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Thursday
Jun122014

Songs of Loss and Songs of Love in Gwangju Museum of Art

Raed Yassin - Ruins In Space, 2014 - installation view

Songs of Loss and Songs of Love, curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath is the latest exhibition in Gwangju Museum of Art in Gwangju, South Korea. It is on till 13th July 2014. The exhibitoin caught my attention because its title and the artwork featuring Oum Kalthoum in Raed Yassin's piece, "Ruins In Space" (pictured above). 

The premise of the exhibition is based on an imagined encounter between two singers: Oum Kulthoum (1904-1975) from Egypt and Lee Nan-Young (1916-1967). Both legendary within their geographical and cultural spheres, the two singers were in Paris at the same time in 1967. Oum Kulthoum was there to give a concert at the prestigious Olympia theatre. Lee Nan-Young was passing through on her way back to Korea from New York where her daughters, the famous Kim Sisters singers, had made their 20th appearance on CBS's Ed Sullivan show.

According to the fictional tale that has been conceived as a framework for this exhibition, Lee Nan-Young would attend Oum Kulthoum's concert and fall in love with her music. She would see her backstage. Over the next few days, the two Divas would meet several times in the cafes of Paris. They would discuss politics and compare life-stories. Over the course of a few days, a bond was forged and a promise to visit and collaborate was made. But what happened next was lost until now.

 

Today, the exhibition Songs of Loss and Songs of Love looks at fulfilling Oum Kulthoum's promise to visit Lee Nan-Young in Korea. It uses fictional storytelling to raise questions about the “(im) possibility of cultural exchange” and “merges the realms of fiction with reality engulfing the visitors as participants within an imagined encounter”.  

The exhibition includes new and old work by 18 artists, echoing the themes loss and love in two seminal songs, Oum Kulthoum's Al-Atlal (The Ruins) and Lee Nan-Young's The Tears of Mokpo. The artists in this exhibition include: 

Adel Abidin, Manal Al Dowayan, Ghada Amer, Ziad Antar, Ali Cherri, Fouad El Khoury, Mounir Fatmi, Pascal Hachem, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joriege, Mohssin Harraki, Mona Hatoum, Mohammed Kazem, Nicene Kossentini, Shirin Neshat, Zineb Sedira, Vahid Sharifian, Khaled Takreti and Raed Yassin



Here's a selection of some of the works from the exhibition. 

 
Adel Abidin  

  
Video excerpt of Three Love Sings, 2010 | 3 channel video installation | Duration 8'41" min | Courtesy of the artist and Hauser and Wirth

 

Adel Abidin's Three Love Songs features three blonde Scandinavian singers perform an Iraqi song each. These were commissioned throughout the 1980s and 1990s as nationalist anthems promoting the totalitarian rule of the infamous Saddam Hussein who was deposed and executed in 2006 after ruling over Iraq for a period of 27 years.

The singers, who do not speak or understand Arabic, are directed to perform as though they were singing love songs. This contradiction mirrors the power of seduction in the propaganda of totalitarian regimes.

 


Ghada Amer 

Ghada Amer - The Words I Love the Most, 2012 | Bronze with black patina | 60 x 60 x 60 inches / 152.8 x 152.8 x 152.8 cm | Edition 2/6, 1 AP | Courtesy of the artist and Kukje Gallery, Seoul

In this intense line of sculptural experimentation, Ghada Amer resorts to the primeval shape of the oval. She models the void playing with the dynamics of concealment and transparency.

The works can be read in three-dimensional terms, or as flat pictorial surfaces where spectators can suddenly discover and fix the image of figures or read words in Arabic script.

 


Mounir Fatmi

Mounir Fatmi - Save Manhattan 03, 2007 | Sound architecture, speakers, sound system, soundtrack, light and shadow | 500 x 250 x 100 cm | Courtesy of the artist and Nadour collection | Photo credit: Argauer kunsthaus

Mounir Fatmi's Save Manhattan 03 is a reflection on the disastrous events of September 11, 2001. It consists of 90 speakers placed on the floor and a soundscape of a congested city emanating from behind the speakers.

A light is projected onto the speakers to create a shadow resembling the famous skyline of New York City and its iconic twin towers. The installation presents the city as if it were a body that breathes, that lives, that suffers and that is capable of resisting even the most catastrophic of losses.





Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige 
 

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige - The Lebanese Rocket Society - A tribute to dreamers - PART III: The Golden Record | Video installation and frieze | 19 minutes | Co produced by The Lyon Biennale, 2011

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige's The Lebanese Rocket Society - A Tribute to Dreamers (2011-2013) is an ongoing project that explores Lebanon’s remarkably successful, yet completely forgotten, space endeavors of the 1960s.

Although the program was successful, it came to a sudden end in 1967 and was erased from the collective memory of Lebanese Society. This project deconstructs the mythologies of the 1960s by questioning the lost memory of an entire generation belonging to this time period. 

 



Shirin Neshat 

Shirin Neshat - Turbulent, 1998 | Video Installation | Duration 10 min | Courtesy artist and Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York

Shirin Neshat's Turbulent consists of two channels, displayed on opposing walls with two films in black and white. On one screen, a male performer sings a soulful rendition of a traditional poem by the poet Rumi (1207-73) with orchestral accompaniment.On the opposite screen, a woman stands still with her back towards him.

As soon as he finishes his performance, she begins hers. While connected through music, the two characters never come together and remain at opposing poles.

 



Zineb Sidera 

Zineb Sedira - Untitled, 2008 | C-print 50 x 60 cm | Courtesy the artist and kamel mennour, Paris

Set on a ship cruising from Algiers to Marseilles, Middle Sea unravels like a ballad, a visual meditation on the state of transit. Combining unnervingly high pitches with the heavy breathing of the ship’s engine, it reinforces the overruling feeling of melancholic uneasiness and gives to Middle Sea a depth inaccessible to the visual alone.

In Zineb Sidera's Untitled, 2008, for instance, two ships huddle anthropomorphically together the side of one a gaping, hollow wound.

