I have received a Rhizome Commission Grant!
Cairo exudes the clichés of a romanticized Ancient Egypt and, through its tourism industry, is banking on fantasy. If one looks up Cairo on the Internet they will find a representation of a city that no longer exists, and perhaps never existed. The contemporary identity of Cairo is confused, where Egyptians are constantly defined by their country’s history rather than the present moment. Today, while its ancient monuments still define the city, Cairo’s contemporary infrastructure is in a deteriorating state.
Heavily populated with abandoned structures, the visuals of the city reveal the neglect for the city’s infrastructure and a disregard for space and resources that could be utilized to aid millions living in poverty. The city’s structures illustrate the government’s incapability in nurturing a healthy physical and social environment. The relationship between the emotional unrest and the physical city structure is quite apparent. This project attempts to raise awareness to the haphazard structures outnumbering the monuments that represent Cairo. It attempts to depict the harsh reality of the physical state of the city and address the role that the urban infrastructure plays in instigating unrest amongst its inhabitants.
Over the next year I plan to locate and research the history (and purpose) of various abandoned structures in Cairo. I will create SketchUp models to populate Google Earth and counteract the skewed understanding of the city’s experience online where only models of historic monuments exist. Additionally, I will establish an identity for a tourism company that gives tours of these abandoned structures. I will mimic the presentation of existing tour guide companies, via brochures and a website; I will attend tours and educate myself on how they are conducted; I will consult with a licensed tour guide, and will, lastly, execute my own tours. This performance will attempt to raise the stature of these abandoned buildings to that of “monuments” and comment on the lack of concern towards Cairo’s present-day inhabitants. The project will attempt to bring to light the correlation between political instability and urban infrastructure as well as the country’s inability to live in the present time.
Two of the commissions were determined by Rhizome’s membership through an open vote; eight were determined by a jury including Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of Design at the Museum of Modern Art; Jason Kottke, blogger, Kottke.org; Henriette Huldisch Independent Curator and co-curator of the 2008 Whitney Biennial; Monica Narula, artist, Raqs Media Collective; and Paul Pieroni, freelance curator, critic and Associate Director of SEVENTEEN.
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