Hamdi Attia: Ruling the world in igpayatinlay

Hamdi Attia
World Map, the central piece in Hamdi Attia’s show, Aegnapea, at Pageant Gallery

I’m a little ambivalent about Hamdi Attia’s exhibit, Aegnapea, at Pageant: Soloveev Gallery, which by the way has a swell new web site.

Slought had a fabulous piece by Attia earlier this year in one of the back rooms, a plugged-in television set, its innards removed and unfurled all around to create a force field of radiant mis/communication (see post). I hope you were lucky enough to catch it out in the wilds of West Philly.

Hamdi Attia
detail, World Map

Behind Attia’s presence at both Slought and Pageant is the University of Pennsylvania MFA connection. Both galleries mine that connection. On top of that, both galleries have the distinction of an international focus, bringing art to Philadelphia that we might not otherwise see.

And speaking of the University of Pennsylvania, since the death of Neil Welliver, Penn has been turning itself into a contemporary art power house–a really exciting thing for the city of Philadelphia. Interesting works by Penn MFAs have been showing up all around town. And it looks like some of the graduates are staying.

But I digress.

Attia, a native of Egypt, but now a naturalized U.S. citizen working in Queens, NY, has hung a giant world map that looks not that different from any world map, except the land forms are made up. So are the place names made up–every one of them. Attia has created more than 4,000 weird names, creating a global map that’s unfamiliar in almost every way except for its proportion of land to sea and its format, which owes some debt to Mercator.

Hamdi Attia
Computer for map exploration

There’s also a computer for map explorations, should you choose to take up the mouse while in the gallery. I found this idea of the world in the computer also interesting. In some ways, this exhibit however felt like Attia’s own exploration of the world in the computer.

The installation and mapped world is futureland, a place which appears to have one ruling country. Hmmm. Sounds familiar. And the inscrutable place names suggest that within that one powerhouse are many factions that cannot understand each other. At least that’s what it suggests to me.

Hamdi Attia

I wasn’t sure how a resin-coated piece with dancers (above) fit in to the rest of the installation. I did like it. And the gallery felt a little bare.

My caviling notwithstanding, the work is intellectually rich and provocative, with a point of view we rarely see. I would like to see more of Attia’s work.


hamdi attia, pageant gallery



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