SECOND EDITION OF INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBITION FEATURES 15 ARTISTS WHO WILL EXPLORE IDEAS OF MIRAGE AND OASIS UNDER THE THEME SARAB
Following its inaugural exhibition in 2020, Desert X AlUla returns for its second edition from 11 February – 30 March 2022, placing visionary contemporary artworks by 15 Saudi and international artists amidst the extraordinary desert landscape of AlUla, a majestic region in north-west Saudi Arabia of natural and creative heritage steeped in a legacy of cross-cultural exchange.
This year’s exhibition, under the curatorial vision of Reem fadda, Raneem Farsi and Neville Wakefield.
Under the theme of Sarab, this year’s exhibition explores ideas of mirage and oasis, both intrinsic to desert history and culture, that have taken on complex worldwide significance over time. Invited to consider these ancient concepts, participating artists have responded with new works that address dreams, camouflage, fiction, dis/appearance, extraction, illusion and myth, while also examining the dichotomy between the natural and man-made worlds.
The exhibiting artists are:
– Shadia Alem, b. Saudi Arabia, based in Paris.
– Dana Awartani, b. 1987, Saudi Arabia, based in Jeddah.
– Serge Attukwei Clottey, b. 1985, Ghana, based in Accra.
– Claudia Comte, b. 1983, Switzerland, based in Basel.
– Shezad Dawood, b. 1974, United Kingdom, based in London.
– Jim Denevan, b. 1961, United States, based in Santa Cruz.
– Stephanie Deumer, b. 1989, Canada, based in Los Angeles.
– Sultan Bin Fahad, b. 1971, Saudi Arabia, based in Los Angeles.
– Zeinab AlHashemi, b. 1985, United Arab Emirates, based in Dubai.
– Alicja Kwade, b. 1979, Poland, based in Berlin.
– Shaikha AlMazrou, b. 1988, United Arab Emirates, based in Dubai.
– Abdullah AlOthman, b. 1985, Saudi Arabia, based in Riyadh.
– Khalil Rabah, b. 1961, Palestine, based in Ramallah.
– Monika Sosnowska, b. 1972, Poland, based in Warsaw.
– Ayman Zedani, b. 1984, Saudi Arabia, based in Riyadh.
Desert X AlUla is a collaboration between Desert X and the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) established to advance new cultural dialogue through art. The first site-responsive exhibition of its kind in Saudi Arabia, it fosters dialogue and exchange between artists, curators and international and local communities, shaped by a curatorial vision that takes the desert as its inspiration. Building on the legacy of Desert X, which takes place in California’s Coachella Valley, Desert X AlUla draws on principles of land art, offering a profound opportunity to experience art on a monumental scale in dialogue with nature.
The upcoming exhibition will take place in a different location in AlUla to the previous edition, situated within a valley that invites visitors to wander through and experience spectacular landscapes as they weave their journey between the works.
Shadia Alem’s sculptural installation adapts the art of origami, applying the basic principles of geometry and beauty to create shapes that make reference to the Arabian desert’s literature, mathematics and mythology.
Dana Awartani’s sculpture draws inspiration from the vernacular architecture of AlUla, taking the form of a concave geometric sculpture that references the Nabataean tombs and mimics the shapes of surrounding mountains, gorges, caverns and rock formations.
Serge Attukwei Clottey’s installation addresses the experience of globalisation, migration and water equity by shrouding slabs of rock in meticulously crafted tapestries made from yellow kufuor gallons, which are plastic containers used in Ghana for storing and transporting water.
Claudia Comte’s work features a progression of walls imposing their architectural presence within the natural order of the AlUla canyons, with each carrying a section of a larger algorithmic pattern relating to the waveforms that shape the sound and surface of the desert.
Shezad Dawood’s work explores ideas of deep time and the geo-biological relationship between the desert floor and nearby Red Sea through a pair of coral-like forms whose temperature-sensitive surfaces reflect the effects of climate change and mankind’s continuing struggle to find a sustainable relationship with a rapidly changing ecosystem.
Land artist Jim Denevan creates ephemeral drawings whose interlocking patterns speak to the shifts in magnitude and scale that so often shape our experience of the desert and our attempts to position ourselves within the vastness of unbounded space.
Working at the intersection of nature and technology Stephanie Deumer has created an underground greenhouse; hinting at the lush sanctuary of native plants below, a large puddle-shaped array of solar panels mounted flush with the desert floor creates an energy feedback loop where the energy of the sun is captured, stored and transformed through photosynthesis into growth and transformation.
Sultan bin Fahad’s mud structure is shaped like a desert kite, with mirrors on the façade that create the look of a mirage, and houses an urn-like sculpture embossed with four protective symbols traditionally used in Nabatean tombs.
Zeinab AlHashemi’s interactive sculpture uses discarded camel skins on an abstract, geometric base, resembling a rock formation in the desert; like a camouflage, these camel hide sculptures merge into the mountains.
Alicja Kwade’s architectural structures reflect and frame the natural artefacts she encountered on the desert floor, which she rearranged and supplemented to create constantly changing perspectives that strike the fine line between reality and illusion.
Shaikha AlMazrou’s lengthy steel-made inflated structures are wedged in the voids of rocks, tensely balanced in the landscape, occupying the liminal state between stasis and movement, creating a silent yet imposing composition suspended in inertia.
Abdullah AlOthman’s piece references theories of light refraction rooting back to the early days of desert civilisation and culture, with stainless steel plinths that interact with the light and create a radiant space that seeks to manifest the experience of capturing the mirage for the first time.
Khalil Rabah creates a mirage of an orchard of olive trees, which stand here in the desert as living things displaced from their indigenous land and longing to be repatriated, as an exploration of territory, survival and citizenship.
Monika Sosnowska’s sculptural exploration of memory speaks to AlUla’s historical position as a hub and passage of trade and its more recent cultural re-awakening; using heritage rails from the Hejaz railway, that ran from Damascus to Medina, the linear steel forms have been transformed into giant dried grasses replete with possibilities of growth and transformation.
Ayman Zedani’s soundscape installation in a rocky cavern comprises horizontal sculptural wires and an audio projection of music, voices and footsteps, creating a cacophony of sounds that add to the chimes of nature.