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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Al Quoz Arts Fest Caters to All 

The weekend festival floods Al Quoz with art and performance

The Art Shop at Quoz Arts Fest. Anna Strauss / Alserkal Avenue
The Art Shop at Quoz Arts Fest. Anna Strauss / Alserkal Avenue

Alserkal Avenue is gearing up for the Quoz Arts Fest January 26-27, the two-day extravaganza of talks, performances, music, and workshops oriented towards all ages.

Now in its sixth year, the art festival is spread out across the pedestrianized area of Alserkal Avenue in the industrial district of Al Quoz in Dubai. Galleries are offering talks on their work and public performances will stretch across dance, music, and stand-up comedy.

The open plaza in the centre of Alserkal Avenue – known as the Yard ­– is hosting a variety of performances by Dubai-based dancers: such as Introspection by Sandralee Egido (4.30pm on Friday and Saturday); Indian fusion performed by Avega Dance Creations (5pm on Friday and Saturday); and House of Bernarda Alba, an adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s play of the same name, by the Sima Dance Company (6.30pm on Friday and Saturday).

The recently formed Beirut Contemporary Ballet will stage their first performance ever of Skirmish, which was choreographed by the company’s co-founder Jens Bjerregaard in collaboration with the dancers Jana Younes and Wafa Bouty. Younes, who is also a co-founder of the company, says the work is based on the “the small skirmishes that a man and a woman go through while they are trying to navigate through life. There’s a lot of fighting moments, funny moments, loving moments – just like a natural relationship.” (The dance is performed 6pm on Friday and Saturday and a film follows afterwards.)

Skirmish also marks the company’s first ever international performance. Beirut Contemporary Ballet was formed a year and a half ago by classically trained dancers in Beirut and, Younes says, wants to push dance in different ways, folding together fashion, technology, art, design, and dance – a bit like the brief of the Quoz Art Fest itself.

The festival also offers the chance to delve into the exhibitions in the Alserkal Avenue galleries, most of which opened last weekend. Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey is doing a performance at Lawrie Shabibi (4.30pm on Friday), where he currently has a show, and the A4 screening space will screen his first-ever film, Displaced, a work about trade and migration that he staged on a beach in Accra. (2­-3pm on Friday, followed by the artist in conversation with Gallery 1957 founder Marwan Zakhem.)

It is also a chance to hear cultural producers lend their insights into the work on show. The Dubai-based art critic Mahnaz Fancy is leading a tour of the galleries under the title “Imaginary Homelands in a Globalised World,” in a kind of walking essay.

“It started by thinking of Salman Rushdie’s book Imaginary Homelands, and the idea of translating across borders,” Fancy says. “Is it different when everyone is translating across borders, in a global art world? What does it mean to be looking at different cultural perspectives from this multicultural world that is Dubai?”

Fancy will be leading visitors (starting point 11am on Saturday at Nadi Al Quoz) to, among other galleries, Clottey’s work from Ghana, Art Jameel’s show of Saudi photographers, and the new Brown Books space, which is hosting an architectural exhibition about the traditional Emirati falaj irrigation systems.

The work on show throughout Alserkal Avenue bears out Fancy’s observation of the Dubai art world’s unremittingly global character. Elsewhere during the festival, Pakistani artist Fahd Burki is leading a tour of his exhibition Momentary Structures and Five Intervals (2.30pm, Saturday at Grey Noise), in which he shows a series of twelve paintings on paper ­– investigations on impermanence that keep company with a series of heftier works on canvas, reminiscent, the gallery says, of stone tablets. The Iraqi-British artist Athier will be in conversation about his new paintings, in a show at Ayyam Gallery in DIFC, which move from a more political stance to a “more ethereal engagement”.

“I tried to find the calm moment between stillness and chaos – the moment in which elements are lifted up before they fall back down again,” he says (3pm on Saturday in the A4 space).

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Read more:

This season at the Louvre Abu Dhabi: What's on from February until May

Art in the UAE: the exhibitions and installations to look out for in 2018

From One Louvre to Another tells the story of the Louvre in Paris

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One of the best elements of the arts festival is the way that the galleries reach out to younger audiences. The Jean-Paul Najar Foundation is using their current exhibition, on the work of French radical painter Olivier Mosset, who was active in 1960s and 70s, to host workshops on creating geometric and abstract compositions (11am on Friday for 10+, 1.30pm on Friday for 16+). The multidisciplinary arts space the Junction is hosting a storytelling session where children can act out roles in stories (rather than just acting out, which parents should feel happy about); this is 11am on Friday at A4.

And this wouldn’t be Dubai without a bit of self-care sneaking in: even dogs are catered for. Shampooch has a mobile grooming van set up in the Avenue with discounts offered throughout the weekend.