The Magic of the State
27 March - 04 May 2013
|© Lili Reynaud-Dewar|
THE MAGIC OF THE STATE
27 March – 4 May 2013
Ryan Gander, Goldin+Senneby, Rana Hamadeh, Anja Kirschner & David
Panos, Liz Magic Laser, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Lili Reynaud-Dewar
Lisson Gallery is proud to present The Magic of the State, an exhibition
and editorial project conceived in collaboration with Beirut, a new art
initiative and exhibition space in Cairo, Egypt. Curated by Silvia
Sgualdini of Lisson Gallery, in conjunction with Jens Maier-Rothe and
Sarah Rifky, co-directors of Beirut, the project defines an ambitious
platform for artistic exchange by bringing a number of international
artists to Cairo for the first time. It also presents an innovative
model of collaboration between an independent space and commercial
gallery, highlighting the different social and political contexts in
which the two organizations operate.
The project is structured as two discrete yet interconnected
exhibitions, opening first in Cairo (3 March – 6 April) and then London
(27 March – 4 May). Different works by the same group of artists will
be presented, including new commissions, performances and discursive
platforms. The project will be accompanied by a publication featuring
critical texts and artists contributions in English and Arabic.
The Magic of the State takes its name from the book of the same title by
anthropologist Michael Taussig. In this text, Taussig conceives the
modern State as configured through a theatre of spirit possession into
the living body of society. Historically placed at the intersection of
science, religion and politics, magic in its broadest sense is addressed
within the context of the project: both secular magic and its
connection to propaganda and mysticism with its claim to access
supernatural entities and powers.
The invited artists adopt magic as a filter to question the increasingly
intricate ways in which power manifests itself within given social,
economic and political structures. Ryan Gander presents the performance
I had a Message from the Curator, originally conceived for dOCUMENTA
(13). Gander’s two newly commissioned Alchemy Boxes - sculptures made of
common objects in which mysterious contents are sealed - alchemically
connect the two exhibition spaces in Cairo and London. In
Goldin+Senneby’s audio installation The Decapitation of Money, economic
geographer Angus Cameron draws a series of associations between
Bataille's obsession with decapitation as a release of energy and his
understanding of sovereignty, regicide and economics; the emergence of
the Eurodollar in the 1950s and off-shore finance beyond the
jurisdiction of the sovereign state.
Magic’s coerciveness lies in its power to transform, simultaneously
holding together the desire to believe and the desire to doubt. Here,
politics and magic, statecraft and stagecraft, converge as performance.
The exhibition at Beirut opens with Interpretation, a performance by
French artist Lili Reynaud-Dewar. The work features iconic Glasgwegian
club performer Mary Knox and Parisian experimental musician Hendrik
Hegray in a recitation of the visionary political broadsheets of Sun Ra,
woven together with the emancipatory force of free jazz of records from
the collection of La Grande Oreille, a record shop active in La
Rochelle between 1975 and 1979.
At Lisson Gallery, Liz Magic Laser, (Armory Show Commissioned Artist
2013), performs for the first time Stand Behind Me, a development from
her acclaimed work The Digital Face. Referencing Francois Delsartre's
19th-Century studies in gestural expression, the performance reworks key
oratorical moments from recent history to highlight the evolution of
political speech. Lebanese artist Rana Hamadeh has created two new
commissioned lecture-performances which explore the relationship between
resistance and contagion by considering the plague in ancient Athens as
an allegory for the current Arab uprisings.
UK-based artists Anja Kirschner and David Panos' video installation
Ultimate Substance examines the current Greek economic crisis by
revisiting ancient myths and looking at how the introduction of coinage
affected the emergence of abstract mathematical and philosophical
knowledge. Cypriot artist Christodoulos Panayiotou presents a series of
photographs selected from the Press and Information Office in Nicosia.
The works excavate the rituals and ceremonies that underline the
construction of a national narrative and the constitution of Cyprus as a
modern nation state following independence from Britain.
At a time of uncharted and complex political transition in Egypt, the
selected and newly-commissioned works question the legacy of outmoded
systems of beliefs and mythological principles within the modern State,
pointing to the slippage between the prescriptive intent and the
idiosyncratic manifestations of stately power. They chart the potential
of alternative aggregations, and explore the possibility of resistance
by thinking laterally and looking in unorthodox places.