For his first solo exhibition at a major American museum, Wael Shawky presents his epic video trilogy that recounts the history of The Crusades from an Arab perspective. Inspired by The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Lebanese historian Amin Maalouf, Shawky’s videos chart the numerous European campaigns to the Holy Land, starting from the early Crusades from 1096–1099 A.D. that are depicted in CABARET CRUSADES: THE HORROR SHOW FILES (2010) and the First and Second Crusades from 1099–1145 A.D. in CABARET CRUSADES: THE PATH TO CAIRO (2012). The MoMA PS1 exhibition will feature both works and debut the third and final video from the series, CABARET CRUSADES: THE SECRETS of KARBALA.
Based on accounts from primary sources, Shawky complicates the traditional civilization clash narrative by describing scenes that refute common notions of the era. Shawky highlights both the secular motivations of the European fighters and the competition and violence among Arab leaders. Using 200-year-old marionettes from a collection in Italy for the first installment, and custom-made ceramic figures for the second, Shawky says the puppets help create a “surreal and mythical atmosphere that blends drama and cynicism, telling a story of remote events that could hardly be more topical today. The puppets’ strings clearly refer to the idea of control. The work also implies a criticism of the way history has been written and manipulated.”
Wael Shawky: Cabaret Crusades is organized by Klaus Biesenbach, Director, MoMA PS1 and Margaret Aldredge, Curatorial Assistant, MoMA PS1.