Artworks for UAE’s exhibition at the 2017 Venice Biennale

The UAE National Pavilion team has listed the selection of artworks to be displayed in its exhibition at the 2017 Venice Biennale. There are also additional commissions to be included in the accompanying publication and a series of “activations and projects” with cultural institutions around Venice.

Curated by Hammad Nasar (right), the exhibition – titled “Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play’ – explores the concept of ‘playfulness’ as a connecting thread across multiple generations of artistic practice in the UAE. “Play and playfulness are vehicles through which we as children learn to understand the world around us and navigate our place in it. This exhibition foregrounds a selection of artists whose practice takes this process of understanding and navigation as a source of inspiration and vitality,” says Nasar. So – where does ‘playfulness’ in artistic practice come from? How and where is ‘play’ nurtured? What does ‘play’ do?

The five main participants have previously been named: Nujoom Alghanem, Sara Al Haddad, Vikram Divecha, Lantian Xie and Mohamed Yousif. “Their exhibited works approach play through movement, rhythm, form, time and place,” says the bumf. “The accompanying publication and program serve as additional sites of play.

As Hammad Nasar puts it: “These artists fit within an artistic trajectory in the UAE of play and playfulness as a mode of creation. They variously experiment with materials, sound, texts and physical and social processes as part of their artmaking.”

Nujoom Alghanem will present Between Heaven and Earth, the Body I Borrowed, a sound installation based on a poetry performance; Space, a visual poem; and a reproduction of Silsalat Al Ramad, Volume 1, a self-published journal produced by the artist and other members of the Aqwas collective in 1985.
Sara Al Haddad contributes three crocheted textile installations, including one existing work as you try to forget me and two new commissions: don’t you ever leave me alone, a hanging screen, and can’t you see how i feel, in which Haddad sheaths one of the black steel pillars supporting the pavilion in different sized crocheted layers of pink yarn.
The works by Vikram Divecha are Degenerative Disarrangement, an existing work made from bricks which will be “relocated” in a new iteration; and Bathing Boulders, a commissioned video work which documents the process of washing large rocks as they were installed as part of Divecha’s 2014 work Boulder Plot (still left).
Lantian Xie offers a selection of ‘things’ throughout the pavilion space, including existing works Hassan’s Ashtray, Half-Cup Saffron (right) and Taxidermy Peacock, as well as a major commission titled A Rumble Interrupted Our Chat – a series of objects and happenings which will unfold inside and outside of the pavilion throughout the six months of the Biennale.
Dr Mohamed Yousif has remade two previous works which were no longer in existence: Al insiyabiyya bil majadeef taht al maa, a large-scale installation of wooden oars, and Al Shawahid, an assemblage of anthropomorphic spoons looking on a burial mound, with a small mirror affixed in its centre.

In addition, Dubai-based artists Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian (who usually work together) have been commissioned to contribute a 30-page series of paintings and collages conceived as “a creative playground” which will go beyond the exhibition’s contents to explore the curatorial concept from additional creative perspectives, both visual and textual.

These will appear in the publication that accompanies the exhibition, along with a series of “contemporary fables” written by Deepak Unnikrishnan and a piece from WTD magazine that presents a project mapping informal spaces of play in the UAE. These creative responses to the exhibition’s themes will sit alongside a series of essays from the likes of art historian Murtaza Vali, ethnomusicologist Aisha Bilkhair, and curators Reem Fadda and Maisa Al Qassimi.

“The UAE is proud to be participating in the Art Exhibition for the fifth time with an exhibition that captures a snapshot of the diverse cultural and creative conversations to which our nation is home,” says Khulood Al Atiyat, Manager of Arts, Culture and Heritage at the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation.

Commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and supported by the UAE Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development, the exhibition at the Biennale runs from 13 May to 26 November.

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