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Tea with Culture

Podcast featuring discussions and interviews about the cultural happenings in the United Arab Emirates presented by Hind Mezaina (The Culturist) and Wael Hattar.


Dubai Gardens at Sharjah Biennial 13 

Dubai Gardens, Hind Mezaina | Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation, 2017

The blog has been quiet for the past two months because I've been busy working on a new piece commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation for Sharjah Biennial 13 which opened on 10th March. The title of this year's biennial is Tamawuj and is curated by Christine Tohme. 

It was a huge honour to be part of this year's edition which includes a year-long education programme and off-site projects in Dakar, Istanbul, Ramallah and Beirut spread throughout the year. 

My work is titled Dubai Gardens and it is a series of 110 cyanotype prints accompanied with text by Todd Reisz. It was the first time I made cyanotype prints and I really enjoyed the process and the final results. I've also been receiving encouraging and positive feedback for both the prints and the text by Todd Reisz, which makes me feel happy and grateful.  


About Dubai Gardens:  

Hind Mezaina’s work delves into themes of cultural memory and the notion of heritage. For SB13, the artist examines the accelerated rate of change she has witnessed in Dubai over the years, developing a method of ‘visual archaeology’ grounded in presence and observation.

Dubai Gardens, a reflection on man-made and natural green spaces in Dubai, offers an alternative view of a city hyperbolised in the media as ‘ridden in spectacle’. These often public areas were built for various purposes—for decoration, as a refuge or place of tranquillity, and sometimes even as a barrier. Using cyanotype, a mid-nineteenth-century process of camera-less photography, Mezaina draws attention to the plants found in these interstitial spaces by placing their foliage on lightsensitive paper and exposing them to produce the images on display here. Rather than snapping documentation for a botanical study or indexing different plant varieties, Dubai Gardens is enriched by the slow speed of the artist’s mode of capture and reflects a meditative interaction with the city. Accompanying the images is a text written by Todd Reisz, an architect and writer, whose work focuses on Gulf cities. 




The biennial is on until 12th June and I strongly urge you to go visit it. There are works by more than 70 artists spread across five different areas, you can find the locations mapped here. My work is in Gallery 3 in Al Mureijah Square. 


The opening week which included talks, performances and film screenings was fun and hectic. These are some of my highlights that I shared on Twitter during the week. I will try to share more highlights in the next few weeks. 





March 2017 Art Season Special 

March is here, which means it's Dubai's annual art season with a wide range of new exhibitions and events including "Art Week" between 12-18 MarchSIKKA 2016 (12-21 March)Design Days Dubai (14-17 March)Art Dubai (15-18 March), plus Galleries Night in Alserkal Avenue and Art Night at DIFC (both on 13 March). 

Below are my top 15 picks of exhibitions opening this month, plus a couple of talks and events. There are also some new exhibitions in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah that are worth checking out which I've included in my list. 

Additionally, it is also the year for the 13th edition of the Sharjah Biennial - which I am thrilled to say I am part of as one of the commissioned artists. I will be sharing a separate post about the biennial which is on from 10th March - 12 June 2017, but I do hope you get a chance to visit the activities during its opening week (10-14 March), also listed below. 

As I mentioned last year, there is a lot to see and do during "Art Week", but the good news is even if you can't attend every opening, most of the exhibitions will remain for a month or more. So pace yourself and enjoy what you see.


Everything is listed in, but here are my top picks in the order of their opening dates (click on each title if you want to see more information):   


1. But We Cannot See Them: Tracing a UAE Art Community, 1988-2008 
Gallery: NYUAD Art Gallery (Abu Dhabi)
Dates: 2nd March - 25th May 2017 

This exhibition surveys one of the most important artistic communities in the UAE’s history. Community has played a key role in every modern art historical breakthrough, with artists banding together around manifestos, or turning to one another for support when art institutions rejected their innovations. Art communities grow out of critical and creative exchange among peers and mentors. 

But We Cannot See Them focuses on one community of artists, sometimes called “the five”, at an intersection of visual artists, writers, and filmmakers based in the UAE. Its members identified with a “new culture” of encouraging radical, formal and conceptual experimentation. Eventually, some of these artists founded the celebrated Flying House. 

The exhibition includes work by Hassan Sharif, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Abdullah Al Saadi, Mohammed Kazem, Hussein Sharif, Vivek Vilasini, Jos Clevers and Ebtisam Abdulaziz. 


2. Once Upon A Time: Hadiqat Al Umma - Sadik Kwaish Alfraji
Gallery: Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah
Dates: 4th March - 6th May 2017  

Iraqi artist Sadik Kwaish Alfraji presents a panoramic multi-media installation reviving his childhood experience of Baghdad’s Hadiqat Al Umma. This park, full of plants, fountains and playgrounds, was a sanctuary from the city’s exhaust fumes and the blazing sun. It was surrounded by music and photography shops, cinemas, theatres, restaurants, cafés and markets.

