story perpetuated ‘the existing narrativisation of absurdity around Egypt’ at a time when ‘nothing [made] sense to the outside world’. The story of Menes was predominantly reported by foreign media outlets. It became clickbait, gaining the spurious hashtag #spyduck, and was relayed through headlines rife with puns: ‘Eyes on storks?’, ‘Fowl play?’ The media was not only concerned with the ‘absurdity’ of the imprisonment of the bird (an act whose motive was later explained by the ‘arresting’ of icer as one of safety rather than genuine reprimand or symbolism) but also of its prompt demise once released. It was as though the death – moreover, at the hands of local villagers – proved the inanity of the exercise. In Egypt, the unfolding political events between 2011 and 2013 justi ied the suspicion of a spying stork, but western media simply used the story as an endorsement of their pre-existing narratives.
During the irst days of the 2011 revolution, the Egyptian government shut down access to the internet. In response, a group of developers set up a platform which enabled Egyptians to record voice messages to be automatically posted on Twitter. In Project Speak2Tweet, Amin combines a selection of these audio iles with ilm of abandoned architectural developments across Cairo. Installed on steel beams in a claustrophobic maze, the work reconnects the aural with the physical realm, manifesting a collective archive of the country at a pivotal moment. Project Speak2Tweet initially came together at a time when social media was associated with autonomy and democratic promise. Now, nine years later, these voices not only carry the legacy of their own politics but also those of the platforms used to disseminate them.
Aptly installed in the basement galleries sits Operation Sunken Sea, 2018–, a multi-media project in which Amin takes centre stage, positioning herself as a ‘quasi-dictator’. In a ilmed address, the artist outlines her grand plan to ‘solve’ the so-called migration crisis: drain and re-route the Mediterranean Sea. The proposal references numerous 20th-century technoutopian visions surrounding ownership of the landlocked basin – most notably Herman Sörgel’s Atlantropa, which set out to unite Europe and Africa as one continent. Talking to us from her podium, Amin adopts the language and symbolism of these male, ‘megalomaniacal’ narratives. Developed by different proponents across the West, the large-scale interventions were presented as examples of unity and peace rather than colonialism, their ethos of occupation legitimised by the momentum of technological advancement. As an African-Arab woman, Amin restages and usurps their grandiose sense of entitlement: ‘I too will shi geographies … we too shall explore the capabilities of human progress in a feat of poetic engineering and sink the Mediterranean Sea.’
Amin’s work unravels the enmeshed relationship between technologies and the violence they enact. Although seemingly distinct, these three bodies of work overlap and converge, each analysing how certain technological tools have historically, and paradoxically, enabled, legitimised and facilitated protest against authoritarian regimes. At points verging on investigative journalism, Amin’s practice seamlessly shi s across boundaries – of discipline, lexicon, geography and time – in a reversal of power, in a bid to (re)write histories. Kathryn Lloyd is a writer and editor based in London.
Ian Land, ‘The Land of Cockaigne: Travels through Brexit’, 2016–19
Towner International Towner Gallery, Eastbourne 6 October to 10 January My introduction to the Towner International was a telling curatorial conjunction. Stuart Middleton’s Motivation and Personality, 2018, casts visitors in the role of cattle. Used clothing – human hides of a sort – is stitched onto a wooden framework to make a spiralling run of passages derived from the livestock-management systems used in slaughterhouses. Such guided routes both calm and control the cows, leaving us to wonder whether that shows genuine concern for their welfare or merely increases the ef iciency of a brutal act. I emerged to discover the source of the distorted and unnatural, yet somewhat animalistic, sounds which accompanied the journey: Benedict Drew’s two-screen ilm installation The Bad Feel Loops, 2019. Drew combines footage abstracted into psychedelic colours with what the curators describe as ‘the use of noise, feedback, rhythm and repetition to invoke … the subjective experience of anxiety … rather than trying to silence it’.
The new biennial exhibition arranged by Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery is unusual in being an open-call event with no restrictions other than that work submitted must have been completed in the past ive years. From the 2,400 submissions, 24 artists were selected by an impressively quali ied panel of judges: artist Mike Nelson and curators Polly Staple (Tate) and Noelle Collins (Towner). They chose a mix of well-established names and relative unknowns – including several based in the south-east. Such an arrangement doesn’t facilitate the thematic coherence typically sought by biennales, but the mix of media is closer to that than – say – the results of the Royal Academy’s annual open call: plenty of ilm and installation, and painting present but carrying relatively little impact. The judges opted for work irmly grounded in reality, o en bringing disparate source materials into unusual conjunctions to address geopolitical, environmental and social issues – giving scope for plenty more reasons to be anxious.
All of that is found in another two-screen video: Saskia Olde Wolbers’ Pfui – Pish, Pshaw / Prr, 2017, which presents footage shot unof icially over many years by Theodosis Alifrangis, an employee of a Greek oil-spill response company. Extracts from ilms of his everyday work run with voiced-over anecdotes from his notes. Olde-Wolbers mixes the found footage with the
Art Monthly no. 442, December 2020 – January 2021
You have no current subscriptions in your account.
Would you like to explore the titles in our collection?
You have no collections in your account.
Would you like to view your available titles?