Maha Maamoun
»2026«, Egypt 2010
Video, b/w, sound, 9 min.
Actor: Ahmad Kamal, Production: Tamer Eissa, Doa Aly, Lighting: Kareem Seif
Editing: Maha Maamoun & Louly Seif
Text: From the novel: The Revolution of 2053 – The Beginning. By Mahmoud Osman, Director: Maha Maamoun
Courtesy of Maha Maamoun

Maha Maamoun, »2026«, 2010, Videostill, Courtesy of Maha Maamoun

Maha Maamoun, »2026«, 2010, Videostill, Courtesy of Maha Maamoun

Maha Maamoun, »2026«, 2010, Videostill, Courtesy of Maha Maamoun

Maha Maamoun

June 15 – July 15, 2012

Invited by Stefanie Schulte Strathaus (Kuratorin, Arsenal - Institut für Film und Videokunst, Berlin)

»Cinema should not be defined in terms of movement but of time.« (Christa Blümlinger)

»2026« (2010)

Based on the novel, »The Revolution of 2053: the Beginning«, by Mahmoud Osman, and referencing a scene from Chris Marker’s film, »La Jetée« (France, 1962). If we add the years to the film title and derive an average year, then we arrive at the present:
2026 + 2010 + 2053 + 1962 = 8051: 4 = 2012.
 From here we set off on a journey through time: in his futuristic novel from 2007, Mahmoud Osman shifts the Egyptian revolution to 2053 and chooses India as an example of a successful experiment in democracy. If we fly from Mumbai to Cairo today, we have just enough time to read the novel’s 419 pages (1.4 min/page).
On arrival in Cairo, the pyramids seem to us extraordinarily isolated, like a deserted stage or – as regards the encroaching houses – like a city from the future. Yet they were actually once a magnet for tourists, as Maha Maamoun showed in her earlier work, »Domestic Tourism II« – using images from the history of Egyptian cinema – from the 1950s up to 2000. If we want to profit today from the Egyptian revolution, then we can travel on to Paris. This is where Chris Marker’s »La Jetée« (At the Edge of the Runway) came about, assembled from innumerable freeze frames. On the flight we gain something – time. Summer time was abolished in 2011, in the course of the revolution, as an unnecessary construction; on arriving, it’s an hour earlier. Does that mean 2053 is shifting closer or further away?
We can use the hour we gained to look at Chris Marker’s photo novel twice over, once in the French (La Jetée) and once in the German (Am Rande des Rollfelds) language versions. In this case, the experiment consists in survivors from a nuclear war sending a captive on a journey in time. The memory of a particularly strong mental image, the face of a woman, makes it possible for him to meet her in the future.

In cinema, the year 2026 has already passed into the collective consciousness. 100 years beforehand, Fritz Land located the class struggle in Metropolis in the year 2026. I asked Maha on her mobile about the significance of this year. She had herself received an answer from Mahmoud Osman to the same question and she sent it to me:

»As far as the year is concerned, the answer is that I did not choose any specific date, but calculated retrospectively. I wanted a similar situation like the one we are facing at the next presidential election. I assumed that the presiding president in 20ll was going into his last election (on account of his age). After that, there are 6 periods of office for his son (each 6 years long), which throws us forward to 2047, which will then be the last election for his son, on account of his age. By the year 2053, the son will have had a son, who will then go into the election. By chance, Egypt passed from a monarchy into a republican regime in 1953 (and not in 1952, as many people assume). In 2053, Egypt will, therefore, celebrate 100 years of its theoretical republic, something that lends yet more significance to the date.
Accordingly, I began with the date of 2053 and worked back to the date when the story first allots its characters enough time to marry and to have grown-up children by 2053. Setting up the calendar so that all the characters conform to their age-group within all events was extremely complicated, and 2026 was the only year to proceed from if the calendar was to function for all of them.«

For the woman watching in 2012 too. Maha ended her email with the question: »And how did your calculation go again? I could not hear everything because of the wind.«

Text: Stefanie Schulte Strathaus

Maha Maamoun (*1972 in Cairo, Egypt) mainly works with the media photography and video. The city, above all Cairo, forms a continuous topic in her work. Maamoun has already been exhibited, amongst others in Witte de With – Centre for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam (2011) and in the show »Mapping Subjectivity» in MoMA, New York (2010). She is one of the founding members of CIC - The Contemporary Image Collective – a space for contemporary art and culture in Cairo.