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Film Screening: The City Dark 

To accompany its latest exhibition Darkened Cities by Thierry Cohen, East Wing will host a free film screening of The City Dark on Tuesday, 28th October 2014.


It's quite a suitable film to watch at this exhibition, since it addresses some of the issues raised in the Darkened Cities photo series, i.e. lack of visible stars in our skies due to light pollution and its impact on us physically and psychologically. It's a documentary worth watching, so if you're in the neighbiourhood, don't miss this. The exhibition is worth visiting as well. 


The City Dark chronicles the disappearance of darkness. When filmmaker Ian Cheney moves to New York City from Maine and discovers an urban sky almost completely devoid of stars. He poses a deceptively simple question, "What do we lose, when we lose the night?”



Exhibition details 
Date: Tuesday, 26th October at 7pm (Darkened Cities exhibition on till 20th November 2014)
Venue: Limestone House #12, Dubai International Financial Center (location map)
Free entry. 



Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2014 Diary - Day 3


Today was a very good day at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, started off by watching a film from Iran, then went to the Middle East premiere of Theeb, a film that's had a lot of buzz around it since it's premiere in Venice and ended in with a dark comedy set deep in snowy Norway.




A film that weaves in and out of the lives of many characters in this film set in Tehran, some characters are linked to each other and some aren't. A damning look at power, bureaucracy and the institution of marriage. There is despair in this film, but it also has hope. An eloquent film. I liked it a lot.




One of those films that would be described as epic. An impressive first film for its director Naji Abu Nowar and for the non-actors featured in it. About Bedouin pride, hospitality, brotherhood and growing up too quickly. 

Poignant and strong visual story telling set in the Jordanian desrt in the early 1900s. This one will definitely become a classic and one that rightfully belongs in the list of top Arab films. 


In Order of Disappearance

This was the blackest black comedy I've ever seen. Such a good film, on so many weird twisted levels. Scandinavian humour is an acquired taste, one I am will to indulge in. 


Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2014 Diary - Day 2

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Today's line up of films I watched at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival included horror, absurdity and a Truffaut classic. 


A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night 


This was a fun film to watch. An Iranian vampire noir set in "Bad City",  stylish looking film with a great soundtrack that includes western and Iranian indie and electro music. This film has been receiving rave reviews around the film festival circuit and now I know why. 

If you're trying to find a costume for Halloween this year, I suggest you go as "The Girl" (pictured above) as she's referred to in the end credits. 

Lots of favourite scenes in this film. This is one of my favourites, the entire scene was set to Death by White Lies

Floating neither up or down
I wonder when I’ll hit the ground
Will the earth beneath my body shake
And cast your sleeping hearts awake
Could it tremble stars from moonlit skies
Could it drag a tear from your cold eyes
I live on the right side, I sleep in the left
That’s why everything’s got to be love or death

Yes, this fear's got a hold on me



A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

This film started with the above line. After it ended, I told myself I have to get my hands on the first two parts.  A Pigeon Sat on a Bench Reflecting on Existence is an absurd film about the absurdity of life. I absolutely loved watching it.

The line "I'm happy to hear you're doing fine." was uttered many times in the film and the more we heard it, the more absurd it sounded. (I do realise I used the word "absurd" three times, but I really can't think of another word to describe this film.)


Day for Night / La Nuit Americaine

non-romanticised look at movie making and (mis)affairs of the heart on a movie set. My favourite quote from this film, "I might quit a guy for a movie, but I'd never quit a movie for a guy". 



Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2014 Diary - Day 1

Last night saw the opening of the eighth edition of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Whilst I didn't go to see the opening film, From A to B (the first Emirati film to open a film festival in the UAE), I did make a plan to drive back and forth with a friend over the coming week to watch as many films as we can.

I will post short updates over the next few days, sharing which films I watched and what I thought of them.


Here's what I watched today:


The Color of Pomegranates


We are honored to have the restored version of this film screening at this festival. A film full of beautiful visuals and symbolisms about Armenian poet Sayat Nova. So many scenes looked like beautifully composed images that could be framed on a wall. Visual poetry. 



The Salt of the Earth

A profound documentary about Sebastião Salgado. This wasn't just about the photographer, but about humanity and life. I've seen Salgado's work in museums and galleries, and some are large prints, but I never imagined I'd them at this scale, i.e. on a large cinema screen.

The film started with this image - this version does it no justice at all - but Salgado describing the thousands of mine workers in it and comparing this scene to what it must have been like when the Pyramids were built, there's no sound of machinary, only murmurs. Goosebumps.

