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Entries in Dubai (344)

Wednesday
Sep102014

Al Ghurair Centre's Public Art Commission

 

Al Ghurair Centre, one of the first malls in Dubai, is inviting artists to submit proposals for a public art programme. In a city where art is mainly found in art galleries, it's great to see there's a private organisation trying to encourage public art. 

The long term intention of the Public Art Commission is to promote and support the work of UAE based artists in public spaces in Dubai, whilst enhancing our local spaces whilst energising our local, unused spaces to capitalise on social interaction.

 

All artists based in the United Arab Emirates can apply to this, as long as it's a new and original idea. Full details of the application rules can be found here


Five winners will be selected to have their work incorporated into Al Ghurair Centre's permanent collection.

Additionally, 10 shortlisted artists will receive mentorship sessions with panel of jurors. And one select artist will be sent on an all-expenses paid mentorship programme to the UK with Cedar Lewinhson.

 

There are no submission fees for this. Deadline is Friday, 10th October 2014. You can download the submission form here

 

www.alghuraircentre.com/publicartcommission 
www.alghuraircentre.com

 

Tuesday
Sep022014

Galleries Night at Alserkal Avenue on 15th September 2014

 

Galleries Night at Alserkal Avenue is back this month on Monday, 15th September 2014 to mark the start of the new 2014-2015 arts season, after a break over the summer period.

There will be several new exhibitions opening that night, plus some events and entertainment. You can find the full line up here. Here are my top five picks for the night: 

 

Carbon 12 

Bernard Buhmann - Henriette (2014)

Carbon 12 will present Bernard Buhmann’s second solo show, The Pretenders, characters of his creation as they preform their lives for all to see.

The inhabitants of the paintings tell an abstract story as they cavort across the canvas. Who are they and what makes them what they are? Each painting has its own fiction, but when seen together they allude to a much larger issue. 

Surrealist in style, Buhmann’s technique is defined by color hues, subject illusion, and precarious perspectives. Using his background in sociology and painting from the University of Applied Arts and the University of Vienna, Buhmann explores issues of how to find ones self in social and individual life in times of uncertainty and rapids change. 

 

Green Art Gallery 

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

Green Art Gallery’s opening exhibition is entitled Works On Paper: Hikayat consists of over 50 works on paper by Modern Arab artists including Khouzayma Alwani, Mahmoud Hammad and Adham Ismail, to name a few.

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

 

Grey Noise

Mariam Suhail - Interruptions 1 (one part of a four piece installation) 

Grey Noise gallery will be showcasing Pakistani artist Mariam Suhail’s first solo show in Dubai. The exhibition will have a set of works that come together as Accidental Excavations of objects and ideas.

Comprising interventions into books, scanner malfunctions, discovery of old material and information about the birth of a new city, the show presents images, prints and texts that lie somewhere in the space between studies and proposals.

 

Gulf Photo Plus

Khalid Hasan

Gulf Photo Plus will welcome visitors from to meet and chat with Khaled Hasan and Neo Ntsoma, two of the six exhibiting photographers of Majority World, a unique photo agency that highlights and supports inspiring works by photographers from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

Focusing on these diverse continents, Majority World encourages stories to be told by photographers in their own context, sharing unique insight into local cultures, environments and development issues. 

 

Lawrie Shabibi

Ra di Martino - Waking up at Night in the Middle of the Day #2, 2010 | Archival pigment print on Baryta paper 70 x 100 cm / 27 1/2 x 39 3/8 in

Lawrie Shabibi will open Art & Application, a group exhibition that brings together six contemporary artists from around the world: Rä di Martino, Littlewhitehead, Arthur Prior, David Rickard, Darren Harvey-Regan and Setareh Shahbazi.

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

 

 

The complete line up of exhibitions and events can be found here.   
Event page on Facebook

 

 

 

www.alserkalavenue.ae  

 

Monday
Aug252014

Sound Art Film and Discussion Programme at Tashkeel - presented by Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver

 

Sound art isn't something we experience in Dubai very often, but I'm glad to say, starting this September this will change (hopefully). 