 



Raed Yassin 

Raed Yassin - Ruins In Space, 2014 | Archival inkjet print, text, sound, speaker, record cover, vinyl record | Variable dimensions | Courtesy of Kalfayan Galleries (Athens- Thessaloniki) 

Raed Yassin's Ruins in Space, specifically commissioned for this exhibition, is a fictional narrative based on actual material that lends it realistic potential. It revolves around the two legendary singers Oum Kulthoum and Lee Nan-Young, whose imagined encounter provides the exhibition’s conceptual framework.

Making reference to Oum Kulthoum’s seminal song Al-Atlal (The Ruins), this project, in essence, is about rewriting musical history, and an allegory to the notion that space is the utopian arena, defying language, geography and time; connecting people wherever they are, and at whatever era they exist.  

 

 

 

If you are in Gwangju, do visit this exhibition. I leave you with the two songs that inspired the exhibition. 

Oum Kulthoum - Al-Atlal (The Ruins)

 

 

Lee Nan-Young - The Tears of Mokpo

 
 

 

Exhibition details:
Dates: On till  13th July 2014
Venue: Gwangju Museum of Art in Gwangju, South Korea 

 

 

 

www.artmuse.gwangju.go.kr
www.artreoriented.com 

Thursday
Jun122014

"And What A Great Goal That Was" - Great World Cup Goals by Richard Swarbrick



Happy FIFA World Cup day. The one month long football craze begins tonight. To mark the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament, enjoy this short video by artist and filmmaker Richard Swarbrick.

 

 

 

 

www.richardswarbrick.com

 

[Hat tip @tomburrow]  

Thursday
Jun122014

يا سماء الشرق / Sky Over The East at the Emirates Palace Gallery



I recently visited the exhibition Sky Over The East in Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi. The exhibition is a collaboration between Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation and Barjeel Art Foundation featuring works from the collection of Barjeel Art Foundation.   

 
I am not a fan of visiting art exhibitions in hotels, but this is a must see. It's a museum quality exhibition featuring a fantastic collection of work by 48 Arab artists from the past 80 years. It "seeks to contextualize key milestones from the region’s modern history while testifying to the artist’s role as a vital contributor to the intellectual development of society." 


The selection of works displayed provides a glimpse into the diversity of subjects that preoccupied artists in the Arab world over the past 86 years, while also highlighting relationships that existed among cultural production in different countries, and across several decades.

I hope that the exhibition encourages a wider discourse on Arab art and sheds light on the work of leading masters from the region, many of whom are still practicing today. Geographically spanning over 12 countries and two continents, the selection of art presented calls attention to a shared identity of Arab nations, while contributing to a wider public appreciation of the visual arts. 

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi - Founder, Barjeel Art Foundation 



The Arabic title يا سماء الشرق (Ya Sama'a Al Sharq) is far more poetic and comes from the song دعاء الشرق (Dua'a Al Sharq) Prayer of the East by Mohammed Abdel Wahabbased on a poem by Mahmoud Hassan Ismail. Here's a detailed explanation on why this title was chosen and its relevance.
 

Composed in 1953, Prayer of the East (Du’aa Al Sharq) made its way into thousands of Arab households in the few years that followed. Put to music and delivered by the renowned Mohammed Abdel Wahab, the lyrics are based on Mahmoud Hassan Ismail’s poem that highlights collective aspects of the Arab spirit and alludes to a shared metaphoric sky under which Arab communities exist. Broadcast via the newly established Sawt Al Arab (a radio channel set up in Egypt in the early 1950s under President Gamal Abdel Nasser) the song quickly gained popularity with the Arab audience and became akin to a universal Arab hymn of the latter part of the 20th century.

Since the 1970s, linguistic derivatives of the words ‘East’ and ‘Orient’ in relation to descriptions of land populated by Arab nations have been questioned and critiqued as terms linked to 20th-century colonialism. The title of this exhibition by no means attempts to serve as a geographical indicator defining physical territories inhabited by Arab societies. Rather, it aims to reference an instance in modern Arab history, when a cultural product served to unify distinct communities and entire nations under a single umbrella of shared identity.

Modes within which Modern Arab artists worked extended from naturalistic documentation of people and landscapes, to creating socio-political commentaries, exploring theological matters, and addressing intimate, personal narratives and concerns. In line with the song’s call to preserve collective memories, 20th-century Arab artists reflected on and re-examined their histories within the context of global developments. They tackled notions of Arab identity, while being influenced by the evolution of European Modernism and work of masters like Henri Matisse, Willem de Kooning and Antoni Tàpies among others. With no single thematic or stylistic thread running through this exhibition, there exist multiple links and relationships between individual works of art, which despite being separated by geography and time, often address similar questions, take on similar approaches and display a shared ethos. 

Suheyla Takesh - Curator, Barjeel Art Foundation 

 

 

The exhibition is on till 27th June 2014. I cannot stress enough how important this exhibition is. There is work that will make you smile, make you sad, make you think. 

If you live in the UAE and interested in art, especially from the Middle East, then make sure you don't miss this. Below is a small selection of work from the exhbition and some of my favourites. I suggest you listen to the song دعاء الشرق (Dua'a Al Sharq) / Prayer of the East by Mohammed Abdel Wahab whilst looking at the images and reading about the artists. 

 

Ali Al Abdan
United Arab Emirates. b. 1972        

Ali Al Abdan - On Al Khan Beach. 1989. Oil on canvas. 59 X 69 cm.

Ali Al Abdan is an Emirati artist, interested in documenting history and preserving traditions in visual, as well as written form. He often creates elaborate collages that tell stories of specific people, while shedding light on a larger picture of the times. He had a solo show entitled I am Ali Al Abdan at Emirates Fine Art Society, Sharjah in 2010. He has also written a book on the history of art in the UAE.  




Baya 
Algeria. 1931–1998    

Baya - Femme aux Deux Paons Avec Aquarium (Woman with Two Peacocks and Aquarium). 1968. Watercolour and gouache on paper. 66 X 92 cm.

Baya was born at Bordj El Kiffan in Algeria in 1931, and by age five had lost both her parents. She was looked after by her grandmother, and subsequently adopted by a French woman Marguerite Benhour, who took her to Paris. In 1947 Benhoura arranged for the talented 16 year old Baya to have her first solo exhibition at the Galerie Adrien Maeght in Paris. Her work was widely praised and admired for its childlike quality and naiveté by the likes of Pablo Picasso who, following their meeting in Paris, became Baya’s good friend. 




