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Donald Weber talk at Gulf Photo Plus on 14th January 2015

Donald Weber - Omaha Beach Shrapnel #188, Sector Dog White From the Series ‘War Sand,’ Work-in-Progress

Gulf Photo Plus will be hosting a talk with VII photographer and 2015 World Press Photo jury Donald Weber on Wednesday, 14th January 2015 at 7pm.

The talk is free to attend, but you need to register here before attending. 

Donald Weber will discuss his newest work-in-progress, War Sand, a project about science, history and the meanings of sacrifice. Looking at the D-Day beaches of Normandy, Weber encompasses micro-archeology, landscape photography, geology and physics to examine the remnants of war, from a sub-atomic to cosmological level.

Weber will discuss the genesis of the idea, from initial inspiration through to the final images, offering an inside view on the creation and complications of long form stories.


Weber is the author of three books and recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Lange-Taylor Prize, the Duke and Duchess of York Prize, two World Press Photo Awards, PDN’s 30, was named an Emerging Photo Pioneer by American Photo and shortlisted for the prestigious Scotiabank Photography Prize.

Read more about Weber on his VII profile here and see more of his work on his website here.


Galleries Night at Alserkal Avenue on 12th January 2015

Alserkal Avenue will have its first Galleries Night of the year on Monday, 12th January. There are lots of new exhibitions opening that night between 6-9pm. Here's what to expect:


Carbon 12

Disjointed figures laze in the afternoon sun and recline bikini clad as they accept drinks from fully dressed figures. We re-live the heyday of 1950’s Americana. 

The new paintings by Portuguese artist Gil Heitor Cortesão, maintain the aqueous dimensions and his signature corrosion of subject and image present in his past works, but the decay is deeper this season.  

Cortesao’s figures were once wraiths in the background, the figures now stand boldly in their corporal domination of the scene. They are the vision of decay and the subject of undulating plains of existence. Like water the figures endlessly move within their form, never fully contained or still.

Green Art Gallery
Zsolt Bodoni, Untitled, 2014, oil and acrylic on canvas, 160 x 200 cm
Drawing from various historical archives including literature, art history and music, Zsolt Bodoni‘s paintings function in an archaeological manner, peeling back layers of history, inspired by found images and various other documentation. Corrupting the 'original' file that we have come to understand as 'the true interpretation of events', Bodoni is interested in redefining our understanding of past and present realities. 

The new series of paintings take Labanism as their starting point, a form of dance that was coined after Rudolf Laban (1879 – 1958), the Hungarian dance artist and theorist, notable as one of the pioneers of modern dance in Europe. Bodoni became interested in Laban’s ideals at that time, which questioned the traditional constraints against showing feeling using one’s own body, but was however taken by the photographic documentation of that era which carried a strange and dark atmosphere. 

Grey Noise
Benjamin Senior - Beacon Hill 2014 Oil on linen 100 x 150 cm
Benjamin Senior's paintings depict wholesome activities of exercise, play and walking in nature. His healthy figures inhabit a geometric, structured world. Even the verdant landscapes are brought to order with crisply delineated fields and forests. Yet tensions run through the paintings to give a sense of a structure on the brink of collapse.

The enclosure of the show's title refers to the artist's attempt to create a contained world in which his thoughts on representation, formalism and narrative can play out.

Gulf Photo Plus 

Everyday Middle East  
Left: © Laura Boushnak Right: © Ahmad Mousa

Everyday Middle East is an Instagram feed featuring mobile phone images by 25 professional photographers working in the Middle East and North Africa. Founded in March 2014, Everyday Middle East has collected more than 46,000 followers on Instagram with 520 mobile phone photos posted in the last 8 months. 

Everyday Middle East is part of a network of Everyday Projects, which also include Everyday Africa, Everyday Asia and Everyday USA. The projects cross-publish with each other and are currently collaborating to create a non-profit organization.

Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde
Niyaz Azadikhah - Poinsettia, 2014, Single channel video, colour, no sound 32 sec, loop
Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde felt there was no need to staple a clever title onto this show of 11 artists, because Nice Drawings came about via a simple request for some of the gallery’s friends and collaborators to send over a new drawing. The responses were neither conventional or necessarily ‘nice’ drawings:

Pencil-like lines are formed in an unthreaded rice bag; bikinied women wrestle on a barren beach of blank paper, (an animation composed of hundreds of hand-drawn frames). A sculptural ink drawing of a mauve mountain range reveals its grandeur to be nothing more than a flimsy film set. Nonsensical faux-architectural drawings depict a room in absurd dimensions, shreds of family photographs are finished and made caustic with graphite, the rigidity of lines on a grid is only a cover for artful errors.

The Mojo Gallery 
From Palestine, Zimbabwe and Syria, faces emerge and meet in expressive forms filled with sadness, defiance, scorn, questions and at times cries. Faces and figures searching the surreal sky stormy with gunpowder for a sense of freedom. A moment of respite from injustice in a world shaped by the lust for power, tormented by repression and human indifference.