Although it has lost much of its beauty over the years, the park remains a vivid memory in the artist’s mind and he uses his own visual and emotional recollections to recreate its rhythm. His beautiful drawings, which reimagine people seen there, are brought to life in black and white animations across 9 projectors. This installation will stir memories and emotions, conjuring a park that was a landmark in Baghdad and in the memory of generations of Iraqis. Alfraji’s recreation of the collective experience of this park in the 1970s belongs to his larger exploration of the loss, fragmentation and lapses in time that underline exile.  

3. Beloved Bodies II
Gallery: Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah
Dates: 4th March - 4th October 2017 

Beloved Bodies II  presents a compilation of artworks drawn from the Barjeel Art Foundation collection that investigate representations of the human body, traversing themes of language, landscape, trauma and remembrance. Each work alludes to the body in a variety of ways, ranging from more literal representations of physical forms to subtle references to bodily experiences in certain social, natural and political contexts.

The exhibition’s title is loosely inspired by French theorist Roland Barthes’ writings on the dynamics of love and desire. Barthes uses the term ‘beloved body’ to refer to the object of a lover’s desire, whether that is a person, an object or a place. The word l’autrethe other—is his way of describing the beloved or that which provokes in us a yearning to connect with or possess this other. In the grips of such longing, the body becomes a sensory device that responds to internal and external stimuli. Beloved Bodies II offers glimpses into different bodily encounters, including romantic and spiritual love, political oppression and gendered marginalisation. 

4. 66 Lbs - Said Atabekov
Gallery: Andakulova Gallery, Dubai     
Dates: 6th March - 12th May 2017        

66 Lbs by Said Atabekov features photo, video and site – specific installation to reflect on ancient nomadic tradition of Kazakhstan the game of Kokpar.

Kokpar is a Kazakh game played on horseback in which two teams compete to carry a headless goat carcass over the goal line.

The title of the exhibition 66 Lbs is from the mandatory weight of the animal carcass used for the game and cannot be just any weight. Heft is mandatory. It must weigh 66 pounds.   


5. The Creative Act: Performance, Process, Presence
Gallery: Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi 
Dates: 8th March - 8th July 2017 

The Creative Act: Performance, Process, Presence is the second exhibition of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collection. It brings together more than twenty artists of different nationalities and generations who have emphasised performance, process, and human presence in their practice. 

 The Creative Act offers a transcultural perspective on these defining aspects of contemporary art by highlighting interconnections among artists working in various corners of the globe since the 1960s. The works on view reveal common sources of inspiration, lines of influence, and distinctive contributions. Two commissions featured in the exhibition underscore the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s commitment to supporting the production of new work by living artists. 


6. Inside the Fire Circle - Mounir Fatmi
Gallery: Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai
Dates: 8th March - 27th April 2017 

The exhibition expands on the artist’s interest in the circle, its form and symbolic meaning throughout history. In particular, Fatmi examines the life of John Howard Griffin (1920 –1980), an American activist, journalist and author from Texas, who wrote about racial equality and was known for his fight against racial discrimination during the Civil Rights Movement. These two seemingly opposing themes connect through Fatmi’s interest in the idea of repetition, erasure, movement, and the tendency of history to repeat itself. As stated by art critic Lillian Davies in Fatmi’s monograph Suspect Language “Fatmi’s use of the circle marks a symbolic refutation of linearity.”

At the center of the exhibition is Inside the Fire Circle a new sculptural installation from which the exhibition takes its name.  Consisting of a configuration of jumper cables that spill out from a set of obsolete typewriters, their ends clipped to sheets of plain white paper, the installation reveals itself as a palimpsest of history, repeating itself over and over again. 


7. Stitches to Save 9 With - Fari Bradley
Gallery: The Mine, Dubai
Dates: 9th March - 25th April 2017 

Fari Bradley explores the nuances of language, history and memory. Contemplating either the usefulness or destructive nature of traditionally recited proverbs, truisms, and dictums alongside several new ones for today, Bradley renders them as signifiers, using textile and mixed media.

Stitches to Save 9 With pits the deliberate form of stitching against quickly spoken lines, fleeting inspirations and ‘quippage’. A proverbial expression, ‘a stitch in time saves nine' is an incentive: to mend a tear in a cloth, now, before it becomes larger and harder to mend. The ‘nine’ refers to the greater number of stitches that will be needed later, if one quick stitch isn't performed ‘in time’. This and other wise homilies in this body of work are falling out of use - just as hand stitching itself is disappearing.


8. Artist Run New York: The Seventies
Dates: 9th March
 - 30th June 2017
Gallery: Jean-Paul Najar Foundation  

Artist Run New York: The Seventies explores the transformation of contemporary art in 1970s New York. The exhibition looks at the vital role artists played in an artistic revolution that underscored multi-disciplinary collaborations that went beyond the visual arts to include performance, film, theatre, dance, writing and music. The blurring of these lines served to influence the trajectories of each discipline for decades to come.   


