My Top 10 Cultural Highlights of 2016

Courtesy of Metrograph LLC/Takako Ida

It's time for best of the year lists. Between now and the end of this month/year, I will share a few lists with you.

I will start by with my cultural highlights, specifically, places I discovered, talks and performances I attended. They are listed below in alphabetical order (per category). 

In my next post I will share with you favourite artworks of the year, and expect my top exhibitions, top film discoveries and top films of the year soon after. 


1. Atlas Bookstore (Sheraton Hotel in Doha, Qatar)


Image via

An architecture and urbanism book shop, with a focus on the Greater Middle East. It includes old and new books and are always looking for book donations. It's an absuloute gem of a bookshop, so uf you are ever in Doha, do pay a visit. The only online presence is an Instagram account,

2. Msheireb Arts Centre (Msheireb, Heart of Doha, Qatar)


Image via

Located in what was the first school for girls in Doha in the 1950s, in Msheireb, Qatar's earliest suburb. The centre houses the Sadaa Al Thikrayat (Echo Memory Project), an artist-led initiative to record and collect a wide range of artefacts, stories and memories from Msheireb which is undergoing extensive regeneration and construction and branded as the 'Heart of Doha'. 

The art centre's website hasn't been updated for a while, but here's an article about Msheireb Arts Centre and its surroundings.    

3. Nature Lab RISD (Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, USA)


Nature Lab | Image via

In the early 20th century, RISD faculty member Edna Lawrence founded the Nature Lab to “open students’ eyes to the marvels of beauty in nature of forms, space, color, texture, design and structure.” Today the Lab still offers unmediated access to authentic natural history specimens, while also fostering creative inquiry into biomimetics, biophilic design, ecology and climate change.

It's a marbellous space and felt very lucky to have had access to the space this summer. Tiny Town was mindblowing, a collection of small-scale specimens displayed in 2 x 2’’ clear acrylic boxes. Stereo microscopes are offered to view the specimens which includes insects, corals and other natural wonders which can be magnified between 9x and 185x their actual size.


Tiny Town | Image via


4. Metrograph (7 Ludlow Street, New York City)

My favourite discovery during my visit to New York this summer is The Metrograph. I spent many afternoons and nights at this cinema. Founded and designed by Alexander Olch, it is evident the decision makers and the team working there have good taste. It's an elegant space, and there's great attention to the details, from the font type, the monthly printed guide, the staff uniforms (who by the way are cinephiles, just like most of their visitors), the curated book shop and even the food menu. 

Metrograph has two screens, a restaurant, a bookstore, a lounge and a candy bar that is far superior compared to what you find at most multiplexes. The prgramming includes classics, retrospectives and some new releases. It's about the love of cinema regardless of genres. Screenings include both 35mm and digital. All the screenings I saw there on 35mm were impecceble. 

Watch the video to see what I mean. I miss the Metrograph more than I miss New York. 

5. The Projector (6001 Beach Road, Golden Mile Tower, Singapore) 


Image via The Projector

The Projector is an independent cinema on the 5th floor of the Golden Mile Tower in Singapore. Describing itself as "not your average cinema". I really liked the design of the space, their programming and the team working there are really friendly. I wrote about it here and included lots of pictures too.  


6. Dark & Lovely: Black Beauty in Cinema (BFI, London)

What is black beauty? A shirtless Paul Robeson escaping a chain gang in The Emperor Jones; Pam Grier in Foxy Brown; Grace Jones as Boomerang’s infamous Strangé; Lupita Nyong’o on the red carpet or Viola Davis revealing her natural hair in How to Get Away with Murder?
Join the BFI’s Tega OkitiBen Arogundade, author of Black Beauty, writer and programmer Jay Bernard and Jan Asante, BCA Film Fest, as they mine the history of black stars with a selection of clips and insightful discussion celebrating sexuality, style and the politics of hair and colourism. 

This talk took place on 1st December at the BFI in London. It was a talk to celebrate black sexuality and style in cinema. The evening included film clips and discussions that were personal and thoughtful. 

7. The Extraordinary Everyday: Film and Photograph (ICA, London)

Alison Tanner, Albury Morris Buckinghamshire, 2013

Bringing together a curated programme of moving and still image work, this event presents work by Middlesex University staff and students alongside invited artists. The event will focus on the notion of the 'extraordinary' found in social and cultural practices, youth cultures, fashion and music. The two hour programme includes the presentation of film extracts and show reels of photography series followed by a panel discussion.

Amongst those presenting work are Alison TannerJason Summerfield, documentary filmmaker Jeanie Finlay and artist Rory Pilgrim.   

This talk took place on 24th November at ICA in London. Four very different artists in terms of the projects their pursue and their process. Really enjoyed listening to all of them. One question posed by Rory Pilgrim has been stuck with me ever since the talk, "What do we hope to become?".   

8. Marketing Presentation for Boxed Branded Plush Toys as Art by Kevin Jones(Alserkal Avenue, Dubai)

Kevin Jones - Marketing Presentation for Boxed Branded Plush Toys as Art | © Hind Mezaina

Kevin Jones - Marketing Presentation for Boxed Branded Plush Toys as Art | © Hind Mezaina

Warehouse Project - Vikram Divecha | © Hind Mezaina

Warehouse Project - Vikram Divecha | © Hind Mezaina

This talk took place on 12th April at Warehouse 82 in Alserkal Avenue. It was part of an exhibition and a project by Vikram Divecha titled Warehouse Project

In support of the Warehouse Project by Vikram Divecha, the objective of this talk is to exhibit how our enterprise is best suited to:

- Highlight the warehouse as a non-neutral display space
- Examine how brands play with commerce and art
- Critique the critique

Kevin Jones is an independent arts writer based in Dubai and for this talk, he formatted it to appear as a corporate presentation. It was provocative, critical and funny. Particularly the points about Alserkal Avenue's role as "landlord" (which it prefers not to be known as)  vs. an "organisation".  You can listen to the presentation here

9. The Past and Future of the Avant Garde: New York, Warhol, and the World — Readings and Conversation with Kenneth Goldsmith and Gilda Williams (NYU Abu Dhabi)


© Hind Mezaina

This event took place on 28th April at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Kenneth Goldsmith, a conceptual poet on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, was the first poet laureate of the Museum of Modern Art. His recent book, Capital, rewrites Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project with New York rather than Paris as the subject. He is the founder and curator of

Gilda Williams, an art critic on the faculty of Goldsmiths College, University of London, is the compiler of the new anthology ON&BY Andy Warhol, published this spring by Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press. Her other books include How to Write About Contemporary Art.

I really enjoyed this evening, the readings by Goldsmith and Williams and the discussion that followed felt intimate and personal.  


10. Nik Bärtsch's Mobile - A non-stop 27-hour “Ritual Groove Music” performance installation (The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi)


© Hind Mezaina

I didn't attend many musical performaces this year, so out of the few I did attend, this 27 hour performance was the stand out. I think I attended 10 hours in total. The music flowed and our state of mind flowed with it. Most of us there slept and woke up many times during the concert. It felt like a slumber party surrounded by music.  

Pianist/composer Nik Bärtsch leads his acoustic quartet MOBILE in a 27-hour “Ritual Groove Music” performance installation, organically weaving textures from jazz, funk, new music, and minimalism with ritual and sacred music.
This site-specific, multi-venue, non-stop multi-media performance will feature a series of formal concerts and extended musical bridges throughout the night and day, with a visual installation designed by Daniel Eaton.