Like Milking a Stone: Artist Talk with Maha Maamoun

Film Excerpts and Talk, Moderation: Stefanie Schulte Strathaus

We are very happy to welcome artist Maha Maamoun at silent green as our first fellow supported by Goethe Institut. On this occasion, we warmly invite you to join us for an artist talk with Maha Maamoun on May 29 at 7.30pm.

Working with a wide range of sources, from sampling Egyptian cinema and youtube videos to drawing on sacred texts and pulp fiction, Maamoun takes these multiple points of entry to reflect on the bonds and fissures in individual and national narratives. Maamoun will screen a selection of her video works interweaved with a selection of works she references and builds upon in her films.


Domestic Tourism II (2008-2009, Excerpt 26’) presents a montage of screen-appearances of the pyramids of Giza in scenes from Egyptian films from the 1950s till around 2006, and highlights the changing screen-roles these historical icons have played in contemporary Egyptian history.

In 2026 (2010, 9’), Maamoun appropriates a scene of the famous and post-apocalyptic photo story, La jetée (1962) by Chris Maker – in which a time-traveler lies in a hammock with his eyes covered by a mask of electrodes – and couples it with the voice-over of another more recent time-traveler: the protagonist of the novel The Revolution of 2053 by Egyptian writer Mahmoud Osman, in which the main character recounts to us a dystopian vision of Egypt and of the Pyramids plateau in Giza in 2026.

In Night Visitor: The Night of Counting the Years (2011, ca. 9’), different narratives of a highly charged political space and moment are encountered through snippets of videos recorded and uploaded on Youtube by the many men and women who broke into Egyptian State Security buildings on the 5th of March 2011. Footage recorded through cell phone cameras reveals not only glimpses of the past actions and desires of the previous tenants of this space but also the psychological space and coordinates of both the visitor and the visited. The subtitle of the video, The Night of Counting the Years, refers to a classic 1969 film (also known as The Mummy) by the Egyptian director Shadi Abdel Salam. It puts in connection the idea of gathering or of excavating – layer after layer – the sediments of personal and collective history exhumed millennia later in the catacombs of upper-Egypt or more recently in the Egyptian State Security buildings in 2011.

On the other hand, we find a paradise in the shape of a garden in Al-Azhar Park where lovers’ words replace caresses. In Shooting Stars Remind Me of Eavesdroppers (2013, ca. 5’) Maamoun weaves recorded chats in the park with a scripted conversation between a couple. The conversation opens with an oblique reference to a Quranic image in which the muses of poetry, portrayed as eavesdroppers, are blocked from listening and thrown with shooting stars. The conversation quickly takes a more intimate turn, where poetry, truth, eavesdropping, intimacy and transgression are put into question. The subject of eavesdropping and prying on the privacy of others is paralleled by the artist’s approach in placing a camera that furtively steals the romantic meetings between lovers, and clandestinely records the conversations of others, as she lingers around the nature at the park.

Maha Maamoun is a Cairo-based Egyptian artist. As an artist, her work is generally interested in examining the form, function and currency of common cultural visual and literary images as an entry point to investigating the cultural fabric that we weave and are weaved into. She also works collaboratively on independent publishing and curatorial projects. She co-founded the independent publishing platform called Kayfa-ta in 2013. She is also a founding board member of the Contemporary Image Collective (CiC) – an independent non-profit space for art and culture founded in Cairo in 2004.
Her work was shown in exhibitions and biennials including: The Time is Out of Joint – Sharjah Art Foundation (2016); Century of Centuries – SALT (2015); Like Milking a Stone – Rosa Santos Gallery (2015); The Night of Counting the Years – Fridricianum (2014); Here and Elsewhere – New Museum; Ten Thousand Wiles and a Hundred Thousand Tricks – Meeting Points 7; Forum Expanded – Berlinale 64; Transmediale; Objects in Mirror are Closer than they Appear, Tate Modern; 9th Gwangju Biennale; Momentarily Learning from Mega Events, Makan, Amman; Second World: Where is Progress Progressing, Steirischer Herbst; The End of Money, Witte de With; Sharjah Biennial 10; Mapping Subjectivity, MoMA; Live Cinema, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Ground Floor America, Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art; The Future of Tradition/The Tradition of Future, Haus Der Kunst.

The fellowship is funded by the Goethe Institut.

The evening will be held in English.

Entrance free