Basim Magdy’s exhibition titled The Stars Were Aligned for a Century of New Beginnings at the Arnolfini, Bristol, felt like cutting through a stick of room temperature butter with a sharp knife. Strangely pleasing. Easy. Mixes well with sugar. When I left the gallery I wanted to go right back in. Like finishing a novel that you immediately want to start again.
The videos are like kaleidoscopic streams of consciousness. The accompanying text in the films reminded me of the absurdity of Miranda July. Quirky. Amusing. Someone you wish was your friend.
Perhaps it is the memory of seeing monkeys in his piece The Everyday Ritual of Solitude Hatching Monkeys, 2014, and the warped colours, chemical stains on emulsions, and light leaked exposures on film, but it all made me think that I was a part of a hallucinogenic version of the Planet of the Apes. Sci-fi scenes of the past or future or both.
My exhausted eyes from seeing too many images everyday found these sequences to be country air fresh. I haven’t figured out why I found comfort sitting in front of these films or looking at Magdy’s works on paper, but it brought back those feelings of hiding out in childhood forts made from couch cushions and blankets.
Impressive to have a body of work fill a building, but I do wish that all of the pieces could somehow be exhibited in one gallery space, so I wouldn’t have to be forced back to reality when going from one gallery to the next. Maybe that makes the spaces all the more special, bothy like, sheltering us from the mundane.
This work may have had in mind ‘a possible post-apocalyptic future’, but it certainly doesn’t translate that way to me, or perhaps it does represent the future after we have pressed a reset button to give us back something good again. Rather than a failed utopia, I think of the places that Magdy carves out for us as failed dystopias. But this could come down to personal place perspective.
On my second visit to the gallery, it felt like the circus elephant was sitting on my chest. I was resuscitated by waves of colour, absurd thoughts, and the sheen of metallic paint.