Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File

Hammer Projects: Wael Shawky

Cabaret Crusades is an ongoing project, initiated by the Egyptian artist Wael Shawky in 2010, that tells the story of the Crusades—the military expeditions to the Holy Land undertaken by European Christians from the eleventh to the thirteenth century—through images that reflect the perspective of those who experienced the invasions. Informed by Amin Maalouf's book The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, the drawings, objects, and films that make up the project draw on various historical sources to present an unfolding sequence of significant occurrences that set the tone for the relationship between the Arab world and the West. The Hammer Museum will present Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File (2010), which is the first film of Shawky's multipart film series within this project. Using 200-year-old marionettes from the Lupi collection in Turin as characters, the film traces the history of the early Crusades (1096–99), beginning with Pope Urban II's invasion of the Arab countries. Historically accurate in its depiction of the places in the Middle East and Europe that set the stage for this conflict, the film is layered with a surreal and mythical atmosphere as the marionettes embody key figures whose past actions and decisions continue to impact our current moment.

Hammer Projects: Wael Shawky is organized by guest curator Cesar Garcia.



By Cesar Garcia

Walter Benjamin once wrote that “a chronicler who recites events without distinguishing between major and minor ones acts in accordance with the following truth: nothing that has ever happened should be regarded as lost for history.”[1] It is difficult to believe, however, that the truth Benjamin speaks of has been a driving force in the construction of the historical narratives of our time. History making entails not only piecing together but also tearing apart; it is as much deconstruction as it is construction, encompassing both inscription and erasure. Decisions about what events are deemed significant enough to be remembered are made by dominant stakeholders, and what emerges from this process, the faux construct of a singular “History,” constitutes only a brutally fragmented account that bears the scars left behind by multiple excisions. 


Hammer Projects is a series of exhibitions focusing primarily on the work of emerging artists.

Hammer Projects is made possible by a major gift from The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

Generous support is provided by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy.

Additional support is provided by Good Works Foundation and Laura Donnelley; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; the Decade Fund; and the David Teiger Curatorial Travel Fund.