Artwork by Mahra Al Falahi.
Muhammad Yusuf, feature writer
Summer is here, can spring be far behind? 421, an Abu Dhabi-based independent, anti-disciplinary platform dedicated to emerging artists and creative practitioners in the UAE and across the region, joins hands with British poets who ask questions. And pointed out that “this spring of 2023, we invite you to slow down, dream, gaze at the stars and savor the moment; this seasonal program coincides with the vernal equinox, ushering in new beginnings, allowing us to reflect, observe, listen, indulge, And prepare for renewal,” which, together with the poet, artistically heralds the coming of spring, which the poet does so poetically.
The 421’s Spring 2023 program features two new exhibitions—a solo show by Artistic Development Program recipient Nasir Nasrallah, and a group show at NYU Abu Dhabi featuring work by this year’s MFA students. Nasrallah’s solo exhibition titled “Poetry of Machines” (May 18-August 25) presents an enigmatic exploration of the relationship between man and machine. Through a series of drawings, paintings, publications, textiles and installations, the Emirati artist takes people on a journey to discover the world of mechanical beings that exist in an unknown time and space.
Drawings and paintings are highly detailed and depict various robotic figures. They usually appear in groups, suggesting a kind of machine community or society. The show invites viewers to contemplate the impact of machines on everyday life and the unstoppable, ever-evolving relationship with mechanical devices (or living things). Nasrallah gives machines personality, emotion, and even a sense of humor.
As visitors walk through the exhibition, they see a fax machine that receives messages in real time and replicates a sofa setup from the artist’s personal studio. Nasrallah is the recipient of the 2023 cycle of the 421 Arts Development Program. Machine Poetry is the outcome of this programme, organized in collaboration with teaching partner Emerging Arts Academy.
OVERALL: The 2023 MFA Graduate Exhibition (May 18-August 25) showcases the work of graduate students completing New York University Abu Dhabi’s (NYUAD) two-year Master of Fine Arts in Art and Media. It features projects by Elizabeth Dorazio, Liane Al Ghusain, Majd Alloush, Mahra AlFalahi and Fabiola Chiminazzo.
For Elizabeth Dorazio, nature is a central theme in Cosmic Forest, where she questions the ever-changing randomness, unpredictability, and constant motion of matter through painting—a cornerstone of her practice. In I Would Tread Lightly, Liane Al Ghusain presents artwork related to the Palestinian diaspora, including geometric embroidery, series of sculptures, non-narrative videos and performances dealing with emotional trauma.
In Mapscapes, Majd Alloush examines the intersection of art and technology, exploring the process of transforming pixels into tangible objects through printmaking, moving image and digital fabrication. Through the use of textiles, Mahra AlFalahi’s Folded Stories explores the influence of her childhood memory of storytelling. She highlights social norms and expectations fostered through narratives. Fabiola Chiminazzo’s Encounter Museum investigates society using archival imagery from photographs, books, prints and museum catalogs. The 421 also invites visitors to the front desk (until June 21) to pick up recycled seed paper, which includes various fruit and vegetable seeds, to plant in courtyard 2 pots. This will lead to The Living’s Birth Archives project, which allows the public to plant memories through seed paper.
“This collaborative community installation,” reminds 421, “accumulates and grows over time, carrying our collective memory. An unofficial archive of the project will be released at the end of the season.” Participation is free and open to all open. The torrent file was conceived and produced by Mohamed Rowaizak. He is an architect at Schlumberger and founder of the Pilgrim collection of limited-edition handmade Arabic crafts. He is also the co-founder of MRM, a collaborative design studio exploring the intersection between local craftsmanship and technology. Rowaizak graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture from the American University of Sharjah, where he received the MAD Award.
The 421 Culture Bus is back, ready to take anyone and everyone on a journey to the Moon and back with the Al Sadeem Observatory! On June 18, it will take tourists on a stargazing experience on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, using traditional and smart telescopes to observe the moon, stars, planets and other cosmic objects. In addition to the standard Dhs30 Culture Bus ticket, the bus includes a discounted Dhs150 entry to the Al Sadeem Observatory, a guided tour with a group of like-minded art lovers and transportation to and from Abu Dhabi. The bus departs from 421 at 7pm and returns at 11pm. Chef Kuv’s Supper Club (June 17, 7pm-9pm) will offer a sensory and delicious experience. Public Household Matters prepares to lead foodies with “an otherworldly menu and expressive plates.” “The secret menu that’s shown to participants is only known once you’ve been in the experience,” says 421. Based in Abu Dhabi, Mina Zayed, 421 offers learning opportunities throughout the year with exhibitions, lectures, workshops, special events and educational events. Many of these are organized in collaboration with local, regional and international partners; they engage children, students, educators and creative professionals and support the development of the UAE’s creative ecosystem. Campus 421 also features a number of permanent art installations.