Elegy for the Dodo

by M. A.

In Egypt, art is dead.

Exactly, you just read these words: art in Egypt is dead. Dead as a dodo, as an extinct flightless bird that none of us has ever seen. In fact no man has laid eyes on any sign for it existing for many many years.

Disclaimer: This is not not one of those sarcastic smart-ass articles that plague our embarrassing English web publications, written and edited by an army of half-witted, anglocentric, untalented and anti intellectual amateurs whose primary source of knowledge is Facebook, and who still think that 1990’s kitsch is clever. I am sorry, dear miserable reader (for you are indeed miserable to even be remotely interested in a stinking dodo carcass) this is not one of those poor excuses for an article.

This is an obituary if you may, written in voluntary exile. It tells you that in Egypt, art is dead. Because, dear art lover, art dies when artists don’t have resources to make, show, or circulate art. When the state’s cultural policies are to periodically replace the Opera House marble steps, and when funding bodies are making cuts at the very moment when they need to spend more dollars to counter a regional tsunami of death and fear and extreme ideologies, then something is bound to smell.

Art is dead when the state of art education is as appalling as it has become, where hundreds graduate annually with a degree in painting and an aspiration for making crafts and graphic design, and when the clever ones amongst us create imaginary schools disseminating useless knowledge and reinstating the figure of the contemporary artist in all its shameless falseness and empty wordplay.

Art is dead when institutions shut down without as much as postcard sent in solidarity. Art is dead when our laws deprive us from our right of free-assembly, when we can’t form a union, or work collectively towards a common good. When a culture of fear makes it impossible to perform a mundane job such as running an arts institution, then something is rotting.

Art is dead when advertising becomes a platform for experimenting with aesthetics and structure in video, and when films (all films) are shit. When mango flavoured dessert and an outrageously ugly piece of public art become the main sources of intellectual debate for weeks, we must admit that we are bankrupt. Art is dead when we don’t have a single art critic in the country who is capable of producing a piece of writing worth the salary they are paid, and when criticality is confused for bar-humor and Facebook wit. Art is dead when no one amongst us knows how to write.

Art is dead when we allow ourselves to be instrumentalized by real-estate speculative agents in a project to gentrify our city, in effect volunteering credibility for those who will soon throw us out in the street. Art is dead when we spend millions of dollars building art institutions that speak to no one but its makers, and produces nothing but their discourses.

Art is dead when every artist is depressed, afraid, disempowered, exhausted, hopeless and poor. Art is dead when exile is no longer an option, but a necessity for survival, and when no one, absolutely no one, can make an intelligent case for the possibility that a tiny dodo population could be one day reintroduced to the planet.

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2 Comments to “Elegy for the Dodo”

  1. Dear M.A., I would love to get in touch with you concerning a publication. Could you please get back to me. Best, Katharina

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