The multidisciplinary arts entity Art D’Egypte opened its door in collaboration with META on Thursday for its second edition of “Forever is Now,” an international exhibition that reflects the profound global influence of ancient Egypt and draws on the ongoing inclusiveness of contemporary cultural practices. Following the success of the first edition, the world’s eyes were once again on Cairo as the exhibition brought together artworks by 12 international and regional artists to the monumental pyramids of Giza.
Meta partnered with Art D’Egypte for the second edition of Forever is Now (October 27 – November 30, 2022), an art exhibition that took place at the Pyramids of Giza, to release bespoke Augmented Reality (AR) filters exclusively available on Instagram. The partnership was part of Meta’s XR Programs and Research Fund, a two-year investment in global programs and external research into building the metaverse responsibly.
Reflecting the theme of the event, which merges ancient heritage and contemporary art; Meta brought together art, culture and technology through AR filters that helped visitors not only navigate the exhibition but also the stories behind some of its most iconic works of art. The guide was accessible through a set of 13 AR filters via Instagram on smartphones and came with a visual guide, which illustrated the backstory of each piece and showcased its creation through work-in-progress images, while also providing biographies of the artists.
The showcase featured large-scale site-specific artworks that blended with the pyramids’ natural stone. This year’s theme was “Timelessness and the Mysteries of an Ancient Civilization.” The artworks were created using natural materials. The second edition of Forever is Now reflects on time and timelessness, land and history, ecology and humanity, situating contemporary artworks in the magnificent site of the pyramids. Through an immersive experience of public art, the exhibition envisions a future that is anchored in a deep knowledge of the past, indicating that there is no conception of the future without history, and that there is no time without the present.
Forever is Now II is not simply a revival of this history, for the past can never be complete in the present. Rather, it contributes a contemporary artistic legacy in a place of worldwide significance, a place where nature was a divine force. The artists showcasing their work in Forever is Now II respond to these connections and rituals. Their artworks, made from a combination of natural and industrial materials, are in dialogue with Giza’s 4600-year-old iconic monuments of natural stone, pointing to our past and present conditions and the connections between man and technology, nature and inheritance. Forever is Now II is an ode to the transcendental power of art, where historical and global influence converge, and artists can become co-creators, collaborators and protagonists in a larger narrative of art. Art becomes a collective responsibility, a dialogic conversation across time that enables each artist to contribute his/her own story to history.
Liter of Light, a global movement dedicated to providing sustainable solar light to energy-poor communities, was also taking part in the exhibition.
The artists exhibited their works included the below artists:
Emilio Ferro, Italy - his works investigate the perception of light and space through museum installations and projects designed for natural environments. In 2010, after completing the three-year course in Design at IED in Turin, he moved to Berlin to complete his education and then started working with MANASAS, supervising and collaborating on over 500 architectural lighting projects in Italy and abroad.
The site-specific installation Portal of Light by Emilio Ferro explores the imagery of ancient Egypt, contemplating the themes of threshold—as a bridge between the world of the living and the dead—and of light as it relates to the sun worship deities such as Isis and Ra. Inspired by two ancient papyri, the Book of the Dead and the Amduat (also known as the Book of the Hidden Chamber), Portal of Light follows the orientation of the cardinal points and the transformation of sunlight during the day. Two metal sculptures generate and expand a beam of light, following the perfect inclination of the three Pyramids of Giza. During the night, spectators can enter the installation under the beam of light and follow its direction, taking part in an immersive adventure to experience the journey into the night sky on the boat of the god Ra, as illustrated in the ancient papyri.
JR, USA - the artist exhibits freely in the streets of the world, catching the attention of people who are not typical museum visitors. In 2011 he received the TED Prize, after which he launched Inside Out, an international participatory art project. His recent projects include a large-scale pasting in a maximum security prison in California, a TIME Magazine cover about COVID, a video mural including 1,200 people presented at SFMOMA, a collaboration with New York City Ballet, an Academy Award Nominated feature documentary co-directed with Nouvelle Vague legend Agnès Varda, the pasting of a container ship, the pyramid of the Louvre, giant scaffolding installations at the 2016 Rio Olympics, an exhibition on the abandoned hospital of Ellis Island, a social restaurant for homeless and refugees in Paris or a gigantic installation at the US-Mexico border fence.
Inside Out Giza is the first inside out photo booth installation in Egypt – every participant will visit the pyramid shaped interactive photobooth and receive a large-scale black and white portrait, that will be pasted onto billboards in front of the Great Pyramids of Giza, making an ephemeral personal statement in front of timeless monuments.
el Seed, Egypt - contemporary artist whose practice crosses the discipline of painting and sculpture. He uses wisdom of writers, poets, and philosophers from around the world to convey messages of peace and to underline the commonalities of human existence. eL Seed uses his art as an echo of the stories of the communities that he meets around the world and aims to amplify their voices.