Hamed Nada
Egypt. 1924–1990    

Hamed Nada - Dancing by the Beach. 1984. Acrylic and crayon on board. 44 X 33.5 cm.

Born in Alexandria, Hamed Nada was inspired by the dichotomy between hardships of impoverished people he witnessed on a day-to-day basis in his home country, and the traditional folk tales that held in them worlds of fantasy and encouraged daring flights of imagination. A lot of his work draws references from Western artistic styles, and is likened to the work of European masters such as Henri Matisse. 




Hassan Sharif
United Arab Emirates. b. 1951      

Hassan Sharif - Man. 1980. Oil on paper. 92.7 X 73.5 cm.

Hassan Sharif is widely recognised as the grandfather and pioneer of conceptual and experimental art in the UAE. Rather than working within a single discipline, his practice unites various media and approaches, such as performance, installation, photography, painting and drawing, among others. Much of Hassan Sharif’s work explores notions of consumerism and obsession with commercial goods. The greyscale composition on paper reflects his experience of working on caricatures for local newspapers and magazines in the 1970s. 




Khudair Shakirji    
Iraq. 1937-2006      

Khudair Shakirji - Untitled. 1981. Oil on canvas. 98 X 98 cm.

Khudair Shakirji graduated from the Fine Arts Academy in Baghdad, and subsequently joined the Baghdad Modern Art Group, being influenced by artists like Shakir Hassan Al Said and Jabra Ibrahim Jabra. Shakirji’s work often draws references to Arab traditions and folklore, while being distinguished by modern compositions and approaches. He had five solo exhibitions at the Iraqi Artists Society, and his work is in the collection of Iraq’s National Museum of Modern Art. 




Laila Shawa
Palestine. b. 1940    

Laila Shawa - Moon Walkers. 1988. Acrylic on canvas. 75 X 100 cm.

Palestinian artist Laila Shawa is known for her use of bold colours and illustrative designs to tackle issues of violence, political turmoil, the plight of children and resistance in her native country. Shawa paints, photographs and uses silk screen prints in her work. The artist studied in Cairo, Rome, and Austria, and worked for United Nations children’s art programs in Gaza in the 1960s. Her work has been exhibited around Europe, the Arab world, Russia, China, Malaysia and the United States.  




Layla Al Attar
Iraq. 1940-1993     

Layla Al Attar - Untitled. 1988. Oil and encaustic on paper on canvas. 98.5 X 82 cm.

The late Iraqi artist Layla Al Attar was revered during her life as a gifted painter who hosted five solo exhibitions in her homeland and served as director of the Iraqi National Art Museum. The primordial forest, as well as representations of Adam and Eve are recurrent themes in Al Attar’s work. She often uses distortions of space and light to point to the sense of unreality of this world. Al Attar lost her life in an explosion that also killed her husband during the bombing of Iraq in 1993. 




Louay Kayyali
Syria.1934-1978    

 LouayKayyali - Woman Sewing. 1974. Oil on masonite. 94.5 X 94.5 cm.

Depictions of banal daily struggles and the social and physical deprivation of the masses intertwine the artwork of Syrian painter Louay Kayyali during his iconic, short-lived career. The Aleppo-born artist began painting at the age of 11 and held his first solo show at 18. Highlighting the individual struggles evident on the fringe of larger socio-political realities in the Arab region, Kayyali’s artwork provides a window into the lives of the deprived majority. Woman Sewing captures a fleeting moment of a seamstress’ ascetic routine of stitching clothing. 




Mahmoud Said
Egypt. 1897–1964      

 Mahmoud Said - Le Canal de Mahmoudieh. 1922. Oil on panel. 27.5 X 45 cm.

Mahmoud Said was a lawyer who worked at the Mixed Courts in Alexandria until the late 1940s, only painting in his spare time. He subsequently decided to quit his desk job, in order to dedicate himself fully to art and explore his passion for painting. Like many of his contem- poraries, Said was fascinated with depicting Egyptian landscapes and picturesque coastal areas around the Nile. He often painted on very small canvases, later reworking his sketches onto a larger scale in his studio. 




Mohammed Issiakhem
Algeria. 1928–1985     

Mohammed Issiakhem - emme et Mur (Woman and Wall). Date unknown. Oil on canvas. 162 X 130 cm.

Mohammed Issiakhem spent most of his childhood in Relizane, Algeria. He started his artistic training at the École des Beaux-Arts, Algiers in 1948, where he studied fine art and miniature painting. He co-founded the Union Nationale des Arts Plastiques in 1963, and from 1964 to 1966, he was the director of the École des Beaux-Arts in Oran. In 1971, he was professor of graphic art at the École Polytechnique d’Architecture et d’Urbanisme, Algeria. Much of Issiakhem’s work centres around the depiction of women and drawing references to Algerian traditions. 




Mohammed Naghi
Egypt. 1888–1956     

 Mohammed Naghi - Le Café à Chypre. 1950. Oil on canvas on masonite. 45 X 59.5 cm.

Before beginning his art education in Florence in 1910, Mohammed Naghi studied law at the University of Lyons in 1906-10. In 1919 he spent some time in France, developing his painting skills with Claude Monet and working on depictions of the French countryside. Mohammed Naghi returned to Egypt shortly, becoming involved with the 1919 revolution. This experience helped him get closer to the population and enriched his appreciation of Egyptian heritage. 




Mohammed Sabry
Egypt. b. 1917    

 Mohammed Sabry - Village. Date unknown. Pastel on paper. 43 X 60 cm.

Sabry graduated from the Faculty of Arts in Cairo and continued his studies in Madrid at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando. In 1952 he attained a professorship there, and in 1988, he was awarded the Queen Isabella medal by the King of Spain. Born in 1917, Sabry has witnessed almost a century of political and social history, and this certainly reflected in his work as an artist. A lot of his work was executed in the impressionist style, and depicted Cairo, Aswan, as well as Spanish scenery. 




