Without A Host is a Ghost
A magician draws out the exact image you imagine from over thousands and thousands of images in his pocket just like that! (Aurélien Froment) and you encounter a hat with a photograph, and think “how poetically absurd!” (Hans Peter Feldman), you read an annotated newspaper clipping that tells you of historians and horse gambling (The Atlas Group), and just when you thought you have seen it all, you peer into the security monitor, and a fox, yes a real fox, is roaming the halls of a museum (Francis Alys).
A Guest Without A Host is a Ghost is a collaboration between the Kadist Art Foundation in Paris and Beirut in Cairo. It brings a selection of contemporary artworks from the Kadist collections in Paris and San Francisco on a nine-month residency to Cairo. From over 500 existing works in the collection, Beirut appointed a group of thirty guests to reside here as temporary guests to the city. Their temporary presence speaks to the absence of collections and museums dedicated to contemporary art in Egypt, and draws on local partners spanning not-for-profit and private art galleries and other cultural spaces, to engage more closely with the hosted works.
Collecting is an attempt to distill a certain likeness among otherwise distinct things – often driven by a desire to imagine new, alternative and queer forms of affiliation that reside in a specific social context. The transient presence of a collecting impulse in Cairo lingers among local institutions, initiatives and individuals inviting them to explore what makes them alike and what makes them distinct. We trust that this will not only allude to an absence of a collecting institution or a museum amongst the many organiations we work with, but will also shed light on the fragile presence and co-dependency of institutions, evoking a relation of mutuality and shared being-in-common.
A Guest Without A Host is a Ghost evolves in two chapters. The first features an exhibition co-hosted by Beirut, Townhouse and the Contemporary Image Collective to publicly introduce our guests and hosts to each other. The second chapter departs from the exhibition as form, encouraging the artworks to have a life of their own and feel at home. Some artworks will be invited to go on a journey to new homes, offices and spaces in the city. Others will become objects of inquiry in workshops and seminars, to feature as special guests in other projects, and form the base for new artist commissions and responses by local and visiting practitioners.
In many ways the artworks selected for this project elicit notions of an absent presence, both real or imagined, of artworks, collections, memories, discourses, voices, histories and stories that are concealed from entering our world. What is barred has a way of pressing itself against our conscious life and finding a way to be present, through the potency of our imagination, thought, memory, hallucination. The exhibition is mindful of images particularly their reproducibility, and their role in photography and cinema. Central to the project is also the object-hood of images, and of artworks.
The uncanny disappearances of shapes, lines and forms escaping the trauma of war, and inhabiting the spaces around works of art (Walid Raad) tell us that works are also sites around which histories accumulate. The historical facts and fictions, and stories that are told, transform the essence of photographs, as records and as images. The ghostly presence of an army of boots without bodies marching through the US mail system (Eleanor Antin), the fatherly figures of former shop owners overlooking their legacy (Taysir Batniji), the institutional palimpsests in the changing face of a city (Nicolas Consuegra), the hallucinatory appearance of visual forms after periods of confined darkness (Melvin Moti), all reflect back to the beginning: What appears in place of an absent presence? Would ghosts exist without their hosts? Would they haunt a world without us?
A Guest Without A Host is a Ghost also includes a public program that runs throughout the year at different venues, conceived in close collaboration with all our partners. On the occasion of our collaboration with the Kadist Art Foundation, an new website for Beirut has been imagined by Goda Budvytyte and programmed by Asger Behncke Jacobsen.