Three remarkable and unique points-of-view shaped and touched by first hand experiences. Yet all united by the enduring human spirit to pursue an existence lived with simple dignity. 

‘ILAT’ is a moving, intimate and inspiring exhibition exploring spiritual life by venturing into the imagination of the African people. Born in Manama (Bahrain), Hesham Malik presents his African journey for the first time through the medium of 25 works of art.

Malik’s ‘ILAT’ artworks are both philosophical and mystical; intertwined with the complexities of ancient beliefs. The exhibition presents a thought- provoking collection in which stories unfold and where the solitary culture of African tribes is revealed. 

Lawrie Shabibi
Nathaniel Rackowe - SP12, 2012, Powder coated scaffolding tubes, fluorescent light, scaffolding clamps 180 x 56 x 10 cm

Nathaniel Rackowe considers light to be one material in his palette as an artist, using it throughout his practice as both a surface and a point of origin. The title of the show reflects these parallel traits: 'trajectory' is a precise, mathematical term, referring to the source, direction and line that light can travel - but when prefixed by 'radiant' it takes on a more ethereal quality, the overall effect perhaps greater than the sum of its parts. 

The exhibition will bring together existing works and new pieces that have been inspired by Rackowe's recent visit to Dubai. It will combine wall-based neon works and freestanding sculptures, which all share a fascination with the perception of light. 

Event details

Date: Monday, 12th January 2015, 6-9pm
Venue: Alserkal Avenue, Street 8, Al Quoz 1 (location map/how to get there)

Cinema at The Space - January 2015

Cinema at The Space
 is celebrating the Sundance Film Festival this month and screening a selection of films that were first seen at that festival.

The screenings take place at The Space in Abu Dhabi (twofour54 Park Rotana Building), and are free, but you must RSVP in advance.

Here's the line up for this month: 


Monday, 12th January at 7.30pm 

Half Nelson, dir. Ryan Fleck (2006) 

Wednesday, 14th January at 7:30pm

Iraq in Fragments, dir. James Longley (2006)

Monday, 19th January at 7:30pm

Winter's Bone, dir. Debra Granik (2010)

Wednesday, January 21st at 7:30pm

5 Broken Cameras, dir. Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi (2013)

Monday, 26th January at 7:30pm

Fruitvale Station, dir. Ryan Coogler (2013)

Wednesday, 28th January at 7:30pm

Man on Wire, dir. James Marsh (2008) 



Charlie Brooker's 2014 Wipe

Charlie Brooker is back with another annual look at events, and it is funny.

You can watch it on BBC iPlayer and if you don't have access to it, here's the episode found on YouTube. 

Charlie Brooker is back for his annual review of the year, in which he reviews the year known formally as 2014. Mixing the biggest news of the year with the funny and bizarre, along with brilliant guests, it provides a welcome break from the family who still haven't left.

The end of the year is often marked by a morbid sense of self-reflection, so why not join Charlie and laugh at others instead?


So many funny lines in this, but here are a couple of my favourites and relevent to my part of the world:

- The segment about the "Happy in Tehran" video which led to the arrest of the dancers in it and the filmmaker. Brooker said "they don't like Pharrell in Iran, they prefer Shariah Carey". Get it... Hilarious. 

- The segment about ISIS, "...sadly this lot put the hate in caliphate." 


Besides the laughs, there's a segment with Adam Curtis which is brilliant. It's about how nothing in the news makes sense or adds up - and who is benefiting from charge of will make you pause. Here's what I am talking about if you don't have time to watch the entire episode. 


Speaking of Adam Curtis, I cannot wait for his new film Bitter Lake which will screen on BBC iPlayer on 25th January. Here's more information about it. 



Systems for a Score by Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver

Systems for a Score is a new exhibition at Tashkeel featuring work by Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver. The exhibition will open on Wednesday, 7th January 2015 and will go on till Saturday, 14th February 2014. 

About the exhibition:

Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver construct a possible 'grammar of sound' from its own physical, occluded principles. Through the reiteration of sound across a series of forms, Systems for a Score delineates the subtle capacity of sound to bridge actual and imagined states.

Systems for a Score experiments with different patterns and technologies of sound-making, triggering our innate ability to decode, decipher and extract compositional or rhythmic patterns from both visual and audible matter. 
The exibition challenges and capitalises on our perception of listening as a sensory experience conditioned by context, and explores how sound can be used to delineate the invisible or intangible while at odds with expected visual representations. 

A Model Studio, the central installation, creates a space for collective, cumulative experience where sound is a tool for communication. Working from the studio during the exhibition and inviting musicians and artists met while in the UAE, Bradley and Weaver take as a departure point for both visual and audible patterns, traditional Emirati sadoo weaving.

The weave appears implicitly similar to coded sound in its repetitive yet imperfect patterns, signifying the hand of the maker in the fractionally irregular knots and stitches. These irregularities and shapes in the weave also inspired graphics taken from an 80s Atari game console that was physically modified by the artists.  

 I am really lookig forward to this. 

