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Nahayan bin Mubarak and Sultan bin Ahmed inaugurate two new contemporary art exhibitions  Join our daily free Newsletter

MENAFN Press - 17/03/2014
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(MENAFN Press) HE Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth, and Social Development, yesterday (Wednesday), inaugurated 'Customs Made: Quotidian Practices and Everyday Rituals' exhibition at Maraya Art Centre “ the renowned destination for contemporary arts in Sharjah and an initiative by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq).

His Excellency was accompanied by HE Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Media Corporation and Chairman Sharjah Media Centre and Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq)

HE Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi inaugurated the 'Encounter: Listening to the City' exhibition, in presence of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, HE Hisham Al Madloum, Head of Art Directorate at the Department of Culture and Information in Sharjah, HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), and HE Manal Ataya, Director General of the Sharjah Museums Department (SMD)

Running from the 12th of March until the 12th of May, 2014, the two exhibitions feature a diverse range of installations and mixed media projects by a number of the region's most pioneering contemporary artist and celebrate the rituals and habits inspired by practices of contemporary daily life

HE Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan toured the exhibition in presence of HE Hisham Al Madloum, Head of Art Directorate at the Department of Culture and Information in Sharjah, HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), and HE Manal Ataya, Director General of the Sharjah Museums Department (SMD), during which His Excellency met the curators of the exhibition and a number of participating artists and listened to briefs about their works and the underlying themes.

HE Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak praised the UAE's young art talents who have chosen art as a medium of creativity and confirmed that the UAE's young people are able to excel in all areas and that the UAE will constantly support such creative talents and host art exhibitions which inspire the region's residents and visitors and help create greater exposure to art and culture tourism in the country. He expressed his confidence that the vibrant art and cultural scene in the UAE augurs well for the future of the country, which is set to lead the way for this sector in the region

In a statement following his inauguration of the second exhibition, HE Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi expressed appreciation for the successive development in the art scene in Sharjah, where high calibre art events are being hosted, allowing contemporary art gain more exposure in the region, remarking, "Art is gaining increasing popularity in Arab world nowadays, with the art exhibitions attracting wide audience from all backgrounds and ages. Art is a means to express oneself, explore life's events and rituals and reinterpret them by using colours, drawing and prints. Art also reflects the progress of societies and contributes to inspire thinking and imagination." He also hailed the efforts being made by Maraya Art Centre and Maraya Art Park and in organising art events and exhibitions that asserts Sharjah's role as a regional and international hub for culture and fine arts

Sheikha Bodour expressed her delight with the high level of artworks on display in Sharjah, which reflects the increasing interest shown by regional and international artists as well as by regional emerging artistic talents to showcase their artworks to residents and visitors of Sharjah, where culture and art is part of everyday living

She added: "These two exhibitions reflect the contemporary artists' insight into the rituals and prevailing practices in our daily life as well as the audio, visual, and colour phenomena experienced by the inhabitants of cities in attempts to reshape and strengthen the social bonds. We hope the two exhibitions will be new addition to the contemporary artistic landscape in the emirate of Sharjah and region, enabling audiences to discover artistic talents and learn about their creative artworks, some of which are being exhibited for the first time.

'Customs Made: Quotidian Practices and Everyday Rituals' is an exploration of artistic engagement with everyday rituals. Curated by Livia Alexander and Nat Muller, the exhibition takes those habits that are used to breathe identity, belonging, community, and a sense of order into our daily lives, and investigates what happens when artists re-shuffle and disrupt our self-imposed order and sequence. 'Customs Made: Quotidian Practices and Everyday Rituals' seeks to explore the interstitial spaces where past meets present, where the contemporary experience in its ever-expanding human mosaic finds its muse and inspiration, and oscillates between the repetitive structures of ritual and that of self-expression

Commenting about 'Customs Made: Quotidian Practices and Everyday Rituals' exhibition curators, Livia Alexander and Nat Muller said: "Quotidian rituals and habits have always played a prominent role in society. With the accelerated pace of today's lifestyle, they are now even more central to navigating and anchoring our daily lives. The artists participating in the exhibition are each contributing a unique perspective by tweaking, provoking, emphasizing, remembering or honouring these practices." Palestinian artist Taysir Batniji who is in Sharjah to install his work Hanoun, added: "This is the first exhibition where Hanoun is exhibited for the first time in the Arab world. Inspired by my experience in Palestine, presenting this work to Arab audiences is extremely meaningful.

