Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Is This Tomorrow?: Alserkal Arts Foundation and Whitechapel Gallery collaborate for Dubai exhibition

The show brings together artists and architects to produce experiential, site-specific works that envision our future

Collage drawing for 'Mind Garden, Heart Garden' by Tatiana Bilbao studio. Courtesy Tatiana Bilbao Estudio 
Collage drawing for 'Mind Garden, Heart Garden' by Tatiana Bilbao studio. Courtesy Tatiana Bilbao Estudio 

Alserkal Arts Foundation has collaborated with Whitechapel Gallery in London to bring an experiential exhibition to Dubai in November.

Titled Is This Tomorrow?, the exhibition will feature site-specific works that speculate on what the future could look like, as envisioned by four pairings of artists and architects.

The result of these collaborations will include installations, environments and pavilions that will activate the space in and around Concrete, the multidisciplinary space in Alserkal Avenue that was recently shortlisted for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture this year.

Curated by Whitechapel Gallery chief curator Lydia Yee, Is This Tomorrow? will be the Dubai iteration of a previous exhibition at the gallery in London, which took place from February to May.

It originally drew its premise from another Whitechapel Gallery show from 1956 titled This Is Tomorrow. Developed by architect and critic Theo Crosby, the exhibition – which brought together 38 artists in 12 groups – is considered seminal in the way that it looked at new ways of collaborative living and building ‘environments’ inside a gallery setting.

In the 2019 show in London, visual artist Rana Begum and award-winning architect Marina Tabassum created a space with a white room and a circular skylight, which was ringed with colourful textured materials, such as spray paint on paper.

A test sample of spray paint on paper from Rana Begum's 'Phoenix Will Rise', created in collaboration with architect Marina Tabassum. Courtesy Rana Begum
A test sample of spray paint on paper from Rana Begum's 'Phoenix Will Rise', created in collaboration with architect Marina Tabassum. Courtesy Rana Begum

The duo – who are both from Bangladesh – will reconfigure the work, titled Phoenix Will Rise, specifically for The Yard, the courtyard space outside of Concrete.

“It is a place of refuge – a space for reflection – contemplation. The highlight of the installation is Rana Begum’s beautiful art piece around the central oculus that catches light and frames the sky. The architecture builds around it to create a setting of atmosphere and repose, all the while appropriating the context, Alserkal Avenue,” said Tabassum in a statement.

“This collaboration is exciting because it pushes boundaries in a playful way, while simultaneously inviting the viewer to consider space in relation to location and existing elements,” added Begum.

6a architects and Amalia Pica are developing a maze-like structure named 'Enclosure' that explores how architecture affects the relationship between humans and animals. Courtesy 6a architects and Amalia Pica
6a architects and Amalia Pica are developing a maze-like structure named 'Enclosure' that explores how architecture affects the relationship between humans and animals. Courtesy 6a architects and Amalia Pica

Other collaborations include 6a architects from the UK and Amalia Pica from Argentina. They will create a maze-like environment meant to mirror animal enclosures, allowing visitors to consider how architecture creates discord in our relationship to animals.

Installation view of 'I want to be the future' at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. Cao Fei and mono office have collaborated to present a prototype that will dispense objects and emotions related to the machine's imaginations of the future. Brotherton-Lock
Installation view of 'I Want to be the Future' at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. Cao Fei and mono office have collaborated to present a prototype that will dispense objects and emotions related to the machine's imaginations of the future. Courtesy Brotherton-Lock

Looking at people and technology, mono office and Cao Fei, both from China, will present a prototype for a machine that will express emotions and produce objects based on its imagination of the future.

Finally, Mexican artist Mariana Castillo Deball and Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao will fuse concepts of time and architecture in a new iteration of Mind Garden, Heart Garden.

Deball’s works explore time through the Mesoamerican calendar, Tonalpohualli, and will respond to a conceptual space developed by Bilbao, which attempts to balance the human need for both isolation and connection.

“Is This Tomorrow? not only furthers our mission of championing collaborative, socially engaged and multidisciplinary practices, but also reinforces Dubai’s position as an epicentre for a broader dialogue on the role of architecture in the region,” said Alserkal Avenue founder Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal.

Running from November 6 to 23, the exhibition will coincide with the Sharjah Architecture Triennial, which begins on November 9 and investigates the possibilities of co-existence in urban areas, as well as architecture’s role in addressing the climate crisis.

Updated: September 3, 2019 02:14 PM

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