Dubai: When a gallery is preparing for a new exhibition it usually keeps visitors out with a sign at the door saying, ‘We are closed for installation’.
But this summer, Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde and Dubai-based artists Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian are doing something different with an exhibition titled, We Are Open for Installation.
The gallery announced in May that, until September 16, it has ceased to operate as a gallery in an attempt to unsettle the dictatorial art system and reconnect with the fundamental process of art making.
Instead, it has handed over the space to the three artists as a living and breathing cellular domain, where audiences are welcome to walk in and experience the collective energies unfolding inside.
This is not the first time the three artists have taken over the gallery.
A few years ago, they recreated their shared home cum studio in the gallery, offering visitors an insight into their creative work environment. This exhibition goes beyond the walls of their home to show visitors the collaborative and dynamic process behind their practice.
“The idea that an artist works alone, and that art should be exhibited in an impersonal, intimidating white cube space where visitors are not allowed to touch anything is outdated and soulless. We want to change this system and reimagine the white cube space as a think tank that reflects our collaborative practice. Our work is influenced by our surroundings, the people we meet and the socio-political issues that affect our world. We collaborate not only with each other, but also with the wider community, such as the friends, creatives and thinkers with whom we discuss and develop our ideas, the technicians who help us to maintain our work environment and construct our artworks, and many other people including our household staff, who make suggestions and interventions, or bring us found objects for our installations. We want visitors to see this lively, collective, dynamic and endless process by which art is created and continues to evolve,” Ramin Haerizadeh says.
The idea that ... art should be exhibited in an impersonal, intimidating white cube space ... is outdated and soulless.
The artists have transformed the white cube into a colourful space infused with energy.
They have painted the floor pink and have spread a variety of objects and artworks across the gallery. These include a tray with kahwa cups placed on the floor, paintings with holes in them, a wedding dress, drawings made on pizza boxes and installations created from found and recycled objects such as a boat, kettles, life jackets, float valves, vacuum cleaner parts, wheelchairs and ironing boards.
The most interesting part of the show is the ‘dastgahs’ or ‘painting machines’ devised by the artists. Each dastgah is an assembly of objects taken from their living space such as plastic bottles, masks, ladles, or a pair of crutches. Displayed alongside are videos documenting how the artists cover themselves with these objects to literally become robotic ‘painting machines’ doing repetitive actions.
“Dastgah means device or machine in Farsi, and it is also a technical term in traditional Iranian music for a melodic matrix used in improvisation. We devised these dastgahs to move away from the idea of the ‘artist’ as a central figure and highlight the contributions of the others involved. The machines restrict certain functions such as our movement or sight but also heighten others like our sense of touch or hearing. They are as much objects as they are thought process. By robotically repeating actions such as dropping paint from a ladle with restricted hand movement, painting with our eyes covered, or walking around with a crutch dipped in paint, we keep learning and getting better with every attempt. This is like a process of debugging our own practice, revising it over and over again, test driving different alternatives, and motivating ourselves to change and evolve continuously,” Rahmanian says.
The show is irreverent, humorous and playful, but it is also profound and provokes us to think about important contemporary issues such as the idea of home and of hollow space and the repetitive histories of power games, destruction, displacement and excluded others.
References to these themes appear in different forms in the artworks, such as orange life jackets reminding us of desperate refugees on boats; strange alien creatures in the paintings that look out of place in their surroundings; holes punched into canvases; installations made of hollow objects with other objects concealed inside them; poems that have been translated and reinterpreted by many different people suggesting immigration of content; images of refugees sourced from Western media recontextualised with a Middle Eastern sensibility; and the pink on the floor symbolising hope and the light of a new dawn.
The artists believe that an exhibition is not a final result, but a form of disruption in the process that itself becomes a new ground for further development.
So, even after an artwork is ‘finished’, they continue to work on it and change it.
This will be reflected in the show, which will keep changing throughout its five-month run. \
So, visitors can expect to see something different every time they step in to watch the ongoing installation.
We Are Open For Installation will run at gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz until September 16.
Round-up of cultural activities this week:
Malhaar’s Tribute to Mehdi Hassan:
UAE based music group Malhaar is commemorating the 92nd birth anniversary of ghazal maestro Mehdi Hassan with an event titled, Shahanshah-e-Ghazal: The Man and His Music to be held on July 26 at the Malhaar Centre for Performing Arts. The interactive musical session, which is part of Malhaar’s popular series of ‘baithaks’ will explore Hassan’s life and work through his best known ghazals presented by trained classical singers. To attend RSVP at email@example.com.
Alserkal Residency Public Programme:
Alserkal Residency will host a series of public programmes by its Summer Cycle residents Balqis Al Rashed, Sashikanth Thavudoz and Aarti Sunder from July 21 to July 29. The events include visits to the residents’ studios, performances, lectures and an excursion. For details and RSVP to attend write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hindi play at The Junction:
Mandali theatre group will stage Ek Raat, a play in Hindi directed by Arif Bhaldar at The Junction, Alserkal Avenue on July 26 and 27. The story which unfolds over one night in a prison is an intense drama about a man who stands for his principles. Tickets available at the venue and Platinumlist.net.
Last chance to see show celebrating Arabian scripts:
Nomadic Traces: Journeys of Arabian Scripts, commissioned by Warehouse 421 in Abu Dhabi closes on July 28. The show, organised in collaboration with Khatt Foundation features drawings, installations, ceramics, jewellery, textiles, fashion, furniture and objects created by Arab artists that delve into Middle Eastern history and culture, reflecting ancient scripts such as the Phoenician, Aramaic, Musnad, Palmyrene Script, Nabatean and early Arabic Scripts.