Sunday, May 17, 2009

Notes from the Twilight Zone

As if 1968 didn’t have enough on its plate: police riots at Columbia University, Paris’ Left Bank, and the Chicago Democratic Convention; carnage in Biafra, Vietnam, and Mexico City; Soviet tanks crushing Prague Spring; and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. But did you also realize that Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) prophesied discovery of the lost continent of Atlantis?

In his second solo installation at Newman Popiashvili Gallery, "1968: Memorial to a Rising Continent," artist Basim Magdy attempts to look beyond the polemical Atlantis story itself and explore evolution of our knowledge of the "lost continent's." Magdy’s installation looks at debated quasi-history through the prism of Edgar Cayce’s “readings.”

A modern age Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce predicted in the beginning of the 20th century that in 1968 the lost continent of Atlantis would begin to rise from the bottom of the ocean. Before the whole continent sank in the ocean waves of immigrants fled, transporting the preserved secrets of Atlantean knowledge to three places where civilization later evolved: The island of Bimini close to Florida, Egypt and Yucatan in Mexico. In 1968 the Bimini Road, a submerged rock formation of large rectangular stones, was discovered by zoologist Manson Valentine and underwater cinematographer Dimitri Rebikoff in shallow water north-west of Bimini Island. However, in 1980, Eugene Shinn of the U.S. Geological Survey, published the conclusions of his close examination of the underwater stones. He stated that the results of all his tests indicated that the stones must have been laid there by natural means. Further radiocarbon tests on the shells embedded in the stones gave a date of around two or three thousand years ago for the laying down of the so-called road. One might think the issue settled! (But don’t tell that to Cayce's followers who believe his prophecy was thus fulfilled.)

[Examples of the Cayce prophesies include prophesized calamitous earth changes between 1958 and 1998, including Californian superquakes and the submersal of New York and Japan, and a catastrophic pole shift in 1998.]

In the center of the gallery an Angel of Death figure in diving gear and fins holds forth on the edge of a rooftop, looking at the horizon with his bird of good omen in what seems like a post-flood scenario. Surrounded by burlap sandbags and covered with marine remains, the structure looks as if it had just emerged from the bottom of the ocean. As in Magdy's previous installations much attention is paid to detail where hints are to be found and estimates made of presented weltanshauung. Recorded fragments of selected Edgar Cayce's "readings" about Atlantis can be heard across the gallery at different time intervals—readings mighty detailed, though ambiguous at the same time.

While Cayce's contribution to the Atlantis debate draws obvious parallels to other deluge stories of ancient times like those of Noah’s ark and the Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh, its similarities to the widely accepted looming doomsday scenarios of our contemporary time can't be ignored. Included among these are a supervolcano, gamma ray burst, change in the earth’s axis of rotation, or a major impact event. In “1968: Memorial to a Rising Continent,” Magdy attempts to start a discourse investigating, not the possible existence of a technologically advanced civilization before mainstream historical civilization began, but the longing for a pseudo-scientifically proposed history in an age of constructed logic through structured research and traditional scientific methodology.

Born in Egypt in 1977,Magdy lives and works between Basel and Cairo. He works with drawing, painting, animation, installation, sculpture, video and sound. Recently his work has appeared in solo and group shows at Kunsthaus Baselland (Basel), Townhouse Gallery (Cairo), Musac - Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (Spain), MARCO - Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Vigo), Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (Seville), and Sfeir - Semler Gallery (Beirut).

1968: Memorial to a Rising Continent

by Basim Magdy

@ Newman Popiashvili Gallery

504 West 22nd Street NYC 10011

Through June 20, 2009

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