Abu Dhabi: Light art exhibition Manar Abu Dhabi opened to the public, showcasing compelling light artworks installed across various islands, mangroves, and natural vistas in the capital.
A key pillar of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi’s (DCT Abu Dhabi) Public Art Abu Dhabi initiative, Manar’s inaugural edition is held under the theme “Grounding Light”, rooted in the concept of grounding and self-enlightenment and the belief that light is a reflection of our inner selves, body, mind, nature and spirit.
Curated by Reem Fadda and Alia Zaal Lootah, the citywide exhibition features an array of artworks by over 20 local, regional and international artists from Argentina, Taiwan, Germany, France, India, Japan, Mexico, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.
On Fahid Island, Jim Denevan has created Self Similar, a monumental land art installation illuminated by 432 solar lanterns, where towering clouds and tiny grains of sand coalesce into a symphony of interconnectedness.
Meanwhile, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer takes over Lulu Island with Translation Island, an interactive journey through 10 large-scale audiovisual multimedia artworks. An ambitious technological tour de force, the works employ ultrasonic atomizers, Geiger counters and thermal cameras, among other equipment.
Sound, light, water
Some of the installations use light to represent or interact with natural and cosmic phenomena, while others reflect on the transient nature of existence, human understanding and misunderstanding. Ultimately, the exhibition is a platform for self-representation and participation by the visitors.
Developing the participatory element further, on Corniche Beach Carsten Höller creates with Abu Dhabi Dots a game that invites visitors to interact with light and change its properties, while Shilpa Gupta reflects on humans’ ability for change in an artwork presented in Arabic, English, and Urdu.
Merging sound, digital technologies, light, and water, Jumairy celebrates the ethereal beauty of bioluminescent Abu Dhabi beaches, provoking reflection on the interconnectedness of all living beings.
Luciana Abait compiled her extensive collection of visual and audio recordings from around the world in Agua, an interactive experience where viewers are invited to immerse themselves in a large-scale waterfall projection, symbolizing a spiritual cleansing process.
Shezad Dawood’s four-meter-high iridescent Coral Alchemy (Acropora Grove) sculpture on Corniche Beach promotes environmental awareness, highlighting the endangered acropora coral species.
Other artworks reflect on Abu Dhabi’s history and modernity.
On Lulu Island, Nujoom Al Ghanem celebrates Abu Dhabi seafaring heritage with a large-scale installation of dhow boats. Exploring Abu Dhabi’s traditions and cultural practices in a series of artworks, Ayesha Hadhir, Rawdha Al Ketbi and Shaikha Al Ketbi create a playful journey through the Eastern Mangroves.
Abu Dhabi’s ever-evolving landscape is captured by Ahmed Al Areef in his video projection on the Abu Dhabi Chamber Building, featuring archival photos of the city’s old and contemporary skylines.
Exploring the interaction of time and spatial perception with her sculptural piece, Asma Belhamar reflects on how those who grow up in the UAE experience the changes in architecture and landscape through transient moments. Groupe F’s drone and light painting shows transform the night sky, previewing Saadiyat Island’s landmark architectural future.
Drawn by the medium of light itself, Latifa Saeed and Nadia Kaabi-Linke envisage their architecture-focused artworks as vehicles or lenses for the immaterial medium — light — that makes the world visible without being seen.
Transforming Corniche Beach into her canvas with the aid of two LED screens, the iconic artist Samia Halaby merges painting with kinetic technology, giving typically visual ideas a concrete body, reflecting growth and development.
A second series of artworks will be unveiled in Al Samaliyah Island artworks on 20 December and remain on view until 30 January 2024. Among the artists whose projects will open in the second half of December, teamLab use digital technologies to create startling immersive artworks that transport viewers into a world where nature and technology converge in harmony.
Similarly, Ayman Zedani studies the interplay between humans and the natural world in his work Terrapolis, blurring the lines between life forms and prompting reflection on our connection to the Earth and other species in the modern Gulf environment.
Representing collaboration across various realms and the nation’s developmental journey as a work of art, Mohammed Kazem manifests the unity and boundless opportunities that the Emirates offer through a circular arrangement of numerical coordinates in his Directions, UAE artwork. In Jubail Mangrove Park, Rain Wu’s immersive installation “One with the Soil, One with the Cloud” will illuminate the life cycle of mangrove trees through a floating swarm of lights, celebrating the beauty and ephemerality of existence while offering a unique view on the living world from above.
Finally, in celebration of the rising cultural district in the making, Alaa Edris will offer a new perspective on Saadiyat Island with the new Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum as a backdrop.
In conjunction with the art installations, a schedule of public talks, workshops and performances is offered to visitors over the course of the exhibition. These endeavours highlight Public Art Abu Dhabi’s ongoing commitment to enhancing the emirate’s public spaces through art, building upon a vibrant cultural legacy while looking forward to a future rich with creative potential.