The film had some some soul crushing images and words. A powerful documentary that is now in my list of top 10, maybe even top five favourite documentaries. 



Magical Girl

A subtle, dark and troubling film. Amazing how so much can be said without showing a lot. 


CreativeMornings in Dubai


CreativeMornings is a breakfast lecture series for the creative community. It started in 2008, when its creator Tina Roth Eisenberg (Swissmiss) wanted an ongoing and accessible event for New York’s creative community. She came up with a simple concept, breakfast and a short talk one Friday morning a month, free of charge and open to anyone.

Since then, CreativeMornings has expanded to 98 cities and Dubai is one of the latest addition and will host its first ever Creative Mornings session on Thursday, 30th October 2014 in the CNN Building in Media City from 8.30am - 10.00am. 

The theme for this month's talk is "Crossover" and will include two speakers:

Mark Stringa who will talk about "City-Scale urbanism and how creative approaches are required to change behaviours at a mass-scale, and how that translates into everyday creativity, and the rise of the so-called Creative Class."


Tahir Shah who will talk about "taking a leap of faith from a safe job into the unknown - the trials, tribulations and pitfalls of being an independent food retailer in a big city, with even bigger guys."


Learn more about the two speakers and register here

If you are not familiar with CreativeMornings, you can watch previous talks from other cities here


Shia LaBeouf by Rob Cantor (live version) 


I started my day watching this. Odd considering I watched the movie Fury last night, starring Shia LaBeouf. 

I've watched it several times already. I suggest you do the same. It's good. Trust me.  Make sure you watch it till the end. The very end. 



The song is a couple of years old, but this video was recently made, all shot in one day. It includes The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, The West Los Angeles Children’s Choir, The Argus Quartet, aerialists, dancers and a very special cameo. 

After listening to this song, I looked up Rob Cantor and listened to his other music. I ended up buying his album Not a Trampoline. I really like it, and will try to write more about it soon. 



Oh, and if you have not read about my personal incident with Shia LaBeouf in Amsterdam a month ago, take a look here




Exhibition - Works on Paper: Hikayat at Green Art Gallery 

Installation view of Works on Paper: Hikayat

Last Saturday I visited Green Art Gallery to see Works on Paper: Hikayat. The exhibition includes over 50 works on on paper by Modern Arab artists including Khouzayma AlwaniMahmoud HammadAdham IsmailJamil MolaebFateh MoudarresAref El RayessKhaldoun ShishaklySeif Wanly and Elias Zayat


Taking storytelling as its main theme ("hikayat" means stories in Arabic), the exhibition brings together works that offer a glimpse of drawing’s potential to make cultural, social, and political proposals or stories, through diverse formal processes. 

Drawing is a medium that offers an intimate and open field for imaginative elaboration, in which concepts and ideas can emerge and change with relative ease. Uninhibited by the obligation to create a finished and independent object, as is traditionally associated with painting and sculpture, drawing as a medium lends itself readily to the theoretical and the experimental. 


The exhibition includes work that is beautiful, harsh, emotional and sensual. Despite all the artists being male, there is a strong female presence in the exhibition. There are some rare works here, so if you are in Dubai, don't miss this, it's on till Suday, 26th October.

My only gripe is that I wish the gallery includes a small description about each artist or work to help visitors understand the importance of this work, and to put it in cultural and historical context relevant to this region.)



My favourite work from this exhibition is a one of a kind piece by Khaldoun Sheishakly (see images below). Titled Shops and Vendors of the Past, it is a collection of 500 works on paper and due to its delicate condition, we cannot browse through each sheet. But the few pages that were laid out had such amazing details drawn with an ink pen, each one telling stories visually and with words. This piece ought to be in a museum for more people to see it. It is sublime. 

Khaldoun Shishakly, Shops and Vendors of the Past, Ink on paper, set of 100 works, each 26 x 21 cm

Installation view of Khaldoun Shishakly's Shops and Vendors of the Past, Ink on paper, set of 100 works, each 26 x 21 cm

Shops and Vendors of the Past is a rare account of 500 works on paper by a Syrian artist, Khaldoun Sheishakly, who has spent his entire life drawing and documenting 500 Damascene professions in intricate detail.

It represents an important history of storytelling and life in Syria and summarizes the artists’ needs to carve a cultural identity that reflected the groundbreaking social and political changes that were taking place at that time. 



Here are more works from the exhibition. 

