11 September - 17 October 2004
For Retake Fabrica commissioned a site-specific installation by Egyptian lens-based artist Maha Maamoun. The starting point for most of Maha’s work is the need to question dominant and restricting social conditions. In the main, her photographic work is based upon the urban topography of her home city of Cairo and the paraphernalia of political and religious expression.
Between April and July of 2004, Maha undertook a Visiting Arts International Fellowship in Brighton. Supported by Phoenix Arts Association, University of Brighton and Fabrica, the residency provided an opportunity for her to develop new work for a different context. Her residency in Brighton brought her to a city, in many ways, far removed from Cairo or the concerns of her past work. For Maha, the question of how she connected to this new place triggered how she approached her work for Retake.
As a visitor, she found herself drawn to the subject of the political representation of Arabs within the media. Rather than try to deconstruct sustained cultural stereotypes, and, intentionally or not, run the risk of feeding the media’s ever growing appetite for the exotic, she chose to explore the ways in which we produce and consume images of cultural difference.
Retake, my work for Fabrica, attempts to expose the dynamics of producing and viewing this icon of difference and object of curiosity, suspicion, and fear.
For Retake, Maha produced a video piece displaying a man of middle eastern features praying against a plain white backdrop presented on a two sided screen so the viewer could view him from all sides. Knowledge of him was then reduced to a reading of his body, to what the viewer associates with being a Muslim, and to the relationship that the viewer envisaged between themselves and this object. Instead of attempting to re-present Arabs and Muslims, through her piece Maha chose to display him (or her) as (an) object, an object of exotic fascination and of political interest.