Is This Tomorrow?, a collaboration between Alserkal Arts Foundation and Whitechapel Gallery, London opens in Concrete

November 7, 2019

The landmark exhibition, Is This Tomorrow?, opened in Concrete on 6 November, revealing five experiential collaborations between leading artists and architects, including Phoenix Will Rise, a new site-specific commission by visual artist Rana Begum and Marina Tabassum.

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The landmark exhibition, Is This Tomorrow?, opened in Concrete on 6 November, revealing five experiential collaborations between leading artists and architects, including Phoenix Will Rise, a new site-specific commission by visual artist Rana Begum and Marina Tabassum.

A collaboration between Alserkal Arts Foundation and Whitechapel Gallery, London, Is This Tomorrow? is curated by Whitechapel Gallery chief curator Lydia Yee, and responds to timely contemporary issues to offer speculative visions of the future. Interdisciplinary installations, environments, and pavilions by Rana Begum and Marina Tabassum, Amalia Pica and 6a, Cao Fei and mono office, Mariana Castillo Deball and Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, and Hardeep Pandhal and APPARATA reveal the expansive potential of collaboration between art and architecture, and investigate universal topics including borders, privacy, living space, and our relationship with technology.

The opening was followed by a Majlis Talk by FOLIO, which featured curator Lydia Yee in conversation with visual artist Rana Begum and Aga Khan Award for Architecture winner Marina Tabassum, who discussed their installation, Phoenix Will Rise, which was unveiled in The Yard. The Bangladeshi artist and architect collaborated on a new iteration of the installation, which was presented at Whitechapel Gallery in London during the original iteration of Is This Tomorrow? from 14 February – 12 May 2019.

‘Focused on hope’, Phoenix Will Rise was created specifically for The Yard in Alserkal Avenue. Tabassum says: “It is a place of refuge - a space for reflection - contemplation. The highlight of the installation is Rana Begum’s beautiful art piece around the central oculus that catches light and frames the sky. The architecture builds around it to create a setting and atmosphere of repose, all the while appropriating the context Alserkal Avenue.”

Begum, who is represented by The Third Line gallery in Alserkal Avenue, says: “We live in a world where the boundaries between disciplines are increasingly blurred, and where technology enables us to connect with each other wherever we are. This collaboration is exciting because it pushes boundaries in a playful way, while simultaneously inviting the viewer to consider space in relation to location and existing elements. I have found it interesting to engage with Marina Tabassum’s vision and experience of space, form, colour and light.”

6a architects (UK) and artist Amalia Pica (Argentina) explore the way architecture proscribes our relationship with animals through a maze-like environment made of an enclosure, blurring the boundaries between human and animal. Exploring another relationship, the one between people and technology, mono office (China) and Cao Fei’s (China) prototype for a machine that dispenses objects and emotions represents and imagines possible futures. Mariana Castillo Deball’s (Mexico) sculptural work relating to the Mesoamerican calendar, Tonalpohualli, is brought together with Tatiana Bilbao’s (Mexico) architectural exploration of the human need to be isolated—yet communally connected. Hardeep Pandhal (UK) and APPARATA (UK) study what happens to architecture when political systems collapse, or become outdated.

Is This Tomorrow? is based on the seminal exhibition This is Tomorrow, which took place at Whitechapel Gallery in 1956. Envisioned by architect and critic Theo Crosby, the exhibition brought 38 artists and architects together into 12 groups, including Eduardo Paolozzi, Erno Goldfinger, Richard Hamilton, James Stirling and Alison and Peter Smithson, and is now widely considered a watershed of post-war British Art. Is This Tomorrow? expands on the vision of the original exhibition by showcasing the works of international practitioners, all of whom were born after the original exhibition took place.

Is This Tomorrow? runs until 23 November, and takes place in and around Concrete, the Office for Metropolitan Architecture-designed building shortlisted for the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Founder of Alserkal, says: “Alserkal Arts Foundation is delighted to partner with Whitechapel to share such an important and groundbreaking exhibition with our audiences in Dubai and the UAE. Our presentation of Is This Tomorrow? not only furthers our mission of championing collaborative, socially engaged, and multi-disciplinary practices, but also reinforces Dubai’s position as an epicentre for a broader dialogue on the role of architecture in the region.”

