Fahmy Shahin


Artist Statement

“I contemplate the process of acquiring language and learning to speak to question what it takes to be understood and to be imagined. In this work, I propose how language, (historic)time, and culture not only travel in objects but at the same time/alongside (in) bodies in conscious and unconscious ways. This proposition complicates the notion of translation while also serving as a commentary on the art language within which my work seeks to exist.

This contemplation is mediated by audio cassette tapes that feature me as a 2-year-old learning to speak (reciting verses from the Koran). The tapes are replaced with Arabic letters taken from the oldest Arabic manuscript ever found, which is a palimpsest, whose lower text is almost illegible. 

The letters are further abstracted to create sculptures that form together a ‘disorienting’ space; It’s as if instead of looking at a text from above we go to its roots and see it horizontally. The accompanying 3D animation video mimics first-person games where a camera flies in and over an infinite landscape of text structures.

My art practice more generally is interested in how religious artifacts and cultural narratives circulate outside of their context of origin. For example how a reproduced replica of an Islamic artifact can be only decorative in a domestic environment but have an entirely different connotation such as historical significance when presented in a Western museum. Central to my practice are cultural and intellectual property rights as a way to think about the vast inequities between various players within these markets. Specifically, my work is concerned with the systems and market values placed upon excavated religious objects and artifacts within The Arab World.”

Artist Bio

Fahmy Shahin (b.1983, Cairo) is a multimedia artist working primarily in sculpture, video, and drawing. Currently, he is completing his Master of Fine Arts degree at Parsons School of Design, New York. In addition to previously studying Textile Printing at the Faculty of Applied Arts, Cairo, and Interactive Media Design at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague. He uses his background in applied arts and media to interrogate the broader life of domestic religious objects he was asked to consume uncritically. His work has been featured in solo exhibitions in Netherlands and France in addition to several group exhibitions and publications, including the 4th Istanbul Biennial and the 3D Additivist Cookbook.