Zayed University hosts exhibition inspired by Sir Bani Yas Island - GulfToday

Zayed University hosts exhibition inspired by Sir Bani Yas Island

zayed art 3

This work is by Ruquya Alshateri.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

The College of Arts and Creative Enterprises (CACE), Zayed University, is hosting A rendezvous with COMET (Communicating, Observing, Mapping Environments and Tolerance) exhibition at ZUUSS (Zayed University Urban Satellite Space), Gallery 1 at Foundry, Downtown Dubai (Feb. 1 – 10). It organised by Janet Bellotto and David Howarth, where COMET engages with a collection of projects and documentation by faculty, students and alumni inspired by the Island of Sir Bani Yas.  COMET is a research cluster aimed to collect, document and map narratives, heritage, and places, to consider cultural histories and sustainability issues on islands.  It aspires to propose solutions and/or transfer knowledge engaged through art, design, and craft strategies.

The strategies introduce traditional tools and experiment to bridge new technologies and introduce potential prototypes for arts processes and outcomes. The approach encourages a collaborative and creative platform, incorporating the STEAM model for interdisciplinarity and co-existence approach for change and intercultural dialogue. With a scope to draw comparisons within the collection of information from various Emirates and the Gulf, the focus is on history, environment, urban change, heritage and sustainability. In the collection of data and documentation of UAE islands, stories identify sites as resting points for sailors, homes to fishing communities and places for new possibilities and future progress.  The initial scope of research involved two projects: Mapping & Re-envisioning Islands and Typographic Matchmaking for a Region/Place/Location. They consider the UAE, in particular its islands, with historical and heritage prominence, focusing first on the Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.


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Students from Zayed University participated in trips to the island Sir Bani Yas to collect data and develop creative works that would promote the tenants of COMET. The initial research developed through two projects. The first, Mapping & Re-envisioning Islands research and practice-based creative project, combines primary and secondary research on the history, heritage and environment of Sir Bani Yas Island. The second is Typographic Matchmaking for a Region/Place/Location, a craft-based creative project, that uses the data collected to further develop branding or presenting a place an identity through the framework of heritage and sustainability. The projects were piloted through workshops with students and classroom assignments. Two field trips were taken to document and learn about Sir Bani Yas, and this followed with investigations with use of the interviews and visual images.

COMET’s online platform “Island Research Repository” is a portal to share and discuss data and creative projects on island research globally. It uses several terms related to astronomy as an indicator to historical marine navigation mapping through star observation and as conceptual inspiration for mapping the future of the research of COMET.

Islands around the globe will be added to the portal for comparison and knowledge sharing, and plans to encourage new projects using shared data.

zayed art 2  A sculpture by Elyazia Ahmed Alfalasi.

The cluster will establish the Creative Constellation & Archipelago Lab — part think tank, part platform — for community engagement, publishing, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas, connecting to other artists, designers, environment activists, scientists, and researchers globally. Bellotto is from Toronto, and is currently working in Dubai. She graduated from the Sculpture/Installation programme at the Ontario College of Art & Design, Toronto, and received an MFA from Concordia University, Montreal. Her practice encompasses sculpture, installation, photography, video and performance. She is a Professor in Visual Arts of the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises, Zayed University, Dubai, where she also served in a variety of leadership roles. An initiator in various collaborations that promote cultural exchange, she was the Artistic Director for the 2014 International Symposium on Electronic Art hosted in Dubai, and founding editor of Tribe magazine, which publishes on photography from the Arab world.

Water flows through her work: oceans and waves, submersion and reflections, in-between states that are fluid and aqueous. She has initiated various artist collectives based on producing site-specific work or using spaces outside of gallery walls and creating cultural art exchanges. In her most recent work, she focuses on islands - their isolation and vulnerability - where her Sable Island project was published in the book Our Ocean Guide (2017).

She has also exhibited in various cities including Beijing, Dubai, New York, Mexico City and Venice. She splits her time between Toronto, Dubai and Venice. Howarth is Associate Dean/Associate Professor of Graphic Design in the College of Arts & Creative Enterprises at Zayed University. He has a keen interest in all design related issues with a passion for Land Art and natural/urban decay. His recent research work focuses on the environment, the evolution of man and his material wealth, pollution and its impact on our planet and the consequences this has on nature.

Through this path, he has established a letterpress studio within the Graphic Design programme — the first in a higher education institution in the UAE.

He has published papers on “What effect technology has had on a Graphic Designers thought process over the last 25 years”, and how introducing traditional technology into a teaching environment can further enhance a student’s creative experience and design thinking. His research focuses on the environment, the evolution of man and his material wealth, the development of bigger and bigger cities, more and more people, pollution and industry of our planet and the consequences this has on the natural cycle of life.

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