Coded Gestures at Nika Project Space

Coded Gestures at Nika Project Space

NIKA Project Space, a prominent art and culture platform in Dubai, is set to showcase its second exhibition titled ‘Coded Gestures’ from May 4 to July 16, 2023. Curated by art critic and researcher Nadine Khalil, this exhibition exemplifies the gallery’s commitment to fostering cross-cultural dialogues by bringing together artists from Central and East Asia with local UAE-based artists. Spanning various artistic mediums such as sculpture, video, and photography, the showcased works serve as instruments for deciphering the underlying meaning behind individual creative processes and collective structures.

Fatma Al Ali. My Mother Told Me Not To Collect Bricks, 2020-2023. Gypsum bricks, latex bricks

At its core, ‘Coded Gestures’ endeavors to give a voice to artists from non-Western regions, facilitating a common language that transcends apparent cultural disparities and reflects the multifaceted nature of local contexts influenced by diverse multinational backgrounds and traditions. By anchoring their art in shared societal experiences, the participating artists aim to establish connections and foster a deeper understanding among viewers.

The exhibition takes place in a newly designed 250 m2 industrial space by T.ZED Architects. The conceptual works of five accomplished artists are featured: Alexander Ugay from Almaty, Kazakhstan; Minja Gu from Seoul, South Korea; and UAE-based artists Fatma Al Ali, Mona Ayyash, and Khalid. These contemporary artists explore the concept of the creative gesture as a form of invisible labour, investigating its role in shaping repetitive vocabularies and providing a unique lens through which to examine the disciplining of bodies and forms. By distilling the notion of labour from a broader social context into an artistic realm, the exhibition prompts thought-provoking discussions on various manifestations of alienation, while also challenging the fundamental concept of labour itself.

Installation view of Frozen series, 2023 by Minja Gu. Black and white photographic prints, 110cm x 165cm

The exhibition commences with a live performance titled ‘House Tea de la Maison de la Casa, 2023’ by Minja Gu, a captivating tea ceremony in which the artist invites viewers to participate in hundreds of tea infusions, emphasising the significance of the participatory exchange. The ceremony is accompanied by documentation of a recent site-specific tea-making act performed by the artist in the UAE, commissioned by NIKA Project Space.

Alexander Ugay. Unknown Return, 2023. Mixed media installation, encaustic wax, digital prints, variable dimensions

Alexander Ugay’s works shed light on social alienation by exploring imaginaries and archives. For instance, in his video piece ‘More than a Hundred Thousand Times’ (2019-20), Ugay depicts the memorised movements of Korean labor migrants in post-Soviet states. Another thought-provoking artwork, ‘Unknown Return’ (2023), utilises AI-generated imagery to index significant historical events impacting the Korean diaspora. These works are thoughtfully juxtaposed with Fatma Al Ali’s meticulously stacked bricks in her piece ‘My mother told me not to collect bricks’ (2020), revealing the inherent disparities and interconnectedness between individual and collective systems upon closer inspection.

“The artists in this exhibition bear witness to their changing societies, captured through daily movements. They use visual and algorithmic languages to index invisible histories, from the 1937 Korean deportation to Central Asia to a sports event that never happened,” says curator Nadine Khalil. “As we looked deeper into the works proposed by Alexander and Minja, we found that an interesting thread emerges between post-Soviet and hyper-capitalist societies, linking them in terms of consumerism, excess and residual forms,” Khalil continues.

Khalid. Receipts II, 2023. Receipts, receipt holders, comment section

Khalid’s artwork ‘my job is to look at the sunset’ (2023), created exclusively for this exhibition, is a continuous documentation of daily sunsets printed in real-time and displayed throughout the 44-day duration of the exhibition. This ongoing practice reflects the artist’s habitual engagement with capturing the beauty of sunsets. Similarly exploring the theme of repetition, Minja Gu presents ‘42.195’ (2006), a 11-hour documentation of her version of a marathon completed in two days, and Mona Ayyash’s pixelated video ‘Trampoline’ (2015), featuring athletes repetitively preparing for their jumps. Notably, the gallery’s commitment to showcasing lesser-known female artists shines through in its selection.

Installation view of Coded Gestures, curated by Nadine Khalil at NIKA Project Space.


Coded Gestures at Nika Project Space

Location: NIKA Project Space, Dubai

Duration: May 4 – July 16, 2023




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