Cabaret Crusades


Wael Shawky


Radisson Habiba Hall

Project Summary

At March Meeting 2011 Wael Shawky chose to speak about the four parts of a film series that features in the project Cabaret Crusades, which also includes videos, installations, drawings and objects. At the time of March Meeting Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File, the first in the series, was the only part completed. Using 200-year-old marionettes from the Lupi collection in Turin, Shawky attempts to retrace the first Crusade and translate it into film—with Amin Maalouf’s book The Crusades Through Arab Eyes a major inspiration. While such events could hardly be more topical today, Shawky is eager to maintain his position as a visual artist and not as a historian or an archivist.

Presentation Proposal

Cabaret Crusades is a project based on the historic chronicles of the Crusades (1095-1291). The project began in January 2010 and is expected to be completed by September 2013. It is primarily a marionette-film series that ironically criticises the history of the establishment of modern civilisations while analysing religious conflict by shifting between myth and fact. The historical picture that emerges is at once powerful and level-headed, political and unbiased. The essay gives some insight into the cruelties committed by humanity perpetrated in the name of a vague feeling of religious humiliation, but more objectively one that was carried out for complex socio-economic reasons. The research and preparation leading up to the filmic work include the creation of drawings, photography, marionette designs, and written scripts which may culminate in future manifestations as exhibition installations.


Wael Shawky (b.1971) completed a BFA at The University of Alexandria, followed by an MFA at the University of Pennsylvania in 2000. His work has featured in international solo exhibitions including at Gallery Sfeir Semler, Beirut (2010), the Townhouse Gallery, Cairo (2008) and KVS, Brussels (2007). He has featured in group shows at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, NY (2010), Arko Museum, Seoul (2010), Queens Museum of Art, NY (2009), the Marrakech Biennale (2009), the Santa Fe Biennial (2008), Musée d’Art Contemporain de Nîmes (2008), the Riwaq Biennale, Palestine (2007), the Moscow Biennale (2007), the Istanbul Biennial (2005), and the Venice Biennale (2003). His work is in collections including Tate in London, Macro Museum in Rome, and MUDAM in Luxembourg. Shawky’s awards include the Abraaj Capital Art Prize (2012), the Ernst Schering Foundation Art Award (2011), the International Commissioning Grant, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York (2005), the International Award of The Islamic World Arts Initiative, Arts International, New York (2004), and The American Center Foundation Grant, Philadelphia (2004).

November 2011

Subjects: Artist Projects

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