Khouzayma Alwani

Khouzayma Alwani, Untitled, 1999, Ink on canson paper, 35.5 x 26.5 cm

The region’s political turmoils in the 1970s and 80s are portrayed by Khouzayma Alwani (b.1934, Syria). Alwani’s delicate horrors are so exquisite they beguile the viewer into fascination with intricate imagery. Following the Hama Massacre of 1981, his work revolved around the world as a big dramatic theater of monsters and beasts, in a tacit allusion to the Syrian society in a state of devastation. 


Aref El Rayess

Aref El Rayess, Untitled, c. 1973, Ink on canson paper, 36 x 44.5 cm

Aref El Rayess, Untitled, c. 1973, Ink on canson paper, 37.5 x 38 cm

The work in the exhibition by Aref el Rayess (1928-2005, Lebanon) belong to a series of drawings he produced in the early 1970s to denounce the corruption he was witnessing within the political circles governing the Middle East after the Cairo accord in 1969 and the 1973 Arab Israeli war.

For El Rayess, it is as if the leaders and politicians were gambling our destinies through fishy manipulations and tacit agreements, hence jeopardizing the ideals of the revolution his generation firmly believed in and fought for. The age of deceit has started, and the political scene in the Arab world seems like a big farce. 



Mahmoud Hammad

Mahmoud Hammad, Untitled, 1957, Gouache on paper, 35 x 26 cm 

Mahmoud Hammad, Untitled, 1958, Gouache on paper, 36 x 46 cm

Syrian master Mahmoud Hammad (1923-1988, Syria) recounted rural Syrian life, earlier in his career. Although he has been widely known for his late Abstract Calligraphic period (during the period 1964 till his death in 1988), in which the Arab script and letters became the main element, Hammad’s earlier work are of equal importance.

Upon his return from Rome, he moved to Daraa where he lived for two years and started a series of paintings depicting the social scenes of the Southern area of Horan (Daraa). During that period, Hammad’s central theme was the concept of the family, in addition to the role of the mother.

He was also concerned with the political landscape during that period such as February 1958, a work through which he evoked the union between Egypt and Syria by depicting the metaphorical birth of the two nations' child and at the same time, alluded to the Palestinian cause in many of his works amongst which A Girl from Horan, Wounded and Exile.

This exhibition includes Hammad’s works on paper from the Horan period, most of which became studies for much larger paintings, and many of which have never been shown to the public. 


Adham Ismail

Adham Ismail, Untitled, Ink on carton, 47.5 x 32.5 cm

Adham Ismail, Untitled, Ink on carton, 44 x 32 cm


Jamil Molaeb

Jamil Molaeb, Untitled, c. 1992, Gouache on carton, 50 x 70 cm

For many artists of his generation, storytelling included the representation of the traditional rural life they were witnessing. This is true of Lebanese artist Jamil Molaeb’s (b. 1948) works, which were inspired by the landscapes he saw in the mountains of Lebanon and other sceneries from the traditional life of different Arab communities, depicting in his own way the villages, cities, fields and the people in their daily life. 


Fateh Moudarres

Fateh Moudarres, Untitled, 1981, Watercolor on paper, 29.5 x 38.5 cm

For Fateh Moudarres (1922-1999, Syria), his representational language was engaged with mythology, religion and popular lore as well as a deep political engagement. An accomplished writer and poet, his “dessins” were also featured in several of his published short stories.

Moudarres was once quoted: “It looks childish, but it is not childish. In my paintings one can see, how much I love human beings, in my art I stand near them, when the power of fate and oppressive structures beset them”.  


Seif Wanly

Seif Wanly, Untitled, c. 1953, Pastel on canson paper, 30.5 x 47 cm

Seif Wanly, Untitled, c. 1953, Pastel on canson paper, 30.5 x 47 cm

The theatrical and the sublime is present in the work of Egyptian artist Seif Wanly (1906-1979). The exhibition includes several works on paper in which he portrayed society’s more esoteric dimensions, featuring medieval traditions, circus acrobats and ballet dancers. 


Elias Zayat

Elias Zayat, The Rider, 1967, Ink and watercolor on paper, 63 x 43 cm

Another artist who has been throughly engaged with mythology is the Syrian artist Elias Zayat (b. 1935). Considered among the great modern artists in Syria, Zayat has had a long and rich career in painting and drawing over many decades.

Known for his dramatic portraiture of mankind, his practice has been thoroughly engaged with the visual legacy of mythology, ancient civilizations and religions in the region. Figures intertwine, almost floating, while recurring images of faces, some classical, others saintly and yet others tortured, recall Zayat’s other endeavor – conservationist and restorer of orthodox icons.   




