A supermarket exhibition is nothing new. The idea of rising consumerist values has been repeatedly tackled by artists around the world. In Egypt, it is no different. Five upcoming artists raised the issue in relation to the local context in 2010 in an exciting exhibition titled “Shopping Malls” at the Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum (ACAF). And for the past two weeks, the Gezira Arts Center has hosted “The Supermarket exhibition,” showcasing the work of 19 young artists.
Much of the work shown at the Gezira Art Center was literal, inspired by advertising and media campaigns, and using its symbols and slogans. Still, the artists tried to engage visitors in different ways.
For instance, in “Excuse me … you are out of credit,” Tamer Shaheen produced three playful posters of superheroes saying spinoffs of the slogans of major telecom companies in Egypt. Batman is shown against a green Etisalat background, saying “Life has NO more to give.” Superman plays on the famous Vodafone slogan saying “The power is in THEIR hands.” Three whiteboards were hung next to the posters, and visitors were asked to write down a message, the last one they would like to send out if all communications methods were to be disconnected. Some audience called their families, but many sent out angry messages to Egypt’s ruling military council.
Amr Amer and Mohamed Abdulla presented “Expired,” another interactive work. The installation asked audience members to stamp the word “Expired” on slogans and symbols lining the walls, which they no longer saw valid. Among those that received the highest number of stamps were “The army and the people are one hand,” and a silhouette of a bearded face.
Other politically driven works included an untitled wall drawing by Bassim Yousry, showing a general eating little entrapped humans; and “Search for the Macaroni,” also a wall drawing by Mustafa al-Banna. Upon entering the main gallery, viewers are met with an almost life size mural of a tank. Through many quotes and technical information written directly on the wall or on small sheets of paper, we are invited to learn about the military, which has taken a more visible political role over the past 16 months. He also asks: “Is all that we should learn about them [limited to]: the Queen pasta brand, the Safi bottled water, and Wataneya oil stations?”