DUBAI: In 1956, the Whitechapel Gallery in London organised an exhibition titled, This is Tomorrow, where it invited 38 prominent London-based artists and architects to work together in small groups to ‘set a programme for the future’. The exhibition is considered a seminal moment of post-war British art. Earlier this year, the gallery’s chief curator, Lydia Yee, reimagined that exhibition for the twenty-first century by bringing together leading artists and architects from around the world to respond to contemporary issues and offer their visions of the future in a show titled, Is This Tomorrow? In collaboration with Whitechapel Gallery, Alserkal Arts Foundation has now brought a part of this landmark exhibition to Dubai. Presented at Concrete, a space that was short listed for the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the show features five interdisciplinary installations, environments and pavilions created by five pairs of artists and architects.
1. British Bangladeshi artist Rana Begum and Dhaka-based architect Marina Tabassum, winner of the 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture are offering a hopeful vision of the future with their installation, Phoenix Will Rise. Their site-specific iteration for the Dubai show is an intimidating structure with grey walls located in The Yard outside Concrete that blends in with the surrounding architecture. But step in and you find a cosy seating area bathed in natural light that is designed to be a space of repose, reflection and contemplation. Adding a splash of colour is a circular artwork by Begum, placed around a central oculus on the roof that catches the changing light and frames the sky, inviting visitors to look up towards the future.
2. London based 6a architects and Argentinian artist Amalia Pica’s installation, Enclosure, explores our relationship with animals through a maze-like structure that visitors can enter, made from a sheep management system and filled with sculptures derived from objects such as scratching posts for cats and rubber chew animal toys.
3. Cao Fei and mono office from Beijing, China, have examined our relationship with technology with a machine-like installation, ‘I want to be the future’ that reflects our uses, obsessions and adaptations of technology.
4. UK based artist Hardeep Pandhal and APPARATA’s installation, Thugz Mansion, embodies the tension between stability and instability, permanence and improvisation to explore what happens to architecture when political systems collapse or become outdated.
5. The fifth installation, Mind Garden, Heart Garden, combines Mexican artist Mariana Castillo Deball’s sculptural work relating to the Mesoamerican calendar, Tonalpohualli with Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao’s exploration of the human need to be isolated yet connected to the community.
Is This Tomorrow? at Concrete, Alserkal Avenue. Until November 23.
Alserkal Avenue’s November programme, focusing on art, design and architecture also includes:
A public art commission by artists’ collective METASITU titled, ‘We were building sand castles — but the wind blew them away’_FINALFINAL3.psd.
A commission, titled Absolem created by Jeddah-based Bricklab studio.
Majlis Talks featuring talks by artists, designers and architects.
Galleries Night on November 18 featuring new exhibitions at the galleries and spaces open until 10pm.
Jyoti Kalsi is a Dubai-based arts enthusiast.