Exhibition details
Date: Thursday, 8th January - Saturday, 14th February 2015 (opening night - 7th January 7.00pm-10pm)
Venue: Tashkeel Studio and Gallery, Nad Al Sheba 1, Dubai (location map)



Happy New Year 


Happy new year. I saw this sign a few weeks ago in Dubai and think it's an appropriate message to share with you here for the new year.

So many of us are always busy and in a hurry, so here's to a year of slowing down, or "slow speed" as this sign says. 

Personally, 2014 was a fun year for me and hope for more adventures in 2015. Last January, I said my wish for 2014 was to focus on my photography, which to an extent I did, in addition to lots of travelling and attending film festivals.  

For this year, I plan to continue focusing on my photography, and with an upcoming artist residency I should be able to focus all my energy on producing new work. (Will tell you more about this artist residency in a separate blogpost soon.)

We all go through our ups and downs and hope 2015 will have more ups for each and everyone of us. When it came to world news, 2014 was one of the most depressing years. Here's hoping for a better 2015.

And the words of Pet Shop Boys, "I hope it's gonna be alright..."





My 2014 Highlights

Outside Louisiana Museum, Copenhagen

2014 has been a fun year for me. It included quite a few trips to Europe (London, Berlin, Copenhagen, Paris, Amsterdam) and I started working on a couple of photography projects and attended a few film festivals (attending the Berlinale was a major highlight for me). 

I also got to see a lot of exhibitions in the UAE and abroad, my list of favourites can be found here.

In the UAE, the arts and culture calendar was as busy as ever, especially in March. Some of my favourite discoveries that month included: 
Domino Dancing by Anahita Razmi found in Carbon 12's booth at Art Dubai (the whole video is six and a half hours long, but here's a very short extract) 

"The video Domino Dancing is showing a group of dancers participating in a Dance Marathon Party, that was organized in a Tehran livingroom in January 2014. As the only party music, the chorus line of Pet Shop Boys Hit "Domino Dancing" is repeated over & over again (ALL DAY ALL DAY WATCH THEM ALL FALL DOWN, ALL DAY ALL DAY, DOMINO DANCING). The dancing to these two lines goes on for hours, until - one by one - the dancers drop out of the race.

Dancing, mixed gender parties, western music & alcohol are officially forbidden in Iran, - still people gather in private homes to sidestep restrictions. The work is relating to that hidden way of rebellion, - but by using the format of a dance marathon, the symbolic uprising is superimposed by an exhausting and demoralizing loop of ever-repeating body movement. WATCH THEM ALL FALL DOWN sings Neil Tenant over and over again, the forecast of the dancers dropping out, one after another, is inevitable.

The opening of East Wing a new photography gallery was a much needed and welcome addition to the list of galleries in the UAE. Its aim is to develop "an international platform for photography to open up new dialogues in photography, with a keen eye on innovated artistic practice". 

In April I attended a workshop hosted by Maraya Art Centre in Sharjah, with the Amsterdam based research platform Failed Architecture. We focused on Bank Street and the discussions and work from it reinvigorated me from a creative slump.  I wrote about it here and here


After a long and hot summer, the art season in Dubai started with a series of talks about sound art presented by sound artists Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver

I got to see Patti Smith at Abu Dhabi Art where she performed Killer Road on the opening night. 
Killer Road is a sound exploration of the tragic death of Nico, Velvet Underground vocalist and 60s icon, while riding her bike on the island of Ibiza in the summer of 1988. A hypnotic meditation on the idea of perpetual motion and the cycle of life and death, the composition features Patti Smith lending her unique voice to the last poems written by the artist.
I also really enjoyed  Automobile by Joe Namy at Abu Dhabi Art, a variable channel sound performance of cars with super modified stereo systems. It was actually a lot of fun and wish it was a performance that was open to the wider public. Here are a couple of Vines I took that night:


Music wise, I did not attend as many music gigs as I wanted to this year, but I did enjoy the small and intimate concert at The Fridge with Michael Rexen in January.

On a glorious sunny day in London in June, I saw Acid Brass  and Jeff Mills at Southbank Centre in London, it was a great day of music for me.  

Back in Dubai, DUST night with the Flamnigods concert at The Music Room and the Sub-Sonic Live gig featuring Jagwar Ma, Zahed Sultan and Andy Buchan in October were fun.  
Michael Rexen at The Fridge
Acid Brass, Southbank, London
Jeff Mills - The Trip, Southbank, London
Flamingods at The Music Room
Sub-Sonic Live - Jagwar Ma
Sub-Sonic Live - Zahed Sultan
Sub-Sonic Live - Andy Buchan

On a personal note, I threw a party to celebrate 4 3/4 years of the blog in September which turned out to be a lot of fun. The blog turned 5 in December

My work in Vantage Point 2, Sharjah Art FoundationIn March I exhibited a new series of photographs titled Deira Polaroids at SIKKA and my Al Khazzan Park series at Tashkeel
Here's to more adventures and trips in 2015. 

Top 30 Films of 2014

I’ve always enjoyed reading top film lists of the year, but I’ve never had a chance to share my own, mainly because not many films I want to see get released in the United Arab Emirates. 

