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Artist Malak Yacout Reframes Islamic Scripture Through Synthetic Sound

Yacout’s massive cement structure at Townhouse Gallery is an ode to the ‘Aḥkām al tajwīd’, or the rules that dictate the recitation of the holy book.

Formulated as open questions, research-based artist Malak Yacout’s works always invite speculation in an endless cycle of recontextualization and redefinition. Her latest exhibit, ‘Temporal Semiotics’ at Townhouse Gallery, is giving audiences something new to reconsider with an audiovisual representation of the temporal flow of Quranic rhythmic patterns. Yacout’s massive cement structure is an ode to the ‘ʾAḥkām al tajwīd’, or the rules that dictate the recitation of the holy book. 

Just as the rules of reciting the Quran orchestrate and guide the pace of the reader through inflection, timed breathing or elongated pronunciation, this audiovisual rendering plays with the synchronisation of time and sound through sculpture, rhythm and metre. This ten-and-a-half metre cement installation is an exercise in semiotics. It’s an audiovisual transliteration that aims to not only elicit new reactions to familiar concepts but to reconcile the tensions that exist between sound and language and time and text—specifically in an Islamic context. An auditory orchestration informs the movement of the abstracted pieces of the installation, creating a sort of symbiotic dance between the audio and visual elements. 

Yacout is an Egyptian research-based artist who played an integral role in saving the historic Townhouse Gallery in Cairo from demolition by rediscovering and maintaining its archives. She has participated in a number of solo and group exhibitions at Townhouse, Berliner Herbstsalon, AUC’s Sharjah Gallery, and Medrar. Her artistic works have been featured in Mada Masr, Flash Art and German newspapers, and have won two Roznama art awards.

This original work was first displayed at Yacout’s AUC graduate exhibition in 2015 and will now be available for viewing (and hearing) at the Townhouse Gallery from February 18th to April 9th.