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LAST CHANCE Ways of Seeing
This group exhibition curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath of the multi-disciplinary curatorial platform Art Reoriented references John Berger’s seminal 1972 text on visual culture, Ways of Seeing, in which he consciously shifted the language and practice of art criticism away from the conventional European concept of the art expert.
Berger by contrast invites us to look at art and the world with a different perspective: “The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled,” he wrote, emphasising that there are usually hidden ideologies in the visual images. As Indian academic Rashmi Doraiswamy put it, “Berger’s theoretical legacy is in situating the look in the context of political otherness”. Looking is a political act; where and when we see something will affect what we see.
In taking its cue from Berger’s groundbreaking argument, the Bardaouil/Fellrath project invites the viewer to actively engage with the artwork, and to explore the ways by which artists assign forms and concepts that seem familiar with renewed appearances and meanings. Till Fellrath wants visitors to be active participants rather than passive consumers in the way they approach the works. “There is no one ‘correct’ way to look at art, and our wish is that our audiences should both be aware of and embrace their individual reactions and points of view, as these are borne of unique personal experiences.”
Maya Allison, Founding Director and Chief Curator of NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, put it like this: “The curators depart from traditional exhibition narratives and put the artworks into dialogue in a unique way that draws out how these artworks invite the viewer to see them”.
Bringing together 26 artists and artist collectives with 41 artworks, the exhibition has been adapted to include new works by Andreas Gursky, Mona Hatoum, Lateefa bint Maktoum, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Hassan Sharif, Cindy Sherman, and Thomans Struth, among others. There’s a variety of media – painting and sculpture, but also photography, sound, film, and installation.
Works by Salvador Dali, Mona Hatoum, Alicja Kwade, or Hassan Sharif change our perception of familiar objects by altering their function. Several artists in the exhibition, such as James Turrell, Hans-Peter Feldmann, and Fred Sandback, blur the boundaries between the artwork and the space in which it is displayed. Others, such as James Webb, Vik Muniz, and Gustav Metzger, offer the viewer new ways of accessing the artwork. A few, like Shana Moulton, James Casebere, and Andreas Gursky, push the technical and formal possibilities of their genre. And Thomas Struth and Lateefa bint Maktoum offer images of people actually engaged in the act of looking: narratives are constructed through what we see.
Ways of Seeing will be accompanied by a programme of public events, including talks, workshops, and “family-friendly activities” as well as an illustrated bilingual catalogue edited by Bardaouil and Fellrath.
Above: Jojakim Cortis & Adrian Sonderegger, Making of “The last photo of the Titanic afloat” (by Francis Browne, 1912); digital C print, 2016. Below: Salvador Dali, Les yeux surréalistes; bronze, 1980