Installation at ICD Brookfield Place.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
ICD Brookfield Place has unveiled Hair Mapping Body, Body Mapping Land, an exhibition curated by Munira Al Sayegh and programmed by Alserkal Advisory. This is the first exhibition curated by Al Sayegh on the platform she recently founded, Dirwaza Curatorial Lab, as a creative incubator and projects partner.
On view through to December 19, Hair Mapping Body, Body Mapping Land brings together works of three artists whose practices draw upon the complex charting of histories, narratives and identity, across multiple planes. At the centre of the exhibition is the dialogue between Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim and Afra Al Dhaheri.
They represent different generations of conceptual Emirati artists, whose practices are connected through an interpretive mapping of land and body.
Ibrahim is among the pioneering group of Emirati conceptual artists who came together in the 1980s through the Emirates Fine Arts Society and collectively defined the avant-garde contemporary art scene for decades to come.
Speaking about the choice of bringing the artists together, Al Sayegh said: “The idea of intergenerational connection created though the art scene is apparent in this show.
“The pairing of the two was a curatorial and a conceptual challenge defining the exhibition as a prompt to navigate and embrace differences, and through those differences we find similarities.” Al Dhaheri’s Fil Al Shaar, drapes into ridges that peak and fall, reminiscent of mountains or waves adrift. Behind its ropes is a segmented space, reflective of a mountain range high above a pocket town, at the heart of a valley. Her practice is anchored in the body — in hair, specifically. Hair appears as a tree, rooted in, extending out, and branching into the notion of what is deemed private versus public. It becomes a tool that unfurls deeply personal stories over time and the changes they bring.
Tucked away, Ibrahim’s Khorfakkan introduces a flattened perspective, in contrast to height. His work roots itself in response to movement and play and through profound connection to his home of Khorfakkan, reflected in the natural materials used and the primordial shapes and symbols in his works. As part of the exhibition’s public programming, UAE-based artist Mohamed Khalid has been invited to respond to the show.
An artist who examines the materiality of everyday objects and coaxes out their metaphoric potential, he dissects ironies embedded in his everyday surroundings.
For this exhibition, he proposes an alternative way of mapping space and distance, creating an ephemeral artwork in response to the works of Al Dhaheri and Ibrahim. The artwork will be slowly unveiled throughout the duration of the exhibition.
Of the conversation between the three artists in the exhibition, Ben McGregor, Investment Director of ICD Brookfield said: “We are thrilled to launch our second major exhibition in partnership with Alserkal Advisory. “This is an important moment for both partners, as we celebrate a continuum of diverse talent in the Emirates during this year of the Golden Jubilee. “We are developing our arts programme for our community, and for the artists regionally and locally, who are defining the cultural landscape here.”
Vilma Jurkute, Executive Director of Alserkal and its initiatives, said that “Alserkal Advisory develops cultural projects and establishes spaces for polyphonic voices through a thoughtful, research-informed approach to crafting audience-specific cultural programmes and environments.
“In programming this exhibition for ICD Brookfield Place and working closely with curator Munira Al Sayegh, intrinsic knowledge of the artists and their practices and the relationships that we have nurtured over the past decade, allowed us to thoughtfully juxtapose the works of two generations of Emirati artists for the first time.
“This exhibition represents a milestone and a maturing of the UAE’s art scene as more organisations pledge their support for the arts, allowing for a wider narrative and dialogue with the publics of the city of Dubai and beyond.”
In this year of the UAE’s Golden Jubilee, questions of body, land, identity — the lines drawn to define ourselves in a public and private sense — could not be more relevant.
Ibrahim (b.1962) is part of the UAE’s first generation of contemporary artists from the late 1980s — an avant-garde scene that included Hassan Sharif, Abdullah Al Saadi, Hussein Sharif and Mohammed Kazem.
His work has been inspired by a lifelong relationship with the environment of Khorfakkan, his place of birth, with the Gulf of Oman on one side and the Hajar Mountains on the other. Al Dhaheri’s work is rooted in her experiences growing up in Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE – a place of recent and rapid change.
Al Sayegh is also co- founder of Engage101, a collecting and research platform. She is a published author and prominent voice in the region, discussing the importance of non-institutional thinking to build regional art movements from the bottom-up.
Alserkal Advisory is a multidisciplinary practice comprised of Alserkal’s founding team, in addition to thinkers, researchers and specialists in diverse fields, from multiple geographies. It aims to develop cultural production and establish spaces for polyphonic voices. A lifestyle and business address, ICD Brookfield Place plays an active role in the transformation of the local arts and culture scene through rotating arts programming and events. It is a community-driven and eco-conscious destination, and its building is home to The Arts Club, a scene for cultural happenings.
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