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Exhibition Text
Alia Hamaoui: Springboard
Camberwell College of Arts, London

Written on the occasion of Springboard, a solo exhibition of new work from multidisciplinary artist Alia Hamaoui at Student Led Gallery at Camberwell College of Arts (16 September — 19 October 2019.

In a sequence of new works, Hamaoui combined painting and sculpture through an amalgam of disparate craft techniques; self-termed ‘constructions’ that explore the shifting material value of objects in the post-digital age, especially pertinent to the cultural aesthetics of her childhood—a time spent split between Lebanon, France and England.

︎︎︎Exhibition Images

Extract —

    “Central to this helix is Hamaoui’s frequent reference to Michel Foucault’s concept of heterotopia - bath houses, holiday camps, mirrors - fetishised places that “create a space that is other, another real space, as perfect, as meticulous, as well arranged as ours is messy, ill constructed, and jumbled.” Juxtaposing modern-day relics with visual tropes such as pool rails, pigmented soap and digital prints on mesh, Hamaoui intimates a chimeric landscape of cultural identity, one where modernist fable meets  contemporary ruin.

    Nowhere is this clearer than Hamaoui’s moiré patchwork. Taken from screenshots of Peter Brosnan’s 2016 documentary, The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille, these images reference the exhumation of a 300-pound sphinx head, one of twenty built to guard the promenade of a grand temple to Egyptian Pharaoh, King Ramses II. Nonplussed, six young archeologists marvel at the stunning artefact of Egyptian antiquity as it is gauged from the red sand. Their location: the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, San Francisco, California.

    In fact, the discovery was not of a lost Egyptian metropolis but the film set of DeMille’s 1923 silent epic, The Ten Commandments, perhaps the most vast and audacious film set of the pre-CGI age: a colossal plaster replica of ancient Egypt, composed of an 800-foot wide and 12-story high temple, flanked by eight giant statues of Ramses II and twenty five-ton sphinxes leading to the temple gates.

    Mysteriously demolished by DeMille after filming’s end, the apocryphal ruin is now the site of several major archeological digs and a documentary, uncannily recounting the words of Jean Baudriallard in Simulacra and Simulation (1981) that “It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges persist here and there in the deserts that are no longer those of the Empire, but ours: The desert of the real itself.”” 

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