Research Studio: Annotations

 Part of Art Jameel's Research Studio: Annotations presentation in Alserkal Avenue. Image taken by Anna Seaman. 

Part of Art Jameel's Research Studio: Annotations presentation in Alserkal Avenue. Image taken by Anna Seaman. 

Art Jameel's Project Space is a chance for us to see what the institution will offer when it is open next year. It is an experimental space that rotates in function and content. Currently it houses a research studio, which is is a well presented collation of some of the ongoing work dedicated to documenting the early history of the contemporary cultural scene of the UAE. It is best described as a living piece of research, mapped out visually and in a non-linear format with different layers of accessibility – meaning it caters for the professional academic as well as the curious mind.

Research Studio: Annotations ‘Interdisciplinary practices of the early 80s, UAE’ focuses on the period of the early 1980s in the UAE and, in particular, on the collaborative, multidisciplinary stance taken by artists, poets, playwrights, theatre directors and writers at that time. It is also a direct continuation of the work that Art Jameel did with the National Pavilion United Arab Emirates for the 2017 exhibition curated by Hammad Nasar at the Venice Biennale, which explored a specific strand of Emirati art practice.

The research studio has been built around an interview with the poet Khalid Albudoor and artist Nujoom Alghanem that was published in the Venice Biennale exhibition’s accompanying book. This conversation reflected on the overlap in practices of the early 1980s, particularly vis-à-vis poetry, theatre and art writing in the UAE and is presented in this project space as an annotated conversation with reproduced images, essays, observations and summaries.

 Annotations on the conversation include reproduced images, essays and articles written and produced in the early 1980s. Image taken by Anna Seaman

Annotations on the conversation include reproduced images, essays and articles written and produced in the early 1980s. Image taken by Anna Seaman

The early 1980s was a period before cultural institutions were fully established and were in the process of being formed so there was an interesting use of public space and social clubs as well as several collaborations between artistic discourse.

“In effect, there was a collapse of the role of the artist and the many different creative spheres,” says Uns Kattan, programme manager at Art Jameel. “It was a fluid initiation of the scene.”

Some of the visual touches in this presentation are really effective. The ceiling, for example, is laced with coloured strings, each representing an artistic strand of thought: art writing; theatre; poetry and following each strand will allow for a different exploration of the work.

There are many newspaper articles also included, which show the quality work that was being produced at the time. Hassan Sharif’s caricatures from the late 1970s are a case in point as are pieces such as Habib Al Sayegh’s piece in the Arab Times which reads “buildings are beautiful but they do not produce culture”.

 The reading annexe as part of the ongoing Research Studio currently on display at Art Jameel. Image courtesy of Art Jameel. 

The reading annexe as part of the ongoing Research Studio currently on display at Art Jameel. Image courtesy of Art Jameel. 

Also included is a reading annexe including books that the artists of that period were reading as well as a full back catalogue of Banipal literary journal. Visually in this annexe, there are reproductions of theatre invites from productions hosted at the time as well as archive footage.

As a whole, this studio is an invaluable tool to assess and document the activities of the UAE’s cultural scene during this specific time period and crucially, it is also a constantly evolving presentation. There are a handful of events planned for December including a poetry by Khalid Albudoor and Nujoom Alghanem as well as open conversations between Cristiana de Marchi, a visual artist and curator and Bana Kattan, Exhibitions Curator at NYUAD Art Gallery and Dr. Aisha Bilkhair an ethnomusicologist and research advisor at the UAE National Archives with artist Hind Mezaina that will each inform the material on display as the knowledge and intellectual thought on this period grows.

PROGRAMME OF EVENTS:

December 4: Poetry Reading by poet Khalid Albudoor and artist Nujoom Alghanem

December 11: Visual artist and writer Cristiana de Marchi in conversation with Bana Kattan, Exhibitions Curator at NYUAD Art Gallery

December 19: Ethnomusicologist Dr. Aisha Bilkhair, Research Advisor at the UAE National Archives, in conversation with artist Hind Mezaina

  • Research Studio: Annotations ‘Interdisciplinary practices of the early 80s, UAE’. November 2 – December 21, 2017. Project Space Art Jameel, Warehouse 48, The Yard, Alserkal Avenue. Hours: Saturday to Thursday from 10am – 6pm