The Egyptian sculptor artist Abd El-Hady El-Wechahi

The Egyptian sculptor artist Abd El-Hady El-Weshahi (1936) is the first Arab artist who dare to present a performance in the International Venice Biennale 1980. His artwork was met with appreciation and impress of biennale visitors.

He succeeded in expressing his opinion and his point of view toward the phenomenon of the modern human reliance in his daily life on what developed by modern techniques; how he became a slave to it; it is the reason of the broken defeatist condition reached by the man. The artist expressed an idea using a group of extraordinary media. He locked up himself inside a cage; he sit down beside two tables placing few things that needed by the modern man: toothpaste - toothbrush - calculator - red Phone - checkbook - shaver - cologne- books and folders - a copy of the daily newspapers, which are issued within displaying days - magazines in different languages - a bottle of wine and a goblet.

In addition, he displayed inside the cage signs written in Arabic, Italian, Spanish and English such as «No Entry» «No waiting» and «No Exit». He played an audiotape that contains the Eroica (heroic) symphony by Beethoven as music interpenetrates with recorded voices of the Egyptian street: pedestrian and cars noise and vendor shouts so the artist achieves a link between the local and the global features.

The artist put his artwork, The broken 21th century human, within nine meters of the cage. He symbolically linked between the cage and the statue with hand and foot red prints on the floor along the distance between them. This gives the impression that if the man walk on his hand and feet getting out of the cage, this way will lead him to a state of loss and breakage, which the 21th century human would have.

We are about an artist who has an opinion and thought. He expressed what wonders in his mind artistically and visually including signs and symbols; he used extraordinary media to produce it. Unfortunately, he missed recording this show on a videotape. Only biennale visitors watched it at that time. This features some of the characteristics of performance art: it is a one time show or at most several times; it cannot be purchased or acquired.

It is not a painting or statue which can be retained. The show expresses a thought; the artist did not primarily intend to make money. Despite the warm welcome of the show of the artist, El-Weshahi, in Venice, the reception was lukewarm in Cairo. The officials of the Ministry of Culture were not enthusiastic to promote the new initiative for fear of being attacked by the traditional conservative mainstream of the Egyptian artistic movement in addition to the rejection of a large segment of the public to what›s new under the pretext that it is absurd effort; anyway the artist has opened the door for others, whether in Egypt or some other Arab states to complete what he began.

Youssri El-kouedi

Conceptual Art of Arab Formation book, Cairo, Egypt, 2011