Exhibition details
Date: On till Saturday, 26th October 2014, Saturday - Thursday 10am - 7pm
Venue: Green Art Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai (location map) 



[images and text via Green Art Gallery]


DUST presents Flamingods in Dubai on 22nd October 2014


DUST is a hosting a gig this week that I am very excited about, and if you live in Dubai and interested in new music, you should be too.

is a band that consists of members based in Dubai and in the UK. After touring across the UK, they will be performing in Dubai for the first time this Wednesday, 22nd October at The Music Room.

Kamal Rasool, one of the founding members describes the band as "culturally confused" and according to the band's Facebook page, they "like to make noise with instruments collected from around the world".

Their latest album Hyperborea has been receiving good reviews. The band gets compared to  Animal Collective in almost every article I read about them, their music videos are mash ups of clips found on YouTube, and according to DUST, we should expect a "night of Indie, Rock, Funk, Psych, Punk, Electronic, Dub, Latin, Afro, Arabic, Asian flavours".

Read this interview on The Quietus which will give you a sense of what the band is about, and you can listen to (and buy) their music here

Flamingods will be supported by Parallel Sound System,  a "three piece Electro Dream Pop" and DubHigh, a four piece "Dub-Experimental band from Dubai" and DUST and Bad House Party DJs.

I am REALLY looking forward to this gig. Below is a taste of the music you will hear on the night (links to each band's Soundcloud page is added at the end of this post).





Parallel Sound System






Event details
Date: Wednesday, 22nd October 2014. Doors open at 8pm, show starts from 8.30pm
Venue: The Music Room, Majestic Hotel, Mankhool Road, Dubai (location map)   
Ticket:  AED 60 (venue is only for anyone aged 21+)
Phone: +9714 359 8888
Event page on Facebook  



Exhibition - Act & Application at Lawrie Shabibi

littlewhitehead - Parrot, from the series Our Pleasure, 2013 | Inkjet Print 277 x 270 cm (overall installation) 109 1/8 x 106 1/4

Act & Application at Lawrie Shabibi
is a group exhibition that brings together six contemporary artists from around the world: Ra di Martino, littlewhitehead, Arthur Prior, David Rickard, Darren Harvey-Regan and Setareh Shahbazi

Curated by London based William Lunn, the exhibition offers a selection from the breadth of diverse outcomes that result from artists’ use of photography within a broader multi-media practice.

It's quite a compelling selection of photography - if you are interested in photography that goes beyond the image, beyond the conventional norms, then don't miss this exhibition. It is on till 29th October 2014. 


Some of the works from the exhibition: 


Ra di Martino 

Ra di Martino - No More Stars (Star Wars) #14, 2010 | Archival pigment print on Baryta paper | 40 x 40 cm 15 3/4 x 15 3/4 in edition of 5 plus 1 artist's proofs



Ra di Martino's No More Stars (Star Wars) depicts ruins of abandoned desert film sets in Tunisia and Morocco. 

Whether the material ruins of a fictional future in No More Stars (Star Wars) or of a replica and dislocated Mecca in her untitled Morocco series, all aspects are considered through the lens of a filmmaker with only peripheral knowledge of photographic convention.

The effects are seen most noticeably in her choice of presentation. The No More Stars series have significant white space left beneath each print as if editors notes or subtitles for on screen dialogue might appear at any moment.




littlewhitehead -The Beef People, 2013 | Inkjet Print 277 x 270 cm 109 1/8 x 106 1/4 in

littlewhitehead - What are you doing?, 2013 | Inkjet Print 277 x 270 cm 109 1/8 x 106 1/4 in

Glaswegian artist duo littlewhitehead have extended their irreverent take on art production to include photography by enlarging holiday snaps of America taken from their families archive. The amateur nature of Our Pleasure adds to the authenticity of each found image - no matter how bizarre the content nothing is staged.

Without ever lifting a camera littlewhitehead create a photographic series with its own unconventional language that evokes a certain European nostalgia with regards to American culture.



Setareh Shahbazi

Setareh Shahbazi - Spectral Days #33, 2013 | Pigmented ink print 28 x 20 cm 11 1/8 x 7 7/8 in

Iranian Setareh Shahbazi’s starting point for her projects is photographs: family photos, film stills, postcards, magazine clippings and more. In her series Spectral Days Shahbazi revisits family photos she stumbled upon from her visit to Tehran in 2009, conjuring up memories of her family’s exile from Iran following the revolution. 

