‘Al Shawahid’ by Dr. Mohamed Yousif Image Credit: Supplied

The National Pavilion United Arab Emirates unveils a selection of artworks to be displayed at its 2017 exhibition at la Biennale di Venezia.

The exhibition, titled“Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play was commissioned by the Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation. Supported by the UAE Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development, the exhibition that will first preview from 10th to 12th May, will be on display through the course of the Venice Biennale later this year.

‘Al Shawahid’ by Dr. Mohamed Yousif.

“Where does ‘playfulness’ in artistic practice come from? How and where is ‘play’ nurtured? What does ‘play’ do?”

These are the questions curator Hammad Nasar hopes to explore. Aiding him on his mission is a mix of new commissions, existing works and re-fabrications of ‘lost’ pieces by five artists who call the UAE home: Nujoom Al Ganem, Sara Al Haddad, Vikram Divecha, Lantian Xie and Mohammad Yousif. Their exhibited works approach play through movement, rhythm, form, time and place.

“Play and playfulness are vehicles through which we as children learn to understand the world around us and navigate our place in it. This exhibition foregrounds a selection of artists whose practice takes this process of understanding and navigation as a source of inspiration and vitality,” says Nasar. “These artists fit within an artistic trajectory in the UAE of play and playfulness as a mode of creation. They variously experiment with materials, sound, texts and physical and social processes as part of their artmaking.”

With more than half a million visitors attending each edition, the International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale is one of the world’s most prominent cultural events. Participating in the art exhibition for the fifth time, the UAE presentation captures a snapshot of the diverse cultural and creative conversations occurring in our nation.

Between Heaven and Earth, the Body I Borrowed is a sound installation by Al Ganem. Based on a poetry performance, Space, a visual poem, and a reproduction of Silsalat Al Ramad, Volume 1, a self-published journal produced by the artist and other members of the Aqwas collective in 1985, the work explores time, space and the senses.

Sara Al Haddad will contribute three crocheted textile installations.

Al Haddad will contribute three crocheted textile installations, including one existing work As you try to forget me and two new commissions: a hanging screen named Don’t you ever leave me alone, and Can’t you see how I feel, with which the artist plans to sheath one of the black steel pillars supporting the pavilion in different sized crocheted layers of pink yarn.

Degenerative Disarrangement, an existing work by Vikram Divecha is a composition of bricks which will be “relocated” in a new iteration. Divecha also contributes Bathing Boulders, a commissioned video work which documents the process of washing large rocks as they were installed as part of his 2014 work, Boulder Plot.

Lantian Xie presents a selection of ‘things’ throughout the pavilion space, including existing works Hassan’s Ashtray, Half-Cup Saffron and Taxidermy Peacock, as well as an important commission titled A Rumble Interrupted Our Chat. The latter is a series of objects and happenings which will unfold inside and outside of the pavilion throughout the six months of the Biennale.

For the Venice Biennale, Yousif refabricates two previous works which were no longer in existence: Al insiyabiyya bil majadeef taht al maa, a large-scale installation of wooden oars, and Al Shawahid — an assemblage of anthropomorphic spoons looking on a burial mound, with a small mirror affixed in its centre.