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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Art Dubai A.i.R. programme underway

The annual artist-in-residence programme is part of Art Dubai. Six artists, including two Emiratis, are spending the next three months working on pieces of art to show at the fair.
Artists-in-residence at an introductory lunch in Dubai. Courtesy A.i.R.
Artists-in-residence at an introductory lunch in Dubai. Courtesy A.i.R.

Two Emirati artists are among six chosen for Art Dubai’s annual Artists-in-Residence programme. A.i.R. began earlier this month under the guidance of Lara Khaldi, this year’s Art Dubai projects curator, who will have the ­artists working from studios within Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood for three months to produce an art piece that will be displayed at the fair in March.

A.i.R is a partnership between Art Dubai, Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, Tashkeel and the Delfina Foundation in London.

Finding common ground

Two Emiratis, Hind Mezaina and Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, join the UAE residents Sharmeen Syed and Jessica Mein as well as Amsterdam-based Mehraneh Atashi and Beirut-based Rheim Alkadh.

Their practices range from photography, collage, video, painting and sculpture and Khaldi’s primary role as curator – other than to guide them towards a final piece – is to identify a common theme.

“I have been trying to find ways to link together their work and one of the ways is by establishing a reading group every Thursday where we read a text together, suggested by one of the artists that has to do with their ideas and research, to open the discussion,” says Khaldi. “This helps us all to find intellectual affinities and, hopefully, by the end, we will have overlaps in terms of the themes and actual projects.”

A new experience

The artists themselves are still in the beginning stages of their residency, so are not able to give too much away about their final artworks.

Ibrahim, who lives and works at his home studio in Khor Fakkan on the east coast in the emirate of Sharjah, says he is enjoying the chance to experience a new side of life in the UAE. “Every place has its spirit. I am Emirati, but Dubai is absolutely different from Khor Fakkan and so it is new to me. This place gives me a new motion, feeling and rhythm. Art residencies give me freedom and more time to work on my art.”

“I am still doing basic footwork,” says Mein, who is from Brazil but lived in New York before moving to Dubai. “This is a great opportunity for me to be present here; I’ve never felt so connected to being here before and it is nice to be part of this group and working with other artists.”

Although the works are to be set up in the grounds of Madinat Jumeirah, the residency itself continues until April.

“The fair will not be a culmination of the residency, therefore the focus should not be on the work itself, but also the research and the practice, so they can do other things,” says Khaldi.

In addition to their final pieces, the artists will also be taking part in an expanded outreach programme of talks, reading groups, screenings, publications and open studios.

Dubai dreams

Syed is interested in Dubai and its effect on her practice. “I was born in Dubai, but moved back and forth and have seen it throughout the decades. My background is in architecture and I have developed an extended interest in the fluidity and compression of the city.”

Mezaina’s practice also centres on her relationship with the city: she plans to use the residency to respond to changes happening around the older parts of the city and Atashi, who works in photography, video and installation and has been recently preoccupied with the concept of entropy, will also continue her practice in an engagement with the city.

“Some artists work on a meta level, looking at social issues, and some focus on very detailed social phenomenon but, at the end, I think they do overlap,” concludes Khaldi.

Art Dubai Projects will also include five commissioned pieces produced specifically for the fair by international artists and some film and radio projects.

Art Dubai runs from March 18 to 21 at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai

aseaman@thenational.ae