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2014

Abbas Akhavan

Study for a Hanging Garden
Cast bronze, cotton fabric, dimensions variable

Study for a Hanging Garden is an act of commemoration, and also an attempt to archive plants belonging to regions around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the title hinting at the legendary gardens of Babylon. Plant taxonomy thrived as a scientific discipline in colonial times, when 19th century researchers gained access to new areas and organised expeditions around the world gathering species, and thereby becoming the gatekeepers of scientific knowledge. Akhavan has traced botanical species such as those held at London’s Kew Gardens, in particular endemic species that grow in present-day Iraq, such as Iris barnumae, Astragalus lobophorus and Campanula acutiloba. Damage to their habitat, firstly by the destruction of salt marshes and then by the effects of war, has made tracing them a difficult task.
Rooted in the funerary tradition of commemorating the dead, monuments often record public figures or landmark historical events. They demonstrate strength and attempt to stimulate forms of nationalist or collective memory despite the inevitability of shifts in power. Sculpted from photographic documentation and cast in bronze, these flowers, stems, leaves and roots are displayed in groupings which rest on the ground, resisting the verticality and singularity of traditional monuments. Enlarged to a human scale, they are displayed on simple white sheets, as if captured while being transported.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 18 - 21 March, 2014
Current:
Gwangju Biennale, Korea, 3 September – 9 November, 2014
Forthcoming:
'Common Grounds', Villa Stuck, Vienna, 12 February - 17 May, 2015

Kamrooz Aram

Ancient Through Modern: A Collection of Uncertain Objects, Part 1
Mixed media, dimensions variable (approximately 244 x 434 x 56 cm)

Ancient Through Modern: A Collection of Uncertain Objects, Part 1 is a wall installation consisting of painting, ceramics and collage arranged to echo the displays in popular museums such as the Louvre in Paris, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Taking cultural nostalgia as its subject, this work investigates how museums, and the objects treasured within them, serve a longing for mythical pasts and support claims of origin. Simultaneously, the aesthetic
regime of Modernism is privileged, considered the apex of the visual art of our time. Kamrooz Aram blurs the distance between ancient and modern, manufactured and made, revealing the persistence of archetypal forms and the irrationality of cultural value as it is ascribed to material objects.
Antiques and antiquities are placed in visual unity with replicas of such objects, commissioned from skilled makers such as the Iznik Foundation in Turkey, or bought from museum shops. A bowl from Kashan, for example, is displayed in a similar manner to a mid-century modern Danish piece designed by Marianne Starck, from her Persia Glaze series; a glaze with a crackling effect used in combination with a blue glaze that evokes the cobalt blues of Persian ceramics. In the backdrop, paintings and framed paper collage works reference stark Suprematist forms and the aesthetic conventions of high Modernism.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 18 - 21 March, 2014

Bouchra Khalili

Garden Conversation
Digital film, colour, sound, 16 min 22 sec

Garden Conversation restages a mythical encounter between two renegade heroes, seeking their wisdom for our time. In January 1959, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara met the exiled hero of the Rif War (1921–1926), Abdelkarim Al Khattabi, at the Moroccan Embassy in Cairo. An anti-colonialist, Khattabi resisted two armies, the French and Spanish, and his movement pioneered modern guerilla techniques that inspired many leaders, including Guevara and Ho Chi Minh.
Bouchra Khalili's film blurs historic fact and poetic fiction to conjecture what the ghosts of Guevara and Khattabi might speak of were they to meet today. Their conversation is scripted from the writings of Khattabi and Guevara regarding struggle, its methodology and its purpose. A young man and woman who speak Moroccan Arabic and Iraqi Arabic – yet fully understand each other – embody their ghosts. They meet in one of the oldest surviving colonial possessions in the world – Melilla, in the Moroccan Rif – where Khattabi lived, was imprisoned, and became a revolutionary.
The film was shot on location in Los Pinos de Rostrogordo, a park that is part forest and part garden, surrounded by the sea. It overlooks the border fence that was built to prevent north and sub-Saharan immigrants from reaching Europe and that serves to isolate Melilla as a Spanish territory from its Moroccan context.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 18 - 21 March, 2014
'Artistas Comprometidos? Talvez', Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, 20 June - 7 September, 2014
Forthcoming:
'Common Grounds', Villa Stuck, Vienna, 12 February - 17 May, 2015

