Nick Simcik-Arese – A Sayaa and the “Deep State”: Everyday conspiratorial subjects and metaphorical bureaucracy in Julie Mehretu’s depictions of Tahrir Square, Cairo

In her paintings “Mogamma”, Julie Mehretu strives to represent the “grey” “thirdspace” of symbolic urban forums through a process of marking, layering and erasing. From the square, amidst the myths and martyrdoms that give Tahrir its political relevance as spectacle, emerge two ghosts of counter-revolution: the Sayaa – Egyptian vernacular for a street trickster in waiting – and the “Deep State” – a term used to describe the monolithic power of everyday administrative remnants from the Mubarak regime. This paper explores how Mehretu’s emphasis on the telescopic complexity of sites of collective urban violence parallels the logic sustaining Egypt’s conspiratorial tropes.

Nicholas Simcik-Arese is a DPhil candidate in Geography and the Environment at St Antony’s College, Oxford. For the past year he has been living in suburban Cairo with a community of slumdwellers squatting a middle-class gated community.

Julie Mehretu, Mogamma: Part 1, 2012, 180 x 144 in. (457.2 x 365.8 cm), Ink and acrylic on canvas, Photo: Ben Westoby

Julie Mehretu, Mogamma: Part 1, 2012, 180 x 144 in. (457.2 x 365.8 cm), Ink and acrylic on canvas, Photo: Ben Westoby

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