The pick: Heba El Aziz’s ‘Ioconography’

The pick: Heba El Aziz's 'Ioconography'

All the art projects shown on “The Sixth Floor” should be picks. As with the Hal Badeel (Alternative Solution) arts festival held earlier this month, the artists, along with curator Yara Mekawei, collaborated on every possible detail to bring the group show to life.

They cleaned and fixed the creaking walls of the old Viennoise Hotel in Downtown Cairo, and took on shifts to welcome the many visitors. Throughout the week, you’d find visitors and artists hanging out and chatting. And, of course, the artists produced their projects. All 15 works were fully developed projects, rather than a random response to a curator’s invite. I choose to highlight one that swept me off my feet.

At the far end of the flat hosting the exhibit, a dimly lit room hosted the work of Heba El Aziz, “Ioconography.” Its aesthetic simplicity was heartening. Circular glass lenses hung on the wall. In each lay a photograph of an icon, for better or for worse. From comedian Adel Imam and the late songstress Om Kalthoum to King Farouk and even Gamal Mubarak, but also the late Pope Shenouda III, Mubarak-era Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and journalist Ibrahim Eissa.

Each photo gradually decolorized, taking on different hues of greens, blues, grays and an occasional spray of red. As I kept going back to take yet another look, Aziz’s icons continued to transform.

Aziz is one of the very few artists working with bio-art in Egypt. She is a bio-painter, who uses glass plates and photographs as her canvas, and bacteria she carefully cultures as her color palette.

Like all forms of life, that of the icons included, the bacteria changes over time. It is a live temporal art and watching it develop, I developed some attachment to it, fascinated, as it captured a cycle of life.

You can see more of Aziz’s work here.

This article first appeared in Egypt Independent.

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