Gypsum is pleased to present Software Upgrade, a group exhibition with works by Zeina Aly, Castell Lanko, nasa4nasa, Omar El Sadek, Hend Samir, Yazan El Zubi, and curated by Malak Helmy.
Software Upgrade proposes that the nature of the image shifted over the last decade in Egypt—more specifically, between 2014 and 2019. Conditions made it such that a reformatting of our collective relationship to images took place; that period saw a lapse in the semiotic order, and within that lapse the image shifted. The artworks presented here each evidence a search for what an image is: how to perceive it, observe it, find it, and transcribe it onto and through various surfaces.
The exhibition takes its title from a text by Malak Helmy looking at the conditions in which that semiotic lapse occurred. In the text, which is included in the publication accompanying the show, the period is bracketed between two moments of global transmission: one being the last image of uprising in 2013— marking the cutting off of visual and literary transmission of images to the world from Egypt—and the other being the Golden Pharaoh Mummy Parade, the return to a new order of image transmission. The time between is articulated as an unordered temporality. The text explores how the lapse affected a collective body’s relationship to self and image. It suggests that cultural production moved from the visual and literary towards the sonic, and that through sound—perhaps a mode less tied to the production of meaning or legibility—one could listen for an image again.
In that moment of unordered temporality, when infrastructures were still not solidified in such a manner as to reorganize the collective body into one picture, other temporalities were able to take shape, make patterns, and create their own forms of unarticulated meaning, value, and possibility. Through acts of collective deep listening, an image could return whose status could be renewed. This image was less threatening, less heavy with meaning, less tied to any order of knowledge or history, including the Western art history long attached to image-making in Egypt.
To write with those new images was to tell stories we did not quite yet know. As if with reorganized meanings, the images became a form of communication. Perhaps what they tell us now is the tale of another temporal-semiotic order than the one we now occupy post-2019, after the state’s global transmission began once again to rescript perception and psyche. Perhaps they point to something else that is yet to be articulated.
We see forms of writing throughout the works in this exhibition—be it through the body, the surface of a painting, the medium of paint itself, through photography, or through computer-generated images. We see acts of looking and transcribing a moment of seeing. At times the images appear as rebuses or mythic glyphs, at others they are simply textures or simulations of life around us being looked at a second time, to be deciphered anew.
The publication will be launched in October 2023 and is designed by Engy Aly. It will include a series of interviews with the artists, alongside the text “Software Upgrade” by Malak Helmy and images of the artwork.
*Title adapted from composer Pauline Oliveros’ Software for People (1984), in which she writes about deep listening and group composition.
Press release from Gypsum Gallery