Tashkeel's resident sound artists Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver will present weekly film screenings, listening sessions and discussions this September, part of three major projects they will be showing throughout the UAE (including their participation in the 20th International Symposium for Electronic Art in November), culminating with a show at Tashkeel itself in early 2015. 

Entrance is free with some complimentary refreshments. Below is the full line up. Personally, I'm really excited about this, and hope you will be too. 

 

 

Wednesday, 3rd September 2014 at 7pm (duration 90 minutes) 

The Art of Listening  
Featuring extracts from movies Four American Composers: John Cage directed by Peter Greenaway, Learning to Listen by Dan Linn-Pearl, Marianna Roe and Andi Spowart and from the radio show The Listeners by Sarah Blunt

Introduction by Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver
Guest speaker: UAE based, US sound artist Jonny Farrow   


Four American Composers


Learning to Listen

 

 

Wednesday, 10th September 2014 at 7pm (duration 90 minutes) 

What is Sound Art? 
Featuring extracts from Learning to Listen by Dan Linn-Pearl, Marianna Roe and Andi Spowart, Water Walk by John Cage - Making Sounds by David Toop and A History of Sound Art by J Milo Taylor

Introduction by Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver
Speaker: Chris Weaver

  

Learning to Listen


Water Walk - John Cage  



Wednesday, 17th September 2014 (duration 90 minutes) 

Curating Sound Art
Featuring extracts on female sonic artists, curating sound panels, and Sonic Art Boom - The Art of Noise by Sara Jane Hall

 
Introduction by Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver
Guest speakers: Aleksei Afansiev (sound director and Green Art Gallery manager), Karim Sultan (music producer, The Third Line operations manager and Kalimat Magazine founding editor) 

Sonic Art Boom - The Art of Noise

 

 

Wednesday 24th September 2014 at 7pm (duration 90 minutes) 

Sound as a Genre and Protagonist 
Featuring extracts from Fuego en Castilla by José Val del Omar, The House is Black by Forough Farrokhzad and Weekend by Walter Ruttmann.    


Opening Performance: a work in progress performance of an experimental choir of architects, planners and surveyors as part of a forthcoming sound installation by Weaver and Bradley. 

Introduction by Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver 
Speaker: Fari Bradley 

 

Fuego en Castilla - José Val del Omar

 

The House is Black by Forough Farrokhzad 

 

 

 

 

If you're in Dubai, don't miss this. Here's a map with directions on how to get to Tashkeel

 

www.tashkeel.org
www.guestartist.tashkeel.org  
www.faribradley.co.uk
www.christopherweaver.co.uk  

 

Wednesday
Aug062014

Film Screening: Like Father, Like Son




The Scene Club
 will screen Like Father, Like Son on Tuesday, 12th August 2014 at 8pm. Tickets are complimentary, but you must register in advance and collect your ticket at the venue. 


Would you choose your natural child, or the one you believed was your own during six years together? 

Following an unexpected phone call, affluent architect Ryota and his wife, Midori, learn that their six-year-old son, Keita, was switched at the hospital and is not their biological child.

Seeing Midori's devotion to Keita even after the news, and observing the rough yet caring family that has raised his natural son for the last six years, Ryota begins to question his own values on fatherhood as he must choose between 'nature' and 'nurture,' a decision that will change their lives forever. 
 
 



Directed by Kore-eda Hirokazu, Like Father, Like Son was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize and a commendation from the Ecumenical Jury. It then went on to screen at numerous international film festivals (including Toronto, San Sebastian, Vancouver, London), winning 18 awards and receiving 38 nominations.





Event details
Date: Tuesday, 12th August 2014
Time: 7.00-7.45pm - Ticket Collection and Networking | 8.00pm – Film screening 
Venue: Knowledge Village Auditorium, Dubai (location map)
Film duration: 120 minutes (Japanese with English subtitles)
Register for your ticket online.    

 

 

www.thesceneclub.com  
www.ifcfilms.com/films/like-father-like-son  

Wednesday
Jul092014

Exhibition - Ramadan in Yemen by Max Pam

 

East Wing gallery will host a new exhibition this month, Ramadan in Yemen by Max Pam, opening on Tuesday 15th July 2014 and will go on till Wednesday, 10th September 2014. 

