Doa Aly

Doa Aly

Metamorphoses: The Sequences (2010-2013)

Sequence One-In Four Movements (Narcissus and Echo)

Four-split screen one channel back projection digital film, 16:9, 2010, 6 min 45 sec

Sequence Two-In One Movement (Hermaphroditus)

Four-split screen one channel back projection digital film, 16:9, 2010, 7 min

Sequence Three-In Six Movements (Byblis)

Four-split screen, one channel back projection digital film, 2012, 7 min 21 sec

Sequence Four-In Three Movements (Myrrah)

Four-split screen, one channel back projection digital film, 2013, silent, 7 min 38 sec

Metamorphoses: The Sequences is a four-part film series based on stories from Ovid’s narrative poem the Metamorphoses (8 AD), using a primary source Charles Martin’s Metamorphoses: A New Translation, published in 2004. 

Sequence One and Sequence Two, performed by male actors, are based on the stories of Narcissus and Hermaphroditus respectively. Sequence Three and Sequence Four, performed by female actors, are based on the stories of Byblis and Myrrha. The themes in the original narratives are self-adoration (Narcissus), transgenderism (Hermaphroditus), sibling lust (Byblis) and incest (Myrrah). With metamorphoses always occuring at moments of sexual initiation, causing characters’ descent into ego death and madness, the Sequences are allegories for sublimated forces and energies, a pause in the realization of eternal present and joy in ritual. The sequences use the narrative of trans-forming, shape-shifting, and becoming, in order to visualize the instrumentality embedded within them as a built-in condition. 

When Narcissus finally sees through his image, the shock of existence splinters his consciousness into ciphered dream rubble, shoved up across the bleak void of a universe suddenly made imaginable. He realizes his ancient solitude and separateness, discovers the volume of his skinless fragility at the very moment of encountering the other. Individuation is experienced as an insurmountable schism. 

Narcissus’s subsequent metamorphosis into the flower that bears his name is a literary necessity, Ovid’s central theme in the Metamorphoses is the absurdity of surviving. Each metamorphosis introduces a dramatic categorical shift, sublimating the psychic conflict into physical struggle, annihilating all hope for transcendence/evolution and ensuring the continued production of myth. The narrative of the Metamorphoses uses the instrumentality of Trans-forming and shape-shifting, as the built-in conditions of oppression and violence, to perpetuate chaos, and produce more  stories. .

But what quivers in Ovid’s narrative is his characters’ complete absorption in their fate, the unwillingness of an ambiguous self to reconcile with the biology of fear. Nothing in the structure of a metamorphic economy, honed to mitigate the horror and randomness of life can accommodate such reluctance to resist. 

The sequences seek to conjure up these ambiguous bodies, and their (queer) affective atmospheres, just moments before their eternal return metamorphosed. They are caught up in the delight of self-discovery, the fleeting awareness of being. With each sequence, solitary figures perform quietly to themselves, in their unique worlds, closed systems, unperturbed stillnesses. 

The Sequences are commissioned by Busan Bienniale 2010: “Living in Evolution”, curated by Takashi Azumaya.

Sculpture #1: The Metamorphoses, 2013, Gypsum Gallery, Cairo
Desire, Deceit, and Difficult Deliveries, Townhouse Gallery, Cairo, 2013. Photograph by Rana El Nemr.