Covering One's Back

Covering One’s Back circles around a pool of emotions that have to do with surviving a moment, a person, a situation. If one were to start a list of pertinent emotions, it would include caution, assertiveness, doubt, verification, aspiration, withdrawal, posturing, deception, bullying, self-preservation…etc. These emotions, now more than ever, are our daily companions. They have guided the direction of this current exhibition.

When we are stretched to our limit, we have no tolerance of excess. The question that pressed on us was: What images can we bear to look at now? What images can withstand us and our restlessness? Jimmy Schneider was the first to respond. A man wearing sun-glasses and a poker face. Looking straight into the camera, his directness discloses nothing. He holds his cards close. Stunning in both senses of the word. He doesn’t need to do more to hold our attention, and to threaten or survive us (Heini Stucki, Jimmy Schneider, 1979). The same can not be said for the horse-race gamblers. They are exposed and their bodies warped by the prospects of winning and losing. Though they know the game is rigged, they are captured here as they bet on the moment of their imminent loss (Yasser Alwan, Against All Odds, 1996).

Graham, on the other hand, holds still, maintains eye-contact as per the artist’s instructions, and keeps face before the prodding, possibly invasive, questions of his interviewer. His is a silent portrait extended in time. Graham was a photographer. (Hassan Khan, G.R.A.H.A.M, 2008). Another kind of professional photographers, the photojournalists, speak to the camera at length. Acknowledging or snubbing the threat of citizen-journalists and other professional hazards, they expose themselves now, as well as some of the hidden agendas, personal and professional, of photojournalism and its producers. How do they justify, undo, favor, defend and dismiss? (Goran Galic & Gian-Reto Gredig, Photographers in Conflict, 2006).

Faces are replaceable in Atfal Ahdath’s work. Take a body template at any of the commercial photography studios across the region. Place your face in the empty slot and you’re ready to go. Be yourself elsewhere, otherwise, ad infinitum beyond the constraints of analog realities. (Atfal Ahdath, Take me to this place, I want to do the memories, 2011). The amorphous area between reality and its fabrication is also where the Great Unreal resides. Drawing on a repertoire of photographic and cinematic ploys, these photographs mine the visual, material and mental space between fact and fantasy (Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs, The Great Unreal, 2005-2009).

In Quite Crossings and Shifting Grounds, George Awde takes a more documentary approach. He explores transient bodies and spaces, their voluntary or forced invisibility, and what it means for them to exist on the margin. Personal and political trajectories intersect, and the marks are read on bodies and landscapes (George Awde, 2009 and 2011). Ironically, what may be the quietest work in the show though is a Portrait of a Bullet; a series of images found by the artist in a ballistic manufacturing company. Captured by a calibration machine, these purely scientific images, though abstract to the untrained eye, both measure and document invisible forces such as speed and sound. Matter is reduced here to its its physicality, at the same time as it transcends physics (Raphael Hefti, Portrait of a Bullet, 2009).

This exhibition brings together a wide range of works that span different photographic languages and practices. The artists’ studies in form and in the varying registers of image production and reception are as important as their chosen subjects of enquiry.

Photography exhibition, talks, and portfolio reviews curated by Maha Maamoun and Ala Younis at Gezira Art Center, Cairo.

Covering One's Back


7 - 23 May 2013 Gezira Art Center, Zamalek
Atfal Ahdath, Yasser Alwan, Goerge Awde, Goran Gali? & Gian-Reto Gredig, Raphael Hefti, Hassan Khan, Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs, Heini Stucki


Wednesday 8 May 2013 7 pm
Two artist collectives presentation
Goran Galic & Gian-Reto Gredig
Atfal Ahdath

Monday 13 May 2013 7 pm
Presentation of work and conversation between artists
Yasser Alwan and George Awde

Sunday 19 May 2013 7 pm
Helene Joye-Cagnard presents the
16th Journées Photographiques de Bienne

Portfolio Review Sessions:

Saturday 11 May 2013 6 - 8 pm
Reviewers: George Awde, Randa Shaath, David Degner

Saturday 18 May 2013 6 - 8 pm
Reviewers: Yasser Alwan, Helene Joye-Cagnard, David Degner

All events are at Gezira Art Center
1 Sheikh Marsafy St., Zamalek, Cairo

Covering One's Back, curated by Maha Maamoun and Ala Younis, and organized by Pro Helvetia Cairo Projects at Gezira Art Center, Zamalek, Cairo (7-23.5.2013).

> Facebook page
> Review by Daniel Berndt, Nafas art magazine. June 2013 [Arabic] [English] [German]
> Review by Jenifer Evans, Ibraaz, 27.6.2013
> Views and photos of the exhibition, Nafas art magazine
> Curating "Covering One's Back", Cairobserver [Arabic]

> Interview, TV medrar

< index