The exhibition is a journal of photographs and text by Max Pam from his travels across Yemen in the late 1990s. 

Working exclusively in black and white and utilizing a square format, Pam translated his exploration and experiences into a series of images and diary entries, reflecting his distinctive style: a layering of words and images.

Pam travelled across the country, sharing in the everyday lives of its people from the capital, Sanaa, to Shibam, Taizz, and Al Mukallah; then through the desert, along the country’s coastline and up into its mountain regions, returning with an intimate journal of his experiences.

The additional layers of ephemeral material and writing creates a record of a very specific moment in time, giving an in-depth insight into his creative processes;

…Because a lot of things you can’t photograph, but you can draw and write about… they are important to me; those other ways of defining experience.” Max Pam

 

During his teen years in Melbourne, Australia, Max Pam was drawn into the counter culture of surfing and was intrigued by the imagery in National Geographic and Surfer magazines, which planted the wanderlust for travel. He left Australia at the age of 20 in 1969 to work as a photographer which lead him to travel around the world.  

Here are some of photos and text from the exhibition, including words by Max Pam about his experience in Yemen. I am looking forward to seeing the photos and book in person. 


 

  

What could I say about Yemen that did it justice. I tried in my journal to work it honestly. I tried with 60 rolls of black and white 120 film to translate the experience. That hot, spare and beautiful Ramadan. 

 

 

No eating or drinking anything between sunrise and sunset. The faithful waiting for the moment. The cannon booms from the mosque in the afterglow of the day. KABOUMMM and a frenzy of quat buying, tea drinking and food eating begins in the suqs and squares and oases and towns all over the country. Everyone happy, elated laughing and joking sitting down together as one nation.  



 

And you know what, people always wanted me to share and be part of their Ramadan, their community, their Yemen. I travelled all over the country with them. To Shibam, Taizz, Al Mukallah, Sanaa, over the desert, by the sea and into the mountains. The shared taxis were always a half past dead Peugeot 405’s with sometimes 10 or 12 people jammed in.  

 

 

The 92 pages of this book give my version of that unforgettable Ramadan month. An experience freely given to me by the generosity of Yemeni people.  

 

 

Signed copies of the book Ramadan in Yemen by Max Pam will be available at the gallery's bookshop. It's a limited edition publication of 1000 copies: 92 pages with tipped-in photograph on embossed hardcover in a specially designed Clamshell (28 x 28 cm – book 25.5 x 25.5cm). Price: $120 USD. 

 

 


Exhibition detais 
Date: 15th July - 10th September 2014 | Sat-Thu 10am–10pm | Fri 4 pm-10 pm
Venue: East Wing, 
Limestone House no. 12 (next to Ritz Carlton), Dubai International Financial Center (location map)

 

www.east-wing.org
www.maxpam.com/Ramadan-in-Yemen 

Wednesday
Jul092014

Exhibition - So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish

Adam Dix - Silent Servitude, 2011 | Ink and oil on panel 117 x 51 cm / 46 1/8 x 20 1/8 in

 

So Long, And Thanks For The Fish is the title of the latest exhibition at Lawrie Shabibi, on till 31st July. It's a group show featuring Adam Dix, Tala Madani, Basim Magdy and Taus Makhacheva and includes animation, painting, photography and video.

I think this is the best exhibition title in Dubai so far this year. It comes from the fourth book in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams, "So long, and thanks for all the fish", is a message left by dolphins when they left Planet Earth just before it was demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass. 

The work in the exhibition includes "elements of the absurd, the surreal and hint at possible futures".

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 compete 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. 

 


The exhibition includes the following: 

 

Adam Dix

Adam Dix - The Messenger Pt1, 2013 | Ink, fluorescent pigment and oil on panel 45 x 45 cm / 17 3/4 x 17 3/4 in

Adam Dix’s neo-futurist paintings speak of a time of historical optimism, when absolute faith was put into new communication devices; embraced as powerful spiritual icons for the modern age, which deserved to be worshipped and revered.