Basim Magdy

The Dent
Super 16mm film transferred to full HD, colour, sound, 19 min

Starting with shiny rooftops and ending with the seemingly insignificant demise of the last circus elephant of its kind, The Dent weaves together loosely linked events and irrational occurrences to reflect upon collective failure and hopefulness. An anonymous little town dreams of international recognition, even as it becomes obvious that its efforts are misguided. The spectre of defeat may only be countered by maintaining a shared delusion, which keeps growing even as its residents continue to labour and make
sacrifices.
Basim Magdy’s moving image work layers film footage and text to produce a surrealistic visual essay, balancing the bleakness of contemporary conditions with sensitive humour. Shot between Paris, New York, Brussels, Quebec, Basel, Madeira, Prague and Venice, among other locations, the scenes are lent an aura similar to that of early cinema by the familiar grain and saturated tones of 16mm film, a medium that the artist favours. Magdy’s film draws from life, capturing absurd details and everyday beauty, seeking the uncanny within man-made environments. Ambient sound and music combine with text authored by the artist, deliberately composed to create a hypnotic sensory experience, making implausible events seem briefly possible.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 18 - 21 March, 2014
'Basim Magdy', State of Concept, Athens, 6 June – 6 September, 2014
'The Elephant Test', Lothringer 13, Munich, 17 July – 12 October, 2014
Current:
'Ghosts, Spies and Grandmothers', 8th Seoul International Media Art Biennale, Mediacity Seoul 2014, 2 September – 23 November, 2014
Forthcoming:
'L’avenir' (looking forward), La Biennale de Montreal, 21 October 2014 – 4 January, 2015
New: Vision Award of the CPH:DOX Film festival in Copenhagen, 6 – 16 November, 2014

Anup Mathew Thomas

Nurses
C-print, Diasec, 48 photographs, 60 x 80 cm each

Nurses is a group of portraits capturing women of Keralan origin employed in hospitals and care facilities around the world. Anup Mathew Thomas works primarily with the photograph and is interested in the slippages between documentary and artistic practice, frequently deploying carefully staged portraiture. Nurses are the single largest group of professional female migrants from Kerala, where the economy is largely dependent on foreign remittances. Through networks of friendship and filiation, Thomas located women from the nursing profession willing to be included in this typological project.
Each subject was asked to pose in her professional uniform in an outdoor setting close to her place of work. Marking the dislocation from Kerala, the isolated figure is placed centrally within the adoptive habitat, which ranges from forests in Europe and hills in North America to deserts in the Middle East. Displayed in a grid, the images merge to form a patchwork background from which the individuals emerge, often smiling, confidently looking directly at the camera. Transplanted onto new locations, they come together as a visual record of the possible variations within contemporary migratory patterns. The photographs are accompanied by an index, a publication which provides individual biographical details: names, professional background and current location.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 18 - 21 March, 2014

2013

Vartan Avakian

A Very Short History of Tall Men
Gold and Synthetic Glass, Dimensions variable

A Very Short History of Tall Men commemorates the forgotten leaders of failed coups d’état. Reconstituted from the minimal archival traces they left behind, these almost important figures are presented in a form proper for a commemoration of power: a statue of the man, standing tall, proud and triumphant. However, though these statues are cast in gold and are photographically precise, they measure in at a diminutive five centimetres; their toy soldier-like stature indexes both the men’s failed attempts to seize power and their subsequent near erasure from the historical record. Entombed in clear acrylic spheres they float like apparitions in a crystal ball doomed to forever roll, head over heel, here and there. These ambiguous objects are simultaneously counter-monuments that critique both the impulse to monumentalise and the forms it inspires, and modest monuments, sincere commemorations of failure itself.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 20 - 23 March, 2013