'El Kehrita' for Egyptian artist Mohamed Sharkawy is a nod to a little-known healing ritual carried out in the artist's native village to bring fertility or do away with illness. The work commemorates a fading custom on the verge of being forgotten. The consistent, iconic imagery in his paintings depicts the meaning of the chants sung during the ritual, invoking the power of the Qur'an and the support of Abou Asran (the spirit of a local man who was particularly pious in life). Swords and knives, refer to the aforementioned chanting and rather than reflecting violence in the ritual, represent the means used by Abou Asran to draw out the illness. The souls of those who undergo the El Kehrita ritual are thought afterwards to be closely connected to one another on a spiritual level, the significance of which is portrayed in Sharkawy's work as another recurring theme

Turkish artist Nilbar Gre, The Grapes, from her series TrabZONE, takes us on a journey to the city of Trabzon, where she used to spend her summers as a child, in her pursuit for the hidden and the uncanny taking place behind the protection of traditional structures. Trabzon is a place with many paradoxes; strongly attached to a Turkish Muslim identity, it is also one of the historic centers of Hellenic and Roman Pontus, whose inhabitants are known as the very first converts to Christianity. The lives of men and women are quite separate; while men work or gamble in coffeehouses, women carry the load of household and family. Yet this fires Nilbar Gre' imagination for other possible scenarios that may develop in closed socialization processes among women.

Indian artist Shilpa Gupta exhibits 'Photo-based Mechanical Installation', Over six months, Gupta photographed queues across the city with the help of a few assistants. The high density of population in Mumbai guarantees that no matter what you need to do, you have to be ready to face a long queue. Featuring 98 queues across the city, the work captures residents of Mumbai in mundane situations “ waiting at bus stops, at railway ticket counters and at ration shops. But there are a few bizarre queues, like that of people waiting to meet a couple at their wedding. Through the work, the multimedia artist addresses Mumbai's unfailing ability to make us wait. The work explores the effect of repetitive actions on the human senses, demonstrating Gupta's interest in how the human brain enters a state of lethargy

Rayyane Tabet's 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, the study of currency and coins, superstition, and the conflict-ridden history of the Middle East-the installation, through Tabet's five thousand-fold repetition of this ritual, multiplies its power to avert the evil eye, extending it to the collective.

Mahmoud Obaidi, Broom Sword, from the project Confusionism, The sword, the absolute symbol of tradition, power, violence and masculinity, becomes a pliable object of play, interrogation, ornamentation and domesticity for the artist

Raed Yassin's Gentleman Raed, pursues the theme of memory in the embroidery series "Dancing, Smoking, Kissing" in an effort to materialize reminiscences of childhood. The artist, who comes from a family of tailors, has computer-stitched imagery onto older embroidered textiles. Based not only on old photographs that have been lost over time, but primarily on reminiscences of childhood events, these colourful, intimate and ornamental embroideries simultaneously emit a sensibility of domesticity while also retaining a mass-produced and mechanized feel, which, to an extent, dilutes the highly personal element of the project

Turkish artist Cevdet Erek presents, 'Day', an LED display that cycles on and off incrementally in accordance with the changing daylight for the duration of the exhibition. One illuminated diode represents one minute of daytime. For Sharjah, Erek recreated the piece and gathered the durational data from prayer times

In Hannoun, Palestinian artist Taysir Batniji recreates a dreamlike space formed by a scattering of red pencil shavings. The space, with its floor raised by 10cm, is a threshold that cannot be crossed. It is simultaneously visually accessible and physically inaccessible to the viewer. The pencil shavings, which Batniji has produced obsessively and repetitively over the course of several days, resonate with the poppies (hannoun) characteristic of the Palestinian landscape, as well as the memory or freedom fighters, often quoted in Palestinian literature. However, Batniji's Hannoun stems from a much more personal experience: a childhood memory in which he, instead of doing his homework, would incessantly sharpen his pencils. Living in Paris, the artist would irregularly visit Gaza, clean up his studio (on the photo in the back) and then have to leave again, not having been able to do any work. Gaza has become an impossible place of production. Hannoun links the past and the present, and emphasizes the confrontation between the artist, exiled in Paris, his inability to work, and his Gaza studio that he cannot reach

