Square Octagon Circle

Ellie Ga

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paper, 7.25 × 8 in.
212 pages, full color
published in 2018

PDF Press Release

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

More reviews to read in the Brooklyn Rail and Los Angeles Review of Books

see also


In Praise of DriftIn conversation with Ellie Ga, artist of the intrepid

Anna Della Subin, Tank Magazine


PhotostatsFelix Gonzalez-Torres

Edited by Richard Kraft and Lisa Pearson with writings by Mónica de la Torre and Ann Lauterbach

✼ natalie’s upstate weather report:

April 11, 2024 — The spring peepers have thawed (these little frogs freeze in winter) and now, unabashedly randy, they chirp. At first there was one, then two, and now it sounds like thousands. Two days ago, when it was truly spring, their adamantine chorus was almost deafening (we closed the windows to simply think!). Siglio has relocated to a lush, thriving hollow at the furthest most edge of the Berkshires after two years of peripatetics, sans library—which is now unpacked in a less than Benjaminian manner (little time to contemplate—our urgency in getting books on shelves mirrored the peepers need to mate). The first few months of 2024 were almost unendurable, but we’re home, spring is here, and there are books to made. We are singing!


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