial, Turkey (2005); and the 50th Venice Biennale, Italy (2003). Recent awards include the inaugural Mario Merz Prize (2015); the Award for Filmic Oeuvre created by Louis Vuitton and Kino der Kunst (2013); the Abraaj Capital Art Prize (2012); the Schering Foundation Art Award (2011), as well as The International Commissioning Grant and an award from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, in 2005. In 2010, Shawky founded the educational space MASS Alexandria.
Al Araba Al Madfuna III, 2015
B&W film, sound, subtitles
27 minutes 2 seconds
© Wael Shawky; Courtesy Lisson Gallery.