Concept Pop
Words, Non-fiction
Las Vegas, NV + Cairo, EG

Discarded, 2012, by Huda Lutfi. Photo by Barry Iverson
We are all the protagonists of our own lives. Everything we do is in the first person. But how many of us are active participants in these lives of ours? I think it’s fair to say that most of us don’t really do much other than look out the window. We let the world around us write our scripts for us rather than the other way around.

A relatively established artist friend of mine once advised me to stop making work about the Egyptian revolution, stating that it is way too early for that kind of work, that we need to wait forty years before being able to do this sort of work. This to me signifies the mindset of your typical window gazer; someone who spends their life watching and commenting rather than participating. In terms of art, it signifies art that delivers commentary from a safe distance, as opposed to the kind of art that is very participatory. Not in the sense of the audience participating in the creation of the art, but rather art that participates in dealing with the immediate struggles and concerns of the audience.

The minute I walked into Hany Rashed’s exhibition Toys at Mashrabia Gallery, the words “concept pop” zapped themselves into my brain. The gallery on Champollion Street in downtown Cairo—which is mainly associated with showing art of a relatively traditional nature—was filled with what look like plastic depictions of things from our real world: two guys sitting on a public bench; a kid popping a wheelie on a motorcycle; a potato chip company’s delivery truck. These objects have very little in common with the meaningless yet very well-made action figures of the artist known as Sucklord. Unlike Sucklord’s figures, you can’t really play with Hany Rashed’s toys, which are mainly illustrations on plastic attached to cardboard after being subjected to heat, stretched out, and distorted. Also unlike Sucklord’s work, Hany Rashed’s objects come with meaning.

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