Square Octagon Circle
paper, 7.25 × 8 in.
212 pages, full color
published in 2018
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.
an excerpt from an interview with Ellie Ga by Anna Della Subin in TANK
about the author
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, including at the Whitney Biennial. She lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden.
Square Octagon Circle does not lament the loss of a final, decisive message or fantasize about the old world, which makes itself felt beneath the new. The ancient and modern, the east and the west, are utterly permeable. Likewise, words, texts, and pictures form a territory we share with others, living and dead, and the layering of words, photographs, and plot casts the reader and author as co-conspirators in the mystery.
—Max Feldman, Hyperallergic
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.
—Emmy Catedral, BOMB
“In my opinion, genre is a way of speaking about conventions of reading and looking, where you sit or stand and whether you’re allowed to talk to other people or move around while you’re communing with an object or text.” —Lucy Ives, from her interview with Karla Kelsey in Feminist Poetics of the Archive at Tupelo Quarterly[...]