x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 17 December 2017

Why Are You, You? campaign emerges in UAE, but to what end?

An online campaign featuring some of the biggest names in the contemporary art world has been launched in the UAE

The Arabic version of the Why Are You, You? sculpture with its associated #TheAnswerInside hashtag on Abu Dhabi's Corniche
The Arabic version of the Why Are You, You? sculpture with its associated #TheAnswerInside hashtag on Abu Dhabi's Corniche

"Why Are You, You?" and what, exactly, is #TheAnswerInside, other than a hashtag?

No, I'm not sure either, but what's certain is that over the last few days both statements have been appearing online and in public across the UAE in the form of those white 3-D sculptures that marketing people now use to generate viral campaigns.

A visit to visit www.theanswerinside.com provides some sort of clue to what the campaign is all about.

Under the rubric "Thinkers. Dreamers. Creators. Explorers. Watch citizens of the world answer 'Why are you, you?'" various UAE-based and international art world figures answer the question in a series of videos, and even if their reasons for doing so are obscure, the answers are revealing.

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Dressed in his traditional black and standing against an all black backdrop, the Louvre Abu Dhabi architect Jean Nouvel responds, cross-armed, with an economical and inscrutable "Because I work" while the veteran Italian artist Michaelangelo Pistoletto merely dances, jauntliy, with a cup of espresso in his hand.

By contrast, Jean-Luc Martinez, president of the Louvre Museum in Paris and Richard Armstrong, the always charming and ever-patient director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation both warm to the idea.

"I am who I am because at the age of 11, I visited the Louvre for the first time with my school and I stood in front of the Winged Victory of Samothrace. My life changed and I realised this is where I wanted to live" explains Martinez, a renowned expert in ancient Greek statuary who realised his dream.

"I am who I am because I was taught to be inquisitive and I had the advantage of growing up in a beautiful, mid-sized American city that showed me the power of good civilisation," explains Armstrong in an avuncular tone.

Other respondents also include several figures associated with this year's Abu Dhabi Art, such as Omar Kholeif, Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, who has curated the fair's Focus: Beyond Territory section and the artists Magdi Mostafa and Manal Al Dowayan, both of whom have been commissioned to create site-specific installations as part of the fair.

"The question itself looks simple from the outside but is complex from the inside," says the Saudi artist Al Dowayan, who has been charged with creating an artwork in the heart of the Al Ain oasis.

"I am my father's smile and my mother's laugh. I learned love from my brothers and loyalty from my friends. I am a mixture of happiness and sadness. I am nothing, but at the same time everything. I am a woman, a human being."

As well as venturing inside the vibrant studio of Abdullah Qandeel (above), a man described as the enfant terrible of Saudi Arabian art, the films also include statements by the novelist Ben Okri, UAE-based artists such as Talin Hazbar and Zeinab Alhashemi and Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism, and the Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist and producer Kasseem 'Swizz Beatz' Dean, who also happens to be the husband of the American singer, Alicia Keys.

What has all this to do with people snapping images of themselves on Abu Dhabi's public beach? Our guess is that the campaign is Saadiyat Island-related, but as the countdown timer on the www.theanswerinside.com explains, the answer will only become clear on October 16.

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