The collective awe and wonder is palpable; any sense of individuality is forgotten in the group dynamic. Using a muted palette and strong, dramatic lighting, Dix’s fictive landscapes seem to be taken from a post- apocalyptic world.

Satellite discs take on the role of haloes or crop circles and phone masts totems or flags; lead characters are disguised by wearing Shaman-like masks and costumes. The merging of folklore, local religion and science fiction throw us into an uncertain future.

Dix’s work explores our associations between communication technology and our absorption with it. Focusing on the abundance of communication devices, his work encapsulates the allure for the user to stay in a mode of constant connectivity and how these instruments interrupt and influence our command of the world around us. 

 


Tala Madani 

Tala Madani - Eye Stabber, 2013 | Single channel, stop motion animation 1 minute and 35 seconds

Tala Madani infuses her video animations with the rich brushstrokes and loose, expressive technique that characterize her paintings, creating uncomfortable scenes in which bald, middle-aged men engage in absurd scenarios that fuse playfulness with violence and perversity.

Tala Madani is known for creating paintings that look incisively and often irreverently at Middle-Eastern culture and gender issues. Madani typically represents male subjects in a child-like and simplified style, addressing themes including terrorism, tattoos, body hair removal, and prayer. Her paintings are often gestural and expressionistic, perhaps ironically echoing the painterly bravado attributed to male abstract artists of the mid-20th century.

The video animation Eye Stabber is a fantastical vignette, taking place in a sinister alleyway where the protagonist’s torso becomes covered in cutouts of different eyes. Overcome by this curious turn of events he lashes out, eventually escaping this bloody mess and propelling his shrunken form into a rubbish bin at the rear of the set. 




Basim Magdy

 Basim Magdy - Every Subtle Gesture, 2012 | Ongoing, color prints on Fuji Crystal Archive paper and Letterpress silver text (DETAIL). Each 52 x 45 cm. (framed)

Basim Magdy - Every Subtle Gesture, 2012 | Ongoing, color prints on Fuji Crystal Archive paper and Letterpress silver text (DETAIL). Each 52 x 45 cm. (framed)

Basim Magdy’s practice is grounded in an interest in iconic images and objects found outside of explicit historical investigation and political referencing. His work concerns itself with the social implications of such symbols, and their transformation over time, forming a mix of legend and bizarre cultural constructions and encounters.

Here he presents a selection from the ongoing photographic series Every Subtle Gesture, which featured in the Istanbul Biennial in 2013. 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.

The images appear to be a form of documentation or a specialized archive, but in fact they are all disparate snapshots of some kind of fragment, and that seems to be the only strand binding them together. The phrase accompanying each snapshot encapsulates it as a surreal moment or part of an imaginary tale. The series as a whole follows no discernable narrative or plot, but the little clues Magdy offers beckon the viewer to turn this ambiguity into a magical story of their own.




Taus Makhacheva

Taus Makhacheva - A space of Celebration, 2009 | HD Video, colour, silent 16'10” min

The video A Space of Celebration from 2009 by Taus Makhacheva that was part of the Art Dubai 2014 film programme, brings us back to earth by revealing the absurdity of highly commercialized lavish wedding ceremonies.

By focusing on an event that is common to all worldy cultures and speaks to the heart of human existence, Makhacheva helps us discover (or remember) the traits that make us distinct and extraordinary.

In this video-performance, in which a figure dressed as a “giant deconstructed napkin” (in Makhacheva’s words) enters a banquet hall, popping up from between chairs and behind tables, and rolling about on the floor like a turtle tipped on its back, Makhacheva share her sense of humor and criticality.

In this piece, the artist gently probes at the ways in which society’s rituals become strange and curious spectacles. Through such an embodiment, Makhacheva encapsulates the tension between tradition and progress.  

