At NYU Abu Dhabi’s Art Gallery, digital stars align for some techno-thinking

The Art Gallery at NYU Abu Dhabi continues its thought-provoking programming on September 22 with Invisible Threads: Technology and its Discontents. A vast range of contemplations on humanity’s evolution, in how we think, do, and make, is planned. While the internet age has given us the sharing economy, digital nomads and the global village, there’s still plenty of angst surrounding the dark web, internet trolls and hysteria in cyberspace.

“This universal theme is especially relevant in the UAE, a country that is home to extraordinary state-level technological innovations, as well as a remarkably tech-savvy, connected population,” says co-curator Bana Kattan.

In keeping with the theme, this is a truly globalised roster of 15 artists. The likes of New York-based artist Addie Wagenknecht and Chinese performance artist and photographer Liu Bolin represent heavy hitters in terms of the political, social and environmental impacts of progress. As co-curator Professor Scott Fitzgerald of NYU says, “we have enshrined these tools in practically every aspect of our lives.”

Audiences will get to witness Canto III, a bust of Saddam Hussein immortalised in bronze and gold. Iraqi-American artist Wafaa Bilal has realised part of the Ba’ath party’s plan, at the height of Hussein’s reign, to send a golden statue into orbit as an ever-circling celestial tribute. Researcher, artist and writer Jonah Brucker Cohen’s Alerting Infrastructure, where a wall is drilled every time a website is visited, is more prescient now than when it was first exhibited in 2003, the grinding down perhaps a call for a digital detox, where it once was an outlier’s version of progress.

Other anticipated works will come from Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, Hong Kong-based artist Kenny Wong and Kuwaiti artist and filmmaker Monira Al Qadiri. New York-based Syrian artist Diana Al-Hadid’s show in the same space last season was accompanied by some fine talks and even an excellent tour companion for children, so expect this show to bridge the digital divide.

Invisible Threads: Technology and its Discontents is up at NYU Abu Dhabi’s Art Gallery from September 22 until December 31.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Collectors Issue #38, page 35.