This exhibition aims to offer a different perspective to the question of Egyptian heritage in general, and modern architecture and urban heritage in the particular. It raises two critical issues: heritage as a verb, and as a site of contestation. Starting from an understanding of heritage as both a cumulative construct and site of contestation, in the sense of having blurred boundaries between stylistic forms, historiographic eras and clearly-defined cultural praxis. Rather, “heritage” could be seen a continuum, as a verb, always in the making and in a fluid state of becoming. Secondly, rather than being viewed as a coherent, pre-defined and agreed-upon category, heritage would be presented as a contested and politicized term that is often instrumentalized to advance certain interests through exclusion. To engage these two issues, the exhibition builds on the wealth of material culture throughout Egypt’s modern history (19th and 20th centuries) and regional characteristics and specificity. Using a number of “elements” that travel across history and geography (ex. urban fabrics; buildings and structure; building parts such as windows, doors and balconies; furniture, products and crafts; street-scape elements, etc.), the curatorial journey highlights the continuum and uncertain distinctions between constructed categories in Egyptian art, historiography, and national identity.
Envisioned as a touring exhibition, the curation takes into consideration two key, conceptual and practical, questions. The first contests what is pre-conceived of the Egyptian identity, by both local and international audience. By challenging the static notion of heritage as coherent, stable and pure, the exhibition opens up new possibilities to reimagine self-other relations, in historical context, but with political and cultural implications on current affairs. The second consideration is a practical one. A traveling exhibition needs to be repacked and reinstalled multiple times in different venues across the globe. These questions of packaging, travel cost, insurance, customs, and so forth, are key in determining the shape and format it will take. Flexibility, reproducibility and budget are three key principles in designing this exhibition.