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)