But this year was different, I attended quite a few film festivals this year, Berlinale, CPH PIX, Abu Dhabi Film Festival, IDFA and Dubai International Film Festival, plus I got to see lots of films during my travels this year.

So here's my list. It includes feature films, documentaries, one short film and a few old films that I got to see on the big screen. 


30. The Aftermath of the Inauguration of the Public Toilet at Kilometer 375 - Director: Omar El Zohairy

One of my favourite film titles this year, and despite its length, this is a short film (only one on this list) that is 18 minutes long.

Set in Egypt, it is an adaptation of the short story "Death of a Government Clerk" by Anton Chekhov.

The film is about fear, seeking forgiveness and approval set in a corporate and bureaucratic world. 

I loved the minimal look of the film. 





29. Theeb - Director: Naji Abu Nowar

An impressive first feature film for its director Naji Abu Nowar and for the non-actors featured in it.

About Bedouin pride, hospitality, brotherhood and growing up too quickly. 

A poignant film and strong visual story telling set in the Jordanian desrt in the early 1900s.

I saw this at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in October and I hope more people will get to see it in 2015.

A film that will be featured in the the list of top Arab films in the years to come. 




28. La Rabbia - Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini (1963)

This was screened at IDFA (International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam) in November.

Told through a series of archival news footage, it's a scathing commentary (La Rabbia is Rage in English) narrated by Pier Paolo Pasolini on capitalism, class struggle, colonialism, decolonisation, war and discontent. 

It's quite an intense film, and very relevant to what is going on today. One worth watching if you ever get a chance. 






27. 20,000 Days on Earth - Directors: Directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard

Parts of this fictionalised documentary was a bit self indulgent, but overall I really enjoyed watching it.

There were some heartfelt moments in it, especially when Nick Cave was talking about his childhood and family.

It's also an insight into his thoughts and creative process.






26. Salt of the Earth - Directors: Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and Wim Wenders

A profound documentary about Sebastião Salgado. This wasn't just about the photographer, but about humanity and life.

I've seen Salgado's work in museums and galleries, and some in very large prints, but I never imagined I'd see larger versions on a cinema screen.

Some soul crushing images and words in this documentary.






25. From Caligari to Hitler - Director: Rüdiger Suchsland

A film essay about German cinema during the Weimar Republic (1918 to 1933) by film critic Rüdiger Suchsland.

A period when cinema depicted German society after World War One and right before the era of fascism and terror that followed.

A question that was posed several times in the film, "What does cinema know that we don’t?".







24. Only Lovers Left Alive - Director: Jim Jarmusch

Ultra cool and flamboyant vampire couple Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), centuries old and hung out with the best of them.

Lamenting on the past and looking down at present day culture. How to carry on coping in this world with humans, referred to in this film as "zombies".  

If I was a vampire, I'd want to hang out with them. 






23. In Order of Disappearance - Director: Hans Petter Moland

This film from Norway was the blackest black comedy I've ever seen.

A twisted film on so many weird levels.

There's revenge, murder and blood, lots of blood - and yet, I was laughing out loud in the cinema. 









22. Frank - Director: Lenny Abrahamson 

A surreal and absurd film about a band with an unpronouncebale name "Soronprfbs" and a lead singer (Michael Fassbender) in a papier-mâché mask. Creativity struggling with depression and mental illness.

Great acting in this, especially Michael Fassbender who just relied on his body and voice.

A film that started funny, then turned dark and sad.







21. Bande de Filles (Girlhood) - Director: Céline Sciamma

About underprivileged teenage girls with attitude.

Karidja Touré is terrific portraying her character's (Marieme/Vic) determination not to be victimized.

Dealing with racism, sexism, lack of a proper education, what choices do these girls have?

The scene with the four girls miming and dancing to Rihanna's Diamonds is one of the most memorable scenes in films I watched this year. It illustrated their dreams, ambitions and wanting something better. Also the music score by Para One is one of my favourite film scores this year. 



20. Two Days, One Night - Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

A film about empathy, one that makes you ask yourself what would you do if you were in the same situation.

In a year of watching films that were full of despair, this one left me feeling hopeful and that there's still good in this world.

And it goes without saying, Marion Cotillard is outstanding in this.








19. Love is Strange - Director: Ira Sachs

A gentle and affectionate film about love, dealing with hardships in life as an old couple, and becoming a burden on family and friends.

It's also a commentary about the reality of dealing with real estate in New York and the struggles for the financially disadvantaged. 

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina are outstanding as the couple facing these hardships and decisions in Love is Strange. 






18. Paris is Burning - Director: Jennie Livingston (1990) 

Another favourite from IDFA, Paris is Burning is a portrait of New York's drag ball culture in 1980s.

A showcase of resilience against homophobia, poverty and racism.

I love this line from the film,

"Pay your dues and just enjoy it. If you shoot an arrow and it goes real high, hooray for you."






17. Phoenix Tapes - Directors: Matthias Müller and Christoph Girardet (1999)

I saw this at EYE in Amsterdam. Matthias Müller and Christoph Girardet were commissioned in 1999 by the Modern Art Oxford to make this 45 minute film for an exhibition that celebrated the centenary of Hitchcock titled “Notorious: Alfred Hitchcock and Contemporary Art”.