Seif Wanly    
Egypt. 1906–1979     

Seif Wanly - Ballerinas. c. 1960. Oil on panel. 78.6 X 108.2 cm.

Born in Alexandria into an aristocratic Egyptian family, Wanly was privately tutored in art. In his portraits we often find characters in self-reflective gestures, detached from their context. While some of his paintings capture live entertainment, theatre and musical performances, Wanly’s primary concentration was to depict daily life.The artist established an art studio in Cairo in the 1940s with his brother Adham Wanly that was open to the public and any-one interested in the arts. 




Suleiman Mansour 
Palestine. b. 1947  

Suleiman Mansour - Sad Tunes. 1977. Oil on canvas. 87 X 90 cm.

Among the most recognised and distinguished Palestinian artists is Suleiman Mansour, who has tailored his comprehensive portfolio around the Palestinian struggle, portraying peasants and women in traditional dress in his early work. For Mansour, art aids the continua- tion and revival of Palestinian identity, particularly as it captures images of the land and people working on it. By keeping his artistic roots in the ancestral homeland, the artist enables Palestinians to continue to lay claim to it. 

 

 

 

 

Event details
Date: On till Friday, 27th June 2014 between 12:00 pm-8:00 pm
Venue: Emirates Palace Gallery, Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi (location map)
Free entry. 





www.barjeelartfoundation.org/exhibitions/sky-over-the-east 
www.admaf.org/en/event/sky-over-the-east-works-from-the-collection-of-barjeel-art-foundation  

Wednesday
Jun042014

Lest We Forget: Structures of Memory in the United Arab Emirates at the 14th International Architecture Biennale

 

Three days ago I wrote about the upcoming 14th International Architecture Biennale in Venice and its overall themes. Today I will share with you what to expect from the UAE pavilion and some thoughts and questions.

 

This week, the United Arab Emirates will make its debut at the 14th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, from 7th June till 23rd November 2014 (with a VIP opening on Thursday, 5th June).

The UAE first took part in the Venice Biennale in 2009 and after last year’s announcement of a permanent pavilion in Venice, the UAE is looking to make a mark at the Architecture Biennale

The UAE Pavilion is one of the 66 national pavilions (and the 3rd Gulf country after Bahrain and Kuwait) that has responded to the theme Absorbing Modernity put forward by the biennale director Rem Koolhaas.

"Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014" is an invitation to the national pavilions to show, each in their own way, the process of the erasure of national characteristics in architecture in favor of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language and a single repertoire of typologies – a more complex process than we typically recognize, involving significant encounters between cultures, technical inventions, and hidden ways of remaining "national". 

 

The UAE Pavilion’s exhibition is titled Lest We Forget: Structures of Memory in the UAE, commissioned by Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and curated by Dr. Michele Bambling.

"Lest We Forget: Structures of Memory in the United Arab Emirates" presents the seminal findings of a larger initiative to archive the history of architectural and urban development in the UAE over the past century. With a concentrated emphasis on the 1970s-1980s, the exhibition examines how public and residential architecture, built within a rapidly expanding urban context, shaped the newly established federation and prepared the foundation for its emergence on a global stage. 


The exhibition covers four periods with an emphasis on the 1970s-1980s:

  • 1914-1949 Vernacular Architecture, examining indigenous architectural traditions of the UAE.
  • 1950-1970 Infrastructure and Urban Development, exploring the early urban master plans of the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
  • 1971-1994 Structures of Modernity, showcasing key buildings from the UAE’s initial encounter with modernity following the union of the Emirates.
  • 1995-2014 Retrospective and Innovation, highlighting conservation and adaptive reuse efforts aimed at preserving modern heritage buildings and planning for a sustainable future. 



 These four periods will be exhibited via three main components:

  • Drawers containing materials like architectural and engineering renderings, documents and photographs.
  • Filmed conversations projected on large screens above the drawers (featuring UAE’s leading professionals in architecture, engineering, education, conservation and culture). 
  • A comprehensive timeline with info-graphic maps and diagrams that will correspond to the four periods captured in the drawer units, including significant buildings of the UAE within the context of regional and international political and economic events as well as architectural developments.  

Sketch details of the UAE Pavilion

 

Sketch details of the UAE Pavilion

 

Sketch details of the UAE Pavilion

 

 

I’m very happy there will be an emphasis on the 1970s-1980s, some of the key buildings that will showcased from that period include the Cultural Foundation and National Library and Zayed Sports Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Dubai's World Trade CentreDubai Petroleum’s headquarters and Sharjah's Blue Souq. I also find it ironic there’s a concentrated emphasis on the 1970s-80s architecture considering this is the period that has been and continues to be easily demolished to make way for new developments across the country. 

Cultural Foundation and National Library in Abu Dhabi (image via Wikipedia)

Dubai World Trade Centre in the 1980s (image via medubai.com)

 

When I first heard about the theme "Lest We Forget" at a talk in January this year with Rem Koolhaas, Michel Bambling and Adina Hempel (UAE Pavilion's Head of Research), I felt very were apprehensive about it, especially since this is also a title of a project worked on by students from Zayed University overseen by Bambling from few years ago. I couldn’t help but think why such an elementary approach to this biennale. Here's a quote from an article about the Zayed University project from 2013

…lamenting the dearth of published vernacular photography in the UAE, I decided to ask students in my curatorial practices course if they would like to embark on a study of photographs taken by Emirati people over the course of the second half of the 20th century. Published photographs of the UAE have largely been taken by non-local, professional photographers or by missionaries, oil companies, the media and the Royal family for purposes quite different that those of ordinary citizens.  Michele Bambling via The National


Needless to say, I kept wondering who is "we" that will be represented in Venice. An Emirati only point of view of architectural heritage, culture and history, which is normally romanticisied? Or a more academic approach that will give visitors an objective overview of the UAE’s architectural history to help put the present into context that not many (outside and even inside the UAE) really understand, before even looking at the future. .

Since then, and after reading more about the UAE Pavilion and having discussions with members from the UAE Pavilion, I’ve been told Lest We Forget is a long term project that will continue its research, part of a "larger initiative to archive the history of architectural and urban development in the UAE over the past century".

