When I see the future

When I see the future, I close my eyes

Photographs by Andy Stagg, courtesy of The Mosaic Rooms
Heba Y. Amin: The General's Stork (2016 - ongoing). Photograph by Andy Stagg, courtesy of The Mosaic Rooms

Press Release

The Mosaic Rooms is pleased to announce When I see the future, I close my eyes, the first UK solo exhibition of artist Heba Y. Amin.

Heba Y. Amin’s research-based practice proposes speculative, often satirical, approaches to understanding the enduring impact that technology has on political and territorial realities. Curated by Anthony Downey, When I see the future, I close my eyes presents a series of ongoing works that stem from these issues, including a migratory bird turned international spy, the new digital spaces that were instrumental in Egypt’s revolution in 2011, and a critical survey of historical proposals to drain the Mediterranean Sea. Throughout the exhibition, Amin conveys the ways in which the apparently regional politics of the Middle East, as evidenced in these projects, relate to broader global concerns about surveillance, dictatorships, and the emergence of digital authoritarianism.

Drawing on a true tale of how Egyptian authorities detained a migratory stork in 2013 and accused it of espionage, The General’s Stork investigates the politics of aerial surveillance—against the backdrop of biblical prophecies, drone warfare, and colonial narratives—from a bird’s-eye view. The work utilises film, performance, and archival research material to explore the extent to which Western military techniques of reconnaissance have determined the topographical quartering of the Middle East and how paranoia can become so prevalent that a bird can be accused of spying.

In another extensive work, the artist references the staged elements of dictatorial modes of public address. Throughout Operation Sunken Sea, Amin reveals the historical contexts behind colonial megalomaniacal geo-engineering proposals to drain the Mediterranean Sea and, simultaneously, writes herself into this historical lineage by performatively adopting the persona of a quasi-dictator. Re-purposing the original proposals, Amin broadcasts a speech, recorded live in Malta in 2018, in which she pitches a contemporary “solution” to the so-called migration crisis by relocating the sea within the African continent.

Amin’s ongoing multi-channel video installation Project Speak2Tweet utilises voice messages recorded by phone in response to the Egyptian government’s countrywide Internet shutdown during the first days of the 2011 uprising. Juxtaposed with the abandoned urban structures that represent the long-lasting effects of corruption, the work highlights the extent to which advances in communication technologies are often disguised by their utopian promises of democratic expression.

The exhibition borrows its title from the song Excellent Birds, co-written by Laurie Anderson and Peter Gabriel for video artist Nam June Paik’s 1984 worldwide broadcast Good Morning, Mr. Orwell. Reflecting upon the history of digital media, the use of this title further alerts us to one of Amin’s central interests: the post-digital future of surveillance technologies and emerging forms of digital authoritarianism. In this context, the exhibition is intended as a working tool for producing further original research on these topics, which will in turn modify the works on display. In keeping with this, a project addressing the first aerial photographs of Palestine will be displayed in its early stages of conceptualisation. The ensuing research generated by this project will be published online as the work evolves over the duration of the exhibition.

Curator: Anthony Downey
Assistant Curator: Angelina Radaković

Artist Heba Y. Amin guides us through her current exhibition ‘When I see the future, I close my eyes’ at The Mosaic Rooms. Learn more about the latest iterations of her ongoing projects ‘The General Stork’, ‘Operation Sunken Sea’ and ‘Project Speak2Tweet’. All stem from real life subjects, including the new technological formats that were instrumental in Egypt’s revolution, a migratory bird turned international ‘spy’ and, finally, a proposal to ‘solve’ the migration crisis by draining the Mediterranean Sea.

Artist Heba Y. Amin talks about the latest iterations of her ongoing projects ‘The General Stork’, ‘Operation Sunken Sea’ and ‘Project Speak2Tweet’, currently on view at The Mosaic Rooms. All stem from real life subjects, including the new technological formats that were instrumental in Egypt’s revolution, a migratory bird turned international ‘spy’ and, finally, a proposal to ‘solve’ the migration crisis by draining the Mediterranean Sea.

Installation Images

Exhibition design: Stefan Sauter, Kate Bilyk
Photographs by Andy Stagg, courtesy of The Mosaic Rooms

Press

ArtAsiaPacific – Heba Y. Amin: “When I see the future, I close my Eyes” by Amy Luo (June 2021)

Texte zur Kunst – Eye Spy with My Little Eye, by Maximiliane Leuschner (March 5, 2021)

1000 wordsHeba Y. Amin: When I see the future, I close my eyes, exhibition review, by Alex Merola

Burlington ContemporaryHeba Y. Amin: When I see the future, I close my eyes, by Gwen Burlington (Feb 5, 2021)

Frieze – How Europe Used Surveillance to Command the Middle East, by Hiba Mohamed (Nov 30, 2020)

Arab NewsEgyptian Artist Heba Y. Amin wants you to question everything, by Matt Ross (Oct 18, 2020)

The National News Stranger than fiction: how Egyptian artist Heba Amin uses history’s overlooked stories, by Melissa Gronlund (Oct 7, 2020)

PhotomonitorWhen I see the future, I close my eyes, by Eva Eicker

OculaHeba Y. Amin Brings Drones and Storks to London, by Stephanie Bailey (Oct 1, 2020)