 

 

 

Exhibition details
Date: On till Thursday, 31st July 2013
Venue: Lawrie Shabibi, Alserkal Avenue, Unit 21, Al-Quoz, Dubai (location map)

 

 

www.lawrieshabibi.com
www.adamdix.com 
www.facebook.com/talamadaniofficial  
www.basimmagdy.com
www.facebook.com/taus.makhacheva   

Thursday
Jul032014

Film Screening: The Lunch Box



The Scene Club
 will host a screening of The Lunch Box this month, on Wednesday, 9th July 2014 at 9pm. Tickets are complimentary, but you must register in advance and collect your ticket at the venue.

I saw this film last December at the Dubai International Film Festival. It is a lovely film, so I strongly recommend you watch it. Warning, be prepared to crave some delicious Indian food after you watch the film.
 

Middle class housewife Ila is trying once again to add some spice to her marriage, this time through her cooking. She desperately hopes that this new recipe will finally arouse some kind of reaction from her neglectful husband. She prepares a special lunchbox to be delivered to him at work, but, unbeknownst to her, it is mistakenly delivered to another office worker, Saajan, a lonely man on the verge of retirement. Curious about the lack of reaction from her husband, Ila puts a little note in the following day’s lunchbox, in the hopes of getting to the bottom of the mystery.

This begins a series of lunchbox notes between Saajan and Ila, and the mere comfort of communicating with a stranger anonymously soon evolves into an unexpected friendship. Gradually, their notes become little confessions about their loneliness, memories, regrets, fears, and even small joys. They each discover a new sense of self and find an anchor to hold on to in the big city of Mumbai that so often crushes hopes and dreams. Still strangers physically, Ila and Saajan become lost in a virtual relationship that could jeopardize both their realities.  





Event details
Date: Wednesday, 9th July 2014
Time: 8.00-8.45pm - Ticket Collection and Networking | 9.00pm – Film screening 
Venue: Knowledge Village Auditorium, Dubai (location map)
Register for your ticket online.    

 



www.thesceneclub.com  
www.sonyclassics.com/thelunchbox

Monday
Jun162014

Film Screenings: Cinema Akil at The Third Line

Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road), Satyajit Ray


The Third Line is collaborating with Cinema Akil to host weekly film screenings at the gallery during the summer from 18th June till 16th July 2014. 

Cinema Akil is a platform that aims to bring quality films from across the world to the audiences in Dubai. Showcasing directors and filmmakers across the decades, Cinema Akil hopes to create awareness and interest in film.


The films will be screened every Wednesday and entrance is free. All non-English language films will be subtitled in English. Here's the line up: 

 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014 at 7.30pm 

Lamma Shooftak (When I Saw You) | Director: Annemarie Jacir  (2012)
Drama | 14A | 98 mins | Arabic/English | Palestine

 

 

 

Wednesday, 25th June 2014 at 7.30pm

No | Director: Pablo Larraín (2012)
Drama/History | R | 118 mins | Spanish | Chile 

 




Wednesday, 2nd July 2014 at 9.00pm

Dial M for Murder | Director: Alfred Hitchcock (1954)
Crime/Thriller | PG | 105 mins | English | USA 

 

 


Wednesday, 9th July 2014 at 9.00pm 

Soshite Chichi Ni Naru (Like Father, Like Son) | Director: Hirokazu Koreeda (2013)
Drama | PG | 121 mins | Japanese | Japan 

 

 

Wednesday, 16th July 2014 at 9.00pm 

Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road) | Director: Satyajit Ray (1955)
Drama | Not rated | 122 mins | Bengali | India 

Click on the image to view scene from the film  

 

 

 

www.thethirdline.com 
Event page on Facebook 

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



 

 

Monday
May262014

The Lost Empire by Fouad El Khoury at The Third Line


 

The Lost Empire by the prolific Lebanese photographer Fouad Elkoury is the latest exhibition at The Third Line. The exhibition features photos of abandoned soviet military bases where he visited dozens of military bases in Poland, Hungary, Estonia and East Germany between 2010 and 2011.

Most were aviation fields; others served separate purposes. And despite having being told there was nothing to photograph there, Fouad found the abandoned desolation far more captivating.

Deserted and invaded by nature, a force far more primal and stronger than weapons of war, the bases have become unserviceable areas of land. The utter silence and emptiness left Fouad the only protagonist in the plot, searching for abandoned stories, and his only ally was light, without which nothing could be seen. 


