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Chaos into Clarity: Re-Possessing a Funktioning Utopia is an investigation of the Aesthetic of Funk. Curated by Shannon Ayers Holden, the exhibition is an exploration of the radical power of transformation, the theme of transcendence and the presentation of a new world material culture as seen through the works of three artists from the African Diaspora: American textile artist Xenobia Bailey, Moroccan born photographer and designer Hassan Hajjaj and British Trinidadian filmmaker and sculptor Zak Ové.
The exhibition was developed as part of Campus Art Dubai 1.0 from January through June 2013 - more about, see below.
Chaos into Clarity:
Re-Possessing a Funktioning Utopia
Curatorial text by Shannon Ayers Holden
Bobby: What you gonna play now?
James: Bobby, I don’t know, but what’s it ever I play, it's got to be funky!
James Brown, Godfather of Soul 
The themes of transcendence, transformation and duality, are powerful concepts that are expressed in the work of African American textile artist Xenobia Bailey, Moroccan-born photographer and designer Hassan Hajjaj, and British Trinidadian filmmaker and sculptor Zak Ové. What links the works of these artists to one another is how each of them explores the personalised yet multi-faceted nature of their African heritage. Their interpretations on the relationship between the past and the present, and the present and the future, reflect how each of them responds to the issues of identity, belonging and ultimately salvation. The works of each of these artists can be placed firmly in the framework of the aesthetic of funk. Whether it is Xenobia Bailey’s construction of an urban mythology that chronicles a distinctly African American experience, or the observation of the radical power of transfiguration that crashes through the frames of Zak Ové’s film, or the ‘fragance’ of the familiar that wafts through Le Salon of Hassan Hajjaj, as stated by author Rickey Vincent, ‘Funk is the extremes of everything. Funk is primitive, yet funk can be sophisticated. Funk is impossible to completely describe in words, yet we know funk when we see it.’  And it is on full display in the works of these artists.
The aesthetic of funk - the notion of making something special out of nothing special - is quite simple on the surface. Yet there is something extremely powerful and affirming in these artists’ ability to transform whatever materials and resources available to them, such as newspaper and coca cola crates for example, into systems that create and influence productive, healthy and sustainable lifestyles. Perceivably, these works impress by evoking a certain freedom of expression similar to the jazz musician's improv, or the emotional outpouring heard in Black gospel music. While appearing free of restraint, in the straightforward execution of these works the opposite is true.
Each artist presented here has a shared ancestral link to Africa. Each explores in a very personal way how the prisms of duality and multiculturalism inform their view of the world. Hassan Hajjaj left part of his childhood in Morocco when his family moved to London in the 1970s. Ever resourceful, he threw himself into the diverse artistic and cultural scenes of the time, while keeping a toe’s hold connection to the beloved country of his birth, a connection that has grown more confident over time. The ravaging and lingering effects of the transatlantic slave trade in the Americas provide the crucial backdrop for the works by Bailey and Ové. However, rather than allowing their work to succumb to the horrors of slavery’s aftermath, both artists present a hopeful and uplifting view of a more perfect future.
Funk is the cultural fertiliser in an unending cycle of life and is foundational to the works of all three artists. It provides the conduit that moves their visions from chaos into clarity, from the past into present. Funk is the marrow of a future full of the very real possibilities of individual self-fulfilment and new world material sustainability. Xenobia Bailey, Hassan Hajjaj and Zak Ové provide powerful examples of funktioning at its very best.
Rickey Vincent, Introduction To Funk: the Music, the People, and the Rhythm of The One, St. Martin’s Press
Campus Art Dubai is a six-month alternative "school" for artists, curators, writers, cultural producers, and art workers based in the UAE and provides a space for critical thinking and the exchange of ideas and skills. Meetings occur over weekends and feature seminars, workshops, critiques, and one-on-one mentorship. Campus Art Dubai is taught and led by a local and international cast of academics, critics, curators, and artists.
Campus Art Dubai is part of Art Dubai’s educational programming and is held in partnership with Dubai Culture and Arts Authority. It is hosted by a number of partner spaces and art institutions in the UAE, including Satellite, Capsule Arts, thejamjar, Shelter, Tashkeel and Sharjah Art Foundation.
Chaos into Clarity:
Re-Possessing a Funktioning Utopia
26 October 2013 - 26 January 2014
SAF Art Spaces, Building F
Al Mureijah, Heritage Area
Curator: Shannon Ayers Holden
Internat. Architecture Exhibition, 22 May - 21 November 2021. Curator: Hashim Sarkis.
59th International Art Exhibition, 23 April - 27 November 2022. Artistic Director: Cecilia Alemani.