The rich and provocative work of Egyptian artist Wael Shawky uses film and performance to explore the complexities of national, religious, and artistic identity. With the three-part Cabaret Crusades, he restages the medieval upheaval between Muslim and Christian worlds with a cast of exquisitely crafted marionettes and score derived from Shia lamentation criers and traditional Bahraini pearl fishing songs. Inspired by French-Lebanese author Amin Maalouf's The Crusades Through Arab Eyes and based on historical accounts, Shawky meditates on religious doctrine while highlighting the secular motivations of the Crusades' European and Arab fighters. The result is a work of major significance, one that blends film, theater, literature, history, and music, while also reflecting on the social and political landscape of the world today. In classical Arabic with English subtitles.
Shawky introduces and discusses the first two parts of the trilogy, Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show Files (2010) and Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo (2012) at 6:00 p.m. and introduces the third, Cabaret Crusades: The Secrets of Karbala (2015) at 8:15 p.m.
Presented in collaboration with SAIC’s Visiting Artists Program, which presents an artist talk by Wael Shawky on Wednesday, April 12. See www.saic.edu/vap for details.
Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show Files
Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo
The first two episodes of Wael Shawky’s epic trilogy begins with Pope Urban II’s call to establish Christian rule throughout the Holy Land in 1095 and ends just prior to the opening battles of the Second Crusade. Featuring antique wooden marionettes from the Lupi collection in Turin and contemporary ceramic marionettes produced in collaboration with puppeteers and ceramists from Italy and France. Shawky introduces the program and participates in a post-screening discussion. In classical Arabic with English subtitles.
2010—12, Egypt/Italy/France, HD video, ca 90 min + discussion
Wael Shawky in person
Cabaret Crusades: The Secrets of Karbala
The concluding episode of Wael Shawky’s trilogy combines the fifth-century Battle of Karbala—the origin of the schism between Shiite and Sunni Muslims—with events of the Second and Third Crusades, concluding with the destruction of Constantinople by Venetian Crusaders in 1204. The wars’ atrocities are heightened by hand-blown Murano glass marionettes in the shape of half-human, half-animal beings. Shawky introduces the program. In classical Arabic with English subtitles.
2015, Italy/Egypt, HD video, 120 min
Wael Shawky in person
Wael Shawky frames contemporary culture through the lens of historical tradition and vice versa. In recent works, he has staged epic recreations of the medieval clashes between Muslims and Christians in his trilogy Cabaret Crusades (2010—15) and worked with child actors to recount poetic myths, paying homage, rather than mere lip service, to the important narratives of yesteryear in Al Araba Al Madfuna (2012—16). Recent solo exhibitions include Castello di Rivoli, Turin; Fondazione Merz, Turin; Lisson Gallery Milan; Kunsthaus Bregenz; Fondazione Merz, Zürich; MATHAF, Doha; MoMA PS1, New York; K20 Düsseldorf; Serpentine Galleries, London; KW Contemporary Art Institute, Berlin; Nottingham Contemporary; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Delfina Foundation, London; and Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto. He has participated in the 14th Istanbul Biennial; Sharjah Biennial 11; documenta 13; 9th Gwangju Biennale; 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. He currently lives and works in Alexandria, Egypt.