 

I got a chance to meet Elkoury at The Third Line a few weeks ago and we talked about his career, photography and Dubai. Here are some of the highlights.

About Dubai
In addition to photographing in various cities around the world, Elkoury has been documenting Dubai for almost 10 years, you can see some of his work here. It's been a few years since he came to Dubai, so during this visit, he used every chance he had to photograph the city, despite the heat.

When I asked him what his impressions are of Dubai during this visit, he said he hoped there would have been an organic growth in the city after the economic crisis from a few years ago, but instead, he sees a lot of “constructed” growth which feels messy and chaotic. During his visit to Downtown Dubai around Burj Khalifa, he said that although he was impressed to see so much has been built in a very short period, but it "feels fake". 

I tend to agree with Elkoury and told him I don’t feel lessons were learnt after the crisis and Dubai is very much in construction overdrive mode, especially after the World Expo 2020 in Dubai announcement.  


About photography
When it comes to photography, Elkoury took it up based on instinct; it has and continues to play an important part in his life and work.

When we discussed the role of photography in the Middle East and its appreciation, or in most cases, lack of appreciation, he agreed with me that photography doesn’t get enough acknowledgment or recognition as an art form.

He pointed out that throughout history, artistic expression in the Arab world was found in literature, poetry, painting, sculpture and music; and in cinema during the past century, which took off in the Arab world when it was introduced, but the same cannot be said about photography. Somehow, photography is still struggling to be seen as a respected and serious art form in this region.

During his early days of photography, he was considered a "spy or following a disrespectful hobby". Again, this was another point we agreed on, and I was glad he validated my thoughts on how photography is perceived in this part of the world. There is distrust when it comes to photographers, especially when found in non-touristic sites. And there isn’t the same level of respect when it comes to photography as art and we wondered if it's due to the fact that in this day and age, everyone with a camera phone is a photographer, documenting and sharing a constant flood of images on social media? Or is it to do with the fact that photographs sold in galleries are in editions, and buyers prefer unique pieces, hence the popularity of paintings and sculptures?

 

About empty places
Before meeting Elkoury, I spent a lot of time looking at his work on his site, which goes back to the 1980s. I noticed a lot of his work does not show people, where he’s more of an observer or a quiet participant. For his Lost Empire series, I told him my first reaction to the work was categorising it as  “ruin porn” photography. But as we discussed his work, I realised it was simply a case of Elkoury seeking quiet and peaceful places, an appreciation that has come with age. He described the places he photographed for The Lost Empire series as “beautiful”, whereas most people think of them as ruined and abandoned. He prefers to go to places without people, to enjoy nature, silence and his surroundings.

 


On that note, I leave you with some of Elkoury’s photos from the exhibition, accompanied with Negar Azmi’s eloquently written essay about this series (included in the exhibition catalogue). Negar Azimi is a writer and senior editor at Bidoun, an arts and culture magazine based in New York.   

Grab a coffee/tea/drink, sit back, read and enjoy the photos. If you are in Dubai, the exhibition is on till 29h May 2014.  


Mute Witness by Negar Azimi

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

He always arrived with a bottle of whiskey and a smile, just in case he had any problems getting in. Some encounters were more strange than others. In Hungary, he found dozens of menus scattered around, traces of soldiers’ mess halls from five decades before. In Germany, he walked into a warehouse stocked with crisp never-before-used officer fatigues. Somewhere else — he can’t remember where — he found young men racing their motorbikes along ancient airplane landing grounds. More often than not, sleepy sentinels—for there were often guards standing about the derelict architectural carcasses — raised their shoulders in sulky indifference to indicate that these abandoned military bases were not of their moment, but rather, that of their parents and grandparents. This was just some job. They didn’t have answers to the questions.