With a healthy disregard for the sanctity of photography as a mirror of reality, she breaks down the images using digital manipulation. Blending, dissolving and over-painting the images to further decontextualize her subjects she engages our imagination in read infinite possible narratives. 



David Rickard 

David Rickard - Exhaust #3, 2011 | C-type print 100 x 75 cm 39 3/8 x 29 1/2 in

Born in New Zealand but based in London, David Rickard examines our relationship to space in architectural terms. With the work Exhaust, he tests his respiratory requirements on a space during one 24 hour period, capturing every outbreath without sleep or rest in large foil balloons.

Working in collaboration with photographer Manuel Vason, images were captured throughout the process, recording the totemic rise of 98 balloons as they accumulated. Here Rickard uses photography purely as an outsourced documentary record of a transitory performance.



Arthur Prior 

British artist Arthur Prior has made several series of quasi-photographic images using his own customised scanning technology. While this unconventional approach to making images throws out many photographic compositional concerns his recent work Various incarnations of Shirley singles out and documents one core convention of the photographic tradition – the printers test trip.

Taking the original colour test strip model ‘Shirley’ as its starting point the artist’s book charts the history of the strips and the various models who came to be known collectively as the ‘Shirleys’. When compiled as a record the effects of feminism, globalization, racial equality, political correctness and technology are drawn out, in subtle and often humorous juxtapositions.



Darren Harvey-Regan 

Darren Harvey Regan - Mass, 2013 | C-Print on archival paper | 100 x 80cm central panel, 90 x 35cm left and right panels

Born in Britain, Darren Harvey-Regan studied photography but works across disciplines to subvert, question and extend the conventions of photography and its relationship to representation and the physical world.

In Mass the simplest and most direct approach is favored in order to render the medium as transparent as possible. Presenting the image in this triptych form he draws not on photographic convention but on the tradition of icon painting. Enhanced by the title - which alludes as much to ceremony as the peculiar weight of the palm, which is its central focus, the artist manipulates representation and transports these objects into the realm of the profound.



Exhibition details
Date: On till 29th October 2014, Saturday - Thursday 10am - 6pm 
Venue: Lawrie Shabibi, Unit 21, Al-Serkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai (location map)
Phone: +9714 346 9906  




Exhibition - Lasting Impressions: Noor Ali Rashid at Sharjah Art Museum

© Noor Ali Rashid Archives | Noor Ali Rashid - Meeting of the minds, Dubai, 1960s | The Federation series

Noor Ali Rashid, also known as UAE's "Royal Photographer" passed away four years ago. In my post about his passing I wrote,

His legacy will live on through his work, and I hope there will be a retrospective exhibition in the UAE to honor him and his work.

This week, Sharjah Art Museum will host an exhibition focusing on the first half of Rashid’s career from the late 1940s to the 1970s. It will chronicle his early years in Oman, events and celebrations and images of the leaders of the UAE, and life abroad. 

‘Lasting Impressions’ is an annual exhibition being organized for the sixth consecutive year. This edition comes as a collaboration between Sharjah Art Museum and the Noor Ali Rashid Archive and will showcase 200 selected photographs by the late photographer, handpicked from a collection of over one million images spanning six decades.

A passionate pioneer in the field of photography, Noor Ali Rashid (1929 - 2010) is considered to be the father of photojournalism in the Middle East. He is also celebrated as a leader in the development of Art photography in the Gulf.

In his esteemed role as ‘Royal Photographer’, he created iconic portraits of the UAE’s leaders and his pictures became a means to glimpse into the early development of the Emirates.


I hope this will be one of many exhibitions showcasing Noor Ali Rashid's work. There's enough in his archive to fill a museum. 


© Noor Ali Rashid Archives | Noor Ali Rashid - Tobacco Vendor, Al Ain, 1960s | The Souqs series  

© Noor Ali Rashid Archives | Noor Ali Rashid - The First Lights at the Clock Tower, Sharjah, 1960s | The Firsts series

 © Noor Ali Rashid Archives | Noor Ali Rashid - Homework in Shade, Muscat, 1970s | The Children series



Exhibition details
Dates: 22nd October - 6th December 2014
Timings: Saturday - Thursday: 8:00 am - 8:00 pm | Friday: 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Venue: Sharjah Art Museum (location map)
Free entry 

[Images courtesy of Sharjah Art Museum. Exhibition info via Art in the City.]