Iman Issa

Common Elements
Fifty-five text panels, fourteen framed C-prints, and five wooden sculptures on white plinths, Dimensions variable

Iman Issa works through a process of careful refinement, whereby specific information is pared down to its essence and then re-imagined through a personal and subjective lens. Common Elements applies this methodology to the genre of autobiography, a curiously hybrid literary mode in which individual and collective narratives are always already intertwined. Issa extracts bits of text from five accounts by four intellectuals; decontextualised, these fragments shed their individuality and blend into a single collective narrative of life dedicated to thought, culture and justice. Punctuating and amplifying the text panels, the accompanying photographs and sculptures hover ambiguously, between significant and ordinary, between memento and object. Like much of Issa’s oeuvre, Common Elements is driven by a desire to determine familiar structures of form, language, memory and experience where the individual intersects with and opens up into the collective.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 20 - 23 March, 2013
'Iman Issa', Tensta Konstall, Stockholm, 13 June —29 September, 2013
Current:
Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai, 13 September, 2014 - 12 September, 2015

Huma Mulji

The Miraculous Lives of This and That
Wooden cabinet, various objects including taxidermy animals, plastic toys and dust, Cabinet: 165.1 x 138.4 x 231 cm

The Miraculous Lives of This and That—a twenty-first century Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities—employs the whimsical and wondrous logic of acquisition, categorisation, organisation and display of these unruly antecedents of the modern museum. A variety of ordinary and extraordinary objects, gathered from Huma Mulji’s local milieu, fill the compartments and drawers of a slightly larger than life wooden cabinet. Among them are taxidermy animals, porcelain imitations of cheap plastic dolls, copper votive objects in the shape of body parts, and arrays of rotting teeth, all metonyms of a body haunted by decay and inevitable death. Straddling the threshold between the animate and inanimate, between use and obsolescence, these objects challenge clear-cut distinctions between material states of being. Finally, the cabinet is an existential meditation on the mortality of all things, both living and not, and on the very matter of life.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 20 - 23 March, 2013

Hrair Sarkissian

Background
Six duratrans prints, 180 x 227 cm

Background marks the eclipse of a tradition of studio portraiture integral to the twentieth century history and development of photography in the Middle East by documenting one of its central artefacts: the studio backdrop. Hrair Sarkissian photographed hundreds of examples he found in studios across six Middle Eastern cities—Alexandria, Amman, Beirut, Byblos, Cairo and Istanbul—finally selecting one from and for each one. Large-scale, backlit and hung unframed, like the backdrops themselves, these photographs both monumentalise and eulogise their subject. Without the distraction of a sitter in the foreground, our focus shifts to the backdrop itself, to the tools and spaces historically used for studio portraiture. But the spaces are empty and the backdrops appear disused, like ruins or relics of a tradition that has finally run its course, the absent sitter introducing a melancholy that radiates from the emptiness.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 20 - 23 March, 2013
Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai, 22 August 2013 – 24 August, 2014

Rayyane Tabet

FIRE/CAST/DRAW
Five thousand hand-cast unique lead pieces and two wall texts, ink on cotton paper, Lead pieces: dimensions variable; wall text: 29 x 23 cm each

FIRE/CAST/DRAW consists of thousands of unique lead pieces, each cast by the artist by pouring a few grams of lead shot—the equivalent weight of a single bullet—melted in a stovetop coffee pot into a water-filled coffee cup. This modest process re-enacts a divining ritual his grandmother performed on him in his youth. Hidden in each craggy lump is thought to be the face of the person who may have cursed you by casting the evil eye your way. Uncannily synthesizing distinct strands of research—art history, numismatics, superstition, and the conflict-ridden history of the Middle East—the installation, through Tabet’s five thousand-fold repetition of this ritual, multiplies its apotropaic effect, extending it to the collective. Maybe, those culpable for the region’s many traumas, for the many curses Arabs have endured, will finally be held accountable as their features manifest in the nooks and crannies of these little nuggets.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 20 - 23 March, 2013
'Customs Made: Quotidian Practices & Everyday Rituals', Maraya Art Centre, 12 March – 12 May, 2014
Forthcoming:
“ Territoire d'affects" , Beirut Exhibition Center, Lebanon, May - June 2015

