Abu Dhabi: ‘Artifacts of the Current Moments’ is an immersive, multi-layered artwork by Emirati artist, poet and director Nujoom Alghanem, commissioned by Abu Dhabi Art for a cultural site in Al Ain this year as part of activities and events on the sidelines of the Al Ain Book Festival 2023.
The work spans seven rooms in the Al Jahili Fort and presents multiple forms centred around ceramics as the main material for contemplation of the installation’s main theme of “the present moment”.
The installation highlights the artist’s interdisciplinary practice which includes poetry, drawing, sound, film and sculpture.
Known for her storytelling approach, Nujoom creates a subliminal narrative for the visitors to Al Jahili, based on the different materials and tools she adopted in parallel with the subjects she has been exploring for the last six months, particularly in relation to her several visits to Al Ain Oasis.
Her objective is to provide the audience with “a profound experience” at the Fort. She invites them to be in an open dialogue with the thoughts each section of the installation presents. This approach mirrors her personal journey, delving into the essential meanings of the known and unknown, the recognised and the concealed, and the prevailing psyche of existing elements versus those reverberating from ancient history.
Inspired by the past
She intentionally creates similar items to those that were unearthed in archeological sites aiming at situating them within a new historical context specific to this region and moment in history. Yet, she injects a contemporary touch, employing aesthetic choices such as interweaving ceramic pieces with industrial wires and utilizing diverse clay types, glazes, oxides, and waxes to reflect the present time.
While the inception of this theme dates back several years, Nujoom intensified her efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, viewing the movement restrictions during the period as a pivotal historical moment. For her, it was an opportunity for humanity to reconnect with nature and the inner psyche.
Nujoom contends that artists can construct alternative realities, making the world more bearable. She states: “There are hundreds of hours that pass throughout our lives either in waiting for things to happen or in waiting for the right time to start something more profound. In 2021, I started creating ceramic art pieces to address those moments spent in waiting, forming the foundation of this installation.”
In terms of film, Nujoom produced a seven-minute art film with an unattached soundtrack that will be played in a separate room to engage the audience with each form independently.
Besides the support of Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism, this installation was also supported by Dubai Culture that helped the artist by providing her with the space and facilities to create her artworks at Al Jalila Cultural Centre for Children in Dubai.
Also, poetry is one of the early artistic languages Nujoom had learnt and started using as a means of expression. Her reading of the ‘Seasons’ goes back to the 1990s when she first realised the beauty of the fall season in Athens, Ohio, USA where she was studying. She dedicated a great number of poems to this season and its visually stunning ‘Indian Summer’ in the Native American culture.
Recently, after she was invited to take part in the exhibition ‘Thinking Art. Artists as Writers from the UAE’ curated by Dr Noha Farran at Maraya Art Centre in Sharjah, which is still on view, she translated her thoughts about the Seasons in paintings.
Some of the paintings and framed poems that are exhibited at the Fort are a part of that collaboration.