9. The Vast: Mirrors Of The Mind - Bill Viola 
Gallery: Leila Heller Gallery (Dubai) 
Dates: 9th March - 22nd April 2017 

A selection of pioneering video pieces, including works from the Sufi-inspired series Transfiguration Studies (2008), desert-based mediations on existence from the Mirage (2012) series, and the hauntingly infinite fluidity of the Water Portraits (2013), The Vast: Mirrors of the Mind seeks to reveal to the viewer the thematic relationships in Viola’s work of the portrayal of desert and water as emblematic of his explorations of the voyage of life and death, consciousness and reflection—East to West.


10. sagar - Lala Rukh
Gallery: Grey Noise
Dates: 9th March - 13th May 2017 

Lala Rukh’s first solo exhibition in Dubai entitled sagar comprises of a collection of enigmatic photographs of the sea that make her meditations on the nature of time and transience palpable.

As a parallel photographic practice, they locate Lala’s travels between years 1992-2005 and extend her better known drawing oeuvre such as ‘River in an Ocean’ series, 1992 also on display. The titles in the photographic sets mark sites across Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and Burma where as though a seafarer traversing with a lens, the artist has stopped to take stock.  


11. Sharjah Art Biennial 13: Tamawuj
Venue: Sharjah Art Foundation and various other venues 
Dates: 10th March - 12th June 2017 (Opening Week Programme 10-14 March)

Tamawuj, a noun in Arabic which is defined as a rising and falling in waves, but also a flowing, swelling, surging, fluctuation or a wavy undulating appearance outline or form, is reflective of SB13’s aims to cultivate collaborations, infrastructures and strategies within Sharjah and the project localities.

The Biennial poses questions around, and proposes answers to the conditions for the possibility of an art world. In a region currently being invested with larger institutions and lesser infrastructures, SB13 will cross from the ideal to the material. Vital interventions will stretch the idea of the biennial in order to traverse rooted contexts, harnessing the agility and fragility of present informal networks. 

Opening Week Programme can be found here.


12. Redemptive Narratives and Migrating Patterns - Samira Abbassy
Gallery: XVA Gallery, Dubai
Dates: 11th March - 25th May 2017

Redemptive Narratives and Migrating Patterns features , the second solo show of Samira Abbassy at XVA features works on paper and oil paintings on gesso panel, from 2002 to 2016.

Abbassy describes her work as an excavation of art history and an exploration of the Self; a form of autobiographical self-portraiture that draws from tradition, history and culture, whilst simultaneously offering contemporary ideas and reminders to the viewer.



13. Write Injuries on Sand and Kindness in Marble - Hera Büyüktaşçıyan 
Gallery: Green Art Gallery, Dubai
Dates: 13th March - 6th May 2017  

In her solo exhibition at Green Art Gallery, Write Injuries on Sand and Kindness in Marble, Hera Büyüktaşçıyan uses the space’s previous life as a marble factory as a starting point for questions about frameworks of power, labour, production and reconstruction of memory. 

Much of Büyüktaşçıyan’s work is defined by an architectural and anthropological approach, and she often favours site-specific installations inspired by the memories found within a place. She examines the way in which virtual spaces operate in relation to the physical, and how fragments of time and memory can be unearthed, restructured and woven together to bring to life a forgotten aspect of time and history. As ever, she also touches on larger issues of geopolitics, culture and ongoing change. 

Here, she examines the relationship between labour and productivity. The long-forgotten fingerprints of marble workers trigger deeper questions and reflections on the dynamics of the architecture of power, and the invisible builders whose hands shape the social, urban and historical landscape. Just as Büyüktaşçıyan believes in the functional memory embedded within the marble itself, so too she looks towards the marble workers as the living embodiment of the reconstruction of a virtual space, as each carries within them their own mental space of their own geography. 


14. Art Dubai Modern Symposium
Venue and dates: 13th March (Modern Lounge, Art Dubai, Madinat Jumeirah) and 17-18 March (Concrete, Alserkal Avenue) 

The inaugural edition of Art Dubai Modern Symposium is a series of talks and presentations focused on the life, work and cultural impact of 20th century masters from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.

Renowned curators, scholars and patrons lead the sessions that delve into the styles, influences and practices of artists whose work contributes to the history of art produced in the 20th century.  Topics include "Women and Modernity", "Preserving Modernism", the influence of spirituality in Modern art from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia and the incfluences by modernists from the Maghreb and South Asia. 

The complete schedule can be found here


15. Global Art Forum 11: Trading Places 
Venue: Art Dubai, Madinat Jumeirah
Dates: 15th-17th March 2017


Global Art Forum 11: Trading Places explores the relationship between the economy of goods and ideas that constantly shape who and where we are.