2012

Raed Yassin

China
7 Porcelain Vases

Lebanon has long struggled to come to terms with the aftermath of its civil war (1975-1990). Even if the fighting stopped more than two decades ago, sectarian tensions are still very much present in the country’s demographic and political make-up. Violence has for the most part ceased, yet to this date no culprits of the atrocities have been held accountable for their actions. An uneasy amnesia, and absence of historical narrative reigns in Lebanon in order to keep a brittle peace. In an attempt to formulate the cycle of this unaccounted history, Raed Yassin has chosen an unorthodox and innovative way of attempting to represent – ‘frieze’ as it were - important historical events of Lebanese contemporary history. His work struggles with the impossibility of reading things of the past in a comprehensive way. In China he shows seven Chinese porcelain vases, produced at Jingdezhen – China’s capital of porcelain. Depicting key battles of the Lebanese civil war, amongst others the War of the Hotels (1975-1976), the Battle for Tal al-Zaatar (1976), the Israeli invasion of Beirut (1982) and the so-called War of Liberation (1989). These vases are part-beautiful object, part-historical document, and part-mass-produced product. They echo the ancient tradition of recording victories at battle on vases and ceramics for the sake of posterity, as well as a domestic decorative readymade that can easily be found in any Lebanese home. Yassin decided to detail battles that were instrumental for territorial, demographic and political shifts, and whose ramifications are still tangible today. The circularity of the vases hint at an impossibility of closure – there is no beginning and no end when we view the vases, reflecting the unresolved situation in present-day Lebanon.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 21 - 24 March, 2012
‘Terms and Conditions’, Singapore Art Museum, June – September, 2013
'The Blue Route’, Villa Empain, Brussels, 27 September, 2013 – 9 February, 2014
Current:
'Blue Times', Wien Kunsthalle, Vienna, 1 October, 2014 - 11 January 2015

Risham Syed

The Seven Seas
7 Quilts

In The Seven Seas Risham Syed connects the intricacies of contemporary geo-politics with the 19th and early 20th Century cotton trade of the British Empire. With fabric sourced from travels to Turkey, Bangladesh, UAE, Sri Lanka, UK, India and within her native Pakistan, Syed weaves the history of the location-specific craft of textile production with tales of political resistance. All her quilts depict 19th and 20th Century maps of various port cities that were strategically located on colonial European trade routes, such as Izmir in Turkey, Colombo in Sri Lanka, Mumbai in India, and Ras al-Khaimah in the UAE. Apart from being trade gateways, these cities were also sites of resistance and rebellion against the imperial powers. Each quilt is made by combining a variety of techniques, whilst the stitching and layering of fabric echoes the layering of historical and post-colonial narratives. The base material of all the quilts is cotton from Lahore, covered in popular - mostly European – prints, which allude to 19th century Victorian prints. Syed’s tangible, historical cartography on fabric is a means to investigate the void left by the colonial past. This lacuna is reflected in the white textiles that make up the back of the quilts: made of a variety of materials such as local Pakistani toweling, hand-woven Sri Lankan cotton, and U.K.-bought cotton that was “Made in India”. The quilts are accompanied by postcard-size paintings portraying images of global conflict and resistance culled from media sources. They act as footnotes to the quilts, reminding the audience that within a globalised world the past is always threaded within the present.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 21 - 24 March, 2012
Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art 2013, Zhejiang Art Museum, Hangzhou, September – November 2013

