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InVisible: Public Art Commission, Dubai

Works by five artists that call to question the very meaning of public art in relation to the Gulf cities. Commissioned by AFAC, curated by Amanda Abi Khalil
Dec 2014

AFAC’s Public Art Commission "InVisible" was unveiled on November 29th, 2014 in Dubai, a first of its kind, featuring the works of five visual artists from across the region – Shaikha Al Mazrou (UAE), Vartan Avakian (Lebanon), Doa Aly (Egypt), Vikram Divecha (UAE) and Monira Al-Qadiri (Kuwait). Curated by Amanda Abi Khalil, founder of Temporary Art Platform, and produced by Hetal Pawani of 17A and thejamjar, "InVisible" calls to question the very meaning of public art in relation to the Gulf cities in general and to Dubai in particular.

The works will remain in situ until the end of March 2015, allowing an international audience of curators, artists and gallerists to visit during Art Dubai and Sharjah Biennale.

Curatorial introduction by Amanda Abi Khalil

The "Dubai-phenomenon" is a scale, an economy, a style; an adjective for an excessive metropolis, a context where almost nothing overreaches. Infrastructural projects are monumental and urban sprawl has no limits. This scenario is known, it was studied, replicated and also criticized.

For this public commission artists Vartan Avakian, Doa Aly, Vikram Divecha, Monira Al Qadiri and Shaikha Al Mazrou responded to the notion of "InVisible". A theme that inspired contemporary national monuments, narrative and formal sculptural gestures concealing the visible and revealing the invisible within the cultural, historical and architectural context of Dubai. They looked at material and immaterial manifestations, dug out hidden foundations and brought to light forgotten narratives.

Informed by specific sites, stories, textures, forms and national representations the works call to question the place of culture in public space, its tangible and intangible nature and its impact on the collective and the individual.

The works resulting from this commission are to be read and metamorphosed, thus appropriated by the community and the viewers to become the custodians of silent poetic readings and symbolic associations within the context of Dubai beyond its giganticism.

A public commission is also a procedure, a complex yet invisible chain of cultural actors, technicians, contractors, engineers, policy makers’ efforts, labor and achievements. It is this form of cultural production that AFAC encourages particularly in Dubai for its capacity to operate from outside the artworld. It offers the artists new terrains for their practices and the ability to address Dubai’s context and its communities.

Artists and Artworks

Monira Al Qadiri
Alien Technology
A gigantic iridescent form alluding to both an underwater world that fed the Gulf’s economy for so many years and simultaneously, the tool that is central to the current economy of oil. The pearl industry is invisible to most - a forgotten history after the economic transformation that came with the discovery of oil in the region. And while the presence of oil is known and all-pervasive, the nature of its extraction is rarely seen. This drill is the basis of the wealth of the region, a central cog in the workings of the economy, finally made visible in Al Qadiri’s shimmering monument.
Doa Aly
Deer in the Headlights
In May 2014, an Arabian Mountain gazelle was spotted running down the road at the Palm Jumeirah. The creature was seen "on the divider on the trunk of the island," like a mirage; an eruption of nature within an urban environment. Bindu Rai reported the incident on Emirates 24/7 and it became the basis for Doa Aly’s elusive monument.
Vartan Avakian
Collapsing Clouds of Gas and Dust
Monumentality resides in scale. It resides in the scale of residue the monument generates. The power evoked by a monumental structure emanates from this residue, from this dust. Dust is soil. Dust is pollen. Dust is fibers. Dust is also shed skin cells, hair, tears and sweat. This dust generated by the monument’s "life" holds its aura.
Vikram Divecha
Boulder plot
Site-specific sculptural installation composed of gouged boulders that were carefully handpicked from Fujairah, where quarries regularly conduct blasts in the mountainous Emirate, producing a range of aggregates and rocks used for asphalt, concrete, marine and infrastructure construction works. Each of these boulders has a cylindrical hole that runs through it.
Shaikha Al Mazrou
Stand here
Sculptural installation, made from scaffolding polls in primary colours. Seen from different angles, the sculpture appears to change form, becoming a variety of geometric shapes. Merely by circling the work, the audience is forced to engage with the sculpture, as it changes and evolves before their eyes. It encourages an active viewing experience, playing with visual assumptions and evoking a physical and immediate reaction.
More information:
Online catalogue
AFAC's website

(© Photos, text: The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture)

InVisible: Public Art Commission

Works by five artists that call to question the very meaning of public art in relation to the Gulf cities.

29 November 2014 - 31 March 2015

Shindagha Heritage Village and
The Jalila Children’s Center for Arts and Culture

Commissioned by

The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC)

Gardenia Building
5th floor
Sourati Street - Hamra
P.O. Box 13-5290
Website Email

Curated by Amanda Abi Khalil, founder of Temporary Art Platform, and produced by Hetal Pawani of 17A and thejamjar.


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