The Apeman Went Over the Mountain

No American Talent 3: The Common Deceit of Reality @ Okay Mountain Austin, TX April 21- May 26 2007

In this day and age in which there is so much uncertainty it's very reassuring to have some clarity about SOMETHING. At long last, clear undisputed proof of Bigfoot's existence and the return of humor to the world of installation art.

In a time like no other, we live in a period of human history in which we have more doubts about what we perceive to be reality. What part of the news that we see on television is propaganda? What news channels are more reliable and less partisan? What is fact, fiction or myth? Were those photos of Britney Spears' sans panties real or doctored?

Cairo based artist Basim Magdy's first solo Texas exhibition currently on view at Okay Mountain dips into this pool of uncertainty. His work makes a myth reality by tapping into our culture's doubts and wonderings. Is Bigfoot real? Did we really land on the moon? Was our government really unaware of the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? In fact, how good or bad ARE things in Iraq really?

Magdy's show, which was curated by Regine Basha -- consulting curator for Arthouse, consists of two installations and a small collection of mixed media paintings/drawings and prints.

close up of "In the Grave of Intergalactic Utopia" by Basim Magdy

The first installation entitled "In The Grave of Intergalactic Utopia" greets you upon crossing the threshold of the fenced off yard which serves as the entrance to Okay Mountain. It consists of a large "chicken coop" or rabbit hut complete with over sized water bottle, cedar bedding lining the floor, trays for food and water as well as a monitor for the "pet" to watch. In this case, however, the pet is a human figure decked out in an astronaut's space suit. Has he/she been imprisoned like an astral John McCain by some alien species encountered on a mission? Is he/she being held in captivity by his/her own people? These questions are not answered by the piece. Whatever the circumstances to their capture and imprisonment, this astronaut is elevated to a higher level of heroic status. Even though all soldiers and astronauts are considered brave heroes, their status is further elevated, and rightly so, by death, and sacrifice. Does this piece reference the containment cells at Guantanamo Bay, the inhumane treatment at Abu Grab, or the mythological/ constructed story surrounding the death of soldier Pat Tillman? Again, those questions are never directly answered by this installation, but the fact that it does generate wonderings and multiple paths of possibility makes it that much more complex and successful.

installation view of "Mud Pools and How We Got Ourselves to Look for Bigfoot Heaven" by Basim Magdy

The second installation entitled "Mud Pools and How We Got Ourselves to Look for Bigfoot Heaven," envelops your eyes and nose as you enter the traditional gallery space at Okay Mountain. The floor is completely slathered again with cedar bedding just as the other installation is. This time however, the material has a different connotation, that of being earth beneath your feet, releasing it's moist stench with every step you take. The environment Magdy creates is of a serene wooded area complete with foliage, a stone cold campfire and camper at it's center. Two of the walls contain a continuous mythological tale of Bigfoot, his people and their demise. The complete text of this tale can be found here. The installation reads like a well preserved crime scene or archaeological dig; Bigfoot slumped over in his camper, his carded game of solitaire never to be completed. And, now that Bigfoot is dead and there is proof that he existed, the myth writing really begins. Who was he? What was he like? And most importantly, who gets custody of his Bahamian born baby? •

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