Aridly Abundant exhibition announces its presence.
The National Pavilion UAE has closed Aridly Abundant, its fifth participation at the Biennale Architettura. Inaugurated in May 2023 by Sheikh Salem bin Khalid Al Qassimi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth, Aridly Abundant saw 56,661 visitors explore the exhibition curated by Faysal Tabbarah, Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Architecture at the American University of Sharjah (AUS). The presentation considered how arid environments can be spaces of abundance by exploring architectural possibilities in arid landscapes of the UAE’s desert plateau, wadis and coastal plains within the Al Hajar Mountain range. Laila Binbrek, Director, National Pavilion UAE – La Biennale di Venezia said: “The National Pavilion UAE’s exhibition sparked conversations around land practices and knowledge from the UAE and the adaptability and possibilities they can present when combined with modern technologies. Aridly Abundant’s exploration of marrying these ancient practices with modern tools, put forward knowledge from the UAE that is available to all, to be built on and adopted in regions facing similar arid conditions as a result of climate change.”
Tabbarah said that “to see the research presented through Aridly Abundant embraced by an audience eager for a future where arid landscapes are conceived as having potential, was promising.” The 2023 exhibition’s accompanying publication, In Plain Sight: Scenes from Aridly Abundant Landscapes, co-edited by Tabbarah and Meitha Almazrooei, advocates for looking at aridity as a dynamic condition. Conceived as a travelogue, it is a reference to travel and expedition literature which has historically portrayed arid environments in a homogenous manner as spaces devoid of life.
The contributors challenge this narrative by introducing nuance and concepts of abundance, to capture the multitudes contained within aridity. The publication also includes photographs taken by Reem Falaknaz following her exploration of arid spaces as well as scientific essays, travel stories, fiction and poetry contributed by academics, architects, artists, geographers and researchers based in the region. A virtual tour remains available on the National Pavilion UAE website, nationalpavilionuae.org.
Tabbarah is also the co-founder of the experimental architecture and design studio, Architecture + Other Things (A+OT), based in Sharjah. His work explores on the ways in which people bring their natural surroundings to bear on how they understand and shape their world, aiming to develop alternative building practices. Almazrooei is a current Ph.D. student in History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her curatorial and editorial work encompasses public programming for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, publications for The National Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates in Venice, and establishing WTD Magazine, an architecture and design publication dealing with narratives from the Arabian Gulf, Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa.
Guests in conversation at Aridly Abundant exhibition.
Team Pavilion included AUS alumni, alongside interns from National Pavilion UAE’s 2023 Venice Internship Program. The National Pavilion UAE is commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and supported by the Ministry of Culture and Youth, with a permanent pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia’s Arsenale – Sale d’Armi. It is an award-winning pavilion that curates untold stories about the UAE’s arts and architecture world through its participation in the International Art and Architecture Exhibitions organised by La Biennale di Venezia. Since 2009, its exhibitions have explored the nation’s cultural evolution from 20th-century experimental artists to the diverse contemporary scene.
Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation is a private not-for-profit foundation committed to the cultivation of a more creative, connected and thriving UAE community. Based in Abu Dhabi, it oversees a diverse portfolio of not-for-profit programmes and initiatives spanning the arts, culture, heritage, human development and early childhood development in the UAE and globally. The Ministry of Culture and Youth works to enrich the cultural ecosystem in the UAE through initiatives and policies that stimulate the development of the cultural and creative industries, to enhance its contribution to the country’s GDP. La Biennale di Venezia was established in 1895 and is today acknowledged as one among the most prestigious cultural institutions. It is at the forefront of research and promotion of new contemporary art trends and organises events in sectors such as Arts (1895), Architecture (1980), Cinema (1932), Dance (1999), Music (1930) and Theatre (1934), alongside research and training activities.
AUS was founded in 1997 by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed AlQasimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Sharjah. Sheikh Sultan articulated his vision of a distinctive institution against the backdrop of Islamic history and in the context of the aspirations and needs of contemporary society in the UAE and the Gulf region. Next year’s exhibition at the Biennale Arte 2024, will present work by Emirati conceptual artist Abdullah Al Saadi, in an exhibition curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh. Al Saadi (born 1967) is one of the “Pioneer Five” original conceptual artists from the UAE, which includes Hassan Sharif, Hussain Sharif, Mohammed Kazem and Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim. His work ranges from painting, drawing and the creation of lengthy artists’ notebooks, to the collection and systematic categorisation of found objects and the invention of new alphabets. An organic affinity with nature and rural life informs his practice, which explores the changing environment as well as personal and cultural history. El Fetouh has initiated innovative local, regional and international programmes and events, seeking to develop conversations among art practitioners across disciplines. He works with artists who draw on several styles and engages new audiences across a range of platforms.
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