Secrets of Time celebrates the greatness of the Pyramids of Giza and encompasses everything from the country’s ancient civilization to a long list of Egyptian superlatives and achievements in culture, science, and more. Inspired by the words of Egyptian novelist Radwa Ashour, time does not disclose its secrets to humankind. The sculpture’s striking colour will contrast with the monochrome beige of the Great Pyramids. The sculpture will stand as a testimony to the mystery of the Pyramids while offering the viewers an anamorphic experience from a certain focal point.
Jwan Yosef, Sweden - Syrian-born, Swedish-patriated conceptual artist living and working in Los Angeles, California, US. The practice of Jwan Yosef undertakes a deconstructive modality of rethinking materials, histories, languages, and images to poetically discourse ever-expanding meanings of identity and belonging engendered in art.
Jwan Yosef's site-specific contribution to Forever Is Now II considers the ancient pyramids’ role as conduits to eternity and the everyday wonders of the preserving nature of the environment. Yosef sees the Sahara's terrain as far from barren and focuses on the desert as a source of vitality, acknowledging its part in conserving Egypt's history. Additional inspiration is taken from the fluidity of the sands' shape-shifting capacities, including the ecological marvel of its travelling dust, where its fertile minerals are known to cross land and sea to give sustenance to the Amazon Rainforest. In Vital Sands, Yosef immerses sculpted aspects of his self-portrait in the remedial sands of time. While the sand and scale poetically abstract the figure, one is left to imagine what rests beneath.
Pascale Tayou, Cameroon - His work is characterized by its variability; he does not confine himself to one medium nor to a particular set of issues. At the very outset of his career, Pascale Marthine Tayou added an ‘e’ to his first and middle names to give them a feminine ending, thus distancing himself ironically from the importance of artistic authorship and male/female ascriptions. The objects, sculptures, installations, drawings, and videos produced by Tayou have a recurrent feature in common: they dwell upon an individual moving through the world and exploring the issue of the global village. And it is in this context that Tayou negotiates his African origins and related expectations.
‘Dreams in Giza’ is a monumental artwork especially created for the second edition of Art d’Egypte and sponsored by Galleria Continua. It’s a perfect union of the colorful and exuberant art of Pascale Marthine Tayou and the majestic and timeless history and culture of Egypt. Twenty stainless steel tubes rise from the hot sand. Like flutes, ancient witnesses of the banquets and celebrations of the pharaohs, these new totems whistle and play with the wind. They are adorned with colored wooden eggs, symbols of good omen, of rebirth: a key element in the works of Pascale Marthine Tayou but also a reference to ancient Egyptian mythology, where the Cosmic Egg held a central place as a primordial symbol of birth and creation, generating the sun god Ra.
Ahmed Karaly, Egypt - Ahmed Karali’s artistic practices began after graduating from the Faculty of Fine Arts in 1994 with his participation in the Youth Salon, the annual exhibition organized by the Ministry of Culture. His first private show was at Al Mashrabiya Gallery in 2002. The Aswan Symposium for Sculpture was another beginning to enter the world of international symposiums for sculpting on stones in many countries of the world. The artist received the State Prize for Creativity in 2005 for traveling to Italy. He started his project under the name “Al-Masrakhankeeh”, which is the re-development of Islamic architecture in a sculptural form, envisioning an entire city that started from the city’s gates.
This exhibition was shown at the Egyptian Academy of Arts in Rome in 2006 and then at Al Jazeera Center for Arts in 2008. After that, performances followed to complete the sculptural city in its entirety, and he is still working on this project until now.
“When you are fascinated by something, you see it in everything. My fascination with the many civilizations of Egypt has made me see them as one entity, each reflecting the other. From another visual dimension, I see them completely intertwined, no matter how different their details are. This project represents the merging between the ancient Egyptian and the civilizations that followed it in a contemporary rendering that interprets what I see.”
Mohammed Al Faraj, Saudi Arabia - Having studied engineering and growing up loving the camera in Al Ahsa, Saudi Arabia, Al Faraj’s work can be described as a cinematic collage of mediums, practices and ideas that create a world charged with stories, poetry and search for truth by exploring documentation and interpretation, which results in works that the artist hopes to nurture imagination and empathy in the experiencer. His use and reuse of organic and manmade waste plays as a physical capsule of memories and time, where these materials and their histories hold a spiritual quality too. A visual artist that works in film, photography, sculpture and poetry, that’s influenced by his hometown and his travels, in an attempt to capture the trace, imprint and impact of life both literally and metaphorically. Mohammed also engages in workshops and action based activities with the community as a belief in collective creativity.
The Thirst series comprises works that are closely and directly related to water and air in addition to the stories that shape human connections to them from a local, global, and cosmic perspective. The Guardians of the Wind is a figurine made from rusted water pipes used in the dried-up springs on rural farms which are transformed into an interactive musical instrument with air, animals, and people. These pipes are covered with various branches of palm trees that make them look like futuristic fossils of mythical creatures making musical sounds as the wind moves through them while people walk between and under them. The parts of the palm trees and metal/plastic pipes are sourced from the Egyptian countryside. The work is in harmony with its context and the context of ancient Egypt, which was a marvel in irrigation and watering systems. It gazes deeply at space and the stars searching for that knowledge.
