Lost in research of the lighthouse of Pharos
Ellie Ga opens first solo exhibition at M - Museum Leuven
Monday, November 17, 2014 — Pharos takes us on a journey to the Pharos lighthouse. Ellie Ga stayed in Alexandria to study the Pharos lighthouse, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. She followed marine archaeology courses at Alexandria University which allowed her to dive underwater to examine the archaeological remains of the lighthouse. Combining archival materials and personal stories, Pharos evokes the journey of an artist who is lost in the research process. The resulting videos, photos and documents stand midway between history and memory, reality and fiction, and perception and experience. Pharos is Ellie Ga’s first solo exhibition in Belgium
The video Sayed shows the film footage from Ellie Ga’s underwater dives to the archaeological remains of the Pharos lighthouse. The title of the video is the name of the Egyptian diver who was her guide underwater. Words and images are the central focus of Sayed. To what extent do we think we understand what we hear? Ellie Ga asks questions in English, and Sayed answers in Arabic. Furthermore, the video shows both the choppy waters of the Mediterranean Sea and short close-ups of fragments of stone. Are these the remains of the ancient Pharos lighthouse? How real is our (in)sight into something that we have never physically seen but which only exists in our imagination?
Low Lies the Breakwater (2013)
The triptych Low Lies the Breakwater is a photographic documentary of the view from mainland Alexandria across the sea. The framing of the three images refers to the presumed architecture of the lighthouse: a rectangular tower at the base, rising into an octagonal shaft and a cylindrical tower at the top. In other words, from a bird’s-eye view, these three floors would have looked like a square, an octagon and a circle, three basic geometric shapes that represented a divine ideal to the ancient Greeks.
It Was Restored Again (2013)
The double slideshow installation It Was Restored Again consists of 180 pictures of and texts about the lighthouse. Words and images are literally juxtaposed. Ellie Ga shows medieval pictures of Arab travellers, Renaissance frescos and recent internet images. She confronts these with diverse fragments of text such as eyewitness testimonies, legends and the results of archaeological research. Instead of providing more clarity, however, the abundance of information obscures our view of the lost monument. What is factual or real? What is fictional? Just like the artist, the viewer can get lost in the research process.
Four Thousand Blocks (2013)
The various storylines that Ellie Ga developed based on her research and stay in Alexandria converge in the video Four Thousand Blocks. Via a voice-over, the artist tells seven stories, but her perspective as the storyteller shifts each time. Ellie Ga talks both about her own personal experiences (diving, meeting the archaeologist Jean-Yves Empereur, whom she calls The Emperor, etc.) and about the myth of the god Thoth or the historical translation of the Torah.
Projection Harbor (2013) and Pharmakon (2012)
The gelatin silver photo print Projection Harbor shows a view from Alexandria across the harbour. The foreground is dominated by two enormous rocks/dice showing two and five pips. The work is evocative of the ancient Egyptian god Thoth, who according to tradition was the god of the moon, of magic and of dice. The textual work Pharmakon also refers to Thoth: the text relates the creation history of the ancient god.
Ellie Ga (°1976, New York, United States) lives and works in London. She has recently presented solo exhibitions at Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (2014), Bureau, New York (2014) and Grand Arts, Kansas City (2013). She has presented several of her performances at institutions such as The Kitchen, New York (2014), The New Museum, New York (2013), Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris (2012), The Power Plant, Toronto (2011) and in the Playground Festival, Leuven (2011). Her work is represented by Bureau gallery in New York.
In 2013, Ellie Ga was a resident at the Experimental Media and Performance Art Center (EMPAC) in New York, where she developed the narrative performance Eureka, A Lighthouse Play. On November 14, the artist performed this production in Leuven as part of the Playground Festival. www.playgroundfestival.be