Alserkal Programming Announces Commissions for March Art Week 2017

11 May 2017

Selection of artists focuses on local talent and the theme of ‘work’


Alserkal Programming has announced four artist commissions for its March Art Week 2017 programme, which will launch on 13 March and run for five weeks. The four commissions are by UAE-based artists Farah Al Qasimi, Ammar Al Attar, Karim Sultan, and Raja’a Khalid. Each of the artists will produce work that is inspired by the physical, social and cultural framework of Alserkal Avenue and its surrounding industrial neighborhood of Al Quoz in Dubai.

The majority of the commissions are iterative works that have developed in stages over the course of Alserkal Programming’s second season, with Farah Al Qasimi and Karim Sultan debuting their first iterations in November 2016 and Ammar Al Attar presenting his first iteration in January 2017. These three commissions will present their final phases in March alongside the premiere of the fourth and final commission by Raja’a Khalid.

“Support for the arts and culture can take on a number of different forms. This year, Alserkal Programming’s strategic focus is on supporting locally-based artists in order to

contribute to the wider vision of Dubai and the UAE as a centre for cultural production,” said Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Founder of Alserkal Avenue.

Building on the first season’s interrogation of Dubai as “home” to an emerging generation of artists, the 2016-17 season considers the forms and conditions of “work”. How does work shape our experience and understanding of the world, particularly in a place like Dubai? And how are artists navigating and challenging the nature of work in the 21st century?

“Supporting local talent and providing them with the means and platform to reach an international audience is a critical pillar of Alserkal Programming. The four artists we’ve chosen are testament to the strength of the UAE’s developing arts scene and are an indication of how the country is becoming more accessible to artists and cultural producers from across the region and the world,” said Vilma Jurkute, Director of Alserkal Avenue.

Ammar Al Attar’s project Plaza Cinema stems from the artist’s efforts to rescue old filmstrips, movie posters and ephemera from decommissioned theaters in the UAE. These aging movie-houses are touchstones of Dubai’s modern history and places of deep personal meaning and memory for residents. In January 2017, Al Attar recreated a series of thirty movie posters from Plaza Cinema, a recently shuttered theater in Bur Dubai, as a prelude to his project. In March, the artists presents an installation of the materials he rescued, providing a rare opportunity to analyse and consider how film often connects diverse migrant communities – many of whom are in the UAE for work – with narratives and images of home.

Different Air is a three-part commission by Karim Sultan that explores notions of movement, migration, and the physical experience and trauma of deterioration and loss of memory. The project’s third iteration will be presented in March, concluding a trilogy of performances that examine the increasing distance between an individual who leaves home and the difficulties they face retaining memories accurately and performing them meaningfully as they drift further and further away, geographically and chronologically.

Farah Al Qasimi’s It’s Not Easy Being Seen is a two-part commission that explores the invisible labour of women in the cycle of creation and consumption, through the mediums of photography, performance and video. The first element presented in November 2016 was a billboard in The Yard at Alserkal Avenue; the second element presented in March 2017,

Raja’a Khalid will debut Change Your Life, which critiques a fashionable practice of performative masculinity (i.e. working out) and places it as a contemporary motif of religiosity. A moving tableau, the commission consists of a gym, which will be open for five weeks to pre-selected young, male fitness professionals where they will participate in a workout regimen. The installation looks carefully at the arts neighbourhood’s proximity to an increasing number of fitness centers within the framework theorised by Peter Sloterdijk in his 2013 book You Must Change Your Life in which the German philosopher tracks the history and philosophy of practice and discipline. By making their connections more explicit Khalid's commission exposes the blurring between the potentially aesthetic, ascetic and athletic demands of contemporary life in the Gulf.

The commissions will be supported by a rich programme of talks, multiple pop-up projects, and an incredible line-up of shows and exhibitions in Alserkal Avenue’s contemporary art galleries.

