Guests at Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Abu Dhabi Art’s Art + Tech project, with Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research, welcomed guest artist Alfred Tarazi to host this year’s lineup of virtual workshops. It invited the next generation of engineers, scientists and technology professionals from Khalifa University, to nurture their cultural intellect and advance their technology skills, and to produce their own image repertoire exploring the theme, Viral Images. The support offered by Abu Dhabi Art and Khalifa University for The Art and Technology Project includes an introduction to the wider art ecosystem in the UAE, a self-discovery phase, a learning experience, critical feedback and support through the appointed guest artist.
Under the guidance of Tarazi, who brings extensive experience in multi-media to create artworks ranging across painting, photography, drawing, digital collage, sculpture and installations, students at Khalifa University learnt how to build their own image repertoire through images from their daily lives and urban environments or to create images prompted by a virtual visit to the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The annual programme, launched in 2017, invites established artists from around the world to Khalifa University to collaborate with technology students in a series of art focused working sessions. Participating artists to date include Feng Mengbo, Magdi Mostafa, Random International, Carl De Smet (Noumenon), Alaa Edris and Rashed Al Shashai. The digital workshop session ‘Presenting the Viral Image,’ took place virtually on April 7. Tarazi and Dyala Nusseibeh, Director, Abu Dhabi Art, spoke to Gulf Today about the project.
Tarazi opens up: How different is the effect of one image from many of them?
Some images have changed the course of history. The power of a single image cannot be undermined. How a single image gains this power, however, is a strange occurrence. How a single image becomes recognisable and enters a global consciousness, highlights the importance of images in our lives.
To be able to assess the effect that images have, it is, however, important to read through them.
Do you subscribe to the view that “the more (images), the merrier”?
I definitely subscribe to that view in my artistic practice. That being said, it is very important to be able to identify images amidst this clutter. A random chaotic accumulation of images cannot inform or teach anything.
Could you give us some details of your virtual lecture series?
Viral Images is first and foremost a course in visual literacy. It aims to highlight how we take images for granted and forget to inscribe them in history, forgetting why and how they were even made. What difference is there, for instance, between Emojis and Hieroglyphs? What difference is there between 5000-year-old cuneiform tablets and excel sheets of today? We surf on a daily basis on innovations made thousands of years ago and we take them for granted. This workshop aimed to highlight the primacy of images and how important they have been and still are.
Dyala Nusseibeh speaks:
How will a visit to Louvre Abu Dhabi and a lecture series/workshop by Alfred Tarazi help students in their cultural development?
Louvre Abu Dhabi is the single most significant repository for artefacts from around the world in the UAE. Whether by immersing themselves in the history of ancient forms of writing or religion, in armour or coins, in painting or sculpture, a tour of the Louvre provides immersion in cultural developments from around the world.
What will students learn here they haven’t already?
Now more than ever, technology has been absorbed into everyday life. Advanced technology has helped art institutions with the digitisation of their artworks, creating accessibility to the world of arts and culture to everybody, anywhere, anytime.
Dyala Nusseibeh, Director, Abu Dhabi Art.
Through augmented reality, be it on our phones, tablets or laptops, we have art and culture in the very palm of our hands … At this critical juncture, it is all the more important that we assess how these images are consumed and what we understand from them.
Can you give us the feedback from previous mentorship programmes provided by Abu Dhabi Art for students?
In 2017, we kickstarted the project welcoming three guest artists including Feng Mengbo, Magdi Mostafa and Random International. Mengbo worked with students to create art works that combine real-time electronic music and visual images using oscilloscope/laser generator projection. Mostafa and his students created a group sound piece for exhibition using a circuit. With Random International, five students created an interactive artwork using technology. In 2018, Carl De Smet (Noumenon), who works on sculptures in motion, led the Obscure Object workshops in which students developed an interactive sculpture that responds to near field communication.
Mengbo returned for a second iteration of the programme and collaborated with students on developing a Karaoke experience under theme Karaoke Box.
Emirati artist Alaa Edris, led the workshops Experimental Portraiture and shared her experience of working with technology to create contemporary art works that used advanced 3D hologram technology. In 2019, the students were led by artist Rashed Al Shashai under the theme Sculpture Light, creating a vibrant installation using light and mixed media, in an effort to discover how every day or ordinary objects can transform into art through technology. Students who have participated in the programme find the workshops to be insightful, particularly when exploring new ways to bridge the gap between art and technology.
Can you give us a behind-the-scenes look into how this programme was conceptualised and finalised?
The annual programme was developed in 2017 with the purpose of engaging aspiring engineers, scientists and technology professionals with art, culture and the local art eco-system. Abu Dhabi Art’s role extends beyond that of an art fair, in aspiring to contribute to local creativity and foster new cultural developments on the ground. This particular project forms one of our efforts in this direction.
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