From ancient ports to the “New Silk Road” to algorithmic financial markets, the infrastructure of trade is also a geography of imagination and invention. It is also the foundation upon which Dubai and sibling Gulf cities have forged their pasts and their futures, from pearls to airports.

The complete schedule can be found here





Film and TV Viewing Log - February 2017

Silence, Martin Scorsese

Silence (Martin Scorsese, 2016)

Bunny Lake is Missing (Otto Preminger, 1965)
Interstellar (Christoper Nolan, 2014) 
Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986) 
Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)  
Jackie (Pablo Larrain, 2016) 
Snowden (Oliver Stone, 2016) 
John Wick: Chapter 2 (Chad Stahelski, 2017)  

Shampoo (Hal Ashby, 1975)
WarGames (John Badham, 1983)   
Meet Dave (Brian Robbins, 2008)  
By the Sea (Angelina Jolie, 2015)
Parisienne (Danielle Arbid, 2015)  
Cafe Society (Woody Allen, 2016)
A Decent Woman / Los decentes (Lukas Valenta Rinner, 2016)
Loving (Jeff Nichols, 2016) 
Sing Street (John Carney, 2016)
Split (M. Night Shyamalan, 2016)
Romance (Catherine Breillat, 1999) 


THX 1138 (George Lucas, 1971, 35mm)  
Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975) 
Letters from a Dead Man / Pisma mjortwowo tscheloweka (Konstantin Lopuschanski, 1986, 35mm) 
Strange Days (Kathryn Bigelow, 1995, 35mm)   
I Am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck, 2016) 
Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017)
In the Intense Now / No Intenso Agora  (João Moreira Salles, 2017)     

1984 (Michael Anderson), 1956, 35mm)
The Cotton Club (Francis Ford Coppola, 1984, 35mm)   
Seconds (John Frakenheimer, 1966, 35mm) 
World on a Wire / Welt am Draht (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1973)    
Casting (Nicolas Wackerbarth, 2017)
A Fantastic Woman / Una mujer fantástica  (Sebastián Lelio, 2017)  
Not Everyday is Spring (Haig Aivazian, 2017) 
On the Beach at Night Alone / Bamui haebyun-eoseo honja (Hong Sangsoo, 2017)  
The Other Side of Hope / Toivon tuolla puolen (Aki Kaurismäki, 2017) 

A Trip to Mars  / Himmelskibet (Holger-Madsen, 1918, 35mm)  
Aimless Bullet / Obaltan  (Yu Hyun-mok, 1961) 
Ikarie XB 1 (Jindřich Polák, 1963)  
On the Silver Globe / Na srebrnym globie  (Andrzej Żuławski, 1978/1989)  
Dark City (Alex Proyas, 1998, 35mm) 
Dayveon (Amman Abbasi, 2017) 
El Mar La Mar (Joshua Bonnetta, J.P. Sniadecki, 2017)  
Mama Colonel / Maman Colonelle  (Dieudo Hamadi, 2017) 
On Body and Soul / Testről és lélekről (Ildikó Enyedi, 2017)  
The Sea Stares at Us from Afar / El mar nos mira de lejos (Manuel Muñoz Rivas, 2017) 
Untitled (Michael Glawogger, Monika Willi, 2017)
Vazante (Daniela Thomas, 2017) 

Oh The Days / Alyam, Alyam (Ahmed El Maanouni, 1978)  
Oil Gobblers / Ropáci (Jan Svěrák, 1988, 35mm)  
Django (Etienne Comar, 2017) 
House in the Fields / Tigmi n Igren  (Tala Hadid, 2017) 
The Taste of Betel Nut  / Bing Lang Xue (Hu Jia, 2017)  
The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue / Yozora ha itsu demo saikou mitsudo no aoiro da (Yuya Ishii, 2017)  

Berlinale 2017  

I've just come back from 67th edition of Berlinale (my second time since 2014). I had a great week of watching new and old films at the film festival. 

There's always a feeling of missing out no matter what you see becauase of the number of films screening at Berlinale, so you just have to go with the flow and see what you can each day. 

The misses are usually more than the hits at Berlinale and out of the 19 new films I watched, I only loved/really liked six of them: 
  • Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino)  
  • A Fantastic Woman / Una mujer fantástica  (Sebastián Lelio) 
  • I Am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck) 
  • In the Intense Now / No Intenso Agora  (João Moreira Salles)  
  • On the Beach at Night Alone / Bamui haebyun-eoseo honja (Hong Sangsoo) 
  • The Other Side of Hope / Toivon tuolla puolen (Aki Kaurismäki) 

As for the Homage and Retrospective sections, I loved most of it and it was more or less what actually made me go to the festival. The Homage section was dedicated to year is dedicated to costume designer Milena Canner, and it included a screening of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, a film I have been holding off to see because I wanted my first viewing to be on the big screen. Glad I waited all this time, because the film is exquisite and deserves to be only watched on the big screen. It truly is a masterpiece. 

