Anna Seaman meets Carla Mercedes Hihn and Vikram Divecha, two artists who have had work unveiled at Ductac this week
Two new permanent pieces of public art were unveiled on Tuesday in Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre (Ductac). A giant precast concrete slab now hangs over the foyer and a Plexiglas panel bearing a collage of photocopies, spray paint and oil colour fills the sun-drenched corridor that runs along the second floor of the centre.
The work is part of Co.mmission, a new initiative intended to take art outside the walls of the gallery. “I wanted to underline the fact that art has the potential to exist in all shapes and sizes,” says Simon Coates, the general manager of Ductac, who came up with the concept.
“The point is to create artwork in a public place and to demystify the whole art-making process by taking it out of the gallery and putting it into unexpected spaces. I don’t like the idea of art being cloistered,” he continues.
So, a few months ago, he began talking to Vikram Divecha, a Dubai-based Indian artist who works with urban materials such as concrete, bitumen and asphalt, about how to make use of the unusual architecture that already existed within Ductac. When he came up with the idea to hang the precast concrete slab in the space above the foyer, he visited a concrete factory in Al Quoz to learn how the process took place and then hired a contractor and a structural engineer to construct the artwork on site. The result, a 450kg slab hung from a cantilever suspension system, is called Reclaimed Void.
“Exploring the centre for these hidden areas within the architecture became like a metaphor for personality for me,” Divecha says. “Every individual has a private side and I became almost seduced by the volume of space and it had so much capacity.”
Just metres away from Divecha’s work is the untitled Plexiglas panel by the German artist Carla Mercedes Hihn, who lives and works in Berlin and had never visited Dubai before the UAE’s Goethe Institut sponsored her for a month-long residency at Ductac.
“I deal with urban structures and atmospheres of places within cities,” she says of the spirit of her work. Hihn spent 14 days travelling around Dubai taking photographs and interpreting the city for the final art piece, which she describes as a “mental map”.
“I show the impressions and the memories of the city as well as how Dubai presents itself,” she explains.
Coates concludes that the project is also intended to contribute to the community’s understanding of art. “We are the antithesis of a commercial gallery and Ductac should be about ideas,” he says. “In Dubai there is too much commerciality, too much mystification and too much ring-fencing. From my point of view, art is about bringing people closer, not pushing them away.”
• Ductac is open Saturdays to Thursdays, from 9am to 10pm, and on Fridays and holidays from 2pm to 10pm. For more info, call 04 341 4777 or visit www.ductac.org