Visitors during Alserkal Art Week.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Alserkal Arts Foundation has launched its new season with the announcement of a new cross-disciplinary Selection Committee that will serve as advisors to the Foundation, as well as mentors to residents and grantees throughout their two-year tenure. The new committee members include artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan; curator and researcher Maya El Khalil; architect and urbanist Rupali Gupte; and social scientist, author and professor, Shandana Khan Mohmand.
The regionally-focused group, whose research interests span across a wide geography, including the GCC, South Asia, West Asia, and Africa, were chosen for their diverse backgrounds and multidisciplinary practices. Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Founder of Alserkal Initiatives and Alserkal Arts Foundation, said: “As we look to the future, our responsibility to the next generation is to continue to support artistic production, cross-disciplinary research and scholarship.
“Building on a long legacy of supporting the arts and culture, the Alserkal family and I stand behind our efforts to promote critical exchange, and to engage our country’s youth in weaving the social fabric of the UAE for tomorrow.”
The Foundation’s Selection Committee is appointed for a two-year period, and during their tenure, committee members work closely with the Foundation’s team to, among other things, nominate and select artists and practitioners for Alserkal Residency’s Spring and Summer Cycles; evaluate and select applications for research grants; mentor and support residents and grantees during their time with the Foundation; and advise the Foundation in its endeavour to support new production of knowledge and thought connected to the region.
Four Research Grants have also been awarded for the second cycle of the Alserkal Research Grants programme, with awards going to practitioners from the UAE, Sudan and India. Research projects that have been awarded were chosen from more than 150 applications from 48 countries. In response to the round of applications, the decision was made to award four grants this year, instead of the mandated three.
UAE-based social researcher and filmmaker Lubnah Ansari and performance artist and writer Maitha Alsuwaidi, have each been awarded individual grants of USD 5,000, enabling emerging academic and artistic talent within UAE borders and beyond. Two further grants of USD 10,000 are being awarded to collectives social scientist Natasha Kirit Maru and environmental designer Rhea Shah from India; and Khalda Imad Mubarak El Jack and Zainab O. M. Gaafar, both architects and urban researchers from Sudan.
Alserkal Research Grants were established with a view to challenge established research methods and modes of practice, say the authorities. “Supporting knowledge production and critical exchange that disrupt and expand the boundaries between disciplines, the grants place an emphasis on alternative frameworks that link the arts, humanities and social sciences,” they add.
Nada Raza, Director of Alserkal Arts Foundation, said: “Our work this season, with our new selection committee members, amplifies our commitment to situated modes of research and practice, working with and supporting artistic and research-led practices that are sensitive to their environment and audiences and support projects embedded in their specific contexts.’’
The Foundation’s focus on the regionally rooted extends to its new large-scale, site-specific public art commissions, which are on show in Alserkal Avenue, titled The Follower. The programme works with artists represented by the contemporary art galleries in Alserkal Avenue, many of whom have the opportunity to work on large-scale public art commissions for the very first time.
The series of site-specific commissions for The Follower was launched across the Avenue from September, starting with Meadow and Sunset by Fahd Burki, the artist’s first public intervention, and Zenith by Ala’ Ebtekar, his largest public artwork to date. The latest addition was Passage by Sahand Hesamiyan, which was installed for Alserkal Art Week. The name of the public art commissions programme, The Follower, is a reference to the star Al Daberan that seems to follow Al Thuraya, or the Pleiades.
They are constellations of significance for astral navigation in the night sky as indicated by the 15th century master mariner of the Indian Ocean, Ahmad ibn Majid. The series of public commissions invited the viewer to pause and observe our surroundings more closely. Further commissioned works by Sarah Almehairiand Timo Nasseri, will be realised in early 2023, as part of the iterative programme. Speaking about his experience working on his first work of public art, Burki said: “I began work on this project with one fundamental concern - to compose images that harmonise with or complement their immediate environment, the architecture.
“The work is open-ended in meaning, creating a calm, contemplative space, inviting you to be observant and take a moment to situate yourself as you enter and exit Alserkal Avenue.” Alserkal Avenue, home to one the region’s most happening homegrown and international galleries, artists and concepts, hosted a line-up of more than 15 contemporary art exhibitions, projects, performances and public art commissions (Nov. 12 – 20) for its celestial-themed edition of Alserkal Art Week.
The return of Alserkal Lates on November 14, had the contemporary art galleries showcasing new exhibitions, and the entire Alserkal Avenue community stayed open till 10 pm. Visitors enjoyed exploratory Majlis Talks; immersive Slow Art Walks; curator-led tours of both the Sterling Ruby exhibition in Concrete, and Alserkal Arts Foundation’s public art commission, The Follower; food trucks; and audio-visual contemporary dance performance ‘ves sels’ by Sima Dance Company’s Rei Cassandra Co and Elizabeth Stott, in collaboration with singer-songwriter Lama, and Emirati visual artist Rashid Almheiri.
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