Bashir Makhoul
The Genie
Exhibition 2014

This site-specific installation is an extension of the previously produced work Enter Ghost, Exit Ghost in Beijing in 2012 and The Occupied Garden part of Otherwise Occupied (Venice Biennale 2013). It is a construct of the analogy of the cloud that hangs over the geopolitics of the Middle East and global politics and conflicts. As prompted by power and control as the original Aladdin tale, the vision provided by these djinn-like clouds constitutes a blatantly obvious geopolitical message but one obscured by the hovering clouds as much as articulated by it. This is foregrounded in the conflict between fantasy of the tales imagery and the lived realities of those who live in these circumstances.

This contrast of fantasy and lived experience found in these antithetical constellation of clouds-like clusters are embodied in this installation as a floating village, hovering and floating magically in gravity-defying grandeur. This is a village precariouly unfixed, no longer rooted to the earth but by the most vulnerable of threads. As with clouds dissipating and dispersing, this vaporous village has been frozen in mid-float. Its precarity proves reminiscent of temporary encampments, displaced dwellings, and occupied territories. The shaky foundation of the floating village evokes a host of other unstable foundations and edifices: regimes built on oppressive power, myths of nationhood and nativity, legitimations of control and occupation based on the magically combustive power of temporally-fixed yet imagined as infinite.

The village is constructed or modeled out of ordinary cardboxes. The material of the cardboard box embodies the temporary nature of settlements, dwelling, encampments – the life of the refugee on the move, living in temporary accommodations but perhaps permanently so. Further the cardboard boxes evoke the simulated villages used to train military personnel for urban fighting as well as the visual archive of Hollywood and computer game backgrounds. Its cheapness relates to the value ascribed to those who would dwell there while also offering the possibility for recycling and reconstituting. The boxes are metonymic of the ‘artless’ in a conceptual art tradition reaching back for decades. The less it resembles the standard forms of art – painting, scuplture, drawing – the more interesting and contemporary the material becomes.

The material and subject matter of the cardboard village connects to two recent works by Makhoul (for which Ryan Bishop and Ray Yang Gordon Hon and Jonathan Harris served as project team members):Enter Ghost, Exit Ghost (Yang Gallery, 798, Beijing in 2012 and Aichi Triennale 2013) and Otherwise Occupied (Venice Biennale 2013). In each work, scopic regimes of controlling terrain and their relationship to spatial justice played an integral role. The cardboard village provides a conceptual and material thread as the works examine conditions and experiences wrought by geopolitical forces.

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