Wael Shawky

A Glimpse of Clean History
Ceramics, Wood & Velvet

Wael Shawky is fascinated by processes of transition and how an understanding of local systems translates into global relations. The crusades are a prime historical example of a time in transition, of ideological and global expansion. A Glimpse of Clean History takes as its starting point a painting by the preeminent French painter Jean Fouquet (1420-1481), Urban II 1035-1099 preaching the crusade at Clermont in the presence of King Philippe I 1053-1108 of France in 1095. In the painting Pope Urban II delivers a speech, which is thought to have led to the launch of the First Crusade one year later, in 1096. The chronicling and representation of this historical event has followed a trajectory from historical manuscript to Fouquet’s painting. In A Glimpse of Clean History Shawky introduces his own transformation, albeit with a critical twist: a three-dimensional object in the form of a medieval marionette theatre with ceramic dolls. As an audience we are only privy to the scene for a short period of time. The grand velvet drapes open mechanically revealing the interior diorama of the marionette stage – for one minute – then close again. We are literally allowed only a glimpse of history, a furtive glance on a scene, which we know, due to its many manifestations over time, can never be clean. In freezing a significant historical moment, A Glimpse of Clean History transforms the representation of history into a miniaturised theatrical event where the viewers’ mode of consumption is mechanically controlled.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 21 - 24 March, 2012

Taysir Batniji

To My Brother
Hand Carvings from Photographs on Paper

In 1985 Taysir Batniji celebrated his brother’s wedding with his family in Gaza. Two years later the First Intifada (1987-1993) broke out, and Batniji’s brother was killed by an Israeli sniper on the 9th day of the uprising. How can personal loss be represented? Is it possible to render something absent tangible, and materialise a memory? How can we trace the porousness between the personal and the collective – especially in the case of Palestine - when speaking of memory and of things lost? Batniji has etched a series of 60 inkless “drawings” on paper, based on family photos of his brother’s wedding. These “drawings” hark back to a happier time, one of joy and family gathering. To My Brother is a fragile and poetic work which requires an intimate relationship with the viewer: stand too far away and the drawings appear as blank sheets of paper, stand closer and you will be able to trace the contours of the human shapes inhabiting these drawings, the artist’s memories, and the thin lines between an ephemeral presence and a permanent absence. Stand closer and you will be able to discern that Batniji has left out certain details, or has emphasised others. As the title indicates, this series is a dedication to Batniji’s late brother Mayssara and a commemoration of his untimely death. However, this very personal history ties into a wider political context of strife in the Middle East, and shows how personal experiences ultimately, in some way or other, become part of a collective narrative.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 21 - 24 March, 2012
‘Systems and Patterns’, International Centre for Graphic Arts, Ljubljana, Slovenia, September – November 2012
Forthcoming:
'Shangri La: Imagined Cities', Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG), USA, 23 October - 28 December, 2014

Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige

A Letter Can Always Reach its Destination
Video Installation

For over a decade Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige have been collecting spam and scam emails instead of automatically relegating them to the trash as most of us do. These unsolicited emails pry on our empathy for monetary donations or promise us easy-made fortunes. Originating often in countries where corruption is rife, these emails are stories and documents rooted within specific historical and geo-political moments. As such these narratives of swindle can be read as representations of our time, unintentional narrations of history, told by characters which constitute a fictive presence, but are sent by a real person. Hadjithomas & Joreige have articulated an imaginary embodiment of these emails that clutter our inboxes on a daily basis. They have used the textual source material of selected spam and scam as visual narratives, image representations that become pieces of fiction by themselves, and beg the viewer’s suspension of disbelief. Said by non-professional actors, the emails seem transformed into scenarios for monologues; stories which become captivating, or even moving because they are told by what seems to be a “real” person. Nevertheless, the absent presence and complex layering of technological communication is echoed in the display, where one projection is ephemerally super-imposed upon another, creating a ghostlike sensibility where the virtual and physical meet.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 21 - 24 March, 2012
'Intense Proximity', La Triennale, Palais De Tokyo, Paris, 20 April - 16 August, 2012
Kochi-Muziris Biennale, December 2012 – March 2013
‘Terms and Conditions’, Singapore Art Museum, June – September 2013
'Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige', Villa Arson, Nice, 6 July – 12 October, 2014

2011

Hamra Abbas

Woman in Black
Stained glass window, 3 panels, 264 x 43 cm (each)

