Adham Faramawy: HYDRA
Cell Project Space, London
17 January - 23 February 2014
Review by Edwina Attlee
Adham Faramawy’s videos tap into the strange headspace that exists between fantasies of the internet and its prosaic use. His is an unreal but instantly recognizable vision which calls to mind the dystopic celluloid future of Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element. The sense is of a series of trapped individuals who are at once being spied upon and performing for the camera. This unnerving oscillation between experiences of voyeurism and interpolation is part of his attempt to explore changes in perception brought about by the digital age. Are we looking or being looked at’
Spa Day positions us in a shower cubicle and allows us to watch unblinkingly as a man soaps himself with special effects. The lather of digital manipulation is uncomfortably mesmerising (not unlike the slow moving shapes of a Windows’ screensaver) and you are drawn into a hypnotic reverie as he washes himself gold and then silver and back again. I feel like a customer at a peep show.
The exhibition blurb mentions ‘post-rave thirst aftermath’ and the presence of the rave can be felt throughout the installation. The plaster and jesmonite rock paintings are like school-made moon surfaces in the aftermath of a Holi powder colour-fight; splotches of sprayed and lit neon that are redolent of a little girl’s birthday party.
The effects are at once effective and clunky, drawing attention to their presence. A screen is covered in petroleum-like droplets, a backdrop is obviously made of tin foil. This self-conscious announcement of artifice echoes the disturbing self-awareness of the performers in the videos. The girl drinking from the water bottle in ‘Vichy Shower’ fixes the lens with a gaze that is both challenging and seductive. The heightened and overtly artificial presentation of bodies and body parts in this pixelated fashion is reminiscent of Ryan Trecartin’s ‘Any Ever’ and Pipilotti Rist’s ‘Eyeball Massage’.
Like Trecartin, Faramawy quotes the pornographic, the advertorial and the self-made instances of digital imagery, making a good case for the unavoidable hollowness of any image of ‘well-being’.