Launching a new initiative to nurture and promote some of the best young artists coming out of Britain today, the Aubin Gallery is kicking off the New Year with a solo exhibition of sculpture, screen prints and digital video by !WOWOW! artist Adham Faramawy. Faramawy’s work is often centred on performance and inspired by the fantastical and the miraculous.
Citing influences as diverse as Kenneth Anger, Charles Atlas and Hype Williams, his work is a rich collage of cultural references that have been aesthetically spliced together. In this dynamic, multimedia show, the artist examines the concept of ‘legends’ and examines the multi-interpretable nature of narratives. Faramawy talks to Dazed about his new show and the influence that subliminal messaging, Arabic queens and lost cities have had upon his art.
Dazed Digital: Why did you decide to work across so many different mediums for this show?
Adham Faramawy: I never tie myself to a particular medium because I’m very much about communicating a concept in the most effective way. The medium is a vehicle for the idea. I’m quite populist in that way – I think its important to get an idea across to as many people as possible. I’ve done shows in the past which are just video art or just sculpture, but in this show, there are so many ideas happening that are spliced in such a way that multimedia was the best balance that I could find to present them. In a sense, it’s also a pragmatic choice because I’ve had access to some great spaces here such as the cinema.
DD: Is the use of multimedia another way for you to destabilise narrative interpretations?
Adham Faramawy: That’s a really fair reading. I like the idea that each time a door opens on a concept, another one closes. That creates a sense that you never quite know how to enter into this work.
DD: Do you want the viewers of your art to fully understand what’s happening in the work?
Adham Faramawy: Yes, but I think it’s the way that they understand it which is key. I feel like I’ve taken apart narrative convention and re-presented it via this strobe-like mechanism. There’s no way you can take in every piece of information offered to you in one viewing. You’re supposed to take it in peripherally; it’s not about what you take in consciously. You have to stand there mesmerised for a while, or just hope that it comes out later in another form.
DD: Are you interested in subliminal messaging? Do you use it in your work?
Adham Faramawy: Yes, I first became interested in the subliminal stimuli people used to sell snacks in the cinema. That technique, coupled with the hypnotic frame rate used by cathode ray televisions were some of the factors that prompted me to develop such a strobe-like approach to editing my films in particular.
DD: What inspired you when creating this show?
Adham Faramawy: I think a great deal of the ideas that I’ve presented in this show have come from quite different cultural sources. In general, my work is research-heavy, I like to sample and remix other people’s ideas and create something out of that. I’ve been interested in cult groups like Aum from Japan, or the nation of Damanhur community, as well as cultural theorists like Guy Debord. There are a great deal of ideas which may seem very separate, but which have aesthetic parallels to each other.
Some of the cultural sources I use don’t necessarily have the weight that a respected cultural theorist may have, but they’re interesting and elegant and also funny. For example, I watched a video about where the physical site of Atlantis is and the documentary offered the coordinates of the site on Google Earth. There’s something wonderful about that sense of belief and awe in these uncertain cultural legends.
DD: Why did you choose to focus on legends in this exhibition?
Adham Faramawy: It was about a shift in perspective. I’ve dealt so much with mythology in the past that I thought I would try to deal with narrative from another angle and legend is another facet of that. I like figures that have become shadows in their own narratives, like Shagaret El Dor, who was a thirteenth century Arabic Queen during the crusades. Atlantis is also something I dealt with, as well as the sphinx and the story there.
DD: Your work also contains a number of sematic fields that relate to ritual. Why are you so attracted to this idea?
Adham Faramawy: I believe that there are many areas of culture to do with ritual that have been left open to reinterpretation. In the same way that traditional medicines have sometimes been re-appropriated later into Western medicine, I think that there are valid cultural reasons for mystic rituals and occult beliefs.
There’s an Egyptian ritual called el-Zarr, which is to do with exorcising demons from women. Its been frowned upon since the introduction of Islam, because it’s to do with how the role of the woman as a homemaker is debilitating. In the ritual, the woman is just allowed to dance and release all of her frustrations and pent-up energy, and I’m interested in the reinvestigation of the deeper significance of such dismissed rituals.
DD: Why is it important to reinvent and re-present narratives?
Adham Faramawy: One of the things that defines us as human is our ability to recount stories and to learn about ourselves that way. All of the works incorporate either light sources or reflective surfaces, and that serves to emphasise the importance of self-reflexivity in this show, and the ability for the individual to change via introspection. I like to think of identity as fluid in that it is something you can choose. The idea that you can be between places and not belong to a specific point in culture is attractive.