Square Octagon Circle

Ellie Ga

BOMB Magazine:

“Ga doesn’t just present a Keatsian capability of ‘being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts.’ She seeks out answers in her process, which meanders like waves or ice cracks, with a democratic openness to an aggregate of voices and perspectives. Triangulation is not quite the word for how she connects her physical movement through a place to points of references in history, mythology, science, and her own memory and conversations. If I could assign her associative procedure a geometry, it would be that of the Stomachions she discovers in her consideration of Archimedes: a puzzle of fourteen pieces that can form a square, in hundreds of distinct arrangements.”

—Emmy Catedral

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Over two thousand stone remnants of the fabled Pharos Lighthouse lie in the murky waters of the Mediterranean. Although mapped meticulously by underwater archaeologists, this ancient wonder will never be reconstructed: the Lighthouse can only be inferred from its fragments. Above the surface, in the post-revolutionary Egyptian city of Alexandria, images of the Lighthouse are everywhere, populating the public imagination, though they bear little resemblance to the ruins at the bottom of the sea.

In a richly layered narrative of image and text, artist Ellie Ga embarks on a labyrinthine inquiry into the Lighthouse, navigating the spaces between history, memory and mythology, translation and mistranslation, the uncovered and the overlooked. Ga takes the reader with her on dive boats and into the water, behind the walls of hidden museums, through city streets pasted with political graffiti, into the offices of archaeologists and the homes of Alexandrians.

Using a lightbox and transparencies of photographs, video stills, and an array of archival materials, Ga arranges and rearranges fragments, accumulating and subtracting them to illuminate correspondences and contradictions. Above and below the surface, into the past and the present, Square Octagon Circle not only pursues seeming tangents, elusive truths and near-discoveries, but also maps the impossible desire to reconstruct this ancient wonder of the world.


ELLIE GA is a New York-born artist whose immersive, wide-ranging investigations include the classification of stains on city sidewalks to the charting of the quotidian in the frozen reaches of the Arctic Ocean. In performances, video-essays and installations, Ga’s braided narratives intertwine extensive research with first-hand experiences that often follow uncertain leads and take unexpected turns. She has exhibited and performed internationally at the New Museum, The Kitchen and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Albright-Knox Museum in Buffalo, and La Fondation Cartier pour L’Art Contemporain in Paris, among many others.