According to Bambling, "Much of the diverse material has been gathered, created for the exhibition or shown to the public for the first time -- content that is typically hidden within in files of architectural and engineering firms, and in municipal and federal archives, in Emirati family photo albums, on travelers’ post cards, and in photographic collections."

The core elements of this exhibition will be in the drawers and visitors will be expected to explore these drawers to find different objects and documents. I have yet to see the pavilion, but based on what was described to me along with the drawings that have been shared, it feels like the pavilion has a very "closed door" feel to it. It’s like a shy teenager that doesn’t really want to talk about itself and will only answer questions when asked. Even the pavilion design concept sketches (featured above) have hints of this closeness. 

A closed object. Like a metaphor: You have to access UAE culture carefully

How to show documents: like private items found in a domestic space

 

I can see why the the curator would like viewers to discover, engage and interact with the pavilion, but in the context of a biennale – with 66 national pavilions, each one trying to stand out with its own statement, will this work? The biennale doesn’t just attract architects and academics, this edition particularly aims to attract the wider public.

Is this year’s participation more about preserving ephemera and memory versus the preservation of physical buildings and locations? I hope the pavilion will help play a role in more than just creating a memory bank. I hope (and wish) it will have a role to play in physically preserving and honouring whatever still remains from the 1970s through to the 1990s, and not by just exhibiting objects, documents, blueprints, and preserving a handful of buildings.

Will the UAE Pavilion succeed in telling its story of absorbing modernity in the past 100 years? I hope so. I am really looking forward to the response it gets after the official opening, and hope I get a chance to visit it myself.

During the press meeting I asked what would be recommended to a visitor if she/he had just 30 minutes at the pavilion. The answer was to look at the timeline and based on the period the visitor is interested in, she/he can go to the relevant corresponding drawers that will have more information.

On that note – here are some of the featured buildings and objects you will find at the pavilion (all images supplied by the UAE Pavilion). If you go, let me know what you think and I will keep an eye on reviews and feedback from friends that will be attending. 

 

Architecture:  

 

Zayed Sports Stadium, 2014 (photograph courtesy of Marco Sosa)

 

Cultural Foundation and National Library, opened 1981, TAC The Architects Collaborative formed  by Walter Gropius (photograph courtesy of Dr. Mohammed Al Mansoori)

 

Ibrahimi Building, Abu Dhabi, 1980s
(photograph by Marco Sosa)

 

Ibrahimi Building, Abu Dhabi, façade, 1980s
(photograph by Marco Sosa)

 

Dubai World Trade Center, opened 1979
(photograph courtesy of John R Harris and Partners)

 

 

Sheikh Rashid Tower of the World Trade Center Complex, façade detail. Architect John R. Harris and Partners, Dubai, 1979 (photograph courtesy of Micro Urban)

 

Blue Souk, Architect Michael Lyell, Sharjah, 1978 (photograph by Marco Sosa)

 



Personal objects photos/postcards:

 

Finish of a camel race, Dubai, 1950 (photograph by Ronald Codral. Courtesy of Codrai Gulf Collection - Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority)

 

Blue Souk Visit, 1984 (photograph courtesy of Khaled Hadi Bin Sumaidaa)

 

National House - My father’s friend Ahmed Abdulla Al Jassasi, Al Shahama, 1980 
“I love how the person who took this photo created a panoramic view by taking two photos that show the newly built house given by the government and showing the lady by the station wagon. Notice that the telephone wire reached the house before the paved road” (photograph provided by Houreya Naser Musabah Khamis Al Kalbani)

 

Sheikh Rashid Tower, Dubai, 1983 - FRONT of Postcard 
Postcard labeled WTC, written by Dutch expat written in Dutch, sent from Dubai to Holland (postcard provided by Adina Hempel)

 

Sheikh Rashid Tower, Dubai, 1983 - BACK of Postcard 
Postcard labeled WTC, written by Dutch expat written in Dutch, sent from Dubai to Holland (postcard provided by Adina Hempel)


Translation:

Lay over
In a rush.
Much love, 

 

 

 

The UAE Pavilion will be open to the public from Saturday, 7th June till Sunday, 23rd November 2014, from 10am till 6pm. It is located in Sale d'Armi Nord, Arsenale, Castello, 30122 in Venice. 

If you are interested in the other participating national pavilions, My Art Guides has put together a very good summary for all 66 pavilions. 

 

 

 

www.uaepavilion.org 
www.lestweforget.ae
ww.labiennale.org/en/architecture/exhibition/14iae
www.labiennale.org/en/architecture/exhibition/koolhaas 

 

Sunday
Jun012014

Fundamentals - 14th International Architecture Biennale

 

The 14th International Architecture Biennale in Venice will start this month, from 7th June and will go on till 23rd November 2014. 

Sixty six countries are be taking part, including three countries from the Gulf - Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The UAE will make its debut at the Architecture Biennale this year, along with nine other countries (Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, New Zealand and Turkey). Expect a separate post about the UAE Pavilion later this week. 


This year’s edition is titled Fundamentals, directed by Rem Koolhaas who wants this biennale to be research-centered, about architecture and not architectsFundamentals will consist of three interlocking exhibitions, Elements of ArchitectureAbsorbing Modernity 1914-2014 and Monditalia.  

Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014, Elements of Architecture and Monditalia – together illuminate the past, present and future of our discipline. After several architecture Biennales dedicated to the celebration of the contemporary, Fundamentals will look at histories, attempt to reconstruct how architecture finds itself in its current situation, and speculate on its future.



Here's an overview of the Architecture Biennale and you can read more more details below. Look out for the embarrassing slide where "Middle East" is listed as a country.

 

 

 

More information about the three interlocking exhibitions: 


Elements of Architecture in the Central Pavilion 

Elements of Architecture will pay close attention to the fundamentals of our buildings, used by any architect, anywhere, anytime: the floor, the wall, the ceiling, the roof, the door, the window, the façade, the balcony, the corridor, the fireplace, the toilet, the stair, the escalator, the elevator, the ramp.

