Previously on view in the Amsterdam Biennale: Nat Muller

Cairo Pavilion

Manuals for Failure

The Cairo pavilion is open from November 6 - January 3 and is curated by Nat Muller. The pavilion shows the work of Dina Danish: 'Manuals for Failure'.

On November 6th at 21.00h in good accordance with Kurt Schwitter’s claim that "Everything the artist spits is art", Dina Danish performed her 10’ interpretation of Kurt Schwitters’ phonetic poem: “The Ursonata”.


Cairo pavilion visitors - The Cairo Pavilion, curator: Nat Muller. artist: Dina Danish Nov 6 - Jan 3 2009/10, in the Amsterdam Biennale at Mediamatic. Raphael Rehbach


Cairo Pavilion - Manuals for Failure
Curated by Nat Muller

Premiering the work of Dina Danish in the Netherlands, Manuals for Failure offers four instances which engage humorously and repetitively with the refusal of definition and fixity. These performative actions, recorded in video, speech or print, frame the artist in self-designed settings governed by impossible rules, or demands that cannot be met. The series of exercises the artist runs through mechanically, meticulously – if not compulsively – are funny, yet also alienating.

The viewer is put in a position of slight discomfort as Dina dishes up one proposal for misunderstanding and defeated objective after the other. Structured as endless loops, out of time, the repetitive futility of her actions becomes apparent. Indeed, what sense does it make to learn to swim on a couch, as her piece “Couch Swimming” (1’12, 2009) demonstrates? We somehow wish for a narrative development, a catharsis, but are soon made to shelve our expectations.

In her video performance “Practicing Foreign Languages” (2008, 2’36,) we see her tongue twisting her way through the words amateur in French, and the German Heimweh and Fingerspitzengefuhl. Combing gesture, sound and semantics, Dina reshuffles the semiotic system, yet never quite manages to present an alternative. Every utterance remains uncompleted practice, an attempt to get it right, and is therefore by default mutable. In that sense she remains the amateur speaker, who doesn’t quite have the linguistic Fingerspitzengefuhl to pass as a native speaker, and this will always cast her an outsider. Nevertheless the meaning produced here is that perhaps an outside position is not necessarily a bad place to be in: in an age of precision planning it allows for the much coveted luxury of failure.

The publication The Sis, These S (2008) takes Dina’s scrambling of representation and perception into the realm of the textual. Her book playfully sits between the tactility of writing, and the constraints of the medium: how does one write while singing; what are the no-no’s when writing an academic paper (with the book already being a firm deconstruction of a thesis); what happens if the idea of a diary is taken to the extreme and the quotidian is recorded in obsessive detail?

In her work Dina Danish swims, speaks, spits, and writes with deliberate subjectivity, and according to a pre-designed scheme. This implicates her fully as an artist, but ultimately, one way or other, also implicates us as her audiences.

Dina Danish
Is a multi-media artist. Her work investigates non-linear and non-sense-infused structures in an attempt to examine her objection of certainty and definition. Danish attended The American University in Cairo, where she received her B.A. in art, followed by an MFA at California College of the Arts. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally. Danish is a recipient of several awards, including the Barclay Simpson Award. Currently she is a resident at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam, and has been selected as a finalist for the SECA of SFMOMA award.

Nat Muller
Is an independent curator and critic based between Rotterdam and the Middle East. Her main interests include: the intersections of aesthetics and politics; issues of representation, media art, and contemporary art in and from the Middle East. She has taught at universities and art academies in The Netherlands and across the Middle East, and is together with Alessandro Ludovico the editor of Reader2: Between Paper and Pixel (2007), and Reader3: Processual Publishing. Actual Gestures (2008). She is a regular contributor for Springerin, Bidoun, and MetropolisM, and is currently working on her first book for the Institute of Network Cultures/Nai Publishers. Together with Mediamatic she is preparing a comprehensive site-specific project for 2010.