Hassan Khan, 17 and in AUC, 2003.

Date: 21 October – 3 November 2011
Venue: Delfina Foundation

14 Proper Nouns draws on a set of references from Hassan Khan’s seminal work 17 and in AUC (2003). Every night, starting from 21 October 2011 and running till 3 November, one reference or ‘proper noun’ will serve as subject matter for a discussion between the artist and Nida Ghouse.

For 17 and in AUC, Khan constructed a soundproofed one-way mirrored room in which he sat for four hours every night over two consecutive weeks. While drinking beer and smoking cigarettes he spoke to an audience he could neither see nor hear about his teenage years in the early nineties at the American University in Cairo. 17 and in AUC – the transcriptions is a document published the following year of every audible word uttered by Khan during those 56 hours. The resulting text is a heady history of delirium in which words run on without commas or full stops. On the cover, Khan writes that “the decision to keep the unpunctuated flow of the spoken word was dictated by the interest of maintaining the rhythms and enigmas of a consciousness on the brink.” With no account of intonation, this printed matter, this stuff of memory, insists on an investment from the reader who must then make up its rhythm in order to construct its sense. Through the blur of this unpunctuated flow of letters, the uppercase appears, either for the first person pronoun ‘I’ or for proper nouns—a street, a bar, a song, a drug, a film, a filmmaker, a friend… a university department, a television icon, an avant-garde writer, a collaborative artwork—the list goes on. These capitalised words are significant, not just as elements that may have had some influence on him, but also, as symptoms of a landscape he says he was “part of, belonged to, and drank from.” As source materials they suggest perspectives with which to address and situate an artistic practice as restless as Khan’s. A few lines of computer code were written to extract all the proper nouns from the transcriptions. 14 have been selected.

The 14 days of discussions at Delfina Foundation will take these proper nouns as starting points, focusing each night on a different one. In approaching the transcriptions as a repository of memory, this series of events presents a structure to understand the artist’s early beginnings. Many of these references have persisted in their importance and are relevant to Khan and his work even now. 14 Proper Nouns thus also delves into various aspects of Khan’s practice, and will feature rarely seen early and incomplete works as well as other material such as notes, images, books, sketches, cassettes of recorded music.


Friday, 21 October: Funhouse a year in the house of bliss and loss

Saturday, 22 October: Yassin El Tohamy the munshid who made philosophical poetry as popular as coca-cola

Sunday, 23 October: Egyptian TV strategies learnt from the world’s worst television

Monday, 24 October: Pulmolar a cough syrup that bent streets and made asphalt soft

Tuesday, 25 October: John Cage the tapes that came after reading silence

Wednesday, 26 October: Attar daily breakdowns at the theater workshop

Thursday, 27 October: Midan Ramsis paranoia and ecstasy with the crowd

Friday, 28 October: Hendrix a guitar becomes something else

Saturday, 29 October: JC Auditorium auteur cinema and the incredible power of the living moving face

Sunday, 30 October: William Blake how hell was made dense

Monday, 31 October: Ard El Golf making noise in bedrooms and on rooftops

Tuesday, 1 November: Sherif a friendship forged through a shifting lens

Wednesday, 2 November: Cairo Atelier the haunt of the corrupt intellectual

Thursday, 3 November: English Literature a university department with a seminar room