Reviews in reading image Marie Therese Abd El- massieh

In times of transformations, diversity may lead to emotional and cultural crises. In Egypt, this
dilemma is being intensified with progressive collapse of the cultural conditions since the eighties.
The result was an intellectual disorder that has been interrupted the natural course of the
Alexandrian heritage, together with relevant artistic pursuit. Cultural rupture was a result of fiery
debates between fundamentalists and modernists. It was an outcome of the difficulty of absorbing
modern technology for the major part of our present day society. High tech. is away from the common
life skills of ordinary people. Thus, they refuse all the principle of rational thought, and submit
themselves to the unknowns and superstitions. This blazing dispute between science and reality or
between science and metaphysics has led to separation between mystical experience and rationality,
between Art and science. The result is an afflicted individual by internal schism.
Mixed media, 212×62 cm. – international Venice Biennale). It is a visual representation of a divided
planet, in which the individual is roaming, tossed about by waves and vortices, which drive him
towards the edge of an abyss. That installation consists of old wastes and remains, together with
selected local objects. The composition is a fan shaped structure. The city-1 is being upon the
installed upon a carrier that contains two cupper vessels in a horizontal position with their front
overlooking outside. Perhaps they suggest a deep divide on the two faces of the globe. Vertical
columns of extended lengths separate the two vessels. They may represent either, connection rings
or partitions. Those connecting / separating columns are fabricated from old wood. Their shapes
may suggest industrial architectural buildings or skyscrapers. Upon one of them there is a miniature
Human figure still roaming at the horizon.
When circuiting the architectural structure, that installation, with all its diversified shapes and composite
materials, may turn into an indicative work of art. Instead of seeing the two fixed vessels as
separate units, with their orientations in conflict, they look open to all directions, thus becoming
in a state of integration, and not counter each other. For the dividing columns, they blend past
with present, the mythological with the artificial, suggesting a juxtaposition of times, and tangency
of contraries. These exquisite materials carry various suggestions of elapsed epochs, diversified
and changeable cultures. It is a reminder of various cultural strata that had been engraved along
the history of Alexandria. Therefore, it helps the viewer to accept its cultural diversity. Intellectual
impediments, which arise at times of transformations, would prompt people to retrogress towards
cultural eras that are matched with their ideological constitutions. In this case, cultural integration
may break up. Eid’s installation is striving to transcend the cultural divide, when it substantiate the
city, visualized as a space where natural elements are intermixed together, and thus the relation of
individual with his surroundings would firmly sit.
Recently there were several projects for development of environmental awareness among individuals,
financed by donations from institutions and individuals for the restoration of Alexandria. Abd
El-Salaam Eid accomplished several murals. One of them is that at the entrance of faculty of fine
Arts (1997, mixed media, 200mt). It is embodying images of varied artistic and mixed styles: iconography,
Ptolemaic, Islamic, and folkloric Arts. All of them are of styles that are far from natural
embodiment. Juxtaposition of pictures and decorations of different cultural contexts – which carry
varied and peculiar significances, is enriching these leading motives. When the Artist uses them
out of their limited cultural frame, he is actually revealing their potentials for debate with different
painting elements, when he forms plastic frequencies and parallels that support the composition
stability. The woman at the middle of the mural is going forward, looking backward in the same time,

as if she is mediating for reconciliation between past and present. The rotating glass wheel of the
woman’s vehicle works to transform the visual experience to an effective movement. Brighter strong
colors bring the wheel to the foreground of the work, and color tones are used in a close concept
with folk art. That experience has succeeded in showing the possibility of merging iconography,
calligraphy, and folk art, with modern designs. The extended rotation of the wheel is echoed at the
circular calligraphic letters, which express continuity. For the middle window, it is representing a
sea, or the possibility of understanding what is beyond limits of the present, just as it was possible
to represent the past in the realm of mural painting. Mural formalization is not limited at decorations
for the embellishment of a location, but it is an art that helps the viewer to reconsider his ecological
surrounding, to identify the various cultural aspects of the city, and its interaction with its natural
peculiarities. Thus the viewer could be able to change his vision. A vision which is being besieged
with overtaking that caused damage to his diversified history. swooped down his habitually visited
public places. These overtaking are actuated by ideological or consumable interests. In this way the
mural formation, become a space for the intersubjective experience, where it allows for cumulative
practicing, and mutual interaction.
When the individual’s subjective experience is involved in cumulative practicing, it becomes an
intersubjective. This augments the possibilities of developing debate between cultures. Abd EL Salaam
Eid is aspiring at installing that debate in his mural “The City-2” (1993,11x22mt- Tony Garnier
Museum, Leon – France). In that mural, there are three incorporated columns, engraved in varied
visual language columns. They are partly consisting of icons, mythological figures, and graphs in
letter shapes. It is not easy to elucidate these engravings in one interpretation as relevant to certain
culture. All signs and symbols assume a visual fabric that is reforming Egypt and world culture by
reading the mutual relations between their cultural vocabularies.

In representing the elements of mating and dissociation that relate cultures and divide cultures in
the same time, this composition provokes inquiries, as it is difficult to assort its signs in a particular
cultural framework, as it may represent a temple façade or a virtual image( according to Nabiel Ali-
2001), transmitted through electronic medium. The viewer in this case is engaged with several signs
that could be of a pictorial or electronic reference. In addition, he has to deal with them without being
established at a central point or, attempting final solution. This installation touches the relation
between science and Art, between East and West. An integrative relationship goes beyond contradictory
dualities. There is a need to grant the technology a spiritual touch. Technology is not only
the outcome of mental thought, but it is also an offspring of an iron will, or the strong belief arising
from oriental metaphysics. That spiritual touch which has inspired the west during the Enlightenment
Era. It has been transformed into an incentive for work that enflamed the industrial revolution.
There is a need to understanding the soul of science and the science of Art. Also to investigations
into modernity. Those investigations would be through the memory to reevaluate the Past as viewed
through modern innovations. And thus it becomes possible for the individual to find a place in the
world of to-morrow.


Dr. Marie Therese Abd El- massieh
Critic and academic