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Mahmoud Khaled’s art practice explores the construction of male identity in a society that is increasingly shaped by mediated and virtual exchanges. The subjects of his videos, photographic works, and installations feature a range of gender identities, from belly dancers, to bodybuilders and bullfighters, and explores situational power dynamics that occur in cyberspace, such as a fictitious conversation on Grindr. Working with the ambivalences and overlaps between reality and staging, Khaled considers the role of art as a form of political activism and a space for critical reflection. The Egyptian artist adapts his medium to the subject matter, often combining photographs and videos with sculptural forms, texts, sound elements, and everyday objects.

At the Istanbul Biennial in 2017 Khaled presented his Proposal for a House Museum of an Unknown Crying Man, a fictionalized approach to the case of the “Cairo 52”—52 gay men who were arrested on 11 May, 2001 aboard a floating nightclub in Cairo. After grave physical and emotional abuse, the men were later convicted on charges of “debauchery,” “obscene behavior,” and “contempt of religion.” A press photograph covering the trial procedures shows a crying man attempting to cover his face with a piece of white cloth. The image instantly became an icon and signifier for the male gay community in Egypt, by and against its will. In an attempt to commemorate a significant moment, Khaled constructs a “house museum” that showcases a collection of paintings, sculptures, objects, photographs, and personal items, as well as an audio guide narrated from the perspective of a neighbor to an “Unknown Crying Man,” speaking of his life in a place of exile and refuge. Through the fictitious documentation of the anonymous man’s biography, Khaled addresses issues such as the dialectic of revelation and concealment, the intersection of public and private space, and the ongoing persecution of LGBTQI+ citizens in the Middle East.

This sensitive, precise, and insightful articulation of a social and human condition and its inherent vulnerability is at the core of Mahmoud Khaled’s artistic approach. His process-oriented and multidisciplinary works operate on a level of openness that extends their meaning beyond the immediate precariousness of his themes such as forbidden love, systematic political failure, and the invisible spaces his protagonists occupy within their social contexts.

Mahmoud Khaled studied fine art in Alexandria, Egypt and in Trondheim, Norway.

His recent exhibitions include: I Want You to Know That I Am Hiding Something from You, Helena Anrather Gallery, New York (2018); A New Commission for an Old State at Gypsum Gallery, Cairo, EG (2018); 15th Istanbul Biennial, TR (2017); Sharjah Biennial 13, AE (2017); Terra Mediterranea – in Action, NiMAC Arts Center, Nicosia, CY (2017); Hips Don't Lie, Centre Pompidou, Málaga, ES (2016); Electronic Superhighway, Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2016); Complicity, Sultan Gallery, Kuwait, KW (2016); On Building Nations, Edith-Ruth-Haus, Oldenburg (2016); Proposal for a Porn Company, Galpão VB | Associação Cultural Videobrasil, São Paulo, BR (2016); and It's Never Too Late to Talk About Love, Nile Sunset Annex, Cairo, EG (2014).

Text: Anja Lückenkemper
Translation: Jacqueline Todd

Foto: Mahmoud Khaled, Proposal for a House Museum of an Unknown Crying Man, 2017, installation view, 15th Istanbul Biennial


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