Group show at Jameel Arts Centre to explore urgent theme of water - GulfToday

Group show at Jameel Arts Centre to explore urgent theme of water

Detail from Asuncion Molinos Gordo’s How much river up there! installation at Travesía Cuatro gallery in Madrid.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Art Jameel is opening a major new group exhibition, An Ocean In Every Drop, at Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai’s contemporary arts hub (Sept. 22 – Apr. 2, 2023). With its title inspired by a 13th-century poem by Rumi – “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are an ocean in every drop” — the exhibition speaks to the centrality of water in shaping our world and the complex web of relations produced by water and its use.

It features 15 regional and international artists from 14 countries, from First Nations and indigenous communities, through Ancient Persia to the UAE. Bringing together existing works and new commissions that range from large-scale installation and audiovisual works to manuscripts and works on paper, An Ocean in Every Drop seeks to reboot our relationship with water through history, from the 10th century to the present day, exploring the vast and ancient ways in which water shapes human development, produces history, culture, language and social relations.

By relating to bodies of water as living beings, the show tries to mark a transformation in our own approach to the climate emergency, centering our role and our relation to the issue today. Exhibiting artists include Jumana Emil Abboud, Martha Atienza, Raven Chacon, Cian Dayrit, Leuli Eshraghi, Asuncion Molinos Gordo, Abul Hisham, Candice Hopkins, Sohrab Hura, Hussein Naserreddine, Thao Nguyen Phan, Daniel Otero Torres, Karan Shrestha, Fatima Uzdenova and Munem Wasif, as well as the work of 10th century geographer and writer, al-Istakhri. Abboud (b. 1971) is a Palestinian artist living and working in Jerusalem.

 A dazzling still from Thao Nguyen Phan’s Becoming Alluvium single-channel colour video.

She draws on her own background and Palestinian culture and traditions in her installations. She explores memory and storytelling and oral history through the body and her use of Palestinian folklore and fairy tales. Her art frequently features the Palestinian landscape and she focuses on remembering, the impact of memory fragmentation, and how history impacts a person’s current life. Her piece Hide Your Water from the Sun, is a three-channel video installation, that presents a video of the sites featured in a 1920 study of places that once contained springs and other water features that have since been lost, but whose locations are part of Palestinian folklore.

Born in Manila, The Philippines, to a Dutch mother and Filipino father, Atienza’s video installations are visions culled from her Filipino and Dutch sides. Her work is a series mostly constructed in video, of a sociological nature that studies her direct environment. Chacon (b. 1977) is a Pulitzer Prize winning artist known as a composer of chamber music.

His visual and sonic artwork has been exhibited widely in the US and elsewhere. Dayrit works in painting, sculpture and installation. His interdisciplinary practice explores colonialism and ethnography, archaeology, history and mythology. Eshraghi is active across Samoa, Australia and Canada, and is of Samoan/Persian/Cantonese ancestry.

The artist prioritises global Indigenous and Asian diasporic visuality, spoken languages, and ceremonial-political practices. In her practice, Gordo explores different forms of dominance in intellectual enquiry, from the urban to the rural. Hisham’s works manipulate characters he has seen and experienced in his social environment.

Hopkins (b. 1977) is a Carcross/Tagish First Nation independent curator, writer and researcher who predominantly explores areas of indigenous history and art. Hura (b. 1981) is an Indian photographer based in New Delhi. He is a full member of Magnum Photos. Naserreddine lives and works in Beirut.

His work in installation, writing, video and performance originates from a practice around language that builds fragile monuments rooted in collective histories such as ruins, construction and image-making. Phan (b. 1987) is a Vietnamese visual multimedia artist, whose practice encompasses painting, filmmaking, and installation.

She references her country’s turbulent past while observing social convention, history, and tradition. The work of Torres is grounded in the re-construction of ideology through drawings done by hand over aluminium and steel. With stories of every day and every people, Shrestha’s work seeks to blur opposites that build and define our individual and collective identities, presenting them as flawed - and hence effectively human.

Uzdenova’s practice is anchored in the idea of a garden as a place of conquest, a spiritual terrain, and as source of nourishment. Wasif’s installations often mix photographs with moving images, archived documents or collected paraphernalia, to reveal notions of impermanence and insecurity. Istakhri was a 10th-century travel-author and geographer who wrote valuable accounts in Arabic of the many Muslim territories he visited during the Abbasid era of the Islamic Golden Age.

His account of windmills is the earliest such known. Nora Razian, Head of Exhibitions, Art Jameel, said: “The exhibition is part of a multifaceted attempt at Art Jameel to address the climate emergency, and the role of arts and culture in shaping our understanding of it. With Cop27 in Cairo in November 2022 and then in the UAE in 2023, this is a key moment for the region to engage in reducing footprint and responsibly tackling resource scarcity.”

An Ocean In Every Drop runs in parallel to Art Jameel’s participation in the World Weather Network (WWN), which includes a ‘weather station’ at Jameel Arts Centre. Art Jameel is one of 28 arts organisations from around the world forming WWN, a global ‘weather reporting’ project running through to June 2023 in which artists and writers share ‘weather reports’ in the form of observations, stories, images and imaginings about their local weather and our shared climate, creating an archipelago of voices and viewpoints on this global platform. 

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