Müller described Phoenix Tapes as: “a surreal, crude patchwork that suggests a narrative, then breaks it”.  

Phoenix Tapes show re-edited excerpts from 40 films by Alfred Hitchcock in six chapters: Rutland, Burden of Proof, Derailed, Why Don't You Love Me?, Bedroom, Necrologue

Watching the repeated patterns found in the Hitchcock's films featured in Phoenix Tapes was mind-blowing. 



16. F for Fake - Director: Orson Welles  (1974)

A film described as a “free form documentary” about trickery, fraud and lies.

It questions authenticity in art and in film. This line was said several times by Welles in the film, “It is pretty, but is it art?”.

Great editing, highly entertaining and still relevant after 40 years.







15. Snowpiercer - Director: Bong Joon-ho

Post apocolyptic sci-fi action set in a train that is in constant movement, travelling around the globe after Earth has frozen over.

Even in this train there is a class system where only the rich are in the front section of the plane and the rest are in the tail end. A film about the 99% trying to overtake the 1%.

Based on a 1980s French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, it's a very relevant story. 

An intellignt action film with a great (and international) cast. 





14. Nightcrawler - Director: Dan Gilroy

A commentary of news and journalism, on who decides on what is 'news' and what what viewers are being fed on a daily basis - for ratings versus ethics in journalism.

Jake Gyllenhal's Lou Bloom (or Louis Bloom depending on who was addressing him) is wonderfully creepy in Nightcrawler. It was all in his eyes. 









13. Timbuktu - Director: Abderrahmane Sissako

A pertinent film considering the terrible things happening in the name of religion in Africa and the Middle East.

Beautifully filmed, but it also leaves you feeling heavy sadness.

One scene that took my breath away, the boys playing football without the football. Left me speechless.  







12. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night - Director: Ana Lily Amirpour

The most rock n roll film I saw this year. 

An Iranian vampire noir set in "Bad City",  a stylish looking film with a great soundtrack that includes Iranian and western indie and electro music.

I suspect "The Girl" will be a popular Halloween costume in years to come. 









11. Birdman - Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

What does it mean to be relevant today in the world of entertainment, especially in film and theatre.

What does it take to be a celebrity? Making work for an an audience with mainstream tastes or working hard and earning the right to be liked, admired and respected for your work and craft.

I felt this line summed up the whole film for me, and also my favourte line from the film, "Popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige."






10. Nymphomaniac - Director: Lars von Trier

A woman's erotic journey from birth to the age of 50 told in eight chapters split into two parts, Volume 1 (145 minutes) and Volume 2 (180 minutes). A provocative film that delves deep into human nature and desire. Nymphomaniac is filled with philosophical, historical, cultural, psycological observations, and suprisingly, a lot of humour. 

I preferred Volume 1 which I saw in February at the Berlinale. The last few minutes of Volume 2 was frustrating and I wonder if it was just a big F.U. from Lars von Trier to everyone. Volume 1 is funny whereas Volume 2 takes a dark turn. But overall, it's a brave piece of filmmaking, and Volume 1 was one of the funniest films I've seen this year. Uma Thurman's character, Mrs H in chapter three was the best. (I have yet to see the Director's Cut of Nymphomaniac, and can't wait to see it.)


9. The Grand Budapest Hotel - Director: Wes Anderson

One of Wes Anderson’s best and darkest films. 

Ralph Fiennes’ character M Gustave was deliciously cultured, snobby and mean. But deep down there was also kindness. 

This was an absolute joy to watch.










8. Interstellar - Director: Christopher Nolan

Interstellar on IMAX was one screening I didn't intend on missing and I was so glad it came to Dubai.

It was quite an experience to watch, I was in awe most of the time. Yes, it had its schmaltzy bits, but I loved the theme of exploration and the possibilities. Plus the Hans Zimmer score, which was magnificent. 

I know many compared Interstellar to 2001: A Space Odyssey, but oh what lazy comparisons of two very different films. 

Whether you liked the film or not, I strongly recommend you read this great piece of writing about the film by  Aaron Stewart-Ahn, On Interstellar, love, time and the limitless prison of our Cosmos



7. Ida - Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

I was so glad I managed to squeeze this in right before the end of 2014 as it was on my film wishlist for most of the year. What a beautiful and sombre film.

Set in Poland in 1962, Anna was raised as a Catholic by nuns and training to be one herself, she finds out through her aunt and only living relative that she's Jewish. 

Ida has some of the most wonderful framing and cinematography. I thought every frame in the film could easily be turned into a photo and put in a beautifully printed photo book.

After watchng a Q&A with Pawel Pawlikowski, I was amazed to learn that it was first time acting for Agata Trzebuchowska and first 1st time for Lukasz Zal as director of photography.



6. Force Majeure - Director: Ruben Östlund

A favourite from Dubai International Film Festival, a black comedy from Sweden with lots of laughs and awkwardness.

