The Bravery of Being out of |Range|
I was lucky to be one of those who were determined not to miss this exhibition at Athr gallery. The title of the exhibition itself meant that it was a lot more than art on the wall. I got so excited that I insisted on going on opening night, May 17th. Yes, I realize that was over a month ago. However, I’ve made it my duty to document such events and take good photos of the artwork.
I wrote a summarized (430 word) review for Bridges’ newsletter, which is yet to be published. This post will be a more detailed critique.
So, what was The Bravery about?
If you wear reading glasses, it’s time to grab ’em!
An exhibition is more than just the art. Exhibition design is copywriting, editorial design, and the list goes on. The Bravery was one of those exhibitions that gave all its pillars equal importance. I found the catalogue in the form of a newspaper was a great medium to deliver information, and was relevant to the theme of the exhibition, as you’ll understand further in this post (hopefully).
Being a person that likes to read, I did not mind that I had to read to understand the concept behind the exhibition better. Reading the newspaper when I got home really did help me understand the concept better. But how many visitors actually read it? The curators of the exhibition, Mohammed Hafiz and Aya Haidar, clearly put a lot of effort into it, but what percentage of the audience got their message?
The Bravery had 3 sections: The Range, The Resolute, and The Breaking.
Now READ! (or don’t) Please note that not all artists are mentioned.
Artists: Ahmed Mater, Sami Al Turki, and Manal Al Dowayan.
Sami Al Turki‘s video installation, “Billboards” demonstrated his frustration with the objects that “reshaped the space we live in” as curator Mohammed Hafiz explained it. I’m sorry I could not provide a recording, but Art in the City explains it better: “A split screen depicts the artist driving around in his car filming the oversized billboards in and around the city (Dubai) directly next to an unending loop of Al-Turki pounding scaffolding with a metal rod in frustration against the levels of ‘consumerization’ around him. “
I liked seeing such a concept in Saudi Arabia, however it also makes me sad that this awareness of the effects of globalization is still very weak.
Ahmed Mater’s “Green Antenna” has a very nice story behind it, which I read in the catalogue/newspaper. I honestly appreciated the piece better after reading the article. You can read the story here. However, the place it was installed was not the best, because a lot of pieces on the walls around it reflected that green neon light.
Another Mater piece was his installation “Yellow Cow”. After seeing it in person and looking into the details, I did not like how he included his logo and signature. It made it too commercial in my opinion.
One of my favorite pieces from the exhibition was Manal Al Dowayan’s “Satellite Hallucinations 1”. Although I’ve seen photos of it online, seeing it in person was a completely different experience. There’s a paradox in the free satellite signals and the pigeon/dove that is captive to the system. That bird is women in Saudi Arabia, who need their legal guardians’ permission to travel, among many other things. If you look at the close up, you’ll notice writings in Arabic. This is actually from a travel permit.
Artists: Abdulnasser Gharem, Hassan Hajjaj, Yasmine El Sherbini, and Babak Golkar.
I must admit that I was getting very bitter. Gharem, Manal, Mater and Sami are all Edge of Arabia artists, but I never got to see their work in person until very recently. I think what happened is that I got overexposed to some work to the extent that I was unmoved when I saw it. An example of that is Abdulnasser Gharem’s “Concrete V”. Although I truly admire his technique, it did not strike a chord with me. Perhaps because there was nothing new about seeing it in person? With Manal’s piece though, I was surprised to know that she used spray paint and it wasn’t just a digital print like I always thought.
There is one artist whose work truly amazed me. That artist is Hassan Hajjaj. I loved how he tackled the topic of globalization in several of his pieces. A Moroccan who moved to the UK at a young age, he still seems to be in touch with his roots.
I fell in love with this piece by Hajjaj, “Eyes on Me” because I find it very ironic that many people today recognize these brands’ symbols, yet don’t necessarily know how to read or have more than primary education. This is reality.
I really loved “Tipping Point” by Yasmine El Sherbini. Unfortunately I could not find any information about this artist online.
And finally, Babak Golkar’s “Imposition 3”, Persian carpet and titanium white acrylic. You can ‘cover’ the identity, but it will never be completely covered. You can still see the details of the persian carpet under the paint. (You’ll notice Mater’s Green Antenna, which is what I meant when I said it wasn’t the best position for the piece)
“No More Tears” by Gharem uses Johnson & Johnson’s famous baby shampoo slogan. It still puzzles me because I still don’t know how he printed that over stamps. Mind boggling isn’t it?
I was very happy to see a local young artist participating in the exhibition. Eyad Maghazil is a bold social critic whose work is always memorable. His installation, “عاجل” (urgent, or since it’s referring to media, “Breaking News”) is filled with thousands of blood red plastic soldiers. Irony was right before us in a glass container.
I found The Bravery of Being out of Range very inspirational, and I have no doubt that the curators at Athr will be surprising us with equally rich exhibitions in the future.
Below are other pieces that I did not mention above. Feast your eyes on these.