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Magnifying Cairo

by David Murphy with Khaled ‘Ali, glassblower

Glass, 2014

The initial inspiration for the project was the so-called Nimrud Lens in the British Museum, discovered in Northern Iraq and dating back to the period of the Assyrian Empire (c.700 BC). It is considered to be the earliest known example of an optical device and despite its modest size (5cm diameter), it carries power and significance that transcend its scale.


The notion of gaining understanding through magnification has been a key component in many of Murphy's recent works. The opportunity to work with glass for the first time in Cairo was an occasion to attempt making a magnifying lens of his own; a simple enough concept, but nevertheless challenging to realise with basic techniques, hand tools, and recycled materials. From the beginning it was not so important that the lens would be optically perfect, but rather that through the process of collaboration (and ultimately through the lens itself) it would be possible to view Cairo in a different way. The image produced by the lens - larger than life, streaked with colour and dust and a little blurry at the edges is a faithful reflection of Murphy's first experiences of this city.


Murphy and Khaled ‘Ali produced many lenses assembled in the installation. They used a technique very similar to the one that Khaled uses on an everyday basis to produce plates and glasses.

Klio Krajewska, curator



For Khaled, working with David was made easier by the experience of cooperating previously with Vincent Voillat and Bettina Amman. He also required a special moulding cast for his work, and it required more than one stage to complete. Producing the exact shape in the exact dimensions was a demanding task that required concentration and precision.

Khaled benefitted a lot from the collaboration with the three artists, and he felt it added a lot to his professional experience. Although it was not his first time to collaborate with foreigners, he found their concepts and ideas highly complex, and it took some time to bridge the gaps between the different cultures. Eventually, the artists were much satisfied with the products, and that was the most important result for Khaled.

based on the interview with Taher ‘Abd al-Ghani of ARCHiNOS Architecture

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