About one selfish act by a man and its consequences on his family, and having to deal with this exposed selfishness. 

This particular scene cracked me up. Don't worry, it's not a spoiler, so I strongly suggest you watch it, even if you’ve not seen the film, watch it.

The man on right is the ‘selfish’ character. It's just brilliant.



5. Wild Tales - Director: Damián Szifrón

Another favourite from the Dubai International Film Festival.

An angry film told with the deep dark humour.

Wild Tales is an anthology featuring characters that have been pushed to their limits. People getting screwed over (by bureaucracy, loved ones and life) and saying a big F.U. to all of it.

My favourite was the 3rd story,” The Strongest”. The use of the love theme music from the Flashdance soundtrack cracked me up. 





4. Leviathan - Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev

An anti-totalitarian film, it addresses political and religious corruption told through the life of one family that’s affected by it with tragic consequences.

A favourite from the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in October.

Quite a powerful film that leaves you feeling angry. Very angry.

There are lots of details and layers in this film, one that needs revisiting and I can’t wait to watch it again.   





3. Boyhood - Director: Richard Linklater

A film that is 166 minutes, shot over 12 years - and for every single actor in the film to deliver consistently over those years is a feat in itself.

It was wonderful watching Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) growing up (in the literal sense) on screen, but also watching the development of the characters growth throughout the film.

I particularly loved the scenes between Mason and his father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke). One of the finest American films I've seen for a while. 




2. Under the Skin - Director: Jonathan Glazer

This was pure cinema delight for me. The opening sequence reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey and I was hooked for the rest of the film.

Mica Levi's music score for the film was so eerie and haunting, the slow revelations in the story line made me gasp. 

There are non-actors in  Under the Skin, who didn’t know when they were being filmed, so some elements of the film felt like a documentary, but make no mistake, this film belongs to the list of best sci fi films.  




1.  Winter Sleep - Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan

The only film where I needed to be myself after watching it (at the Abu Dhabi International Film Festival in October).

Running at 196 minutes long, with a lot of dialogue, I found it thought provoking, poking at the viewer's consciousness, especially where it hurts.

Despite the long and intense dialogue, the pace of the movie worked for me. 

Winter Sleep isn't everybody’s up of tea and I know many who disliked it.

Nevertheless, the film spoke to me, the cinematography was beautiful, and made me feel I was locked in with the characters observing them in their cold and lonely surroundings. 




Honourable mentions: Citizenfour, A Few Cubic Meters of LoveThe Great Museum, The Look of Silence, Love Is All: 100 Years of Love & Courtship,  Magical Girl, MaidanA Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, The Possibilities are EndlessWhiplash


Films I really wanted to see in 2014 but didn't get a chance to: Goodbye to Language, Inherent Vice, Mr Turner, Strangers by the Lake and The Tribe.  




My Top 15 Exhibitions of 2014

Chris Marker - La Jetée

I recently shared my top 10 exhibitions and films that left a lasting impression on me this year on Art Dubai's blog. Here's a more comprehesive list of my top 15 exhibitions of the year, it inculdes exhibitions in Dubai and abroad. I will post my top films of the year in a separate post. 


A Grin Without a Cat is my favourite exhibition of the year. I had seen some of Chris Marker’s work in different exhibitions over the past few years, but this one captured the all the different aspects of his work which included film, photography, writing, digital art, multi media installations – focusing on themes of travel, film, political struggle and the museum. The exhibition also included a screening of a rare edition of La Jetée, which I was thrilled to see.

Here's a short video about the exhibition. 

There has been a huge shift in how we consume news and information in the past few years and this topical exhibition explored how "visual media has been transformed by a digital revolution, and the creation of  'citizen journalism'". The extensive exhibition catalogue included works from the exhibition and essays making it a valuable resource for reference material. Unfortunately, the exhibition didn't stay open for long in Dubai, you can read about it here

I loved the British eccentricism captured in Tony Ray-Jones’ work. The exhibition included lots of his personal notes, which were a great insight into his work and his methods. "Don't take boring pictures" is one of them. Here’s another extract from his notes which I found amusing:

US characteristics

  • Vision (as opposed to British experience)
  • Idealism (as opposed to British compromise)
  • Challenges (as opposed to precedents)
  • Innovation and Experimentation (as opposed to tradition and well trodden path)
  • Lack of Individuality
  • Naivety and Innocence (always surprised when people attack or produce new weapons or land a man on the moon)
  • Lack of knowledge of anything outside themselves

British characteristics and qualities

  • Love of tradition
  • Love of stability
  • Art of compromise and muddling through
  • Privacy
  • Uneventful
  • Apathy and indolence (from the security of the welfare state)
  • A country lacking in drama yet the people have a fine sense of drama

 You can read more about the exhibition here

4. Close Surrounding by JH Engström at Foam, Amsterdam

I was drawn to JH Engström's photographs of himself and his surroundings, which felt very raw and personal. There’s loneliness, sadness, but also absurdity and humour.

