Lisson Gallery presents The Magic of the State, an exhibition and editorial project conceived in collaboration with Beirut, a new art initiative and exhibition space in Cairo, Egypt. Curated by Silvia Sgualdini of Lisson Gallery, in conjunction with Jens Maier-Rothe and Sarah Rifky, co-directors of Beirut, the project defines an ambitious platform for artistic exchange by bringing a number of international artists to Cairo for the first time.
Participating artists include: Ryan Gander, Goldin+Senneby, Rana Hamadeh, Anja Kirschner & David Panos, Liz Magic Laser, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Lili Reynaud-Dewar
The project is structured as two discrete yet interconnected exhibitions, opening first in Cairo (3 March – 6 April) and then London (27 March – 4 May). Different works by the same group of artists will be presented, including new commissions, performances and discursive platforms. The project will be accompanied by a publication featuring critical texts and artists contributions in English and Arabic.
The Magic of the State takes its name from the book of the same title by anthropologist Michael Taussig. In this text, Taussig conceives the modern State as configured through a theatre of spirit possession into the living body of society. Historically placed at the intersection of science, religion and politics, magic in its broadest sense is addressed within the context of the project: both secular magic and its connection to propaganda and mysticism with its claim to access supernatural entities and powers.
The invited artists adopt magic as a filter to question the increasingly intricate ways in which power manifests itself within given social, economic and political structures. Ryan Gander presents the performance I had a Message from the Curator, originally conceived for dOCUMENTA (13). Gander’s two newly commissioned Alchemy Boxes - sculptures made of common objects in which mysterious contents are sealed - alchemically connect the two exhibition spaces in Cairo and London. In Goldin+Senneby’s audio installation The Decapitation of Money, economic geographer Angus Cameron draws a series of associations between Bataille's obsession with decapitation as a release of energy and his understanding of sovereignty, regicide and economics; the emergence of the Eurodollar in the 1950s and off-shore finance beyond the jurisdiction of the sovereign state.
UK-based artists Anja Kirschner and David Panos' video installation Ultimate Substance examines the current Greek economic crisis by revisiting ancient myths and looking at how the introduction of coinage affected the emergence of abstract mathematical and philosophical knowledge. Cypriot artist Christodoulos Panayiotou presents a series of photographs selected from the Press and Information Office in Nicosia. The works excavate the rituals and ceremonies that underline the construction of a national narrative and the constitution of Cyprus as a modern nation state following independence from Britain.
Lisson Gallery Website