Wael Shawky: The Cabaret Crusades
11 September – 1 December 2013
Opening Reception: Wednesday, September 11, 6-9 pm
Curated by AGYU Director Philip Monk
Wael Shawky: Cabaret Crusades is the first full-scale exhibition in Canada of this Egyptian artist from Alexandria. The exhibition is comprised of the first two of a projected series of four films collectively called the Cabaret Crusades. At the AGYU, The Horror Show File (2010) and The Path to Cairo (2012) are shown.
The West knows the Crusades through its own history, and lore that has suffused our culture, but here the story is told from the Arab point of view, which spoke of the Crusades, beginning in 1096 and lasting two centuries, as “the Frankish invasions.” The series is based on the book The Crusades through Arab Eyes, by Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf, amongst other sources. Not only told from the Arab point of view (in Arabic with English subtitles), the story is performed by puppets. One soon realizes that a violent history actually can be told effectively and movingly through puppets and even be given the Hollywood treatment—in HD and surround sound.
The two films abbreviate the history of the Crusades to a number of key episodes. The Horror Show File starts with Pope Urban II’s advocacy of the Crusades in 1095 at the Council of Clermont, in response to an appeal by Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, and ends with the fall of Jerusalem in 1099. Along the way we are witness to massacres and betrayals as the Crusaders ransack and conquer their way to Jerusalem.
The Path to Cairo opens with the Crusaders in control of Jerusalem and continues through a fifty-year period of continuing strife until the first counter Arab victory by Zangi at Edessa in 1144 and his murder in 1146. All through this confusing period, where the action passes between Damascus, Baghdad, Tripoli, Antioch, Aleppo, Homs, and Edessa, we witness internecine conflict between various Arab rulers (assassinations or refusal of assistance) and strange alliances between Franks and Arabs. (The city names listed here betoken the relevance of this story of the Crusades to present day Middle Eastern politics.)
The Horror Show File (31:49) was made in Italy using a collection of hundreds of antique wooden marionettes that were 200-years old. The Path to Cairo (60:00) was made in Provence and involved the making of original ceramic marionettes. Sets here also more complex, based on Arab and Persian medieval miniatures, and music and song play a strong role, in part discriminating the Shia and Sunni characters.
Wael Shawky, born 1971 in Alexandria, lived in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, until he moved with his family back to Egypt when he was fourteen. He received his BFA from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Alexandria University in 1994 and his MFA from the Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, in 2001. He is a veteran of many international biennials including most recently Sharjah Biennial 11. Recent exhibitions include Al Araba Al Madfuna at KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin (2012). Upcoming exhibitions include the Serpentine Gallery, London, and MoMA PS1, New York. In 2010, he established MASS Alexandria, an academy for young artists.
Audio Out listening post
Christof Migone, Flipper A
1 September – 30 November 2013
On the Audio Out listening post is Flipper A, a transposition of the classic flip-book into the sonic realm by Toronto-based Christof Migone. A recording of ninety-nine books with titles beginning with the letter A from the Paul D. Fleck Library and Archives at the Banff Center. Audio books, taken literally.
Allyson Mitchell, Kill Joy’s Kastle: A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House
@ 303 Landsdown Avenue, Toronto (at the crotch of Dundas and College)
17 – 30 October 2013, 4 to 8 PM
Forget the dead this Hallowe’en.
Feel the pulsing throb of something larger than life in Kill Joy’s Kastle: A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House.
Holey Hell House!
Each Hallowe’en radical evangelical groups all over the USA and Canada build hell houses. Beginning in the 70’s, these performer-animated installations showcase a gruesome retribution for the sins of fornication, abortion, suicide, occultism, and— of course—same-sex relationships. This Hallowe’en, Toronto artist Allyson Mitchell reclaims this hellish scenario with her crowd-sourced, lesbian-feminist, queer-fear-fighting celebration Kill Joy’s Castle: A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House located at 303 Landsdown Avenue, Toronto (at the crotch of Dundas and College).
Wrapping this American Gothic Hell House tradition with yard upon illustrated, elaborately decorated yard of spirited, craft aesthetic, Mitchell mobilizes her “deep lez” commitment to radical queer world-making potential. Through it, she conjures new kinds of representations of feminist sexuality and queer concepts of community and activism.
Rug-hooked, crocheted, and paper maché’d constructions are womb-like wonders for visitations of the undead lesbian community, who are hell-bent on remaining nightmarishly non-assimilated. Casting the spells of freaky feminist skill-sharing and paranormal consciousness-raising together with ghouls, bio-engineered monsters, indoctrinators, and avengers, this hell house is designed to pervert, not convert.
Deep Lez becomes Creep Lez—Just in time for Hallowe’en
(Insert witchy cackle here)
Take a guided tour through the glorious and grisly detritus of Kill Joy’s Kastle: A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House from October 17 – 30, as this haunted house becomes an immersive art installation. Kill Joy’s Kastle will be open each day from 4 – 8 pm (or by appointment) and groups are welcome, especially the unruly kind. This ground-up, maximalist, not-to-be-missed haunted house—nailed, knit, and glued by a coven of dedicated feminists over the course of the past three months—provides a rare glimpse into Allyson Mitchell’s legendary craftivist world-view.
Allyson Mitchell’s Lesbian Hell House is “fearfully” brought to you by the Art Gallery of York University. AGYU is a university-affiliated public non-profit contemporary art gallery supported by York University, The Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council, and our membership. Allyson Mitchell would like to thank the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the York University Faculty Association (YUFA) for their financial support of this project. Boo.