JH Engström's oeuvre is multi-faceted. He documents the ambience of the places he photographs, but at the same time his work can also be interpreted as a personal, visual 'stream of consciousness', a continuous flow of images that portray feelings, observations and memories of the photographer.

Furthermore he 'plays' with one of the traditional characteristic of photography: depicting reality. In his photographs he emphasizes the fact that they are visual interpretations of that reality, by experimenting with technical imperfections such as overexposure, motion and dust. The edges of the negatives are sometimes visible in the printed photograph. The results vary from raw images to appealing photographs in pastel tints. Above all, the work of JH Engstrom can be interpreted as a restless and never-ending quest for answers to the question of what it is to be human. 

via Foam

5. Sky over the East, Emirates Palace Gallery, Abu Dhabi

Baya, Algeria, 1931–1998

This exhibition featured works from the collection of Barjeel Art Foundation, a collaboration with Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation. The exhibition featured a fantastic collection of work by 48 Arab artists from the past 80 years. It aimed 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." I wrote about the exhibition here.

6. Marlene Dumas:  The Image as Burden at Stedelijk, Amsterdam

Marlene Dumas, The Image as Burden, 1993

Marlene Dumas, The Kiss, 2003

A retrospective of over 100 works by Marlene Dumas from the late 1970s to the present day, work inspired by photography, paintings, cinema, news, politics and pop culture. An exhibition that is melancholic, contemplative and beautiful. I posted more images from the exhibition here, including a video with Marlene Dumas discussing her work and Leontine Coelewij (curator of the exhibition) talking about the exhibition.  

7. Harry Callahan - Photographs at Tate Modern, London


Harry Callahan described the three themes of his work as ‘Nature, Buildings and People’. I was quite drawn to his work, which I had not seen before and enjoyed spending time looking at them, especially the nature themed photographs. This video features curator Simon Baker discussing his work. 


8. Darkened Cities by Thierry Cohen at East Wing, Dubai

This exhibition captured my imagination and made me long to look up at the sky full of stars, which in reality is something I can only experience if I drive away from the city, far away fom light pollution. Thierry Cohen's photos look exquisite and must be seen in person to truly appreciate them. Beautiful images of what could be. 

9. The Lost Empire by Fouad Elkhoury at The Third Line, Dubai

© Fouad Elkoury, Balaton Airport, 2010, Chromogenic Print Diasec, 50 x 75 cm

I found this exhibition of abandoned soviet military bases in Poland, Hungary, Estonia and East Germany photographed between 2010 and 2011 by Fouad Elkhoury peaceful and contemplative. I had the opportunity to meet Elkhoury, we talked about his career, photography and Dubai. You can read all about it here


10. The Resurrection by Jaber Al Azmeh at Green Art Gallery, Dubai

Another topical exhibition in Dubai, this one included a diverse network of Syrians (journalists, poets, artists and actors) an dat the request of the artist Jaber Al Azmeh to "voice their opinions on the current situation in Syria, and what they hope to be the Syria they believe in". 

The series began in 2011, when Al Azmeh started to photograph people individually in both public and private areas, in Damascus and abroad, holding a copy of the Al Baath Newspaper, an important yet flawed symbol of the Syrian government. Each copy of the newspaper adorns a message written by the individual, such as, “Nothing will stop us. We are coming back home”, “Happiness is coming to our streets and homes,” or simply, “Freedom.” The result is a group of 51 portrait of ordinary Syrians and their hope for a country ravaged by war. 

Through this series, Al Azmeh documents the passionate spirit of the Syrian Revolution since its onset and demonstrates that, “All Syrians, no matter where they come from, what religion they have, and what they do, are working together to help this revolution, and help Syria reach its freedom.” 

11. So long, and thanks for all the fish at Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai

Basim Magdy, Every Subtle Gesture, 2012 - ongoingBasim Magdy, Every Subtle Gesture, 2012 - ongoing

Best titled exhibition in Dubai this year, this group show included work by four artists that had elements of the absurd, the surreal and hint at possible futures.

Inspired by the fourth book in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, the title is a message left by dolphins when they left Planet Earth just before it was demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass.

Preoccupations with Sci-Fi, fantasy, transformations and magic permeate the show, which combines animation, painting, photography and video. Elements of nostalgia for an ordinary life are cajoled by bizarre forces into a strange new world, where ritual, violence and technology complete to be catch of the day. The little things that justify our existence are questioned as we seek to find a way out on a new wave.

I was drawn by Basim Magdy's work in this exhibition (pictured above), an ongoing photographic series titled Every Subtle Gesture, "Snapshots seemingly from an archive, whose relevance and purpose remains unknown, are paired with phrases invented by the artist, coming together to create an indecipherable narrative."

12. Anthony
McCall: Solid Light Films and Other Works (1971-2014) at EYE, Amsterdam

Seeing Anthony McCall's "light sculptures" was quite an experience. Read all about it here.

13. Works on Paper - Hikayat at Green Art Gallery, Dubai 

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

This exhibition had over 50 works on paper by Modern Arab artists including Khouzayma Alwani, Mahmoud Hammad, Adham Ismail, Jamil Molaeb, Fateh Moudarres, Aref El Rayess, Khaldoun Shishakly, Seif Wanly and Elias Zayat. 

