Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File; The Path To Cairo

The Horror Show File (2010)
The Path to Cairo (2012)

The Polygon Gallery is thrilled to present Wael Shawky’s critically acclaimed film trilogy, Cabaret Crusades. Inspired by Amin Maalouf’s The Crusades Through Arab Eyes (1983), Shawky delivers audiences into a theatrical world of war, deceit and imperial folly, cast against elaborate medieval sets, and poignantly dramatised through marionette puppetry.

Cabaret Crusades re-examines the religious wars of 1095-1291 where Christians and Muslims fought over possession of Jerusalem. Retold exclusively from Arab perspectives, Shawky presents an alternative to dominant Western historiography, all the while ambivalent towards the veracity of his sources. By blending historical accounts and mythical fables, Shawky emphasises how political bias and narrative elements underpin historical record.

The first film, The Horror Show File (2010), uses 200-year-old marionettes from the Lupi Collection in Turin, while The Path to Cairo (2012) features ceramic marionettes designed by the artist. The screening will begin with an introduction by Laura U. Marks, author of the essay, "Gifts, Plunder, and a Secret: Wael Shawky's Cabaret Crusades", in the recent Shawky monograph published by Skira. The final part of the trilogy, 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘦𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘵𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘒𝘢𝘳𝘣𝘢𝘭𝘢 (2015), will be shown on the last day of the Shawky exhibition, January 12, 2020 at 3:00pm.⁣

Laura U. Marks works on media art and philosophy with an intercultural focus. Her most recent books are Hanan al-Cinema: Affections for the Moving Image (MIT, 2015) and Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art (MIT, 2010). Marks programs experimental media art for venues around the world. With Dr. Azadeh Emadi (University of Glasgow) she is a founding member of the Substantial Motion Research Network. Dr. Marks is Grant Strate Professor in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

Wael Shawky was born in Alexandria in 1971, where he lives and works today. Shawky studied at the University of Alexandria and the University of Pennsylvania and is the founder of the MASS Alexandria artist residency program. His work has been featured in some of the world's most distinguished art institutions and international exhibitions, including The Venice Biennale, documenta, Manifesta, Istanbul Biennial, Dak'Art, MoMA PS1, Serpentine Galleries, Castello di Rivoli, K20 Grabbeplatz, K21 Standehaus, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Hammer Museum, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Tate, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Palais de Tokyo, New Museum and Whitechapel Gallery.

Shawky is the recipient of the first Mario Merz Prize and his film trilogy Cabaret Crusades is widely ranked amongst the most important works in contemporary art, most recently by The Guardian.

Image: Wael Shawky, Cabaret Crusades: The Path to Cairo, 2012, video still (detail), courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery, London.