Installed within a darkened chamber, Woman in Black depicts the iconic image of a fictional super-heroine. The illustrations are reminiscent of Mogul miniature painting, but their form echoes traditional stained glass technique, prevalent in the Middle Ages. Stained glass originally had a clear didactic function and was used to depict narratives from the Bible to a largely illiterate populace. Seen from inside a place of worship, such windows were deliberately intended to focus the attention of the congregation on the sacred image during the sermon. The interplay of light and dark serve as metaphors for good and evil and are deliberately employed by Abbas to accentuate the mysterious powers of the female figure enshrined within the glass, placed in the centre of a scene of conflict, suggestive of the worldly realities of contemporary society. Abbas playfully adapts an illuminated painting into an illuminated window, whose image by design, comes and goes with the fading of the day.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 15 - 19 March, 2011

Jananne Al-Ani

Shadow Sites II
Single channel digital video

Shadow Sites II is a film that takes the form of an aerial journey. It is made up of images of a landscape bearing traces of natural and man-made activity as well as ancient and contemporary structures. Seen from above, the landscape appears abstracted, its buildings flattened and its inhabitants invisible to the human eye. Only when the sun is at its lowest do the features on the ground, the archaeological sites and settlements come to light. Such ‘shadow sites’ when seen from the air, map the latent images held by the landscape’s surface. Much like a photographic plate, the landscape itself holds the potential to be exposed, thereby revealing the memory of its past. Historically, representations of the Middle Eastern landscape, from William Holman Hunt’s 1854 painting The Scapegoat to media images from the 1991 Desert Storm campaign have depicted the region as uninhabited and without sign of civilization. In response to the military’s use of digital technology and satellite navigation, Al-Ani produces a film that recreates the aerial vantage point of such missions while taking an altogether different viewpoint of the land it surveys. The film burrows into the landscape as one image slowly dissolves into another, like a mineshaft tunneling deep into a substrate of memories preserved over time.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 15 - 19 March, 2011
‘The Future of a Promise’, official collateral exhibition of the 54th Venice Biennale, Venice, June – November 2011
‘Topographies de la Guerre’, Le Bal, Paris, September – December 2011
‘All Our Relations’, 18th Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, June – September 2012
‘Shadow Sites: Recent Work by Jananne Al-Ani’, Arthr M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian’s Museum of Asian Art, Washington D.C. August 2012 – February 2013
‘Light from the Middle East’, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, November 2012 – April 2013
‘Groundwork’, Beirut Art Center, Beirut, February – April 2013
‘Re-emerge: Towards a New Cultural Cartography’, Sharjah Biennial 11, Sharjah, March – May 2013
‘Terms and Conditions’, Singapore Art Museum, June – September 2013

Shezad Dawood

New Dream Machine Project
Light Sculpture (brushed steel, fluorescent lights, electronic motor) and 16mm film

The inspiration behind the project begins with the prototype Dream Machine by the painter Brion Gysin (1916-1986) created in the early 1960s upon his return to the UK from Morocco. Fabricated in Fez and the UK, in homage to Gysin, Dawood’s kinetic light sculpture is designed to emit kaleidoscopic light pulses similar in effect to alpha waves produced by the brain to induce states of unconsciousness. An additional part of Dawood’s project is a concert featuring the acclaimed Bedouin Master Musicians of Jajouka, who were the house band at Gysin’s ‘1001 Nights’ restaurant, which he opened in Tangiers in 1954 with the Moroccan painter Mohamed Hamri. The concert also pays tribute to Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones’s cult album Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka (1971) made after Jones was introduced to the musicians whilst in Tangiers with Gysin and Hamri. Contemporary British guitarist Duke Garwood plays the role of Jones, alongside the current ensemble of The Master Musicians of Jajouka, led by Bachir Attar. Built using local craftsmen, in association with the experimental art space L’appartement 22, the work makes manifest a network of cultural, seemingly chance encounters spanning time and geography.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 15 - 19 March, 2011
'Piercing Brightness', Newlyn Art Gallery & the Exchange, June - September 2012
‘Parasolstice – Winter Light’, Parasol Unit, London, December 2012 – February 2013
I Look to You and I See Nothing, Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE, 16 November 2013 – 16 February, 2014