ELEMENTS: Stairs

ELEMENTS: Roof

Traditional architectural elements – the ceiling and the window, but also even the façade – now belong to advanced technological domains, yet the fundamental elements of architecture endure, albeit in sometimes radically different forms. By looking at the evolution of architectural elements shared by all cultures, the exhibition will expand the architectural discourse beyond its normal parameters, and include a broad public in an exploration of the familiar, the erased, and the visionary dimensions of architecture.

 

 

Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014 at the National Pavilions 

In 1914, it made sense to talk about a 'Chinese' architecture, a 'Swiss' architecture, an 'Indian' architecture. One hundred years later, under the influence of wars, diverse political regimes, different states of development, national and international architectural movements, individual talents, friendships, random personal trajectories, and technological developments, architectures that were once specific and local have become seemingly interchangeable and global. Has national identity been sacrificed to modernity?

ABSORBING MODERNITY: 1914

ABSORBING MODERNITY: 2014

Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014 is an invitation to the national pavilions to show, each in their own way, the process of the erasure of national characteristics in architecture in favor of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language and a single repertoire of typologies – a more complex process than we typically recognize, involving significant encounters between cultures, technical inventions, and hidden ways of remaining 'national'. In a time of ubiquitous google research and the flattening of cultural memory, it is crucial for the future of architecture to resurrect and expose these narratives.

By telling the history of the last 100 years cumulatively, the exhibitions in the National Pavilions will generate a global overview of architecture’s evolution into a single, modern aesthetic, and at the same time uncover within globalization the survival of unique national features and mentalities that continue to exist and flourish even as international collaboration and exchange intensify…

 

 

Monditalia at the Arsenale 

Monditalia dedicates the Arsenale to a single theme – Italy – with exhibitions, events, and theatrical productions engaging architecture, politics, economics, religion, technology, industry. The other festivals of la Biennale di Venezia – film, dance, theatre, and music – will be mobilized to contribute to a comprehensive portrait of the host country.

MONDITALIA: Corderie dell'Arsenale
MONDITALIA: Corderie dell'Arsenale

In a moment of crucial political transformation, we decided to look at Italy as a 'fundamental' country, completely unique but showing certain features – particularly the coexistence of immense riches, creativity, competences, and potential combined with political turbulence – that also make it a prototype of the current moment.

Throughout the Corderie, exhibitions and a series of theatrical productions and events will unfold, engaging architecture, politics, economics, religion, technology, industry. Each one could leave a physical trace in the form of sets, objects, written material, projections, or the extended presence of people. The Corderie would be imagined as a multidisciplinary work in progress, constantly evolving and on permanent display, with varying degrees of activity and varying scales of productions taking place in its different sections.

 

 

I leave you with a behind the scenes look at the biennale preparation. I've never been to the Architecture biennale and this one sounds like it will be a good one. I hope I get a chance to visit it. More posts about the biennale coming up later this week. 

 

 

 

 

www.labiennale.org/en/architecture/exhibition/14iae
www.labiennale.org/en/architecture/exhibition/koolhaas
www.labiennale.org/en/architecture/exhibition/elements
www.labiennale.org/en/architecture/exhibition/monditalia
www.labiennale.org/en/architecture/exhibition/national-participations  

Sunday
Jun012014

Asrouniyeh (عصرونية) - The Carton Residency at thejamjar

"Original photo copyright pre-manipulation and collage goes to LIFE Magazine" via The Carton

 

The Carton magazine has taken over the Project Space at thejamjar since 26th May 2014 for a four-week residency aimed at instilling the idea of mobile office space.  The Carton is an independent quarterly magazine that tells the story of Middle Eastern culture through its food (I recently wrote about their last issue, "Jazz Manouche" here). 


The residency is titled عصرونية (pronounced "asrouniyeh"). 

Titled ‘Asrouniyeh’, the topic of The Carton’s 10th quarterly edition explores the Middle Eastern version of the British afternoon tea and the Italian aperitivo.

From 28th May, the public is invited to watch the process of finalising this issue, witnessing the deadline week and finally to the launch day, which will take place in thejamjar on 25th June 2014. 

 

Jade Georges, editorial director and cofounder of the independent publication explains more, 
“When we established our publishing house Art And Then Some in Beirut, we had the idea of mobile offices in mind. We turned a 1960s Beirut apartment into an organic and inspiring office space and called it our hub. And with the target of helping Middle Eastern food culture reach as many territories as possible, our next stop was the UAE where we’ve set up flexible spaces for the past two years to encourage conversations around the culture aided by these moving creative spaces.”  
 

During the residency which will go on till 25th June 2014, The Carton’s readers are welcome to witness the process of the editorial and creative creation of the upcoming issue. And over the next four Wednesdays this month, The Carton will be hosting a ‘asrouniyeh’ starting at 4.15pm, inviting everyone to bring homemade afternoon-tea delicacies representing their culture. 


I love this idea for a residency and looking forward to seeing how it turns out. If you are interested in attending one of the asrouniyehs on Wednesdays, send an email to thecarton@artandthensome.com



 


Event details

Residency Duration: 26th May till 26th June 2014 
Asrouniyeh dates: Wednesday 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th June from 4.15pm - 6.15pm
Venue: thejamjar, Al Quoz, Dubai (location map



 

 

Saturday
May312014

Film Screenings - Abu Dhabi Film Festival at The Space in June

The fourth edition of Abu Dhabi Film Festival at The Space for the month of June will feature films that "made the journey to Cannes".  

The 67th annual Cannes Film Festival completed last month but we invite you to explore highly original films and masterful filmmakers who made the journey to Cannes. Directors Jeff Nichols, Annemarie Jacir, Pablo Larrain, Cherien Dabis and Hugh Hudson each created innovative, daring and highly memorable stories that have left an indelible impression across the world.  


Here's the line up for June. All screenings are free, but you must RSVP in advance. The screenings take place every Monday at The Space in Abu Dhabi, starting at 7pm, except on 30th June, the film will be screened at 5pm (due to Ramadan hours). 

 

 

Monday, 2nd June 2014 at 7pm
Salt of this Sea (Milh Hadha Al Bahr) by Annemarie Jacir  (Palestine)
Drama/Romance | PG | 109 minutes | Arabic with English Subtitles  

Soraya, 28, born and raised in Brooklyn, decides to return to live in Palestine, a country that her family was exiled from in 1948. On arriving in Ramallah, Soraya tries to recover the money left in an account by her grandparents but meets with refusal from the bank.

