WAEL SHAWKY, CABARET CRUSADES, MOMA PS1
May 21st, 2015

The most vivid depictions of a war in the Middle East aren’t on television news these days. They’re in an exhibition by the Egyptian artist Wael Shawky at MoMA PS1 in Queens. The show, “Cabaret Crusades,” Mr. Shawky’s local museum solo debut, is made up of three sequential films, each about an hour and set in the distant past, beginning in the 11th century when European armies marched eastward to claim the Holy Land. The story is one of almost unremitting violence, and the scenes of battle, torture and execution are appalling to witness, which is a surprise considering that all the actors are marionettes.

Drawing on work by the Lebanese historian Amin Maalouf, Mr. Shawky tells the story of the Crusades through Arab eyes. Puppets may have been the only viable way to produce such an epic on a budget. The strategy works; they’re astonishingly expressive. In the first film, from 2010, he used antique Italian marionettes; for the second (2012), he designed the painted ceramic puppets himself, creating a menagerie of half-human, half-animal beings. For the most recent and final film, which takes the saga beyond the Crusades and into the origins of religious conflicts within Islam, he commissioned hand-blown glass puppets modeled on African sculptures….

HOLLAND COTTER in NYT Arts Beat

Link to the full article here / Link to NYT Art & Design here



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