Nadia Kaabi-Linke

Flying Carpets
Chrome-plated aluminum, thread, dimensions variable

From the legendary stories of King Solomon to One Thousand and One Nights and Hollywood’s Thief of Baghdad (1924), The image of the flying carpet has entered popular imagination as one of most universally recognised symbols of the ‘orient,’ additionally suggesting a boundless and unrestricted mode of travel and freedom. The practical use of carpets by hawkers who sell counterfeit goods on the streets of Venice sits in stark contrast to this freedom, as the mobility of such street sellers is greatly restricted. Of mainly African, Arab or South Asian descent, the peddlars use their carpets to bundle together goods in order to flee detection from the authorities. The artist’s installation gives this socio-political predicament expression. In her work, geometric metal forms, derived from stencil outlines of the hawker’s carpets, are suspended by cascades of hanging thread. Taking the form of a bridge, Il Ponte del Sepolcro found in Venice, the work hovers in space like a floating cage. With beauty and fragility, Kaabi-Linke underlines what is in effect a day to day sense of confinement experienced by the hawkers as they clandestinely ‘move’ from place to place.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 15 - 19 March, 2011
'The Future of a Promise', Collateral Event of the 54th Venice Biennale, June - November 2011

Timo Nasseri

Gon
Stainless steel, 567 x 230 x 300 cm

Gon takes its name from the Greek and German words for a unit of measurement used to calculate angles within a circle. Formed of a rhombus created by two isosceles triangles, the stainless steel sculpture recalls muqarnas, ornamentation made from small pointed niches stacked in tiers widely used in medieval architecture in north-eastern Iran and North Africa.
From afar the work calls to mind Russian Constructivism through a combination of its
material properties (faktura) and its spatial presence (tektonika). Up close however, the rhythmic network of the 88 heat-sealed pipes are inspired by the geometric drawings of the Swiss mathematician Jakob Steiner. As one moves around the sculpture, the pipes appear to twist and bend causing their symmetrical arrangement to disappear and reappear in new spatial configurations. This illusion contrasts with the sculptures shadow, which behaves more predictably, appearing or moving in accordance with the light. Like much of the artist’s work, the sculpture gives expression to the quantitative logic of systems that exist across cultures and history, and the inherent, yet uncanny, beauty that results from their intersection.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 15 - 19 March, 2011

2010

Kader Attia

History of a Myth: The Small Dome of the Rock
Multi-Media Installation

The work consists of a miniature sculpture composed of two silver nuts of different sizes holding in place a brass bolt. A camera is placed alongside this assemblage to capture its form which is then projected onto a large canvas increasing it to many times its size. Once projected the very small assemblage evokes an architectural representation of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The evocative sound of wind against the mosque's esplanade recreates the sensory experience the artist experienced when he visited the monument. The mysterious, amplified noise reverberating through the dark space, illuminated only by the striking projection on the canvas, creates a lasting impression on the viewer.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 17 - 20 March, 2010
Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai, April – July 2010
Museum of Arts & Design, New York, August – October 2010
‘Lo Spazio del Sacro’, Galleria Civica, Commune di Moderna, Moderna, Italy, December 2010 – March 2011
‘Chkoun Ahna’, National Museum of Carthage, Tunis, May – June 2012
‘Terms and Conditions’, Singapore Art Museum, June – September 2013

Hala Elkoussy

Myths and Legends Room: The Mural
48 framed colour photographs,10 x 4 m

Myths and Legends Room: The Mural is an unexpected take on the mural as a commemorative work of propaganda art, referencing wall paintings and dioramas that celebrate the history of modern Egypt. By distilling what can be viewed as an anthology of contemporary myths and legends, a more fluid and human reading of history is brought forward, standing in sharp contrast to how it is presented in the educational systems of Egypt and most of the Arab World. Treating modernisation as a loss of tradition as well as a challenge, the work reflects on the speed of the dazzling urban-alteration process, for which the fast-growing, dynamic, contemporary metropolis of Cairo serves as a prime example.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 17 - 20 March, 2010
Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai, April – July 2010
Museum of Arts & Design, New York, August – October 2010
‘Shubbak: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture’, City Hall, London, July 2011
‘Chkoun Ahna’, National Museum of Carthage, Tunis, May – June 2012
‘Cairo. Open City: New Testimonies from an Ongoing Revolution’, Museum of Photography, Braunschweig, September – December 2012
‘Re-emerge: Towards a New Cultural Cartography’, Sharjah Biennial 11, Sharjah, March - May 2013

