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Basim Magdy: The Stars Were Aligned for a Century of New Beginnings

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Artist Basim Magdy (Egyptian, b. 1977) began experimenting with colorful works on paper and canvas before moving into the realm of photography and cinema. His works evoke a pop sensibility that contrasts the grim titles and speak to our collective ambition for a utopian future and the inherent failure of this human aspiration.


Basim Magdy’s works across media evoke a pop sensibility that contrast with their grim titles. At his studio in the Hyde Park Art Center, Magdy discusses his artistic choices as well as his ideas about the future, specifically the future that never arrived.

  • I’m Basim Magdy.
  • I am an artist.
  • And I make art.

  • The title of my exhibition is
  • _The Stars Were Aligned for a
  • Century of New Beginnings_.

  • A new beginning insinuates the future
  • and the passing of time.
  • And, for me, the stars were aligned is
  • also something about chance and
  • the fact that we can control things
  • and you can just like do whatever you want,
  • but then things change and
  • things happen the way they want.

  • I have two visions that are different
  • but are also kind of connected of the future.
  • One: the future that never arrived.
  • So visions of the future that started in the late sixties
  • with the first moon landing and
  • all those illustrations and very fictional kinds of
  • visions of moon colonies and Mars colonies
  • and floating cars.
  • Of course this future
  • was supposed to arrive now and it hasn’t
  • because it wasn’t rooted in the realities of the sixties.

  • So the works on paper deal with this.
  • I try to take elements from those visions
  • and put them in different contexts.
  • And then the titles are really important
  • for those works.
  • The way I think of it is,
  • I want people to look at it
  • and then see the title and think,

    "Oh, that's a different way of seeing this."

  • For the films and the photographs,
  • I’m dealing a lot more with
  • a more realistic future, which is rooted
  • in the present of today, where I believe
  • history repeats itself.
  • We move in cycles.
  • The mistakes of the past
  • have been made and they are being made again
  • today precisely the same way,
  • just – you change a few things and
  • you change the people,
  • you change the location.
  • But it’s exactly the same.
  • And in the future the same things will happen.

  • It’s kind of like this vision
  • that the future is not going to be that much different
  • because all the elements are the same.
  • We’re still humans; we’re the same species
  • that was there for thousands of years. And
  • we live in cities and we have the same aspirations
  • and we have the same dreams
  • and we have the same failures.

  • And even if the technology in the future will be different,
  • it’s still coming out of the technology of today.

  • So I work a lot with the ideas of collective failure
  • and collective aspiration;
  • and how also individuals within these
  • contexts perform and what their roles are
  • and how they see their roles as individuals and their
  • personal failures and their personal aspirations.

  • The Dent is mainly about this;
  • and it’s very fictional
  • and has a lot of different layers and
  • there’s a small town that tries to host the Olympics
  • and there’s an elephant that wakes up
  • to find itself a zebra.
  • So there’s a lot of fictional elements in it,
  • but in the end it’s about this group of people
  • who fail and fail and fail.
  • And eventually they realize they’re failing
  • and they have to choose between
  • trying something different
  • or accepting their fate of failure.
  • And they make a choice.

  • This is the future that I’m interested in talking about.
  • But also, I don’t know, in the future
  • maybe I will be thinking about a different future.

    [Audio recording]

    One. Never assume or pretend to understand anything. You all know you don’t just like we don’t.

    [End of audio recording]