Anna Boghiguian at daadgalerie Berlin

’Unstructured Diary for an Autobiography’ 16.2 – 30.3.2013

In contrast to the art that tries to approach the materiality of existence, or that explores the ‘life’ of inorganic matter, Anna Boghiguian returns the city and the human nature of the urban environment. Bricks, peeling layers and created chaos contribute to a visceral experience. The tone is personal. The drawings, paintings and sculptures of the artist guide us through the extended cosmopolis of the modern nomad. Cairo becomes an extension of Berlin; Indian street scenes marry the staid façades of Milan. In Boghiguian’s elegant commentary on the notion of the global, all movement is singular yet at the same time organically linked to a greater flux and scarred by the shared boundaries of politics.

The surfaces of Boghiguian’s urban landscapes are neat inversions of the body. It has eyes that look back at us, ears to register and mouths that will speak again. The brain is more than a map, not a reflection nor a metaphor but a genesis of things. The movement is from an inside to an outside. There is no eastern and western brain, one of the works reminds us, but there are spaces of transaction, passage and perception that on the surface create the dividing lines. The sensory organs become part of this production of heterogeneity. Boghiguian’s works are, despite their personal tone, not intimate.

The works give the visitors little chance to penetrate the signs and surfaces, and this contributes to an undercurrent of lament. The watercolours and Gouaches on the table in the middle of the room, ‘ZYX-XYZ’ (1981-1986), have the visual appearance of the withered layers of run-down façades. It is the skin that cannot be turned outside in. It is organic yet at the same time forbidding. Another series, ‘Berlin 2012-13’, link two reluctant nomads, the artist and the Nefertiti bust, through a place of birth (Egypt) and the place of the exhibition (Berlin). Also here the humanity of the image is underlined only to be bracketed, literally, through words and letters scribbled over the smoothness of Nefertiti’s face.

Boghiguian’s low-key exploration of what has humanity, but often fails to appear fit for the humans, uses a variety of materials. Two installation, ‘Guilt Machine’ and ‘The bleeding pomegranate’ (both 2013), offer a more conceptual engagement with the subject matter. However, the artist is most successful when she returns to the simplicity of the drawing. A sketchbook from 1986 becomes, with its tattered pages, an intriguing condensation of various cities. The drawings are of street scenes and of the heaving urban anthills, but we are not in the classic framework of modernity as defined by Charles Baudelaire in his reflections on Constantin Guys. The joyful childishness of the flâneur is not present, the cities are not the modern ones revelling in their ephemeral nature and the lines are not the ones of speed. Boghiguian’s lines are nerves that silently are suffering from stimulation, from an excess of history. They present a perfect rendition of the surface or membrane of the city that more multi-dimensional objects seem unable to capture with the same ease.

Both the city and the human are, in the work of Boghiguian, organisms that can only express themselves through the distortion produced by sensory organs. It is a sobering vision of a globalised world far from loud theories and liberal jubilation. Citizenry and the soon to be universalised nomadism become afflictions and Boghiguian does not offer any easy transcendental way out. Instead the city as a tactile landscape turns curiously colonising. Soon the broken pavement outside of the gallery turns into a bodily irritation, an itch.

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