Marwan Sahmarani

The Feast of the Damned
Paintings, drawings, ceramics, projection, 9 x 5.5 x 3.5 m

The Feast of the Damned is an installation integrating painting, drawing, ceramics and film inspired by Hell: Fall of the Condemned Ones by Rubens. Sahmarani has created a three-dimensional space in which the themes of martyrdom and expiation are dealt with in a way that resembles the millennia-old techniques of fresco painting in combination with contemporary media. The themes of the work are rooted in the cultural traditions of the Middle East region and part of its contemporary socio-cultural reality, where various notions of evil are activated in political discourse at the service of agendas of control and violence, in association to gender, certain ideologies and civil society.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 17 - 20 March, 2010
DIFC April - July 2010
Museum of Arts & Design, New York August - October 2010
DIFC, Gate Village Building 8 lobby, October 2012 - August 2013

2009

Kutlug Ataman

Strange Space
Video Projection from digital video loop

The artist is filmed while crossing a sulphurous desert land with bare feet and blind-folded eyes. A vision inspired by folk tales typical of Mesoptamia in which the hero, blinded by the love of the heroine, is condemned to wander in the desert trying to find her, and eventually burst into flames when they finally meet. The narrative is used as a metaphor of the encounter of modernity and tradition, of their reciprocal attraction and the trauma it may cause.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 18 - 21, March 2009
Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai, April – July 2009
Museum of Arts & Design, New York, August – October 2009
Maraya Arts Centre, Al Qasba, Sharjah, UAE, March – May 2010
MAXXI, The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome, 2010
ARTER, Istanbul, 2011
‘Safar/Voyage: Contemporary Works by Arab, Iranian and Turkish Artists, Museum of Contemporary Anthropology, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, April – September 2013

Nazgol Ansarinia

Rhyme and Reason
Carpet, handwoven wool, silk and cotton, 255 x 355 cm

In Rhyme and Reason the traditional motifs of the Persian carpet are replaced with everyday scenes of contemporary life in urban Iran. In this work, Ansarinia draws parallels between the design of the Persian carpet, an intricate composition of intertwining and often disparate motifs, with the structure of life in her native Tehran. Tehran is a multi-layered and complex city, made up of many competing fragments coexisting within one framework. Ansarinia's work broaches the social existence within Iran; her unexpected imagery breaks up preconceived notions or romanticised views of the orient.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 18 - 21 March, 2009
Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai, April – July 2009, December 2010 – October 2012
Museum of Arts & Design, New York, August – October 2009
Celebration of Entrepreneurship, Madinat Jumeirah, November 2010, Abraaj event
Maraya Arts Centre, Al Qasba, Sharjah, UAE, March – May 2010
‘Safar/Voyage: Contemporary Works by Arab, Iranian and Turkish Artists, Museum of Contemporary Anthropology, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, April – September 2013

Zoulikha Bouabdellah with Curator Carol Solomon

Walk on the Sky. Pisces
Mixed Media Installation, 6 x 6 x 3m

A re-creation of the celestial canopy in the month of March, this installation invites the viewer to walk on the sky. Sleek and contemporary, it features the polygonal star of Islamic art and is inspired by sources as rich and varied as the tenth-century Book of Fixed Stars by the Persian astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi and the tale of King Solomon's glass floor, which tricked the Queen of Sheba (Bilqis), believing it was a pool of water.

Exhibition history:
Art Dubai, 18 - 21 March, 2009
DIFC April - July 2009
Museum of Arts & Design, New York August - October 2009
Maraya Arts Centre, Al Qasba, Sharjah, March - April 2010