 

© Fouad Elkoury, Bunker, 2010, Chromogenic Print Diasec, 72 x 90 cm

It is a queer thing to trace the footprints of great historical epochs. Unlike the photojournalist who yearns to be there in the moment – as the wall falls, when the dictator flees, amid the crowds heaving – the photographer of traces takes his time, thinks hard about the where, and sets out on a long walk. These walks take hours or weeks. Sometimes they take years, for if anything, they are not “timely.” The photographer says he has a sort of predisposition and sympathy toward these liminal spaces (for it is not clear if these sites are in a state of becoming or unbecoming). Maybe, he says, it’s a sort of a natural affinity. He has set out on journeys not unlike this one in Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt and Nicosia. In all of these places, the quality of the sound is the same, he says. Silence, it is thunderous, wraps around you like a blanket.

 

© Fouad Elkoury, Furstenwalde, 2011, Chromogenic Print Diasec, 50 x 62.5 cm

History becomes a puzzle to decipher. Sometimes, a place might unleash an avalanche of memory. When Jacques Austerlitz comes to know pieces of his occluded past in the novel of the same name by W.G. Sebald, he says of a gloomy room in London’s Liverpool Street station that it seemed to hold “all the hours of my past life, all the suppressed and extinguished fears and wishes I had ever entertained.” Sebald, the Bavarian author who passed away in 2001, may have been the last century’s great writer-historian. While his immediate concern seemed to be the still-fresh ravages of the second world war in Europe, it is in and around the gaps of his narratives that this vexed history speaks. Silences are pregnant. Past traumas are subtly alluded to. Objects can be bearers of riddles. Throughout his novels, one encounters ghosts, obfuscations, retellings: the landscape is littered with them. Nothing is addressed head on. There is no clarity. Here he is again, in another novel, Rings of Saturn: “We, the survivors, see everything from above, see everything at once, and still we do not know how it was.”

 

© Fouad Elkoury, Kiskunlachaza, 2010, Chromogenic Print Diasec, 60 x 90 cm

We do not know how it was. Elegant understatements of past horrors, Elkoury’s photographs offer themselves up as Sebaldian traces. And like Sebald’s principle character in Rings of Saturn, who walks for the length of 300 pages in a heroic zigzag through the British countryside, Elkoury, too, walks. He finds memories jaded. People have died. The curious few are left to sift through the inscrutable wreckage of this modern life.

 

© Fouad Elkoury, Kluczewo, 2010, Chromogenic Print Diasec, 72x 90 cm

Sometimes, Elkoury’s ruins, if you can call them that, take on the appearance of other ruins we have known. In Kluczewo, two bunkers sit in the back of the frame, a little like the squat Mexican pyramids of Teotihuacan. In Furstenwalde, pillars from a now-destroyed structure (or was it never built?) approximate long discarded Greco-Roman pillars holding up nothing but sky. And everywhere, there are strange stand-ins for the human forms that once populated these abandoned spaces. In Gross Doln, over-tall lamps stand out like attenuated bodies. In Juterborg, two ventilators on the side of a building take on the aspect of ancient eyes.

 

© Fouad Elkoury, Mezokovesd, 2010, Chromogenic Print Diasec, 60 x 90 cm

Somewhere between becoming and unbecoming. And yet, one of the defining characteristics of these remnants of a Soviet past is that they exist in spite of the world. Everywhere in these photographs, a persistent grass grows — invading concrete crevices and cracks or inching along retired walls — as if reminding us that these wars, these empires, are mere specks on the historical record. The history of humans is a small thing. Nature persists.

 

© Fouad Elkoury, Retired Buses, 2010, Chromogenic Print Diasec, 72 x 90 cm

One final image. Two boulders lie casually on a promontory, before a lake. There is no trace of the retired military base that is surely in the surrounds. The boulders appear to us as mute witnesses, having been here for decades, if not centuries. And while they are likely to hold many answers — for we came here with questions — it seems all too evident that they are not about to reveal a thing.


© Fouad Elkoury, Tartu ,lac, 2011, Chromogenic Print Diasec, 100 x 125 cm

 

Event details
Date: On till Thursday, 29th May 2014, 10am-7pm 
Venue: The Third Line, Street 6, Al Quoz 3, Dubai (location map

 

 

 

www.thethirdline.com 
www.fouadelkoury.com  

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