10 November 2021
Hair Mapping Body; Body Mapping Land
Hair Mapping Body, Body Mapping Land brings together the works of three artists whose practices draw upon the complex charting of histories, narratives, and identity across multiple planes. At the centre of the exhibition is the dialogue between Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim and Afra Al Dhaheri. They represent different generations of conceptual Emirati artists whose prominent practices are connected through an interpretive mapping of land and body. Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim is among the pioneering group of Emirati conceptual artists who came together in the 1980s through the Emirates Fine Arts Society and collectively defined the avant-garde contemporary art scene for decades to come. As one of the most prominent Emirati contemporary artists in the UAE, he will represent the UAE at the National Pavilion at next year’s 59th Venice Biennale. Afra Al Dhaheri represents a second generation of Emirati contemporary artists of rising prominence in the UAE and abroad, whose conceptual practices confront complex, human concerns through bringing deeply personal references and materials into public exhibition spaces.
Cartography is the science or practice of drawing maps. Mapping is a symbolic depiction associating elements to space. The intersection of the body as elemental and land as spatial, becomes the first two coordinates defined cartographically. These coordinates become a mode of navigation through the exploration of land and sky, fluid and solid, private and public. The map proposed in this exhibition decodes and reintroduces land through the body, and the body through land.
Afra Al Dhaheri’s Fil Al Shaar, drapes into ridges that peak and fall, reminiscent of mountains or waves adrift. Behind the ropes of Fil Al Shaar is a segmented space, reflective of a mountain range governing over a pocket town. A contrast of works, between Fil Al Shaar and Cultural Foundation in its height and might stands tall, taller than the mountain range proposed through the silhouette of the draping ropes. It stands in its essence as a source of attendance, overlooking and watching what’s beneath it. Tucked away, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim’s Khorfakkan allows a scatter to take place, with the horizontality proposed, a flattened perspective is introduced in contrast to the height, resembling a pocket town, at the core of a valley. The land and the sky are introduced as complementary elements to one another. The clustered sculptures reflect ripple effects, manicured gardens, and orienting constellations.
Pulling from the nature that surrounds him, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim’s work roots itself in response to movement and play. His geographical understanding of KhorFakkan mimics the rocky mountainscapes, which are a reflection of his attempts at exploring, expanding and decoding the self. Afra Al Dhaheri’s practice utilises the body as its anchor, in specifically hair. It looks at hair as a tree, rooting in, extending out and introducing the notion of what is deemed private versus public. Hair becomes a tool that decodes the stories of time and the changes it brings. Thus binding these intergenerational artistic practices in the remapping of their surroundings in relation to the self, and the self in relation to these surroundings.
The drawing of this map ebbs and flows between body to nature and nature to body. Repetitive rituals negotiate the cardinal directions of the separation and movement that dictate the understanding of one’s positionality. The conversation between the body and the land becomes the barrier and the bridge of the prism dividing, scattering and bending time in relation to the self. Here a compass is proposed, and is pegged to the landscape imagined in the map presented.
As part of the exhibition’s public programming, UAE-based artist Mohamed Khalid responds to this show, proposing an alternative way of mapping space and distance. Over the course of this exhibition, he creates an ephemeral art piece in response to the works of Afra Al Dhaheri and Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim