Leave a Comment

Warm winds of summer’s wreckage: art in the UAE, September-October

Let’s face it. No matter if you manage to spend a few weeks out of the country, have a long list of projects requiring you to spend time indoors, are addicted to social media – the summer in Dubai can be an exhausting, never ending, sweat pit of incubating frustrations. What a relief then that it is over for another year! Well, at least almost over. The masses have returned from cooler climes to find those of us left behind gagging for some conversation, some relief from carrying the load, rehabilitation from cabin fever and pining for some new art. So here it is – Fat Nancy’s hit list for September/October.

We’ll ease in gently with The Third Line’s project space and Farah Al Qasimi. A recent evacuee from Dubai to New York, we wonder on reflection what the artist herself will now make of her images of Dubai, taken in the period leading up to her departure a few months ago. According to the press release, the images range from Macdonald’s signs on desert highways to the intimacy of a beauticians. Whilst these peeks into life in the Emirates, by someone born and brought up here, are sure to provide some voyeuristic satisfaction through the subject matter, what FN is interested in are the striking and defining compositional qualities of the artist’s work. Her photographs tend to do the work of a painter’s strokes on a canvas, colour and objects carefully balanced across the visual plain – not surprising then that Al Qasimi majored in painting. Using central delineations – pillars or curtains – the subjects, as subtle as reflections or shadows, spar from either side of the frame. If art is all about the edit, then Al Qasimi likes a tight edit – tending towards exhibiting few rather than multiple images, of which the deep and rich hues along with random, almost comical interplay between subjects, leave you thirsty for more.

Downstairs to the main space for Babak Golkar’s new series: The Return Project – also The Third Line.  The premise is simple – the rarefaction of everyday objects through their presentation in a gallery context. What makes it more complex and in turn compelling, is why the artist has chosen these specific objects, what ‘issue’ the artist is choosing to highlight and why … Each subject/work is autonomous and references range from geo-politics and global economy to cultural shortcomings and art historical limitations.

The works rely on an elaborate production process  – ‘an object is purchased from a store and brought to the studio for photo documentation. The object is then dissected, collaged and reconstructed into a new consumer article and photo documented in its new state. The two photographs, forming a diptych, are printed in the same scale as the original object. Throughout the process original tags and labels are kept intact. The new object, accompanied by the tags and receipt are then returned to the store for a full refund. The store’s return policy (often 7-10 days) determines the timeframe for the studio process. The returned object – that is, the art object – enters and circulates in the inventory of the store and is once again available for sale, but at the store’s determined price. The leftover cut-off pieces from the reconstruction process are reassembled to form a residual object to accompany the diptych.’ 


Next up, Mariam Suhail at Grey Noise for her first solo exhibition in Dubai. The artist’s work stems from the incidental, undocumented minutia of conversations, media, culture, and the everyday. She takes the subtlety of the subjects and reduces them to strong, minimal and clean presentations.  Ranging from sculpture, video, digital images to text and drawing, what we’re hoping for are some of the multiple drawings and text works on paper, similar to the recent work at the Berlin Biennale. Layers of dissections are presented almost as a visual code – like script made up only of the accents. There is a hint to the whole and the promise of an explanation – they continue to engage, addictive and constant in the impossibility of their ever being cracked. For her exhibition at Grey Noise she presents her Accidental Excavations of objects and ideas. Comprising interventions into books, scanner malfunctions, discovery of old material and information about the birth of a new city – the images, prints and texts lying somewhere in the space between studies and proposals.


Last but definitely not least, October brings a show that we are really excited about – GCC’s first solo exhibition in the UAE (where the collective was formed in 2013) at the Sharjah Art Foundation.

‘Consisting of a “delegation” of nine artists, the GCC makes reference to the English abbreviation of the Gulf Cooperation Council, an economic and political consortium of Arabian Gulf nations. Founded in the VIP lounge of Art Dubai in 2013, the GCC makes use of ministerial language and celebratory rituals associated with the Gulf to create videos, photographs, sculptures, and installations that examine the region’s rapid transformation in recent decades. For their first in the US at MoMA PS1 – the works were presented in the format of a retrospective. The exhibition’s title, Achievements in Retrospective, intentionally played with the idiosyncratic grammar reflected in bureaucratic Arabic-English translations as well as the kind of international English pervasive at global summits. As a retrospective for a nascent collaborative, the exhibition offers a prospective view, alluding to works that have yet to be made—not unlike the aspirational nature of some projects in the Gulf. By intentionally focusing on contemporary Gulf culture, the collective seeks, in their own words, to “excavate the undocumented culture” of the region. They make use of the images and objects that circulate in social and political spheres to examine Gulf culture as it unfolds in the present day. The particulars of office environments, markers of achievement, and ceremonial acts become the raw material from which the GCC creates work addressing the very content it employs. Through the guise of an inter-governmental body, the GCC investigates notions of regional and national identity by sharing their achievements with the rest of the world.’ MoMa PS1.

FN has not yet seen their work in the flesh – and we can’t wait. ‘This exhibition departs from GCC’s recent MoMA PS1 retrospective, presenting existing work recontextualised and extending ideas from the retrospective into new works responding to the site of the Sharjah Art Foundation. The artists explore the aura of achievements within material built environments and through lighting and soundscapes. As a consequence, the works in the show refer to the mechanisms of power and authority as mediated by architecture and how environments can shape collective and individual experience.

GCC delegates are Nanu Al-Hamad (b. 1987, Kuwait City; lives in New York), Khalid Al Gharaballi (b. 1981, Kuwait City; lives in Kuwait City), Sophia Al Maria (b. 1983 Tacoma, WA; lives in London), Abdullah Al-Mutairi (b. 1990, Kuwait City; lives New York), Fatima Al Qadiri (b. 1981, Dakar; lives in New York), Monira Al Qadiri (b. 1983, Dakar; lives in Beirut), Aziz Al Qatami (b. 1979, Kuwait City; lives in Kuwait City), Barrak Alzaid (b. 1985, Kuwait City; lives in Dubai), Amal Khalaf (b. 1982, Singapore; lives in London).

The month of October at SAF also brings /seconds at the Sharjah Art Foundation. Curated by Peter Lewis, the exhibition presents a selection of artists’ works from the online journal of the same title (2004-2014), covering a broad range of issues and art practices from different cultural perspectives. The exhibition features key contributions from the ten year period of the project, works on display include installations, interactive performance, video, photography and commissioned posters. The opening will also include a performance by French artist and singer Fabienne Audeoud.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s