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Dubai Dubai

Curated by Nadine Hammam

May 2007


Dubai means different things to different people. Eight artists explore their relationship to contemporary life in the UAE considering both past and present, modernity and tradition. Dubai Dubai is a multi-disciplinary show that aims to examine the perspective of artists working and living in the UAE. This emerging city has transformed itself in merely 25 years, attracting an influx of both aspiring residents and tourists, embracing modernity whilst still preserving tradition and demonstrating to its neighbors that modernity and tradition can co-exist.

Participating Artists information:


Shaqayeq Arabi (resident) – this talented artist examines the role of the ordinary man and his relationship to his surroundings. Each and every one of us, whether tourist or resident, implicitly or explicitly experiences Dubai as an emerging city, meaning: roads are constantly changing, trucks are backed-up for miles causing endless traffic jams – all comes full circle leading to ‘an endless construction site’ – Dubai is in a state of constant transformation. She examines the cryptogrammic nature of the worker, juxtaposing notions of freedom with constraint, certainty with uncertainty. For this exhibition, she uses abstract human figures in an installation based work, suspending them metaphorically in space, again, examining void through presence.


Loreta Bilinskaite (resident) – a dynamic practice involving mirrors and embroidery, this artist examines notions of time by creating large mosaics with broken glass, broken mirrors and embroidery. Her installations examine presence through absence by constructing dialogs with people who exist in reality but whose presence is absent in the work. Again, the viewer becomes complicit in the work as they only see reflections of themselves in small, broken pieces of at times mirror whilst at other objects. This particular installation work aims to act as a reflective mirror image of those who wrote the notes with those who are reading the notes thus reflecting ‘Dubaian’s with Dubaian’s’.


Layla Juma (national) – creates installations with the human psyche in mind. She examines notions of human error through miscommunication creating overwhelming experiences for the viewer. The ‘in your face approach’ of her work engulfs viewers and thus takes on a performative nature, literally flooding the psyche with errors, human errors. She believes that humanity is imperfect and that life in Dubai is becoming more and more complicated and prone to ‘errors’ as different cultures encounter each other.


Nadine Hammam (resident) – looks at life through the eyes of the ordinary man. For this exhibition, she uses sound to investigate the intricate relationship between what is seen and not spoken and what is spoken but not seen. "The failure of or struggle for freedom creates a fragile state of ‘unbelonging’, or ‘inbetweenness’, which I explore through the creation of characters. I juxtapose the notion of telling with seeing, to create tension between the internal and the external: What is seen is not said, and what is said is not seen. Using ‘voice’, I break silence through an installation-based piece of work, demanding that the viewer create an image for himself/herself between the internal and the external. The performative nature of sound allows it to hold so much information: accent, tone, speed, language, and even silence all create imagery. It is this imagery created through sound, which challenges the viewer to imagine a story, a setting or an experience."

Karima Shomaly (national) – her images capture time, depicting the essence of humanity as our eyes become more subtly attuned to and illuminated by the relationship she so closely investigates between restriction and freedom. Using video and photography, she redefines notions of freedom through restriction, constantly exploring different perspectives through her lens. "It is important to point out that what we see is evidence to what we don’t and what appears reflects the absence of actual reality and thus considers the reality of the visual existence and not the visionary one. What we see entirely empathized in black and white is a receptive factor and presentation of the inner self in its own private endeavor."


Mohamed Kazem (national) – for this artist, balance and harmony are essential. He uses photography to depict a relationship between memory and objects. "I have an ironic view of contemporary life. If we were so prudent and rigorous with others, why don’t we be exact by knowing the weight of objects that belong to us?" Using a simple balance and personal objects, he imposes upon the viewer a sense of weight - heaviness or lightness. Photography is typically about capturing a moment and this artist pushes the boundaries by a enforcing a third dimension, that is to say, by transforming a moment or a memory and giving it a measurable weight.


Nasser Abdulla (national) – his practice is concerned with the language of visual imagery. "People communicate visually before they communicate through language." Using video to explore themes of memory and belonging, he locates recollection and defines its borders. Motion is also of great importance to this artist and all his video works are looped with no distinctive beginning or end. Whether it be capturing the motion of cars, the motion of ships or the motion of workers in the city – Abdulla portrays nostalgic memories defining their borders through his lens.


Tarek Al-Ghoussein (resident) – this artist’s practice is concerned with barriers, land, longing and ultimately belonging. It is an extension of themes that he has been exploring for the past few years. "During the process leading to these images, it became increasingly clear to how barriers, land, longing, and ‘identity’ inform, shape and define each other."  The term ‘identity’ is highly contested and can be taken to mean many things depending on the context. Nevertheless, there has been widespread agreement that significant aspects of identity are related to a particular place and hence, national identity results from connections to an individual’s country of origin.

Press coverage of the article in Bidoun magazine

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