Her path then crosses that of Emad, a young Palestinian whose ambition, unlike hers, is to leave the country for good. To escape the constraints linked to the situation in Palestine but also to earn their freedom, Soraya and Emad take things into their own hands, even if this means breaking the law. In this quest for life, we follow their trail through the History of a lost Palestine.  

 

 

Monday, 9th June 2014 at 7pm
Take Shelter by Jeff Nichols (USA)
Thriller/Drama | 15+ | 121 minutes | English 

When Curtis (Michael Shannon) begins having nightmares of an encroaching, apocalyptic storm, he refrains from telling his wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain). To protect her and their six-year-old deaf daughter Hannah, Curtis starts focusing his anxiety and money into the obsessive building of a storm shelter.

While Hannah's healthcare and special needs education has resulted in financial struggle, Curtis' seemingly inexplicable behavior concerns Samantha and provokes intolerance among co-workers, friends and neighbors. However, the resulting strain on his marriage and tension within the community doesn't compare to Curtis' private fear of what his disturbing dreams may truly signify.

 

 

Monday, 16th June 2014 at 7pm
No by Pablo Larrain (Chile)
Drama/Politics | 12+ | 108 minutes | Spanish with English Subtitles

In 1988, Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet, due to international pressure, is forced to call a plebiscite on his presidency. The country will vote YES or NO to Pinochet extending his rule for another eight years.

Opposition leaders of the NO vote persuade a brash young advertising executive, René Saavedra (Gael García Bernal), to spearhead their campaign. Against all odds, with scant resources and under scrutiny by the despot's minions, Saavedra and his team devise an audacious plan to win the election and set Chile free.

 

 

Monday, 23rd June 2014 at 7pm
Amreeka by Cherien Dabis (USA)
Comedy/Drama/Family | G | 97 minutes | Arabic/English with English Subtitles

Muna Farah, a Palestinian single mum, struggles to maintain her optimistic spirit in the daily grind of intimidating West Bank checkpoints, the constant nagging of a controlling mother, and the haunting shadows of a failed marriage.

Everything changes one day when she receives a letter informing her that her family has been granted a U.S. Green Card. Reluctant to leave her homeland, but realising it may be the only way to secure a future for Fadi, her teenage son, Muna decides to quit her job at the bank and visit her relatives in Illinois to see about a new life in a land that gives newcomers a run for their money.

 

 

Monday, 30th June 2014 at 5pm
Chariots of Fire by Hugh Hudson (UK) 
Drama/Sports | G | 124 minutes | English 
 

A cinematic masterpiece that earned four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, CHARIOTS OF FIRE recounts the widely celebrated, inspiring true story of two British runners competing in the 1924 Olympic Games.  

Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), a driven athlete of Jewish ancestry, runs to overcome prejudice and to achieve personal fame; his rival Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a devout Scottish missionary competes for the glory of God. An inspirational story of spirit and strength in the face of enormous odds, the film combines the finest elements of athletic competition and human drama to create a compelling and timeless classic. 




RSVP here.  

 

www.abudhabifilmfestival.ae 
www.facebook.com/thespaceAD

Thursday
May292014

Film Screening - Al Intithar (The Waiting) by Mario Rizzi and Monopoly by Bader AlHomoud

Mario Rizzi, Al Intithar, 2012, film still

The Saturday, 31st May 2014, Sharjah Art Foundation will screen two short films in the outdoor Mirage City Cinema in the Sharjah Art Foundation Art Spaces

 

Al Intithar (The Waiting) by Mario Rizzi
Arabic with English subtitles
Colour, 30 mins, 2012 

 

Al Intithar (The Waiting) is the first part of the trilogy Bayt (House) about the emergence of a new civil consciousness in the Arab world, which also looks at the social implications of the end of post-colonialism in these countries.

The short film Al Intithar presents itself as an excerpt; it records fragments of the life of Syrian refugees in Camp Zaatari, which lies seven kilometres to the south of the Syrian border in the Jordanian desert. The film’s protagonist is a widow from Homs whose husband was killed in an attack by the Syrian army. The film follows her life at the camp for seven weeks. Life’s rhythms are dictated by the place, and life is all about waiting.




Monopoly by Bader AlHomoud 
Arabic with English subtitles
Colour, 23 mins, 2012  

Monopoly is a mockumentary that depicts the housing crisis in Saudi Arabia, revolving around a man who decides to live in a van due to escalating property prices.  

The film raised high awareness about a crisis that affects 70% of the population in Saudi Arabia, and as a result received over a million views in its first week.

 

 

 

Event details
Date: Saturday, 31st May at 8.30pm
Venue: Mirage City Cinema, SAF Art Spaces, Behind Al Zahra Mosque, Sharjah (location map)


www.sharjahart.org  
www.rizziart.com  
www.facebook.com/BaderCinema  

Thursday
May292014

RIP Maya Angelou

 

Sad news about Maya Angelou, but her legacy will live on.

There are countless of obituaries, but I really enjoyed Maya Angelou, Lyrical Witness of the Jim Crow South, Dies at 86 by Margalit Fox. This video, Farewell to Maya Angelou is from the same article. 

 


I strongly suggest you read this interview from 2003, Growing Up Maya Angelou about her childhood, her writing and the importance of family. There are some very beautiful and touching answers in it.    


On a lighter note, watch this video of Maya Angelou discussing how she coped during the years she stopped talking till she was 13, about being human and about language. It includes a funny story when she was in Cairo as a dancer, when on one night when she was asked to sing, despite not being a professional singer. She sang a song her mother used to sing every Sunday and impressed the audience, "4500 Arabs jumped up and hit the floor 'w'Allah azeem, w'Allah azeem'". The trained singers that performed before her looked at her with envy and she responded, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I have the glory." 

 

 

 

 RIP Maya Angelou, 1928-2014. 

 

 

Wednesday
May282014

March Project at Sharjah Art Foundation

Frank Harris, Spaceship Sharjah, 2014, installation, wood, lenses and paint

Sharjah Art Foundation's March Project features the work of seven young artists who were part of an educational residency programme organised by the foundation. During this residency, the artists had the opportunity to research, realise and present site-specific works through a series of professional development courses, seminars, exhibitions, site visits and talks led by art practitioners over a five month period.

