Universes in Universe

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Multimedia installation
Gray marble stone, metal and porcelain
350 x 350 x 300 cm
Commissioned by Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha. Presented in the exhibition Told/Untold/Retold, 30 December 2010 - 28 May 2011

Qabr El Zaman is a monumental stone shrine – the culmination of an ensemble of photographic works and large-scale digital montages entitled Diary of the Future. In 2007, after an absence of 50 years, my parents returned to Egypt. My father, afflicted by lung cancer, had come to die where he was born. By August 2007, it became clear that he could pass away any time. The collective experience of my family and all the people accompanying him as he died became my focus.

The traditional practice of reading the future in Turkish coffee cups, a practice that exists throughout the Arab world and across social classes, assumed a great significance as a way to record this period. I asked every person who visited my father to drink coffee and unwittingly become part of an elaborate ceremony. Everyone followed my instructions and religiously drank, turned the cup upside down, turned it seven times in the saucer and tapped it three times. The prophetic words began to articulate and make sense of the situation. Spreading beyond the confines of the "huis clos" we were living in, the coffee dregs contained a popular and subjective language that transcended our personal experience. I photographed the interior of those cups and archived each one of them based on name and date. It is this exact inventory that graces the walls of Qabr El Zaman. While Diary of the Future is a chronicle of lives running parallel yet crossing each other, a record of life's continuity in the face of death, Qabr El Zaman is the closure/burial and the edification of this charted period of intimacy with family, friends, doctors, and nurses, a period of great emotional difficulty that we all experienced yet shared, a shrine to the memory of my father.

Lara Baladi
(see the complete >> Interview)

Art Projects

3 recent art projects by Lara Baladi, and photographs taken by her on Tahrir Square, Jan/Feb. 2011.

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