Therese Antoine, Egypt - an Egyptian sculptor who lives and works in Alexandria, Egypt. The ability to transform a symmetrical, streamlined body shape into simple abstract, geometrical forms and figures has always been a great fascination of hers.
“I took the concept of the sundial for my installation as a metaphor and link between the sun, the earth, and the passage of time. I created five vertical columns influenced by the ancient obelisk: one at the center of the circular shape and four at the edge of the outline in reference to the principal points indicating time and the cardinal directions (compass). Only three different shapes are repeated symbolizing the number of the Great Pyramids of Giza. Those columns represent several significant deities of the old kingdom. By producing a repetitive production of each form and by showcasing in an unsystematic and unorganized way, I created a dynamic composition which will help in designing a layout of a new dimension of the space and in building an interactive environment between the audience and the space itself.” - Therese Antoine
Zeinab Al Hashemi, UAE - conceptual artist based in Dubai. She examines the contrast between the geometric shapes of urbanism and the organic form associated with her country’s natural landscape. In her experimental installations, in search of a new identity appropriate to the modern condition, the artist deconstructs the viewer’s understanding of their surroundings and introduces an alternative point of view, creating a new perception of the reality.
‘Camoulflage’ is a portmanteau, a combination of camel and camouflage, inspired by the history and legacy of the camel in the region and the way the animals blend with the desert dunes. The installation strikes the audience as a desert scene from which an abstract camel silhouette emerges. Just as the animal’s natural colouring and form enable it to blend in with its surroundings, so too does the installation meld with its desert backdrop, almost mimicking ancient Egyptian artefacts. In this work, the camels have transformed into an obelisk, revisiting the story of the Unfinished Obelisk in Aswan. Reinforced metal rotes, used in all modern construction, are used in mesh form in the obelisk, reflecting a scene we witness every day in our modern lives and cities, that of half-done buildings and skeletons of the future landscapes.
Natalie Clark, UK/USA - sculptor, collector, art advisor, educator, and author, as well influenced by extensive travels around the world, Natalie's work is a global fusion of modern design, indigenous art forms and organic inspirations found in nature. Her current work includes large-scale sculpture in a variety of mediums, including marble, steel, ceramics, and natural materials.
The beloved Goddess Hathor embodies all that is universally feminine—beauty, love, fertility, music, dancing, and pleasure. Loved equally by all women and men, she was the counterpart of the Sun God Ra and the Sky God Horus and honored as the symbolic mother of the pharaohs. Strong of spirit, a protector of women in body and soul, for rich and poor alike, Hathor maintained order and harmony, balanced the light and the dark and was worshipped as the Goddess of the Afterlife. In the Spirit of Hathor, the sensuously curved interlocking horns reach up to the heavens balancing the implied masculinity of the bold steel in a harmonious union, holding the marble sun on high for all to see while echoing the sacred geometrical lines of the Great Pyramids. Such is the power of the Goddess Hathor.
SpY, Spain - an international urban artist whose work consists of transforming spaces into experiences through artistic interventions. The contextual art projects of Spanish artist SpY are among the most original and talked-about contributions in the evolution from urban art to public art. Over more than twenty years, SpY’s practice has developed into an increasingly spectacular body of large-scale installations and interventions, ever more ambitious and impactful, produced in cities across the world. His projects dialogue with the urban environment, disrupt its daily routines, and explore it as a playing field full of untapped possibilities. SpY designs and produces his artistic projects from his platform SpY Studio. The studio is both a laboratory space and an eclectic team of technical specialists and craftsmen.
Orb draws its inspiration from the historical Egyptian heritage around it. The choice of form and materials in the piece is presented as a direct reference to elements of mathematics and symbolism present in classic Egyptian culture and in the pyramids in particular. The shape of the piece alludes to the ‘pi’ number concealed in the geometry of the pyramids and found when dividing the perimeter of a pyramid by twice its height. The sphere is an invisible part of the resulting geometry since a sphere with a radius as high as the pyramid would have a circumference very close in length to the pyramid’s perimeter. The surface of the artwork captures the pyramids, the sky, the surroundings, and the viewers in a multiple fragmented reflection. It references the role of the circular mirror in historical Egyptian symbolism, where it was linked to the sun and conveyed notions of creation and rebirth.
The Forever is Now collaboration is Meta’s first XR investment not only in Egypt, but also in the Middle East and North Africa, which is geared towards blending digital overlays onto the physical world by creating interactive, creative and immersive content around an experience.
It follows the investment of the XR Programs and Research fund in the African continent to spearhead the “Amplifying African Voices” program, spotlighting creators who have been bringing together digital storytelling and immersive technology. As a part of this effort, Meta is running training programs, bootcamps and hackathons to support African talent building innovative solutions.
“The Forever is Now is a visual treat steeped in artistic brilliance. This is where our community will discover new favourites, find new sources of inspirations and spark conversations,” said Fares Akkad, Regional Director, MENA - Meta.