The Retrospective section was dedicated science fiction films and was titled "Future Imperfect: Science - Fiction - Film". It included a fantastic list of films, many were screened on 35mm and I was glad to discover lots of old films I had not seen before. One screening even included live piano, it was for A Trip to Mars (Holger-Madsen, 1918). One of the highlights from this section was watching my first Rainer Werner Fassbinder, World on a Wire / Welt am Draht from 1973. Quite apt to see my fist Fassbinder film in Berlin. 

Below is the complete list of films I watched and my rating for each one. I will share my thoughts of some of the films in the next post.    

Films I watched, listed according to the sections they were in: 

Django (Etienne Comar) ★★
A Fantastic Woman / Una mujer fantástica  (Sebastián Lelio)  ★★★★ 
On Body and Soul / Testről és lélekről (Ildikó Enyedi)  ★★★
On the Beach at Night Alone / Bamui haebyun-eoseo honja (Hong Sangsoo) ★★★★
The Other Side of Hope / Toivon tuolla puolen (Aki Kaurismäki) ★★★★

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) ★★★★★ 
I Am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck) ★★★★★  
In the Intense Now / No Intenso Agora  (João Moreira Salles) ★★★★★   
The Taste of Betel Nut  / Bing Lang Xue (Hu Jia) ★★
Untitled (Michael Glawogger, Monika Willi) ★★★
Vazante (Daniela Thomas) ★★★

Aimless Bullet / Obaltan  (Yu Hyun-mok, 1961) ★★★
Casting (Nicolas Wackerbarth) ★★★★  
Dayveon (Amman Abbasi) ★★★
El Mar La Mar (Joshua Bonnetta, J.P. Sniadecki) 
House in the Fields / Tigmi n Igren  (Tala Hadid) ★★
Mama Colonel / Maman Colonelle  (Dieudo Hamadi) ★★★
Not Everyday is Spring (Haig Aivazian) ★★★★
Oh The Days / Alyam, Alyam (Ahmed El Maanouni, 1978) ★★
The Sea Stares at Us from Afar / El mar nos mira de lejos (Manuel Muñoz Rivas) ★★★
The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue / Yozora ha itsu demo saikou mitsudo no aoiro da (Yuya Ishii) ★★

Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975) ★★★★★
The Cotton Club (Francis Ford Coppola, 1984, 35mm) ★★★★

1984 (Michael Anderson), 1956, 35mm) ★★★★
Dark City (Alex Proyas, 1998, 35mm) ★★★
Ikarie XB 1 (Jindřich Polák, 1963) ★★★
Letters from a Dead Man / Pisma mjortwowo tscheloweka (Konstantin Lopuschanski, 1986, 35mm) ★★★★★ 
Oil Gobblers / Ropáci (Jan Svěrák, 1988, 35mm) ★★
On the Silver Globe / Na srebrnym globie  (Andrzej Żuławski, 1978/1989) ★★★
Seconds (John Frakenheimer, 1966, 35mm) ★★★★
Strange Days (Kathryn Bigelow, 1995, 35mm) ★★★★★  
THX 1138 (George Lucas, 1971, 35mm) ★★★★★ 
A Trip to Mars  / Himmelskibet (Holger-Madsen, 1918, 35mm) ★★★
World on a Wire / Welt am Draht (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1973)  ★★★★★ 

If you are interested, these are the posts I shared on Twitter whilst I was in Berlin:

Film and TV Viewing Log - January 2017

A Simple Life (Ann Hui, 2011)

A Simple Life (Ann Hui, 2011) 

The Young Girls of Rochefort (Jacques Demy, 1967)
The Family Fang (Jason Bateman, 2015)
The Witness (James Soloman, 2015)
Dangal (Nitesh Tiwari, 2016)
Hacksaw Ridge (Mel Gibson, 2016)
The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi, 2016) 

A Christmas Story (Bob Clark, 1983)
The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (Eric Rohmer, 2007) 
Putin's Kiss (Lise Birk Pedersen, 2011)
Krisha (Trey Edward Shults, 2015) 
Amanda Knox (Brian McGinn, Rod Blackhurst, 2016)
Assassin's Creed (Justin Kurtzel, 2016) 
Sand Storm (Elite Zexer, 2016) 

The Danish Girl (Tom Hooper, 2015)
Christine (Antonio Campos, 2016)  
Weiner Dog (Todd Solondz, 2016) 

NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center - Performances in February 2017

The new season of performances at the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center is upon us. The line up in February is packed with a wide range of musicians and singers, there is something for everyone. The new season will also see the opening of the Red Box Theatre which I am looking forward to. 

All the events are free to attend, but you must book tickets online in advance. Click on each title below for more information.  