Lydia Yee, exhibition curator and chief curator at Whitechapel Gallery, says: “It is an honour for Whitechapel Gallery to work in partnership with Alserkal Arts Foundation to present a version of the exhibition Is This Tomorrow? This is a fitting context for an exhibition that explores the potential of artists and architects to collaborate on their vision of the future, and one that will reach a dynamic and diverse new audience for the project in the UAE.”

Vilma Jurkute, Director of Alserkal, adds: “Is This Tomorrow? will be the cornerstone of our November programming, much of which will explore the confluence of art and architecture, as a reflection and celebration of Concrete having been shortlisted for the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. This exhibition raises important questions about how art and architecture can work together, and reveals new realms of potential that can be achieved when practitioners collaborate – questions and ideas we’ll further explore through related programmes throughout Alserkal Avenue.”

The Dubai iteration of Is This Tomorrow? is a collaboration between Alserkal Arts Foundation and Whitechapel Gallery, London. The exhibition is co-commissioned by Whitechapel Gallery, London and MAAT, Lisbon.

-ENDS-

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Editor’s Notes

About Whitechapel Gallery

For over a century the Whitechapel Gallery has premiered world class artists from modern masters such as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Frida Kahlo to contemporaries such as Sophie Calle, Lucian Freud, Gilbert & George and Mark Wallinger. With beautiful galleries, exhibitions, artist commissions, collection displays, historic archives, education resources, inspiring art courses, dining room and bookshop, the Gallery is open all year round, so there is always something free to see. It is a touchstone for contemporary art internationally, plays a central role in London’s cultural landscape and is pivotal to the continued growth of the world’s most vibrant contemporary art quarter.

About Alserkal Arts Foundation
The Alserkal Arts Foundation is a non-profit that extends Alserkal’s mission to support cultural production. The Foundation offers opportunities for research and artistic production to cultural practitioners and researchers with strong regional or contemporary relevance who challenge conventional disciplinary boundaries. Through its initiatives, which include support for artistic projects, research grants, alternative learning, and artist residencies at purpose-built studios located in the heart of Alserkal Avenue, the Foundation seeks to incubate creative thinking that contributes to the region’s cultural sphere, leading to new forms of knowledge. Alserkal Arts Foundation is supported by Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Ahmad Bin Eisa Alserkal and the Alserkal family.

About Alserkal
Alserkal is a socially responsible and forward-thinking cultural enterprise dedicated to developing sustainable models for homegrown initiatives and to supporting narratives and research emerging from the Global South. Founded in 2007 by Emirati businessman and patron Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Alserkal is renowned for its ground-breaking artistic productions, experimental approach and for the creation of culturally meaningful spaces that inspire and shape communities. Alserkal has three primary areas of activity: cultivating a creative economy in Dubai and building a collaborative network of civic cultural institutions through its renowned cultural district, Alserkal Avenue; providing advisory services to public and private sector entities; and, supporting public artist commissions, residencies, research grants and educational programmes through its non-profit, Alserkal Arts Foundation.

Alserkal has transformed the cultural landscape of Dubai and the UAE through the creation of a thriving, region-specific community of over 70 contemporary art galleries, visual and performing arts organisations, designers and entrepreneur-led businesses at Alserkal Avenue, providing an essential platform for the development of creative industries in the region.

Alserkal utilizes its collective expertise in arts initiatives and cultural production, heritage creation, community building and engagement, as well as urbanism and planning for creative industries, to guide public and private sector entities in developing sustainable and responsive business models.

About Alserkal Avenue
Alserkal Avenue is a vibrant cultural district in the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai, and is home to a community of over 70 contemporary art galleries, visual and performing arts organisations, designers, home-grown and entrepreneur-led businesses, and community spaces across 500,000sqft and 90 warehouses. Alserkal Avenue provides an essential platform for the development of the creative industries in the United Arab Emirates. As one of the region’s foremost destinations for contemporary art, and home to Dubai’s risk-takers, makers and wide-ranging creative communities, Alserkal Avenue provides cultural experiences for local, regional and international audiences through its extensive year-round programming. Alserkal Avenue is home to Concrete, a multi-disciplinary exhibitions space conceptualised and programmed by Alserkal, as well as the artist residency program of Alserkal’s non-profit, Alserkal Arts Foundation. Alserkal Avenue was established in 2007 by Alserkal following the visionary thinking of its founder, Emirati businessman and cultural patron Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, who sought to cultivate a vibrant creative community and support cultural production in Dubai.