Magazine article Artforum International

Basim Magdy

Magazine article Artforum International

Basim Magdy

Article excerpt

HUNT KASTNER

A black-and-white drawing, strategically placed at the entrance of Basitn Magdy's exhibition "A Future of Mundane Miracles," curated by Marketa Stara, summed up what the artist's work is all about. Titled Expanding the Universe and dated 2008, it shows the outlines of a bristly three-legged animal whose head is not easy to make out. Indeed, this creature may be headless; menacing and ridiculous in equal measure, it is, in a sense, absurd. But even more absurd is the inscription on the monster's body: I KNOW THE SHAPE OF THE UNIVERSE. Could this ragged something really possess, let alone embody, such a profound secret? Hard to say, but such knowledge is exactly what the artist, who was born in Egypt and lives in Basel and Cairo, is interested in. Magdy is obsessed with the vision modern man has formed of the universe since the age of Enlightenment: our belief in inexorable progress and our efforts to subdue the entire world, natural and otherwise; our tendency to seek control over everything and everyone; and our conviction that we can take the future into our own hands. The artist's work, however, evinces a deep skepticism about such positivism and idealism; such Icarian flights of fancy, he suggests, can only end with a crash landing, even if humankind seems unlikely to learn due modesty from its repeated failures anytime soon. Magdy's slide projections, elms, and drawings suggest one way of facing up to the dismay resulting from our inevitably limited control without resorting to destruction or depression, and his attempt to address the collapse of the Enlightenment's utopian ideas is especially timely in light of recent events in his native country.

Magdy's collages and drawings in watercolors and acrylic paints--pictures that might remind one of comic strips--seem cheerful at first glance but are rather disturbing when we take a closer look. …

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