Mohammed Kazem: Walking on Water
The 55th International Art Exhibition
Curated by Reem Fadda and commissioned by Dr. Lamees Hamdan, Walking on Water is a culmination of Mohammed Kazem’s series of work titled Directions 2005/2013 as a site specific and an immersive installation produced for Biennale Arte 2013. Comprised of a 360-degree projection of the sea and illuminated interchangeable GPS coordinates within an enclosed chamber, the artwork engaged viewers in a seascape that invited them to experience what it is to be lost at sea, to walk the waters unafraid, to cross physical barriers, and to roam the borders of ideas freely, thereby questioning and challenging their perceptions of openness and universality.
Mohammed Kazem has been a leading figure of the contemporary art scene in the UAE since the 1990s. Among the first artists to adopt a conceptual language and produce video and multimedia installations, Kazem combines his subjective point of view — sometimes manifested through his body and other times alluded to more abstractly—with references to natural and manmade landscapes, particularly of the UAE, to comment on the poetics of place, belonging, and change.
Kazem’s most emblematic series, Directions, is a conceptual project that the artist began in 1999 and has continued to develop through various multimedia installations and photographic series. The water and the sea stand at the center of this project, which was inspired by an experience Kazem had while on a fishing trip. On that occasion, he fell, unnoticed, from the boat and was lost at sea for over half an hour before being located. Subsequent to this experience, Kazem became inspired to experiment with Geographical Positioning System (GPS) coordinates, which fishermen use to remember the location of the nets that they cast. GPS coordinates became a defining aspect of the Directions series and an iconic trademark for Kazem, who sees GPS as a tool for documenting his whereabouts, symbolically referencing his very existence, and underscoring the ability to traverse both literal and figurative places without inhibition.
The accompanying publication is a retrospective on the work of the artist, charting Kazem’s practice from the 1970s to 2012. This 320-page book features essays by: Reem Fadda, Paula Kolczynska, Hassan Sharif, Sultan Al Qassemi and Adel Khozam.
The 55th International Art Exhibition, titled The Encyclopedic Palace, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, was open to the public from 1 June – 24 November 2013.