Alex Rizkalla

Alex Rizkalla, Les Tricoteuses de Paris II, 1999

Alex Rizkalla, Les Tricoteuses de Paris II, 1999

For TRACE Alex Rizkalla (b. 1950, Alexandria, Egypt) spent considerable time in Liverpool researching local sources in preparation for his installation. Part of this research involved collecting a mass of materials from second-hand and antiquarian bookshops. This is typical of the artist’s practice, which integrates site-specific information with the recurring themes of time, degeneration and mortality. Rizkalla’s prevailing concern is to create configurations of objects, images, and visual effects that insinuate themselves into the viewer’s memory. His installations are visually active, often using old slide projectors to produce sequences of images.

Beyond this utilitarian purpose, the projectors function as significant objects in their own right, while the sound they produce adds an acoustic component to the visitor’s experience of the space. For his Liverpool installation for TRACE, the artist fabricated a multiple projection machine from the mechanisms of discarded projectors.

At the entrance to this installation, entitled Les Tricoteuses de Paris II (1999) was a shelf holding a case of medical instruments that the artist had collected on his travels. The walls just inside the space were crowded with boxes and frames containing ’60s memorabilia, including remnants of Beatle-mania and anti-Vietnam posters and stickers. The room was illuminated by a series of projected images. Shown in rapid sequence the slides animated Eadweard Muybridge’s studies of human locomotion: Man Standing at Rifle DrillMan Assuming Kneeling Position and Aiming Rifle and Man Falling Prone and Aiming Rifle.

From speakers scattered around the room came the sound of an old recording of the Surgeon General of Victoria (Australia) making diagnoses. Heartbeats heard through a stethoscope were identified by name and age, followed by a brief clinical description of the patient’s condition, for example: ‘Anthony Bond, 55, murmur in the left ventricle.’ All of these forms of representation – the memorabilia, the analytical photographs of movement, and the taxonomy of disease – implied objectivity. In each, the human and historical circumstances they document were kept at a distance. At the same time, however, Rizkalla allowed another, more subjective and sensory response to such objects through his production of optical and tactile experiences.

Alex Rizkalla at Liverpool Biennial 1999

Les Tricoteuses de Paris II
, 1999
projection machine, chamber pots, light box, chairs, object collection and sound loops
Courtesy of the artist