Curated by Beirut

March 31-April 26, 2014, AUC Sharjah Art Gallery

March 31, 6pm: Opening Reception

April 23, 5pm: PUBLIC PROGRAM, A program of talks, performances and responses with Antonia Alampi, Brian Conley, Jens Maier-Rothe, Matthew Rana, Sarah Rifky, Nile Sunset Annex and Nada El Shazly. Details here.

Lost Referents of Some Attraction marks Malak Helmy’s first major solo exhibition, reformulating various works from the past five years of her practice into a show that responds to its hosting site, the Sharjah Art Gallery at the American University in Cairo’s New Cairo campus. The exhibition brings together three films, one audio, and two text based works, in addition to a series of objects and spatial interventions.

The artist sets up environments within environments, presenting altered objects stripped of function as indexical referents within the space. She presents texts that become placeholders for images “Placeholders” (2014) and “Statements from the Compound”, a copy of a fountain alluding to the prototypical real “marble marble fountain gurgle fountain marble marble” and three-dimensional grass “Introduced Natives.”

Frame-by-frame, “Statements from the Compound” (2014) reveals a time-based story cast on photo paper. Gradually exposed, the light-sensitive medium gives in to environment, the work becomes unstable and the story once present fades.

“Records from the Excited State” (2010-present), a chaptered work, is an ongoing study of “the rhythms of the site of leisure” along Egypt’s coastline. Since the 1970’s the government has pushed the development of local tourism encouraging the building of compounds along the North Coast. She uses many methods to mine the site: visits, walks, people, studies, traveling with birds…. and circus dwellers. The chapter “Notes from the Carbon Coast” (2010) features carbon and its allotropes graphite and diamond as a blueprint for temporary cities stuck between two states, construction and destruction.

A messenger bird visits a nuclear plant, while traveling along the Western Desert and the Mediterranean Sea: “Music for Drifting” (2013) is also a record of that bird visiting an old port on the edge of Alexandria, a hill from the Battle of Alamein, a glass desert formed by a meteorite shower 200,000 years ago. The bird collects rhythms as measure from places that have historically changed.

“Keyword Searches for Dust” (2009) is a film composed of an array of web sourced images, immersive in its spontaneity, the narrative of dust points to something larger, the prospect of ‘coming together’ alluding to the becoming of an event.

The dénouement of this show is “Chapter 3: Lost Referents of Some Attraction” (2012) revolving around five characters wandering on the edge of a narrative, anticipating employment into meaning along three scenes in landscape: a salt flat, a beach, and an empty plot consigned to a nuclear power plant in the future.

On April 23, a performative public program will take place at the Sharjah Gallery with short responses by Antonia Alampi, Brian Conley, Jens Maier-Rothe, Nile Sunset Annex, Sarah Rifky, and others.

Malak Helmy (Alexandria, 1982) is an artist based in Cairo working most often with video and writing. Her work explores moments and locations in time through an archaeology of ideas, desires, the city and scientific possibilities around them. She also works with collective initiatives exploring areas between urbanism, architectural research and artistic production. Helmy's work has been exhibited in the 63rd and 64th Berlinale Film Festival Expanded Forum in 2014 and 2013, the 9th Mercosul Biennial (2013), Frankendael Foundation (2013), Beirut in Cairo (2013), Camera Austria (2013), Moving Image Art Fair, NYC (2013), 9th Gwangju Biennial (2012), Documenta 13’s Cairo Seminar (2012), amongst others.