Outdoors on Fort Island is this year’s edition of The Room – typically an interactive dining experience by commissioned artists. Now transformed by Khaleeji artist collective GCC, Art Dubai’s opening night had visitors hearing a raucous ‘crowd’ beckoning them closer, only to discover the audio was pre-taped and that they now stood facing an in-situ, impromptu, TV studio. Launching with a specially created programme of exaggerated and appropriated news – already hinting at some of the themes covered by the Global Art Forum or Abraaj Group Art Prize curator Myriam Ben Saleh’s supposition of today’s “post-truth world” – GOOD MORNING GCC spews tropes of daytime TV from across the Arab world.
Think fashion – as with their breaking news that fast food chain White Castle redesigned their uniforms with the aid of Telfar Clemens – environment, health and cooking segments throughout the days of the fair, including a bit where famed TV chef Suliman Al Qassar performed a live cooking demonstration. The fusion of relational, immersive and interactive art concepts under the watchful eye of parodied news is an unsettling – if charming – blurring of boundaries between high and low culture, global versus local urgent issues, and visible and invisible powers.
The caricaturisation of news is peppered with real moments – on Saturday the Ministry of Happiness will present a Wellbeing Segment talking the impact of culture on happiness of productivity, while today saw Sarah Al Ateeqi’s discussion on native Gulf flora. The result is a disorienting, but poignant, depiction of the form and effect of news, the ease of technological manipulation, and its increasing impact on the Middle Eastern art scene.
Meanwhile, 12th edition of Global Art Forum further broaches the power of the digital and technological realm through the vehicle of robots. The theme of the conference, I Am Not a Robot, falls under the helm of commissioner Shumon Basar; COO and Futurist-in-Chief of the Dubai Future Foundation Noah Raford; and curator of Digial Culture & Design Collection at MAK (Vienna) Marlies Wirth. Based on the premise that automatons will fundamentally alter the way we live – with GAF’s introduction noting that Bill Gates remarked that robots ought pay taxes for their impact on the work sphere – GAF hones in on the fear, paranoia and potential of this advancement.
Talks such as I Am Human: Can You Prove It? and I Am Awesome, Annoying and Awful: AI in Everyday Life, 2050 tackle its daily impact, questioning whether it is “A pantheon of negotiation, a paradise of domination, or a compound of complication?”, while in an atypical programming shift, a host of screenings take place this year on 23 March in the form of Sci-Fi mockumentaries (Consider The Robot & “Other” states of Futurness), a film investigating the legend of an automaton gifted to Lebanon in 1945 that haunts an abandoned mansion (Last Days of the Man of Tomorrow), and Free Lunch Society, which considers the implications of unconditional basic incomes and the fate of the human.
Presenting a less antagonistic view is the preview screening of Reframe Saudi, the result of Art Dubai’s partnership with Misk Art Institute. The VR documentary is directed by Matteo Lonardi, and explores Saudi by delving into the Jeddah, Abha and Riyadh studios of contemporary artists such as Dana Awartani, Jameela Mater, Ali Mogawi, Ayman Yossri Daydban and Ahaad Alamoudi, among others. More broadly, it addresses the changing cultural and socio-economic landscape and narrative of the Kingdom, and speaks to the region’s growing incorporation of VR as a means to explore art.
A panel discussion will expand upon VR and contemporary art, with Marisa Mazria Katz, VR Forum director Salar Sahna, VR filmmaker Lonardi, and Saudi artist Ahaad Alamoudi sharing their thoughts. Produced by CULTRUNNERS, it aired at Art Dubai on the 21st at 1pm, and there will be a second second viewing Saturday at 6.30pm. Reframe Saudi will then travel to the Tribeca Film Festival on 18 April in New York, before formally internationally launching at the VRForum in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, this coming June.
Art Dubai runs until 24 March at Madinat Jumeirah. Artdubai.ae