Maamoun, Maha


Egyptian, b. 1972; lives and works in Cairo, Egypt


Through her manipulation of found materials, printed matter, photographs, and film, Maha Maamoun has intervened in the history of depictions of Egypt as circulated through postcards, travelogues, and cinema. Speaking directly to a tradition of exoticism and Orientalist image-making, Maamoun interrogates distances traveled; by evoking the terms "navigation" and "consumption," the artist succinctly describes her interest in the sliding registers of estrangement, a simultaneously "intimate and distant relationship to one's environment" hovering between the proximal (personal experience) and the distal (a visual history of the representation of Cairo dating as far back as its period of Greek rule, circa 332-330 B.C.). 

Her 2005 series Domestic Tourism reshuffles imagery through strategies of subtle digital manipulation and appropriation, in ways meant to estrange and challenge viewers: The Beach finds a comically positioned and scaled paddle-boater tearing up the waterfront, leaving the viewer wondering how other swimmers in the photograph may be similarly cropped by the artist. Felucca likewise benefits from subtle sampling and remixing, but here Maamoun gestures toward an earlier pictorial tradition, namely the panoramic photographs of the nineteenth century, when Cairo's vistas were a destination on European Grand Tours. 

At once playful, bright, frequently absurd, and sometimes unsettling, Maamoun's photographic interventions benefit from these outside perspectives, and strive to redefine the historical implications for representing the cities (or bodies) of others. Maamoun holds an M.A. in Middle Eastern History from American University in Cairo. Her artwork has recently been shown in the 9th Sharjah Biennial 9 (2009); Global Cities at the Tate Modern (2007); the 10th Venice Biennale of Architecture (2006); Snap Judgments at the International Center of Photography, New York (2006); and PhotoCairo at the Townhouse Gallery, Cairo (2003). Maamoun is a board member of the Contemporary Image Collective (CiC), a Cairo-based art space.

– James Merle Thomas

Artworks by Maamoun, Maha

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