Sarah Rifky

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Sarah Rifky is a Ph.D candidate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Cultural Infrastructure:
Art, Artists and Institutions in Egypt 1954–1964

"My dissertation presents an account of how cultural infrastructure—as idea—emerges in Egypt between 1954 and 1964, with the objective of writing a history of art institutions during a critical decade, that has not been subject to close study and analysis. These ten years, often historically visited through the Nasserist lens, is a moment of quick-shifting ideological alignments, decolonization and infrastructural boom. The narrative starts with examining the relationship between art and infrastructure, how artists “picture” the building of the first phase of the Aswan High Dam (1960–1964), reaching backward to look at how the function and value of art evolve throughout the 1950s, through the genealogical study of museums, institutions, networks and the role of artists and art during that time. Cultural infrastructure—a term that is popularized in the 1960s, becomes a critical-theoretical heuristic “retrofitted” to the mid 1950s and 1960s, which acts as a base for modern and contemporary artistic practices throughout the latter half of the century."

-- Sarah Rifky, 2020