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Passages | Lilo Weber | 2011

Hallucinating by the Suez Canal

When Israeli fighter jets attacked Egyptian airfields on 5 July 1967, triggering the Six-Day War, 14 cargo ships under the flags of eight nations were headed north on the Suez Canal. Theirs was to be a long journey. The freight- ers were ordered to halt on the Great Bitter Lake, the salt-water basin between the northern and southern arms of the canal that serves ships as a lay-by. For the 14 freighters it was to become a prison when the Suez Canal was subsequently closed for eight years. The passage between the Red Sea and the mediterranean was not re-opened until 1975, following a second conflict.
This is the stuff that Uriel Orlow’s art is made of. The London-based Swiss artist is fascinated by events that play out, as he says, “in the shadow of world history”, in which he sees great potential for artistic and representational purposes. His previous installation, “Remnants of the Future” (2010), drew on his research in a ghost town in northern Armenia. The town had been established under Mikhail Gorbachev, but remained unfinished following the col- lapse of the Soviet Union. For his latest work, “The Short and the Long of It”, Orlow traveled to Egypt and spent time on the Suez Canal. He can no longer recall when he first heard about the ships on the Bitter Lakes. most probably it was the postage stamps that alerted him to the story. […]

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