KATERINA GREGOS / Newtopia – The State of Human Rights 2012

A text for the catalogue of Newtopia – The State of Human Rights, a show in different locations around the city of Mechelen, Belgium 2012

By Katerina Gregos

Basim Magdy’s multi-disciplinary practice revolves around enigmatic narrative structures and leaps of the imagination that explore the area between reality and fiction, and their influence on history, science, politics, culture and the production and dissemination of knowledge. The suite of drawings on paper entitled They Built a Majestic Matchstick City that Simulated their Reality deals with cycles of trial and error, of hope and disappointment. Humanity always aspires towards a brighter future and a better world but our many attempts are unfortunately followed by as many failures. Magdy’s works look disturbing and reassuring alike, and his titles (an important part of his narrative) are suggestive, enlightening, but also complicate interpretation. His paintings and drawings are set in what seems like an absurdist futuristic fictional setting that loosely resembles reality, but from a skewed point of view. Magdy conflates unpleasant realities with a hopeful and utopian vision of the future. In his quest for this future he imagines and constructs new possible worlds, set in a futuristic architectures and landscapes, situated in strange and unexpected locations, represented in lively, radiant, kaleidoscopic colours, which symbolise hope and expectation; like, for example the ironic We Are Here Tonight to Celebrate where we are presented with the threatening black skeleton of a prehistoric monster, against a backdrop of cheerfully coloured balloons and bright red and orange ribbons or Hail to the Great Ones, where a pig is being roasted on a spit in a boat at full sea, against the background of a glorious sunrise. The words underneath: “Eternal glory awaits those who die for the good of others” evokes mixed feelings of the utopian and dystopian. Ultimately, Magdy’s universe alludes to the eternal fate of mankind: the incessant effort to ‘progress’, and being thrown back and forth between hope and disappointment, success and failure, hard reality and the hope for something better.