Born in Cairo, Nabil Boutros lives and works in Cairo and Paris. His work is at the intersection of various disciplines: painting, scenography, and installation work. Since 1986, photography has been his favoured medium of expression.
Egypt and the Middle East have been at the heart of his work for some time. As an answer to his own questions, in the 1990s he devoted himself to the production of a large series of portraits of Egyptians. At the frontier of documentary work, his photographic series depicts, among other issues, the links between Alexandria and Marseille, the rituals and daily life of the Coptic community, Egyptian Christians, and the period of Ramadan in Cairo.
He also works on more complex themes, such as the hammams in San‘aa, Yemen, modernity in Egypt and the Bedouin communities in Jordan. More recently, he has taken up increasingly global themes, such as advertising in emerging countries, the place of man within mechanized production systems and the relationship to News systems.
In the late five years, more involved with the change happening in Egypt, his work is lapsing into ironical criticism, using his own archives and his stage design experience to make installation works.
His work has been shown in major cultural institutions, including the Guggenheim Museum, in New York in 1996, the Arab World Institute (IMA) in Paris in 1998, 2005, and 2012, 2015, the Natural History Museum in Luanda in 2009, and at the MMK (Museum fur Modern Kunst) of Frankfurt in 2014. He has participated in numerous festivals dedicated to photography and other events including the Rencontres de la Photographie in Bamako, in 2003 and 2007, the Lyon Biennial in 2011, and the Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, in 2013, Photographic Encounters in Fès, Morocco in 2015.
A Tale of facts
This body of work is rather a metaphor for the forgetful gregariousness. It raises the question:
And what if the story of a lived witness was ignored to prefer a compliant reassuring dominant discourse? In up to deny the truth that we see? Even in forgetting, ignoring History?
"The history does not repeat, it rhymes " Mark Twain would have written.
This work is divided into three parallel series of different sizes and numbers:
Celebrities - Presumed Innocents - Field of Honour.
Celebrities represent ewe, lambs and rams studio portraits, highlighting its individuality and its characteristics beyond those of its family or of its race.
Presumed Innocents shows, in the manner of a report, sheep in the pasture, grazing peacefully, running or sleeping. Their eyes are hidden in order not to impair their image rights; they are presumed innocent!
Field of Honour is the place where sheep are sacrificed, sometimes massively; their innocence was not proven, like the fable of the wolf and the lamb. Handled, the breed is preserved by protecting females and small, slaughtering males first. They have no other choice but to find their destiny. All this inevitably benefits someone...
Three states start from flattering the individual, making laws that makes him outlaw and finally convincing him to sacrifice for the benefit of all.
Sheep, companion of man since his settlement, has found a special place in Mythology and Religions. Most ancient civilizations rubbed shoulders with the ram and gave it great symbolic presence: he embodies the power of nature and various divine forces.
But the sacrificial lamb remains the ultimate symbol in the three monotheistic religions since the sacrifice required of Abraham in the Bible: God asks him to sacrifice what is most dear, his son. Before his obedience, an angel replaces the child by a ram. Similarly, the Hebrew, on the eve of their departure from Egypt were ordered to kill a lamb less than a year old and spray his blood on upright woods and lintel of the door, so that the destroying angel spare their new-borns lives. The Messiah is presented as the Paschal Lamb sacrificing himself to the salvation of souls
These episodes marked to date practices of the three majority religions in the world: this sacrifice represents faith, deliverance and salvation of the soul.
The Panurge Sheep described by Rabelais, have made famous their gregariousness, hissing. The herd instinct has inspired yet serious studies on crowds in the late nineteenth century, with the psycho- sociologists G. Le Bon "Group Psychology" and then with W. Trotter and Freud "Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego". Willem Reich was also interested in the gregarious phenomenon that destroys critical thinking in favour of joining the mass to try to understand the mass adoption of Nazi thesis, complementing the work of Freud.
History and current events continue to demonstrate: the crowds - herds - have irrational behaviour since they destroy the individual capacity of distancing, even if their mass seems to influence the course of events. Distancing is the necessary condition reasoning and thus assuming its freedom to choose. And that is why the authorities seek to reduce individuals to the herd status and manage it in various ways: the charm, persuasion, imposture and violence!
Is it oblivion that is the cause of the recurrence of history?
Is it the need to be "at the centre of the common" that allows us to forget?
Unless ignorance of the past and present, is cultivated on purpose...