Bang on a Can All-Stars
Date: Thursday, 2nd February at 8.00pm
Venue: Red Theater at NYUAD Arts Center

A new definition of concert music. Join us in the Red Theater for the world premiere of Wahat al Karamah by Mohammed Fairouz. Awarded Musical America’s Ensemble of the year and freely crossing the boundaries between classical, jazz, rock, world, and experimental music. New York’s electric chamber ensemble Bang on a Can All-Stars has consistently forged a distinct category-defying identity, taking


Steel Hammer
Date: Thursday, 9th February at 2.00pm & 8.00pm
Venue: Red Theater at NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center


The legend of John Henry, deeply rooted in Appalachian folklore surrounding the construction of the American railroad, has existed in many variations and forms – from illustration to tall tale, political polemic to popular song. Steel Hammer, the latest collaboration from composer Julia Wolfe, SITI Company, and Bang on a Can All-Stars, creatively explores the subject of human vs. machine and the cost of hard labor on the human body and soul. 

Based on hearsay and recollection, and culling from vibrant American oral traditions, Steel Hammer incorporates lyrics and music by Julia Wolfe and text from four remarkable American playwrights—Kia Corthron, Will Power, Carl Hancock Rux, and Regina Taylor. Directed by Anne Bogart, performers take on wooden bones, mountain dulcimer, step dancing, and more as they explore the human impulse to tell stories and this quintessential American tale. 


Barzakh Festival - Day 1: Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Gnawa, Noura Mint Seymali
Date: Thursday, 16th February at 7:30pm
Venue: East Plaza at NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center

Aziz Sahmaoui brings together his musical passions — gnawa, rock and jazz— in a globe-trotting collaboration with high-flying Senegalese experimentalists with special guest Naissam Jalal. Led by composer, poet, and guembri player Samhaoui, a co-founding member of the influential Orchestre National de Barbes (ONB) and alumnus of Joe Zawinul’s Syndicate, University of Gnawa brings together gnawa roots, unstoppable choruses and emotional flights of improvisation, supporting richly layered poetic lyrics. Aziz’s bewitching voice, adept at alternating between the inflections of a bluesman, a muezzin, and a crooner, pulls us inexorably into his poetic universe where any bitterness of the day to day melts away into a jubilatory energy. 


Noura Mint Seymali is the Islamic Republic of Mauritania’s defining artist on the international stage. Drawing deep on the timeless repertoire of the Moorish griots, a hereditary class of musical poet/historians, her band conjures. “a full blown sandstorm of hypnotic grooves, melding traditional Mauritanian instruments, like the ardine and tidinite, within an electrified psychedelic rock band.” – The Quietus(UK). 


Barzakh Festival - Day 2: DakhaBrakha, Dengue Fever, Red Baraat
Date: Friday, February 17 at 6.00pm 
Venue: East Plaza at NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center   

Ukrainian “ethno chaos” band DakhaBrakha craft stunning new sonic worlds for traditional songs, reinventing their heritage with a keen ear for contemporary resonances. With one foot in the urban avant-garde and the other foot in Ukrainian village culture, DakhaBrakha shows the full fury and sensuality of some of Eastern Europe’s most breathtaking folklore. 



“Before it was partly Cambodian and partly indie rock…Now it’s 100 percent both.” Widely recognized for their trademark blend of 60’s Cambodian pop, garage and psychedelic rock, Dengue Fever’s have cross-pollinated their musical palette even further to include Khmer rap, Latin grooves, Afro percussion, layered Stax-like horns and more. 



Famously dubbed “The best party band in years” by NPR, Red Baraat is a pioneering eight-piece band from Brooklyn, New York. Conceived by dhol player Sunny Jain, the group has drawn worldwide praise for its singular sound — a merging of hard driving North Indian Bhangra with elements of go-go, rock and jazz — fueled by 3 master rhythm makers, the muscle of horns, a raucous guitar and a booming sousaphone.  


Trisha Brown: In Plain Site
Date: Friday 24th and Saturday 25th February at 11.00am and 4.00pm
Venue: Black Box at NYUAD Arts Center and various plazas around the NYUAD campus

Photo credits: Kat Schleicher

This site specific program illuminates Trisha Brown’s fifty years of dances, recombining earlier works to be performed in unexpected locations. 

Trisha Brown Dance Company’s new performance program, allows Brown’s dances to be freed from the constrictions of the conventional stage and to be once again performed in unexpected locations. But unlike her previous site-specific adventures, Trisha Brown: In Plain Site mines and then recombines material from her vast repertory to accommodate the unique spatial demands of the particular venue. 

Note: This performance begins in the Black Box and then will travel to various non-seated locations throughout the campus. All performances will be followed by Q&A’s with the artists.

Come early for pre-show artist talks at 10.00am and 3.00pm.  