Drawing on the theme of 'Customs Made', 'Encounter: Listening to the City' is curated by Dr Alexandra MacGilp. The exhibition which is taking place at Maraya Art Park during the same period of time, explores how individuals carve out autonomous spaces of agency and self-expression and forge new communities in a rapidly changing urban environment. Sound, music and the spoken voice can create spaces of nostalgia, belonging and reflection. Sound can become a space where private meets public and city-dwellers can weave their individual beliefs into the urban fabric. Present and past meet aurally; a snatch of tune or a once familiar sound can trigger a memory. Using our auditory sense can make us more aware of ourselves; it can feel intimate, almost covert or solipsistic

For the opening of the exhibition, Joe Namy staged an energetic performance Half Step (2013/2014) which brought together a traditional Emirati folk dance and music group from Sharjah and Dubai's Sikka Crew of breakdancers. The circular dance floor will remain in the park after the performance as a memory of the event, and park visitors are invited to dance on it. Behind this installation, a trio of ethereal scanography works by Maitha Demithan will be projected onto the lagoon fountain in rotation every evening. Like Namy's performance, Demithan's images blend contemporary technology and still-current traditional practices.

Four containers on the lawn house works by international and local artists, first is Hans Rosenstrom's sound installation In Dependent Structures (2012/2014), recorded in English and Emirati Arabic, this work is about presence, a situation where your senses are heightened and eventually through the illusion of another person you become aware of yourself and your body in the moment, whereas, Kapwani Kiwanga explores how culture mutates through its transmission. In Kiwanga's sound work Tongue (2007), the artist repeats proverbs in Swahili, a language she does not speak, after her Swahili-speaking brother. Third is Maitha Demithan's video Windows (2014) which documents her family's summer travels in France and Switzerland.

Looking out at scenery of greenery and cows the family elect to listen to Bedouin music, such as you would listen to driving through the desert. In the final container is Joe Namy's installation Beneath Our Feet (2013-2014), inspired by a mixtape phenomenon mkataa that is distinctive to the UAE. The visitor is invited to step onto the cloud-covered floor piece and activate the light sequence, or simply observe it from afar as it responds to the music

Along the neighbouring covered walkway is the installation An Encounter with the Past (2014), in which Hind Mezaina invites the visitor to step back in time to the late 1970s and 1980s. On small screens she presents a selection of songs and videos representing her memory of listening to music from the region during this period, based on what she saw on television. This was a time when families watched television together, when there was only a handful of TV channels, compared to the onslaught of satellite channels that started taking over television screens in the 1990s.

Further along the walkway are videos from Ala Ebtekar's project cylindr.us (2013/2014), inspired by the 2,500 year old clay cylinder in the British Museum which contains the decree of Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, in an initial series of workshops in San Francisco young people were asked the question: 'If you were king or queen of the universe, what message would you inscribe on a cylinder like Cyrus's that would become your legacy for centuries to come?'. Their heart-warming responses are on display in the park. Ebtekar will next conduct workshops with children in Sharjah and Dubai in early May and the culmination of the project is a performance through a multi-channel sound and video installation in Al Majaz Waterfront, to mark the closing of the exhibition.

Look out for the screening of Deniz Uster's latest film Beyond is Before (2013) in April which will take place in Wafaa Bilal's sculpture in the park, for this film Uster was inspired by the nomadic history of the UAE and its Bedouin oral culture that she sees as an intangible logbook with many voids left for her to fill imaginatively. The film is set in a post-apocalyptic future, in a freezing-cold Dubai, with neither water nor oil

'Encounter; Listening to the City' invites the public to experience and engage with the installations presented in the Maraya Art Park, in shipping containers, a covered walkway the fountain and the plaza and enjoy an unprecedented experience

About Maraya Art Park
Maraya Art Park is a project that acts as a platform for regional and international outdoor art projects and will consist of a number of venues located at major focal points in Sharjah. Two sections of the Park are located at Al Majaz Waterfront. The first is the Sculpture Park, which showcases projects from local and international artists, designers and architects, while the second is the Children's Art Park, which aims to introduce children to the world of art through sculptures, interactive games, and educational activities.



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