The selected artists included recent graduates from institutions such as Slade School of Fine Art (UK), MASS Alexandria (Egypt), Al Riwaq (Bahrain), Higher Colleges of Technology (UAE) and Zayed University (UAE).

Their work is installed throughout Sharjah Art Foundation Art Spaces and Bait Al Shamsi, in the Arts Area since 16th March 2014 and on till 16th June 2014.  

The works realised in this exhibition draw upon the role of architecture, space and movement in the hybrid culture and society of Sharjah. The interactions in Sharjah between residents and its private and public spaces, as well as the occupation and use of these places, play a central role in these site-specific works installed throughout SAF Art Spaces and Bait Al Shamsi, in the Arts Area.

 

Here's a video of the works, plus interviews with some of the artists talking about their work (click on "Captions" to watch it with English subtitles).  

 

Below is the list of artists and detailed information about each installation. Block some time (preferably in the evening since it is very hot during the day), go to Sharjah and walk around the Art Space and Arts Area and enjoy the sights and sounds.  

 

Noor Al Bastaki - Sawalef (Tales)
2014, installation, video 
Location: SAF Art Spaces, Sharjah Heritage Area 

In this work Noor Al Bastaki explores how society is defined by the public interactions between different types of people. Influenced by Al Majis Al Shaabi, a popular meeting place in the traditional Heart of Sharjah, Al Bastaki’s installation re-creates a local café with synchronised video recordings from coffee shops in both Sharjah and Bahrain. 

 

 

Marcela Florido - Contos
2013-2014, oil on canvas, oil and charcoal on paper  
Location: Bait Al Shamsi, Sharjah Arts Area  

The formal and aesthetic decisions are a direct response to Marcela Florido’s experience in Sharjah: the bold use of raw pigment on canvas and the predominance of hot colours such as orange, pink, yellow and red, the contrast between light and shadow reflect the landscape of Sharjah through the medium of painting.  

 

 

Ahmed Fouad Rageb - Untitled
2014, installation, 20 radio transmitters, 20 mp3 players and 5 radio receivers 
Location: SAF Art Spaces, Sharjah Heritage Area  

Ahmed Fouad Rageb's 22 radio transmitters are distributed around SAF Art Spaces, transmitting pre-recorded audio interviews with a range of Sharjah Art Foundation staff members, who have a strong relationship and familiarity with the area.

The viewer moves through the spaces catching different radio frequencies, streaming different ‘channels of consciousness’, examining the relationship between the subconscious mind and the space. Rageb’s work is inspired by the numerous Sharjah radio stations that stream in different languages, each addressing a specific demographic. 

 

 

Frank Harris - Spaceship Sharjah
2014, installation, wood, lenses, paint 
Location: SAF Art Spaces, Sharjah Heritage Area

Frank Harris' Spaceship Sharjah invites the viewer to enter and consider potential futures. Shaped like a rocket, its faceted sides facing the Corniche, the local mosque and the Heritage Area, it sits between some of the most important influences on any society: the outside world, religion and tradition.

Using a camera obscura, the oldest device for capturing the world as an image, Spaceship Sharjah combines and warps the images of these symbolic structures, posing the question: "what aspects of our current society will we take with us into the future and how will they combine, evolve or disappear?"

Spaceship Sharjah represents the process in which culture, religion and tradition contend with each other, constantly negotiating, combining and evolving, by capturing and distorting images of one particular location through multiple camera obscuras mounted inside a space shuttle bound for the future. Upon entering the structure the viewer sees "where shall we go?" painted on the steps, putting them in the position of a modern day Noah.  

(images via frankbuildsthings.tumblr.com)



Holly Hendry - Homeostasis
2014, installation, metal pipes, pillows, wadding, meranti wood, fan  
Location: SAF Art Spaces, Sharjah Heritage Area  

Fascinated with the history of these architectural forms and their function, Holly Hendry uses the traditional form of the Barjeel as the conceptual framework in this installation. Historically, the Barjeel was used as a form of ventilation, working as a mechanism to capture and circulate air through a building. With modern air conditioning, the towers have become decorative features representing a local and historical identity. In Homeostasis, Hendry creates an oversized replica of an air conditioning system’s inner workings offering a commentary of the UAE’s modernisation.

The overall aesthetics of the work speaks of the body, conceptually and physically attempting to turn the architecture into a form of fragmented human form. A wooden framework supports aluminium ductwork and acts as the ‘bones’ of our private domains. Wedged between the wooden structures and the metal ducting, oversized cushions represent domesticity and the warmth of home, creating a visual tension within the installation.  

 

 

Nourine Shenawy - Closed Letter
2014, installation, paper, cardboard, foil, pencil  
Location: Bait Al Shamsi, Sharjah Arts Area 

In Closed Letter, Nourine Shenawy asked people for short texts that describe their thoughts before falling asleep. Printed and handwritten in black foil or pencil on black paper, from a distance the work appears to be an oversized ‘censored’ letter. On closer inspection the words become legible and reveal to the viewer these personal thoughts.  

 

 

Eman Youniss  - The Sacred Room
2014, installation 
Location: Bait Al Shamsi, Sharjah Arts Area 

The Sacred Room is a replica of Eman Youniss’ grandfather’s room—his private domain, complete with original objects and belongings. During his lifetime, Youniss was the only one allowed to enter the room and invade her grandfather’s privacy and solitude. This work recreates the room from the eyes of a child and offers viewers a glimpse into the artist’s personal life. 

 

 

Location map of Sharjah Art Foundation and exhibition spaces 
Map of the Sharjah Art Foundation Art Space  

 

 

www.sharjahart.org 
www.sharjahart.org/exhibitions-events/current-upcoming-events/march-project
www.nooralbastaki.com  
www.marcelaflorido.com 
rgbrgbrgbrgb.tumblr.com 
www.frankbuildsthings.tumblr.com  
www.hollyhendry.com
www.nourineshenawy.wordpress.com 

 

[all images via sharjahart.org unless where stated]