Roba Vecchia (2007) has its genesis in an earlier work of the same name by Egyptian-Lebanese artist Lara Baladi. The parent work is a life-sized kaleidoscope installation in which the viewer is surrounded by a shifting array of the artist’s personal images. Working with the assistance of a computer programmer who created a software program that organized fragments of Baladi’s images, the installation projected the photographic images in elaborate patterns that randomly mutated in an infinite and non-repetitive way. For this wall-hanging version, the artist collected a selection of digital images from her previous installation, repositioning them into a fixed pattern whose geometry references stained glass windows, mandalas, and arabesques to cellular microcosms and the infinite night sky. Known for her constant mining of her digital archives, the iconography presented here becomes merely a reflection of the accumulation and reworking of leftovers in a continuous rewriting of personal history. This piece’s surface is further illuminated by the gallery’s lights as they bounce off the polished stainless steel background, offering the experience of a transfixed and abstract two-dimensional work.
Lara Baladi (b.1969) is an internationally recognized Egyptian-Lebanese multi-disciplinary artist, archivist and educator. Her artistic practice spans from photography, video, sculpture to architecture and multi-media installations. Through a process of investigation into archives and the study of popular culture iconography, while questioning memory, mythological, socio-political narratives and personal histories, her work examines the divide between fiction and reality and the cycles inherent to History. Baladi won the first prize (Grand Nile Award) at the Cairo Biennale in 2008-09 for her ephemeral construction and sound installation Borg El Amal (Arabic, The Tower of Hope).
For more than twenty years, Baladi has been on the Board of two of the most influential institutions in the Middle East, the Arab Image Foundation in Lebanon, and the Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art in Egypt. In 2020, she joined the Board of directors of The Artists Sanctum, a cultural initiative supporting artists whose work contributes to social change. In 2015, she was the Ida Ely Artist in Residence at MIT/CAST. Since 2015, she has been a Lecturer in MIT’s Program in Art, Culture, and Technology (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). In 2006, Baladi founded the artist residency Fenenin el Rehal (Arabic, Nomadic Artists) in Egypt’s White Desert.
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