Considering the shifting vernacular of war in recent years, contemporary conversations might devote more attention to power plants and Arab Spring leaders than to tanks and fighter jets. In his show of new work at Meem Gallery, Waseem Marzouki maps contemporary systems of conflict in detailed multimedia works. By layering references from combat and popular culture, the 34-year-old Syrian artist addresses the realities of life in a region defined by war and corresponding global perspectives.
The exhibition’s 17 works on paper and canvas first register as architectural blueprints by fusing precise line drawings of large-scale objects with technical notes. They diverge from a traditional draftsman’s undertaking, however, with fantastical, personal, and politicized additions.
At the center of nearly all of Marzouki’s work is a power plant—that loaded petri dish of nuclear weaponry. By representing a different plant in each of the paintings (they come in all shapes and sizes—none inviting), Marzouki explores the taxonomy of an architectural structure with menacing potential.
In Platform-25.285582,51.531029 (2014), Marzouki inverts the plant’s steel spires and remodels them as armaments resembling guns on the front of tanks. By weaponizing the building, its true intentions are revealed. It also becomes a transformer of sci-fi, Spielberg-ian proportions, calling up outsider perspectives of faraway wars and unimaginable destruction.
The candid Platform-34.532298,69.153442 presents a plant that doubles as bomb, target, and crystal ball. Painted with a psychedelic palette, the structure is filled with an unidentifiable substance that suggests a potentially radioactive future. Next to the structure is a frenetically scrawled poem with the first line “Guilty, yes I’m guilty.” The text, pulled from a song by the Blues Brothers, seems to implicate both the powers that be and the individual in the ominous fate presented in Marzouki’s power plant prophecy.
May 4–8, 2018, Park Avenue Armory