Exhibition and Talk Series: Is Old Gold?

Is Old Gold_Poster.jpg

Artwork by Hussain Sharif

Is Old Gold? is an exhibition curated by Cristiana de Marchi and Muhanad Ali, opening at DUCTAC (Dubai Community Theatre and Art Centre, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai) on Tuesday, 21st February 2017.

It pairs 10 artists from the current generation of artists ((including yours truly) with 5 artists (Hassan SharifMohammed Ahmed IbrahimMohammed KazemAbdullah Al Saadi and Hussain Sharif) who were part of the UAE avant-garde contemporary art practice in the 1970s.

Looking at spirit of experimentation that was present at that time, Is Old Gold? aims to ask "how and why this narrative has been aborted, lost or evolved and if it can, or should be recovered in the current context". The exhibition suggests a gap has emerged between today's generation and the previous one and asks if it is "due to disparate socio-political concerns by the UAE’s rapidly shifting contexts, or is it the result of other, more inherently personal, motivations and choices" and seeks to find out if this gap can be filled". 

The 10 artists who were invited to participate in this exhibition are: 

  • Maitha Abdalla 
  • Amal Al Khaja   
  • Shaikha Al Mazrou
  • Taqwa Al Naqbi
  • Fatima Albudoor   
  • Moza Almatrooshi 
  • Hind Mezaina
  • Alaa Edris
  • Alia Lootah 
  • Jumairy    

In a comparative experiment that takes the form of a fictional narrative, two artists from the contemporary ‘younger’ generation of Emirati artists were assigned to work separately on a ‘character’ from the ‘5 UAE’. The experimental, productive structure of the exhibition reflects on the atelier atmosphere of innovative exchange initiated by Hassan Sharif and transmuted and sustained by four of his students – Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Mohammed Kazem, Abdullah Al Saadi and Hussain Sharif.

This hypothetical experimental structure, wryly reminiscent of a family tree, is the result of perceived dislocation between these generations and seeks to describe the qualities of this creative, methodological and pedagogical gap.

'Is Old Gold?' straddles this gap, presenting creative acts of remembrance and reconsideration alongside games of fantasy and, equally telling, utterly disconnected pieces that are the product of defiance or disengagement.   

Leading to the opening of the exhibition, there will be series of weekly talks starting on Tuesday, 24th January 2017 which will be moderated by Cristiana de Marchi and will include some of the artists from the exhibition alongside leading writers, curators, academics and culture producers in the UAE. It's a good line up of topics which will ask some important questions. I hope it will create valuable and thought provoking discussions about the art scene in the country. 

Below is the information about the talks. I will be part of the panel on 14th January. Hope you can attend one, two, three or all four talks and hope you can make it to the exhibition too. 

Tuesday, 24th January, 7pm at DUCTAC's Art Forum

Knowledge Transmission: From The Atelier To Remote Teaching – Dominions Of Ideas And Inheritance

What roles have formal and informal education played in the UAE? Is there a shared cross-generational pedagogy despite apparent divergence? What necessitated the marked departure from the organic structures that propelled the creative spirit of the avant-garde ‘UAE 5’ to today’s more formal institutional approach? Whathas been lost and what has thrived as a result of this shift? 

Cristiana de Marchi will moderate a panel with filmmaker and writer Nujoom Al Ghanem, artist Fatima Albudoor, artist, cultural producer and curator Roberto Lopardo and academic Elizabeth Stoney for a discussion on the history of UAE artistic “educations” – both formal and informal.  

Tuesday, 31st January, 7pm at DUCTAC's Art Forum 31

Imitation, Plagiarism And Tribute: Recurrences In Visual Arts 

How has the apparatus of the colossalinternational art world infiltrated, shaped and informed art practices in the UAE? Can a local-centric approach counter the press of the international? How does the conflation of these two systems, the local and the international, the emergent and the established, engender a spectrum of issues from isolation to imitation? Can self-sustainability be forged in these conditions? Is a kind of plagiarism via generational recurrence and resonance inevitable?

Cristiana de Marchi will moderate this panel with artist Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, anthropologist Beth Derderian, academic, curator and cultural producer Dr. Nina Heydemann and artist Hind Mezaina as they investigate the relationship between international and local systems and the risks of becoming derivative in attempts to forge both an individual and a shared artistic identity. 

Tuesday, 7th February, 7pm at DUCTAC's Art Forum  

The Validation System: Self-Sustainability Or Foreign Acknowledgement?

As local artists forge internationally renowned careers, what balance can be struck between the local and the global? What defines success across different audiences and for the self? Can a career be made locally or is engagement with international narratives always necessary? What are the different tools of promotion and recognition available to local artists and how should they be combined? 

Cristiana de Marchi moderates a discussion between director of Art Dubai and former Editor of Canvas magazine Myrna Ayad, internationally published art expert, public speaker, and advisor to diverse arts initiatives Mahnaz Fancy, artist Alia Lootah and gallerist Isabelle van den Eynde as they consider the roles played by art fairs, institutional shows, biennials and artist residencies in the composition of a successful yet self-actuated career.  

Tuesday, 14th February, 7pm at DUCTAC's Art Forum  

The Valley In Between: Generational Disconnections, Divergent Agendas Or A Possible Continuity?  

As the cultural and social context of the UAE shifts perpetually, what are the threads of continuity that could make up a shared generational connection? Are there any common agendas between these divergent generations? As the infrastructure shifts, is there any possible continuity between the UAE avant-garde and the youngest generation of contemporary practitioners? What is inherited, shared and propagated? What is lost? 

Cristiana di Marchi moderates with artist Shaikha Al Mazrou, curator and writer Muhanad Ali (DUCTAC), curator of NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery Maya Allison and writer Kevin Jones in a discussion on generational disconnection and possibly sustained continuities.    

Detailed information about the artists and the speakers can be found on the exhibition's website www.easteasteast.org/is-old-gold. The talks and the exhibition will be at DUCTAC, located in Mall of the Emirtaes in Dubai.