“Domestic Tourism II” a film by the Egyptian artist Maha Maamoun, travels to London as a part of “Whose Gaze Is It Anyway?” exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA).
Produced in 2008, the film examines how images of the Egyptian pyramids are used in movies, exploring the ways in which these iconic historical monuments can be re-appropriated from the “timelessness” of the tourist postcard and re-inscribed into the complex political, social, and historical moment in urban narratives. The film shows how the pyramids acted as “a nostalgic symbol for a flawed modern country,” according to the description of the film on the ICA’s website.
The film, which is around an hour long, starts with scenes from movies produced in the 21st century, and descends back in time to uncover footage produced during the 1950s. The film’s timeline then travels forward again, ending with footage produced this century.
“To give the film such a chronological/pyramidal structure was not only a dry conceptual preference,” wrote Maamoun in a statement issued right after the film’s production. This historical chronology is also “an emotional chronology” that gives the film an “emotional structure and rhythm,” as the drama engulfing the pyramids gradually rises and falls with time.
Maamoun’s film is part of her ongoing artistic interest in tourism and representation in Egypt. Her “Domestic Tourism I” photography project presented a series of digitally-altered touristic shots that sought to make “more complicated, less-sellable and slightly uncomfortable images” according to Maamoun in a statement.
“Whose Gaze Is It Anyway?” looks into how Arab pop culture is represented in film and printed matter, such as posters and book covers. The exhibition runs between 2 September and 5 October 2014.