My favourite work from this exhibition was a one of a kind piece by Khaldoun Sheishakly, titled Shops and Vendors of the Past, a collection of 500 works on paper. Due to its delicate condition, we weren't allowed to browse through each sheet, but the few pages that were laid out had such amazing details drawn with an ink pen, each one telling stories visually and with words. Read more about the exhibition here


14. Rui Chafes & Ralf Ziervogel – Black Rainbow at Carbon 12, Dubai
















I never had a chance to write about this exhibition before, but I really liked the work by Ralf Ziervogel, which looked very different depending on close you were to the work. And by close, I'm talking about using a magnifying glass to get deeper into the work. 

...Ziervogel uses his pen on gesturally gesso-coated canvases to create visually perfected geometrics. However, the intensity of the straight-edged forms increases upon a closer, often magnetized look: the “lines” of the forms that explode haphazardly across the canvas are miniaturized words expressing in even, capitalized form, deeply expletive and violent prose in German and English. The juxtaposition of visual fragility and hardened, repetitive poetry gives the Tourettes-like mania of Ziervogel’s chromatically pale creations a dark romanticism. 

Read more about this exhibition here.  

15. Customs Made: Quotidian Practices and Everyday Rituals and Encounter: Listening to the City at Maraya Centre and Maraya Art Park, Sharjah

Raed Yassin - With Imad Hamdi and his twin brother - from the series Dancing, Smoking, Kissing (2013)

Encounter: Listening to the City (image courtesy of Maraya Art Centre)
Maraya Art Centre hosted Customs Made: Quotidian Practices and Everyday Rituals and Encounter: Listening to the City, the first one was inside their gallery space, the latter, a sound and video exhibition was held outdoors in a public park.

Customs Made looked at everyday rituals in private and public spaces, and Encounter looked at how "sound, music and the spoken voice can create spaces of nostalgia, belonging and reflection". (I was one of the artists in the second exhibition). You can read about the two exhibitions here and here



Bladerunner, Her and Los Angeles


This week I watched a few video essays by Colin Marshall where he examines films featuring Los Angeles and the variety of "Los Angeleses" revealed in these films. The video essay series "Los Angeles, the City in Cinema" includes films like Her, Bladerunner, Drive, The Driver, The Limey, Night of the Comet and more. There are some great observations in them by Colin Marshall and I strongly recommend you watch each clip. 

I also saw another video essay featuring Bladerunner and Her, both combined and reimagined as one film. I thought it was a good coincidence and decided to share the videos here. 


Here are the three videos I saw that feature Bladerunner and Her. I hope you enjoy watching them as much as I did. I love the observations made in them, makes me want to re-watch both films.  


Los Angeles, the City in Cinema: Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982) by Colin Marshall


"Blade Runner"'s future noir, proto-cyberpunk vision of a Los Angeles both post-industrial and re-industrial, both first-world and third-world, has remained in the more than 30 years since its unsuccessful first run the definitive image of the city's future.

Using a combination of studio backlots, scale models, matte paintings, and actual Los Angeles architectural landmarks, the film imagines a "retrofitted," Japanified Babel of a megalopolis that, through the name of the film, still stands for a thoroughly realized dystopia — and, increasingly, a tantalizing one.


Los Angeles, the City in Cinema: Her (Spike Jonze, 2013) by Colin Marshall

Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" crossed Los Angeles with a grittier, less orderly Tokyo. Just over thirty years later, Spike Jonze's "Her" crosses Los Angeles with a sanitized Shanghai, creating a utopian urban setting for surely the mildest cyberpunk story ever told.

Instead of menacing android replicants and detective Rick Deckard who hunts them, we have a sentient operating system and the mustachioed, ukulele playing milquetoast Theodore Twombly who, as he lives his lonely life in this future Los Angeles' skyscrapers and on its high-speed trains (but never in a car), falls in love with it.


L.A.I. by Drew Morton


The following is an extract from Press Play about this video by Drew Morton. You can read the complete essay here.

This video amalgamation of Spike Jonze's Her and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner by Drew Morton has a sad, sweet quality about it, as if Morton were depicting two parts of the same film. Indeed, the movies show two sides of the same city, which in this case is futuristic Los Angeles.

Jonze imagines the daytime city as a place built for both human convenience and soul-crushing anonymity; Scott imagines the nighttime city as a James-Joyce-meets-Buck-Rogers-meets-Raymond-Chandler stew, in which anything might happen, on the one hand, but the results might be depressingly predictable on the other.

Similarly, blending the films this way makes one think that Joaquin Phoenix's Twombly and Harrison Ford's Deckard could be two halves of the same person--one vulnerable and open, the other jaded and wary.

Morton skillfully allows the two films to bleed into each other, as when the music from Blade Runner becomes the music for Her--or does it?--and thus shows how two visions, separated by several decades, might possibly speak to each other, sending universal messages about loss and loneliness that echo and expand with repeated viewings, and with consideration.