Al Amal Hospital - Architectural Visual Diary


Early afternoon on Friday, 13th January, I received a message from a friend with the image you see above, telling me about the soon to be demolised Al Amal Hospital in Jumeirah, Dubai's first psychiatric hospital. That part of Dubai has gone through a major gentrification process by Meraas with the demolition of lots of low rise buildings and houses to make way from a new low rise apartment and office buildings and shopping malls, most notably, City Walk

I had assumed the hospital was already demolished, so was suprised to see the message my friend sent me. Needless to say, I went to take look. 

I took some photos whilst I was there, but was also frustrated that there is no concerted efforts to protect buildings from the 1980s. We keep getting told only buildings that are older than 40 years would need permission before demoltion, which means anything just under 40 years old are being wiped out without any thought of preservation, and it almost feels like a deliberate effort to demolish buildings that just turned 30 years old to avoid the discussion of preservation. 

The National published two Calls to preserve UAE’s modern architectural heritage and Old structures are part of UAE’s memory, conservationists say two days after the pop up exhibition, but I just feel the pleas are falling on deaf ears.   

An extract from Calls to preserve UAE’s modern architectural heritage 

A group of artists organised an exhibition of pictures documenting the long white corridors and date palm-lined courtyards of the psychiatric hospital, which was built in the 1980s. 

Art student Shamma Al Amri is among volunteers from the Hope Initiative who spent time with patients for art therapy workshops. They also fell in love with the building.

"We saw it was such a gem in the middle of Dubai and we were mesmerised by the architecture that takes you back to the 1980s, when a lot of us were born," Ms Al Amri said.

"The building has a deep significance, with courtyards showing how people functioned in our society."

Now that patients have been moved to a new centre in Al Aweer the building is being prepared for demolition, stripped of cables, doors and windows.

Only buildings constructed 40 years ago or earlier need permission for demolition from the municipality’s architectural heritage department.

The group has called on authorities and experts to use the structure as a cultural centre or library. 


Here are photos I took when I visited the space. 




Etihad Museum in Dubai

I recently visited the new Etihad Museum. Here's a glimpse of what I saw. I plan to go again because some of the spaces were not open. There's also a very good exhibition titled Emirates to the World: Postal History from 1909 to Unification. There was a no photography sign in that exhibition space, so unfortunately I don't have any images from it, but I do strongly recommend you visit. 

Unfortunately, the Etihad Museum isn't updated with information about exhibition, but this link has the information about hours and entry fees

Here are some photos I took which I shared on Twitter.





Road trip to Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah

Earlier this month I drove to Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah, the highest point of the United Arab Emirates, at 1,892 m (6,207 feet) above sea level. It is approximately two hours from Dubai.

I had heard about the zig zag road that goes up the mountain and read about the mountain, so I wanted to experience it in person and to take photos too. 

I recommend you make this trip if you haven't already, especially before it starts getting hot. There are a few toilet stops along the way to the top of the mountain and at one point there are a couple of food trucks too. Yes, food trucks. They really are everywhere today. There are no petrol stations nearby so make sure you have a full tank before heading to the mountain.
I noticed lots of families finding picnic spots, and unfortunately, I also noticed lots of rubbish left behind. Despite the availability of dustbin by the local municipality and the signs about getting fined for not throwing rubbish in dustbins. It's upsetting to see people not cleaning up after themselves and maybe there needs to be a mountain patrol system that drives around, especially on weekends to make sure people don't leave their rubbish behind.  

Here are the photos I took, these were shot on 35mm and 120mm film, I have not taken photos with my film camera for a while and glad to be carrying it with me again. There's also one video clip too. 

Towards Jebel Jais

Jebel Jais
I stumbled upon this celebration during the drive up the mountain. Was told it was to celebrate a new born baby.

All photos © Hind Mezaina

Exhibition and Talk Series: Is Old Gold? 

Artwork by Hussain Sharif 

Is Old Gold? is an exhibition curated by Cristiana de Marchi and Muhanad Ali, opening at DUCTAC (Dubai Community Theatre and Art Centre, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai) on Tuesday, 21st February 2017.

It pairs 10 artists from the current generation of artists ((including yours truly) with 5 artists (Hassan SharifMohammed Ahmed IbrahimMohammed KazemAbdullah Al Saadi and Hussain Sharifwho were part of the UAE avant-garde contemporary art practice in the 1970s.

Looking at spirit of experimentation that was present at that time, Is Old Gold? aims to ask "how and why this narrative has been aborted, lost or evolved and if it can, or should be recovered in the current context". The exhibition suggests a gap has emerged between today's generation and the previous one and asks if it is "due to disparate socio-political concerns by the UAE’s rapidly shifting contexts, or is it the result of other, more inherently personal, motivations and choices" and seeks to find out if this gap can be filled". 