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Editor’s Notes

About Alserkal Avenue
Located in Al Quoz, Dubai, Alserkal Avenue is the region’s foremost arts and culture neighbourhood. Since it was established in 2007, Alserkal Avenue has grown to become an essential platform for the development of homegrown artistic and cultural initiatives, supporting a vibrant community of contemporary art galleries and alternative art spaces, together with design, media and industrial studios. In 2015, in addition to its commitment to the community, Alserkal Avenue affirmed its position as an arts organisation with the launch of Alserkal Avenue Programming. The programming arm produces an annual homegrown programme for local, regional, and international audiences, working primarily with artists living and working in the MENASA region. An Artists’ Residency is scheduled to launch in March 2017, further enhancing the organisation’s breadth and scope.

About Alserkal Programming
Alserkal Programming is a platform for exhibitions, public art commissions, performances, films, talks and workshops that critically and creatively investigate themes pertinent to the region's arts community. Together, these programmes provide a platform to support the development of new ideas, open dialogue and collaboration across disciplines. The annual programme is thematically developed to focus on a particular issue, bringing artists and professionals from different fields together to examine a concept through wide-ranging means and perspectives.


Farah Al Qasimi

Born in Abu Dhabi and now based between New Haven Connecticut and Abu Dhabi, Farah Al Qasimi is an artist and musician. Farah studied photography and music at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, and is currently an MFA candidate in the Photography programme at Yale School of Art. Farah has participated in residencies at the Burren College of Art in Ireland, at her studio in Dubai (with the support of the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation) and at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Most recently, she participated in the Sheikha Salama Foundation and Rhode Island School of Design Emerging Artist Fellowship. Recent shows include the first Biennial for Arab Photography at Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Emirati Expressions at Manarat al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi; Walls and Margins at the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah; Accented at Maraya Art Center, Sharjah; and The World is Sinking at The Third Line, Dubai.

Karim Sultan
Born in Kuwait and now living in Dubai, Karim Sultan is an artist and curator. A graduate of York University in Toronto, Karim creates experimental electronica-based sound art that is imbued with Arab and regional influences. The work acts as a kind of travelogue that narrates his journeys, both physically and metaphorically. Karim performed at the 2015 Shubbak Festival of Contemporary Arab Culture in London and is the founding editor of Kalimat magazine, the non-profit publication that is committed to open expression for Arab creatives worldwide. He plays the oud, the Arabic stringed instrument similar to the lute. Karim is also currently the curator at Barjeel Art Foundation.

Ammar Al Attar
Born in 1981, Ammar Al Attar lives in Ajman in the United Arab Emirates. Completely self- taught, Al Attar’s practice as a photographer and mixed-media artist, seeks to not only document and translate but also methodically research and examine aspects of Emirati ritual, material culture, and geographic orientation that are increasingly illusive in his rapidly globalizing society. Al Attar often incorporates retro photographic equipment into his shoots. He hoards everything from slide projectors to large format cameras, dog-eared postcards and orphaned negatives and meticulously catalogues these clues to the past on the shelves of his Sharjah studio. His ongoing research project, Reverse Moments a collaboration with various long time studio photographers, collects stories and artifacts that compose the history of photography in the UAE, and curates these flashes into a critical emerging narrative. Al Attar’s work has been increasingly shown within the UAE and Gulf, and is held in prestigious public and private collections including Sharjah Art Foundation, Barjeel Art Foundation, and Maraya Art Centre, the forthcoming Zayed National Museum, and others. He is represented by Cuadro Gallery in Dubai.

Raja’a Khalid
Born in Saudi Arabia in 1984, Raja’a Khalid is an artist from Dubai. She received her MFA in Fine Art from Cornell University, where she was also the recipient of the Cornell Council for the Arts Grant in 2013. Her practice is concerned with the Arabian Gulf region and its narratives of class, ultra luxury and consumer culture. Her current work looks at the Gulf’s streaming motifs of soft power alongside frequently encountered notions of masculinity, athleticism, sport, adornment, desire and crypto-secularity. Recent awards and residencies include the NYU Abu Dhabi FIND Research Fellowship, 2014; the Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen International Fellowship for Art and Theory, 2015; the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten Guest Residency, 2015; and the International Curatorial and Studio Program Residency, 2015. Her work has been shown in New York, London, Dubai, Basel and Vienna.