Centered on extensive periods of research and enquiry, Wael Shawky’s work tackles notions of national, religious, and artistic identity through film, performance and storytelling. Whether instructing Bedouin children to act out the construction of an airport runway in the desert or organizing a heavy metal concert in a remote Egyptian village, Shawky frames contemporary culture through the lens of historical tradition and vice versa. Mixing truth and fiction, childlike wonder and spiritual doctrine, Shawky has staged epic recreations of the medieval clashes between Muslims and Christians in his trilogy of puppets and marionettes—titled Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show Files (2010), The Path to Cairo (2012), and The Secrets of Karbala (2015)—while his three-part film, Al Araba Al Madfuna, uses child actors to recount poetic myths, paying homage, rather than mere lip service, to the important narratives of yesteryear.
Based in Alexandria, Egypt, Wael Shawky’s recent solo exhibitions include Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy; Fondazione Merz, Turin, Italy; Lisson Gallery, Milan; Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria; Fondazione Merz, Zürich, Switzerland; MATHAF, Doha, Qatar; MoMA PS1, New York; K20 Düsseldorf, Germany; Serpentine Galleries, London; KW Contemporary Art Institute, Berlin; Nottingham Contemporary, United Kingdom; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Delfina Foundation, London; and Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Italy. He has participated in the 14th Istanbul Biennial; 11th Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates; documenta 13, Germany; 9th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea; SITE Santa Fe Biennial; 9th Istanbul Biennial, and the 50th Venice Biennale. Recent awards include the inaugural Mario Merz Prize; Award for Filmic Oeuvre created by Louis Vuitton and Kino der Kunst; Abraaj Capital Art Prize; Schering Foundation Art Award, as well as the International Commissioning Grant and an award from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. In 2010, Shawky founded the educational space MASS Alexandria.
Presented in partnership with SAIC's Department of Film, Video, New Media, and Animation's Conversations at the Edge series
A screening of Wael Shawky’s trilogy of puppets and marionettes, The Cabaret Crusades, will take place on April 13 at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Purchase tickets in advance.
“’Wael Shawky’ at Castello de Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin,” Artinfo, by Laura Ponti
“Review: Wael Shawky, ‘Cabaret Crusades’ at MoMA PS1,” New York Times, by Holland Cotter
“Wael Shawky The Cabaret Crusades,” The Brooklyn Rail, by Yasaman Alipour
“In the Studio: Wael Shawky,” Art in America, by Faye Hirsch