The 10 artists who were invited to participate in this exhibition are: 

  • Maitha Abdalla 
  • Amal Al Khaja   
  • Shaikha Al Mazrou
  • Taqwa Al Naqbi
  • Fatima Albudoor   
  • Moza Almatrooshi 
  • Hind Mezaina
  • Alaa Edris
  • Alia Lootah 
  • Jumairy     

In a comparative experiment that takes the form of a fictional narrative, two artists from the contemporary ‘younger’ generation of Emirati artists were assigned to work separately on a ‘character’ from the ‘5 UAE’. The experimental, productive structure of the exhibition reflects on the atelier atmosphere of innovative exchange initiated by Hassan Sharif and transmuted and sustained by four of his students – Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Mohammed Kazem, Abdullah Al Saadi and Hussain Sharif.

This hypothetical experimental structure, wryly reminiscent of a family tree, is the result of perceived dislocation between these generations and seeks to describe the qualities of this creative, methodological and pedagogical gap.

'Is Old Gold?' straddles this gap, presenting creative acts of remembrance and reconsideration alongside games of fantasy and, equally telling, utterly disconnected pieces that are the product of defiance or disengagement.   


Leading to the opening of the exhibition, there will be series of weekly talks starting on Tuesday, 24th January 2017 which will be moderated by Cristiana de Marchi and will include some of the artists from the exhibition alongside leading writers, curators, academics and culture producers in the UAE. It's a good line up of topics which will ask some important questions. I hope it will create valuable and thought provoking discussions about the art scene in the country. 

Below is the information about the talks. I will be part of the panel on 14th January. Hope you can attend one, two, three or all four talks and hope you can make it to the exhibition too. 

Tuesday, 24th January, 7pm at DUCTAC's Art Forum

Knowledge Transmission: From The Atelier To Remote Teaching – Dominions Of Ideas And Inheritance

What roles have formal and informal education played in the UAE? Is there a shared cross-generational pedagogy despite apparent divergence? What necessitated the marked departure from the organic structures that propelled the creative spirit of the avant-garde ‘UAE 5’ to today’s more formal institutional approach? Whathas been lost and what has thrived as a result of this shift? 

Cristiana de Marchi will moderate a panel with filmmaker and writer Nujoom Al Ghanem, artist Fatima Albudoor, artist, cultural producer and curator Roberto Lopardo and academic Elizabeth Stoney for a discussion on the history of UAE artistic “educations” – both formal and informal.  


Tuesday, 31st January, 7pm at DUCTAC's Art Forum 31

Imitation, Plagiarism And Tribute: Recurrences In Visual Arts 

How has the apparatus of the colossal international art world infiltrated, shaped and informed art practices in the UAE? Can a local-centric approach counter the press of the international? How does the conflation of these two systems, the local and the international, the emergent and the established, engender a spectrum of issues from isolation to imitation? Can self-sustainability be forged in these conditions? Is a kind of plagiarism via generational recurrence and resonance inevitable?

Cristiana de Marchi will moderate this panel with artist Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, anthropologist Beth Derderian, academic, curator and cultural producer Dr. Nina Heydemann and artist Hind Mezaina as they investigate the relationship between international and local systems and the risks of becoming derivative in attempts to forge both an individual and a shared artistic identity. 


Tuesday, 7th February, 7pm at DUCTAC's Art Forum  

The Validation System: Self-Sustainability Or Foreign Acknowledgement?  

As local artists forge internationally renowned careers, what balance can be struck between the local and the global? What defines success across different audiences and for the self? Can a career be made locally or is engagement with international narratives always necessary? What are the different tools of promotion and recognition available to local artists and how should they be combined? 

Cristiana de Marchi moderates a discussion between director of Art Dubai and former Editor of Canvas magazine Myrna Ayad, internationally published art expert, public speaker, and advisor to diverse arts initiatives Mahnaz Fancy, artist Alia Lootah and gallerist Isabelle van den Eynde as they consider the roles played by art fairs, institutional shows, biennials and artist residencies in the composition of a successful yet self-actuated career.  


Tuesday, 14th February, 7pm at DUCTAC's Art Forum  

The Valley In Between: Generational Disconnections, Divergent Agendas Or A Possible Continuity?  

As the cultural and social context of the UAE shifts perpetually, what are the threads of continuity that could make up a shared generational connection? Are there any common agendas between these divergent generations? As the infrastructure shifts, is there any possible continuity between the UAE avant-garde and the youngest generation of contemporary practitioners? What is inherited, shared and propagated? What is lost? 

Cristiana di Marchi moderates with artist Shaikha Al Mazrou, curator and writer Muhanad Ali (DUCTAC), curator of NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery Maya Allison and writer Kevin Jones in a discussion on generational disconnection and possibly sustained continuities.    


Detailed information about the artists and the speakers can be found on the exhibition's website The talks and the exhibition will be at DUCTAC, located in Mall of the Emirtaes in Dubai.