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Hany Armanious

August 21, 2001 - October 28, 2001

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Hany Armanious’s Selflok, 1994-2001 exists somewhere between Middle Earth and the interior design of a cheap hotel. Seeing dwarves and elves in sketches he produced by stenciling the convexes and concavities of cheap wallpaper inspired Armanious to create Selflok, the ancient-mythical-modern elvish homescape depicted in his Hammer installation. An amalgam of hotmelt (an easily melted and shaped commercially produced syntetic latex), polystyrene, found objects, and other mixed media, the otherworldly Selflok, 1994-2001 bends time, space, and matter.

Seflok, 1994-2001

By Fergus Armstrong and Amamnda Rowell

 

The word grotto comes from the ancient Greek word for crypt, krupté. The things we call grotesque, or grottolike, are thus associated with everything we call cryptic, or cryptlike (secret codes, enigmatic inscriptions, mortuary architecture, the internment of corpses, and the memorial trappings of death). In a similarly intriguing way, the meanings of our words cosmetic and cosmic have a common origin in the Pythagorean kosmos, which specifies not only world order but also adornment, or ornament. In the distant past actual subterranean enclosures, both natural and artificial, have served in various ways as spaces of customary use and contemplative retreat having metaphoric, microcosmic significance. The half-secret etymological kinship of words that preserves this metaphoric-microcosmic complex of associations can still strike us afresh as suggestive of a corresponding, hidden structure or process at work within reality. The synonymy of grotto, crypt, and cosmos induces a fleeting premonition: what if all things are part of a fantastic grotto and mortuary vault? What if, in spite of our being normally oblivious to it, reality belongs to a kind of cavernous enclosure comprising a variety of worked-up, picturesquely nonfunctional trappings?

 

Hany Armanious’s installations Selflok 1994-2001 resembles the interior of a microcosmic grotto of sorts, an excavated portal giving secret access to reality. Selflok is both a theatrical re-creation of some imaginary place—an earthy laboratory or workshop, presently unattended but evidently the domain of gnomish alchemists—and an abstract, nonrepresentational ensemble of actual physical items. It seems to show the scene of the alchemical extraction of elementary, cosmetic substance while at the same time incorporating abundant samples of the extracted product in the form of congealed spills and molded bodies of gelatinous, protean “hotmelt” (a commercially produced synthetic latex). And the whole composition—precisely in its equivocally representational and abstract character—seems to lie before us as a pure exemplification of our ambiguously natural and artificial cosmos. More

Fergus Armstrong is a Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of Sydney. Amanda Rowell is an art researcher working in Sydney.

 

This project has been made possible by the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body. Additional support has been provided by the New South Wales Ministry for the Arts.

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