Art Dubai 2014 Review - Part 2 - Art Dubai Projects

Re: Purpose by Maryam Al Qassimi | Courtesy: Art Dubai

Re: Purpose by Maryam Al Qassimi | Courtesy: Art Dubai

Art Dubai Projects is a curated, not-for-profit programme of commissioned and site specific art projects exhibited on the fair-grounds of Art Dubai during the days of the fair. The projects usually include installations, performances, video and research which aims to "engage audiences and interact with and comment on the fair and its environment".

The theme for this year's Art Dubai Projects was "intervention" and the work was spread across Madinat Jumeirah's Madinat Arena and Mina A'Salam Hotel, and also inside the actual Art Dubai catalogue. But I found it too spread out which made it very easy to get overlooked by the casual Art Dubai visitor. 

This year's edition for Art Dubai Projects was curated by Fawz Kabra and included the following artists: 

  • Nadia Ayari (Tunis/New York)
  • Youmna Chlala (Beirut/New York)
  • Clark House Initiative (Mumbai) 
  • Sunoj D (Bangalore)
  • Maitha Demithan (Dubai)
  • Sara Al Haddad (Dubai) 
  • Shuruq Harb (Ramallah)
  • Najat Makki (Dubai)
  • Amina Menia (Algiers)
  • Maryam Al Qassimi (Sharjah)
  • Mounira Al Solh (Beirut)
  • Hajra Waheed (Montreal) 

I only really liked a handful of the projects because I found them engaging. But overall I did think the projects lacked any explanations, only the name of the artist and the piece could be seen next to each project, but there was no visible explanation of the theme or at least an artist statement next to each project. This lack of visible information made it difficult to understand several of the projects and its context.

Not everyone has the opportunity to speak to the artists or the curator to be able to understand and appreciate the work, and certainly not many will spend time to read more than 60 pages of the Art Dubai Catalogue which included a chapter titled Curatorial Statements, Interventions and Institutional Memory or Amnesia: Art Dubai Projects 2014, plus interviews with the artists.

Some work did speak for itself, whilst others didn't really create much of an emotion and some were hardly noticed. 

The ones I really liked: 

Maitha Demithan - Live Portraiture

Maitha Demithan chooses her subjects from family members and friends close to her. She uses scanography to document intense moments of encounter in her various series of installation, video, and transfers on cloth. For the Art Dubai Projects, she set up a booth where she scanned Art Dubai visitors everyday to make one large collage of portraits on the last day.

Here are some of the scans showcased in the booth during the first couple of days of the fair: 


Courtesy: Art Dubai

Maryam Al Qassimi - Re: purpose


© Hind Mezaina - Re: Purpose by Maryam Al Qassimi

Maryam Al Qassimi is a visual artist living and working in Sharjah. Her work uses found imagery and material to explore the vernacular of the UAE and how its merging of languages has shaped local pop-culture.  

Her project Re: purpose "seeks to funtion back to arbitrary objects, turned decorative sculpture, deemed as cultural icons." For this iteration, the giant bukhour sculptures at Madinat Jumeirah were "activated", a "performative gesture intended to recognise the absurdity and artifice in the branding of culture with an overt display of theatrical elements befitting an art fair in Dubai." 

Shuruq Harb - Postulant Angels: The Unoffcial Catalogue of Paul Klee

© Hind Mezaina - Art Dubai Catalogue

I would have missed this if I didn't go through the Art Dubai Catalogue, which I only had a chance to do after the art fair.

Shuruq Harb is a visual artist and writer based in Ramallah. She co-founded a number of independent initiatives: ArtTerritories, an online publishing platform, and 'The River has Two Banks' an ongoing initiative connecting artists across Jordan and Palestine. She has shown her work at the 9th Gwangju Biennale (2012), and Columbia University GSAPP, New York (2013).  

For Art Dubai Projects, she used the Art Dubai 2014 Catalogue to intervene and "unveils a series of paintings and drawings, along with correspondences, documents and requests for the authentication of potential Paul Klee artworks".


The one I would have loved if I actually go to see it:

Hajra Waheed - Character 1: In The Rough

As mentioned earlier, I thought the some of the Art Dubai Projects were too spread apart, you had to know where to find them or stumble upon them. While that may be the intent, it meant some of the projects got overlooked. I try to read all the listings and still managed to miss this project which I am certain would have loved if I saw it in person.

