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Interactive art exhibition opens in Sharjah

Four UAE based artists display their works which visitors are encourage to touch and interact with. The exhibition will last till July 28

Image Credit: Asghar Khan/Gulf News
Visitors at the “Relationship — Artists, Audiences and InteractiveArt” show at Al Maraya Art Centre, Al Qasba, Sharjah.

Sharjah: Works of four young UAE-based artists are on display at the first exhibition to solely focus on interactive art in the region, The exhbition, inaugurated at Al Maraya Art Centre - Al Qasba on Wednesday will last until July 28.

With "Please touch the art works" in bold black print on the floor, the exhibition, "A Most Precarious Relationship: Artists, Audiences and Interactive Art in the Emirates", uses the element of audience participation and interaction with the art work as the medium.

The four artists, Maitha Al Jassim, Amna Al Zaabi, Ahmed Bouholaigah and UBIK's works are linked through their thematic exploration of the interactive elements in art and relationships and exchanges between artists, art works, audiences and social space.

Isabella Ellaheh Hughes, curator of the exhibition, told Gulf News that "I have researched and there had not been any exhibitions that were solely focused on interactive art. It is a really important genre, as interactive art has been there since the 1920s from one of the most important modern artists Marcel Duchamps." She added that "connecting what is going on here within that greater time line of interactive art, gives it legitimacy and connection to that narrative."

The four installations engage the audience in different ways. For instance, Maitha's "islands" installation is a multimedia installation comprised out of shiny reflective black acrylic moveable sculptures and a videos of landscapes from Dubai -where she currently lives- and her hometown Fujairah.

Maitha said that her piece was "inspired by my hometown Fujairah, were I go every weekend. I have a series of sculptures which are memories of my hometown, and two videos, which I put side by side to juxtapose the idea of living in a city as opposed to living in a small town. The idea of the sculptures is the interactive element, and it is not just through the reflection of the audience but also in the sense that they could pick up the pieces and create their own sculpture."

Amna's "Recycling into an Ideal World" is comprised of wooden frames where recycled bottles are placed to create a wall. Her idea was that those recycled low-cost walls can be used to build shelters and shades for people in need. "The people interact by taking full water bottles, and when they finish it they put it in the empty bottles box, and some of them even place it within the wooden frames."  

Social media has become a big part of peoples lives, and Bouholaigah's work titled "Ahmed Bouholaigah and the Rise and Fall of his Quadrocopter" consists of a counter, a barcode to a website and a quadrocopter.

He uses social media as the point of interaction, as people are encourages to ‘like' the project via the Facebook link the barcode takes them to and the counter keeps track of that, and the more likes it gets, the higher the quadrocopter will fly and when it reaches a certain number the quadrocopter will fall down and crash.

"It has to do with schandenfreude and how people love to see things fail and when how when things fail, people forget all that went into it and just remember the failing part." Schandenfreude is the pleasure felt at someone's misfortunes. Bouholaigah added that his work also has to do with "how people get to decide what is good and what is not, if this quadrocopter does not get enough likes, it will not even take off." 

UBIK's installation "Autosuggestion" uses text to engage viewers to interact on more of a philosophical and mental level. The installation explores notions of consumerism-guilt and capitalistic-shame via text on the three LED ticker screens and audience can sit down on the couches and contemplate what is being shown or not.

"The phrases you read have a sense of familiarity because they are things you might have read on self help books or pamphlets and I want the audience to interact with it on a level where they put an effort." UBIK also said that he is very curious to see how people react to his piece. 

Cristiano Luchetti one of the guests said that the exhibition "is very interesting and very fresh, it shows the young age of the artists and this idea of interaction is kind of new and interesting for the region."

"The UAE is a great country that gives so much support for art, but I go to openings and it is always the same 100 faces at every opening," Hughes explained, She said that contemporary art is very broad and sometimes hard to understand.

"I thought this [interactive art] would be a better way to engage a broader audience, who do not necessarily have to know or appreciate contemporary art."  

Giuseppe Moscatello, Maraya Art Centre Manager said, "The exhibition aims to offer a public platform to support four UAE- based, emerging artists who have created installations that transform the routinely sterile-artist-artwork-gallery space audience interface into active audience participation."