National Pavilion UAE - “1980-Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates” – Rethinking Time and Space / By Giulia Briccardi
  • “1980-Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates” – Rethinking Time and Space / By Giulia Briccardi


    Unlike others pavilions, where artworks are the only and absolute protagonists, here we face a conjunction between the curatorial idea of Sheika Hoor Al Qasimi, the architectural design of the exhibition designers, Milk Train and more than 100 artworks realized by fifteen artists from the UAE, in an intense and harmonious interrelation.

    The exhibition “1980-Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates” is based on intensive research and is dedicated to the historical record underexposed practices of some of the UAE’s most important and evolving modernist and contemporary artists. As the curator Sheika Hoor Al Qasimi said, the main aim was “to show diversity of art practices and the history of the art scene in the UAE at this period in time.”

    Rather than following a didactic chronology, the two coordinates of time and space decomposing the existing space, like in a Cartesian diagram, creating different sections and levels with vertical and horizontal lines transforming the 250 square meters of the pavilion into different islands, in conversation with one another. Visitors are invited wandering through the pavilion where sculptures and paintings establish dialogues between them creating artistic correspondences.

    Time is not conceived as a line but just like the space, is fragmented and decomposed making visible the coexistence of past and present. Visitors are invited to wander through these compact collections creating their personal connections. As the Canadian poet Margaret Atwood says: “Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. If you can bend space you can bend time also, and if you knew enough and could move faster than light you could travel backward in time and exist in two places at once.”

    Besides showing the density and variety of the art scene in the UAE, the exhibition also show the continuous evolution of the artists themselves, as in the case of Dr. Mohamed Yousif. In fact, it would be almost impossible to establish that the static and monolithic wooden sculptures at the bottom of the pavilion, defined by the artist himself as  selfish, have been realized by the same hands that have assembled recycled materials creating the animated bicycles that remind that much the first ready-made realized by Marcel Duchamp in 1913, the Bicycle Wheel.

    Visitors are impressed and often surprised by Abdulrahman Zainal’s sculpture Fighting for a Chair, they admire and are curious about all Hassan Sharif’s artworks and by the colorful ceramics realized by Salem Jawhar. Some of them ask about how many women artists are shown, others wonder about the richness of the pavilion where black, white, grey and sand are predominating colors remind the environment that inspired artists and recalling the use of poor and natural material that we can admire in the artworks.

    The theme of the 56th Venice Biennale is All the World’s Futures but as a colleague from the Tuvalu Pavilion has pointed out “there’s not a lot of future”. Many pavilions, just like the UAE’s one, are looking at the past in order to see their future and understand their present.

    It is not a coincidence that the Golden Lion for Best National Participation has gone to the Republic of Armenia for its reflection on Armenian diaspora and memory. It is not a coincidence that the entire Italian pavilion has been dedicated to Archives of Memory. We are what we was and what we will be, at the same time.

    This is particularly true in the case of the UAE pavilion, whose utmost praise is to show how the UAE is taking care of its heritage and its cultural past with the same caution with which Tosetto’s craftmen handled artworks just arrived after having constructed the entire pavilion.

  • Pin It