It was only when I went through the Art Dubai catalogue after the fair that I found out Hajra Waheed had a project which was displayed at 7pm during the evenings of the fair. (Hajra Waheed is one the artists whose work I discovered at last year's fair which I really liked and an expanded version of her work returned this year. I will share her work in my next Art Dubai post.) 


Chapter 1: In The Rough by Hajra Waheed | Courtesy: Art Dubai

Hajra Waheed is a Montreal-based artist whose mixed media practice explores issues related to political history, popular imagination and the broad impact of colonial power. Her exhibitions include (In) the First Circle at Tapies Foundation, Barcelona (2012), and Sea Change at Experimenter, Kolkata (2013).

For Art Dubai Projects, Waheed had a floating lantern narrating Sea Change through the use of light and found objects. It was performed with renowned shadow pupeteer, Clea Minaker. 


The ones I didn't like: 

Nadia Ayari - Selfie Booth, WC

I had seen Nadia Ayari's work, part of the AiR (Artist in Residence) exhibition at the SIKKA Art Fair, (expect a post about SIKKA soon) and her work looked like something you see in hotels, so I guess it was only befitting to see her project titled Selfie Booth, WC in Madinat Arena.   


Selfie Booth by Nadia Ayari | Courtesy: Art Dubai

Nadia Ayari’s explorations in fresco add a third sculptural dimension to her richly dense paintings. Ayari has had solo projects at The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2013); Monya Rowe, New York, USA (2011) and Luce Gallery, Turin, Italy (2009). She has participated in group exhibitions at the 3rd Thessaloniki Biennale, Greece (2013); and the 12th Cairo Biennale, Egypt (2010). 

Selfie Boot, WC is an asymmetrical sculpture set in the public bathrooms located beside the contemporary gallery halls of Art Dubai. The piece doubles as an armature for Ayari's fresco paintings.  

When asked to discuss this specific work in an interview in the Art Dubai Catalogue, she said, "2013 was the year of the selfie, 1913 was the year of of Duchamps. The four day commercial context of this piece demanded that I reach towards both idols."

Everytime I used the toilet that had this piece, I didn't really see anyone engage with it, in fact some were wondering why was there an awkwardly positioned wall with a painting, and I certainly didn't see anyone taking any "selfies" (one of my least favourite words by the way), nor did I think of Duchamp. 


Sara Al Haddad  - therefore; thereafter


© Hind Mezaina - therefore; thereafter by Sara Al Haddad

Sara Al Haddad lives and works in Dubai. She activates interior architectures, and visualises affect through the knitting of life-size sculptural forms and the weaving of text. She has shown her work at The Pavilion, Dubai (2013), and SIKKA Art Fair, Dubai (2013). 

therefore; thereafter is a site specific installation that intervenes with the architecture of a stair-well. Motivated by notions of material value, time and memory, the work is created using balls of plastic yarn to transform the space, leaving behind the aftermath of the repetitive and durational act of crochet.

I didn't think of value, time or memory when I climbed up and down the stairs everyday during the fair between Mina A'Salam and Madinat Arena. Although I saw this piece everyday, it didn't really intrigue me or create any emotion. Maybe the work is just too conceptual for me. 


The rest of the Art Dubai Projects:

Here are the remaining Art Dubai Projects. All very interesting, and all connected in a way. I only wish the description you see below was included next to the actual work during the fair. Would have helped put a lot of the work into context. 

Youmna Chlala - The Desire Path

The Desire Path by Youmna Chlala | Courtesy: Art DubaiThe Desire Path by Youmna Chlala | Courtesy: Art Dubai

Youmna Chlala is an artist and a writer who lives and works in New York. Her work investigates the relationship between fate and architecture through drawing, video, prose and performance. Her recent solo shows includeDays of Being Wild, at Art In General, New York (2013), and I Am Who You Say I Say Who You Are at the Cultuurcentrum, Belgium (2013). 

The Desire Path is an intervention into the movement and flows of bodies at Art Dubai. By inserting fixed and roaming paths that are outisde the realm of prediction, the installation and performance instigate encounters and reveal the ways that chance, motion and memory create space. The natural, unkempt and wild elements are experimental reminders of temporality through the senses, and are in constant negotiation with the existing space. 


