In Cabaret Crusades Drawings, Egyptian artist Wael Shawky (b.1971) tells the story of the crusades, based on a book by the French-Libyan author Amin Maalouf, told from the perspective of Arabian sources. The settings are Damascus, Mosul, Jerusalem and Aleppo - once again the trouble spots of today.
This beautifully produced book accompanied Shawky's 2016 exhibition at Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria. It features seven three-dimensional 'pop-up' drawings inspired by Arab calligraphers, colourists, illuminators and storytellers. Within the cover of the book is housed a booklet featuring essays exhibition installation views and a biography.
The discussion around foreignness and otherness is heated. Debate is shaped by waves of refugees from the Middle East, and humanitarian catastrophes in the Mediterranean and along the smuggler routes. At the heart of the discourse is the contact and differences between cultures, East and West, not least the claims to supremacy of religions and legal systems. Art cannot solve problems, but it can open perspectives that shed another light on these existential questions.
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