Opinion | February 25, 2020
What is the role of the artist in society?
In the context of shifting definitions surrounding the role that the artist plays in nation building and place-making, Stephen Hobbs (Director of Johannesburg’s The Trinity Session) and Laila Binbrek (Coordinating Director of the National Pavilion UAE la Biennale di Venezia) unpack insights that reflect on current trends and possible futures in a Majlis Talk moderated by Kevin Jones.
Laila Binbrek is the Coordinating Director of the National Pavilion UAE, which presents the United Arab Emirates’ annual exhibition at the Venice Biennale. She has worked to set the pavilion’s ongoing strategy and vision in collaboration with its commissioner, the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, and manages its operations and team. Additionally, she oversees the development of the Venice Internship, a training program that to date has sent around 200 interns to Venice as ambassadors for the UAE and its rich culture. Laila has significant experience within the region’s cultural industry. Before joining the National Pavilion UAE, she spent 6 years at The Third Line, one of Dubai’s leading contemporary art galleries, where as gallery director she worked to develop a platform for MENASA artists from across the region. Prior to that, Laila managed the Art Centre at the Dubai Community Theatre & Arts Centre (DUCTAC), with the goal of promoting community engagement within the local community of the UAE.
Since 1994, Johannesburg has served as a critical reference point for Stephen Hobbs’ artistic and curatorial insights into the apartheid city turned African city - with a particular interest in the impact of defensive urban planning and architecture on the behavioural aspects of city and society. The resultant urban decay that develops in such conditions evolved Hobbs' practice into consultative processes on the role of art in public space relative to urban renewal and place making initiatives commissioned by the city. Hobbs’ near 10 year relationship with David Krut Projects has broadened his artistic repertoire through print making, book making and publishing. In addition David Krut Projects New York has produced a variety of Hobbs’ talks, presentations and workshops in numerous Universities and Institutions through-out the USA. Stephen Hobbs was the curator of the Market Theatre Galleries (Johannesburg) from 1994 to 2000, Co-Director of the purpose-built Gallery Premises (2004-2008) at the Joburg Theatre. Since 2001, he has co-directed the artist collaborative and public art consultancy – The Trinity Session. And since 2004 has co-produced a range of multi-medium urban and network-focused projects with Marcus Neustetter, under the collaborative name Hobbs/Neustetter. In 2017, Hobbs joined the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, as Unit Leader and resident critic.
Kevin Jones is an independent arts writer based in Dubai. New York-born and Paris-bred, he is currently the UAE Desk Editor for ArtAsiaPacific. In 2019, he founded the niche consultancy Juniper Mind, which helps brands be more like artists, and artists more like brands.
Curated by FOLIO, Alserkal's digital publication, Majlis Talks feature speakers from across the art, design, and architecture disciplines.