Clark House Initiative - The Kinematic Modern


© Hind Mezaina - The Kinematic Modern by Clark House Initiative

Clark House Initiative is a curatorial collaborative established in 2010 by Zasha Colah and Sumesh Sharma in Bombay. Their experiments in re-reading of histories, and concerns of representation and visibility, are ways to imagine alternative economies and freedom.  

The Kinematic Modern is a fictional narration of Clark House Initiative's study of modernism through Indian Modernist and Contemporary art and cinema. The contemporary artist, Justin Ponmany, works with Clark House Initiative to make visual links between the various Indian Modernists whose work appear in the project The Kinematic Modern.

Sunoj D - Zero to the right


© Hind Mezaina - Zero to the right by Sunoj D

Sunoj D lives and works in Bangalore. His work explores our multi-faceted relationship with nature, drawing on his move from a rural environment to urban dwellings, and subtly revealing the fissures between these two living conditions. He has participated in Spell of Spill Utopia of Ecology, Palette Art Gallery, New Delhi (2013), and When you watch them grow… at National Museum of Natural History, New Delhi (2012).

Dubai's social structure is layered with various paradigms of money, trade and commerce. In the context of the region Sunoj D comes from Kerala - economy and social status is driven by its many migrants to the Middle East and money they eventually make there. 

Sunoj D's project converts his Art Dubai Projects production budget from US Dollars into Dirhams and Indian Rupees. While all the numbers are familiar, one rarely, if ever, vocalises each of them individually. There is a meditative quaity to the acts of both reciting and listening to these numbers. Sounds are intriguing because they appear between the body and the outside world. The process of creating the work is a personal performance; the sound comes from the bod, but are not fully of the body. 

Sunoj D is also one of the AiR exhibitors at the SIKKA Art Fair and this work is related to the work at SIKKA. I would have liked to have seen the two together (I will write about the other work in my upcoming post about SIKKA). 


Dr. Najat Makki - A Story of Currency


© Hind Mezaina - A Story of Currency by Dr Najat Makki

Dr. Najat Makki lives and works in Dubai. She completed her PhD in Cairo (2011) and artist in residence at Cité Internationales des Arts in Paris (2011). She participated in the Tehran Biennial (2011). Dr. Makki was the recipient of the Jury Prize at the Sharjah Biennial in 1993 and the Owais Art Prize in 1994.  

A Story of Currency is an installtion that draws on the histories of antique coins found in the Gulf region. The project further expands on these histories to include paintings that are influenced by the narratives behind these various antique currenies. 


Amina Menia - The Crying Stone

Amina Menia lives and works in Algiers. Her spatial and architectural interventions are subtle arrangements that interact with viewers and the spaces they occupy. She has shown her work at the 11th Sharjah Biennale, and in 2012 undertook a residency in Marseille, working on the displacement of an “extracted” element of Algiers.

The Crying Stone is the story of a fragment of limestone. Extracted in Marseilles, it was brought on boats and made its crossings into Algiers to be used for building social housing, and as a result, forever sealing the relationship between the two mirror cities. The voyage continues as this stone arrives to Dubai. It will breathe and reflect other stories and other realities. It will continue to be shaped by time as it brings to mind questions of economy, communicationm, migration and work. This stone is a pretext for rethinking the global contemporary world and the speed at which we live. It is a symbol for building common destinies. 

Mounira Al Solh - Clogged


Clogged by Mounia Al Solh | Courtesy: Art Dubai

Mounira Al Solh works between Amsterdam and Beirut. Using sociology and anthropology, Al Solh’s work operates according to Ginzburg’s notion of microhistory, aspiring to ask large questions in small places. Her work was shown at the first Lebanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2007), and at the New Museum, New York (2012).   

Clogged acts as installation, interaction and performance. Functioning on many levels, the project recalls the Syrian crisis by prompting Art Dubai visitors and participants to temporarily borrow the Syrian bath clog in exchange for their art fair shoes. The clogs, made in Damascus by Syrian craftsmen, additionally brings up issues of art fair fashion. As the wearer roams the fairm the click clacking of the clogs against the fair grounds becomes audiblyperformative as well as visually distinguished. Wearng a part of Syrian craft at the fair reverses the gaze, where spectator briefly becomes a moving artwork. 


Here's a video made by Ahram Online which features some of the Art Dubai Projects listed above.

[All quotes, artist and project descriptions are taken from the Art Dubai 2014 Catalogue.]