National Pavilion UAE - Reflections on Technology, Art & the Biennale | By Sara Al Haddad
  • Reflections on Technology, Art & the Biennale | By Sara Al Haddad

    Contemporary art is a term used to reflect on artworks that are produced today – they are modern. The mediums and means used to create those works are vast, wherein their relevance was/is highlighted throughout the work; were technology is used as means to present the work in its utmost delivery method(s).

    The use of technology has allowed for new experimental multi-media works to be accepted within the Arts form. The fusion of two creates interdisciplinary results that rather often require the viewer’s interaction, giving room for interactivity and connectivity, which opens a personal unspoken of dialogue between the inanimate object and the viewer. The dissection of the term can resemble and reflect on the simple usage of movement and sound, to activate the viewer’s senses to enable an association far beyond a spiritual and sensual connection with classical works such as paintings and sculptures.

    Lack of technology, at times, in fact, can initiate stimulation of the senses just as much as the abundant use and relevancy of it.

    Openly biased towards contemporary art that sways away from the classical means, unconventional Art appeals to me. What rather draws me towards it, is highly dependant on how it makes me feel. When it forcefully generates provoking thoughts and questions, which is when I learn to appreciate the work far from its aesthetics, and quite often technology is absent in such works.

    Having visited the different pavilions throughout the city, whether allocated in specific venues, such as the Arsenale and Giardini, or scattered throughout the alleys and campo’s of the city, I had the pleasure of experiencing the artworks on a distinctive scale, with high regards to their locations. To be able to distinguish between two very different pavilions, both of which activated my senses, enables me to conclude that contemporary artworks without the use of technology can very much be relevant in today’s time and space. Technology does not necessarily need to be present to be relevant in today’s contemporary art scene.

    Unlike the Arsenale, in Giardini, a larger number of pavilions are hosted, whereas each country is represented through its own architectural building that signifies the displayed works. Using the Biennale map as a guide, group of people waiting in line caught my attention. A geometric building made of glass covered with translucent film, allowing the diffracted sunlight to cover the interior space with spectrums of light – rainbow colours were visible on the exterior; a transparent reflection of the interior. All visitors were asked to sign a waiver advising each an every visitor to enter the dark room on their own risk, especially if they are claustrophobic. I signed it. I was given a number on a paper. Entered the translucent mirrored space barefoot as asked. Waiting for my number to be called to enter the dark room. This is the Korean Pavilion, representing Kimsooja, with her work, To Breath: Bottari (2013).

    The mirrors, reflections and spectrum of light magnified the Korean Pavilion space. Rainbow colours replaced the lack of objects. The space was not empty. I was already using two of my senses, seeing and touching. I went inside the dark room with a group of four other individuals whom all seemed to know one other. I was the last to enter, the door closed. I could no longer see; it was pitch black. With time, I thought I would be able to see a beam of light, if I closed my eyes, as when I go to sleep, I would be able to see flashes of light. I didn’t. Anticipating what comes next, I didn’t dare to breathe. I could hear my thoughts; I held my breath for a little while. One of the men in the room coughed, it did not echo within the walls of the room, but it disturbed the peace of what I found to be uncomfortably calming. Inside this dark room, I was able to use my hearing sense, smell too – I could smell my own perfume. To be in a dark room with a group of strangers, not knowing when the door will be opened for us to leave and for another group to enter. Not knowing the approximate distance between me and the person in front of me. To limit myself from extending my arms in fear of invading someone else’s personal space, I stood still. Subconsciously I may have felt trapped, while, consciously I was alert and wary of my senses. I may have not been able to see, but my other senses were accentuated.

    A sense of both relief and dissatisfaction drew upon me as the door opened. I did not feel comfortable with others in that room, but I most definitely did not get to spend enough time to know if I were going to; how different would the experience be if I were to be there alone?

    On the other hand, there’s the Wales Pavilion, exhibiting the work of Bedwyr Williams: The Starry Messenger. It is one of the pavilions that can be found in the city alleys. The works were spread throughout different connecting rooms, and in each room a sense is elevated, through sound art, water drops, light and the lack of it. Technology is an evident factor in heightening the senses; it acted as a forcing medium to make the visitor to use their different senses without subconsciously questioning the dynamics and order of those senses. Walking from one room to another allows taking in one sense at a time, to digest, although not overpowering, the lack of clashing of senses is underwhelming.

    Activating my senses as a result of a forcing factor through the use of technology allowed me to distinguish between the effects of technology and what happened to come upon naturally. Experiencing the very same senses on two opposite ends of a spectrum opens a room of appreciation towards the lack of a medium that elevates similar experiences and activation of senses, where the abundance of it stresses on it. When the lack of use of technology creates an atmosphere that overawe the viewer, in comparison to the use of it that creates a setting of preparation, expectation – of knowing what’s next, technology becomes less of a distinguished medium, one with insignificance as a new medium in our day today.

    (The geometric shape, the glass and walking on the artwork space barefoot in the Korean Pavilion, I immediately drew a connection with Thilo Frank’s work that was exhibited in Sharjah Biennale 2013, Infinite Rock. The Korean Pavilion is one not to be missed.)

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