last chance

Shaqayeq Arabi: Dancing on Stilts

24 Jun 2020 – 12 Jul 2020

Regular hours

11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00

signs and symbols

New York
New York, United States


Save Event: Shaqayeq Arabi: Dancing on Stilts

I've seen this

People who have saved this event:


signs and symbols is pleased to present Dancing on Stilts, a solo exhibition by artist Shaqayeq Arabi. The exhibition features a site-specific installation composed of found objects and natural materials. 100 days during New York's lockdown, this exhibition is on view again by appointment only.


Dancing on Stilts & traversing the soggy ground
the blue sky is in the faraway horizon
and the memories of that fertile land is running in my veins.
- Shaqayeq Arabi

signs and symbols is pleased to present Dancing on Stilts, a solo exhibition by artist Shaqayeq Arabi. The exhibition features a site-specific installation composed of found objects and natural, symbolic material, combining sculpture with painterly elements to allude to shifting relationships between representation and abstraction, memory and materiality, structure and sensation.

With Dancing on Stilts, Arabi continues an ongoing series of works entitled ‘On Stilts’, a series of precariously balanced structures that examine the tension between the discomfort of disequilibrium and the motivation to stand erect and independent, in circumstance otherwise wrought with uncertainty, precarity, and peril. To be in the world is to live immersed in a milieu of opposing forces within and around oneself; To accept these forces implies an acceptance of indeterminacy that both stems from and is a place of strength. Through her acts of the display of this precarity, Arabi not only accepts but embraces the conditions in which she lives. Natural materials, including sticks, bamboo, and twigs, have resonance for the artist, often serving as the artist’s primary medium; each of these materials have innate qualities of flexibility and strength, without any a priori subservience to use value. The material’s ability to adapt, change, and resist unyielding signification presents an image of strength not bound by restrictions or absolutes. This material polyvalence reveals the nature of this strength.

Although unencumbered by the determinants of use, Arabi’s media, through her poetic practice of manipulation and transformation of such natural materials, nonetheless, erupts with evocative associations, replete with imagery, memory and emotion. Natural materials have a life span unto themselves; they possess internal and external existential references to the patterns of life and decay. With this installation, Arabi investigates the fragmentary nature of memory and its relationship to actual objects in space. Her structures at once frame and highlight how we understand our physical surroundings: as built environments for the structure of memory, and as memory itself not a process of codification but rather of sensation. These sensations Arabi acknowledges, invites, and draws forth through her work.

Arabi’s process is intuitive, spontaneous, and intimate. The installation is characteristic of Arabi’s artistic process in its assemblage and transformation of found natural and industrial objects into architectural structures. Her materials are a bricolage of fragments and objects found throughout her daily life — including in this case a stalk of willow branches the artist discovered in an abandoned furniture shop — cast away on the street or cast aside in her studio, before being reincarnated to assume another purpose. “I never ask myself why I have picked [the found objects] and what I am going to do with them. They eventually find their way into my work and suddenly I know the reason I have them in the studio, either because of their aesthetic or symbolic potency and most often for both reasons.”

* * * * *

We opened Shaqayeq Arabi’s exhibition on March 14 — on the very eve of lockdown in New York — and then everything went dark, the lights went out and we closed the gallery for an indefinite amount of time, an unforeseen future. 100 days later, we are reopening her timely exhibition. Arabi writes:

“Since I heard the news of New York galleries reopening, I could not stop asking myself endless questions. I began to reevaluate the work over and over again, digging in deep to see where and how it came about.

"Revisiting an exhibition that originated from the fragmentary and fragile nature of our life, that unraveled and took shape in the utmost anxiety and uncertainty in the midst of the weeks leading up to the lockdown.

"Tracing it back does not take me to one single starting point but more so to something which existed with me as far as I remember, grew with me and evolved with every single event of my life as day-to-day reality.

"As the idea of fragility, actual and potential, has slowly dominated my thinking and my life, I slowly started to embrace the vulnerability, and to build upon the fragility of our hopes and dreams, delicacy of our feelings, and sensitivity of our senses.

Now after 100 days of lockdown — an experience that is shared and understood among all of us — I’m going back to the installation, what does “dancing on stilts” mean and how my relationship to it has changed?”
– Shaqayeq Arabi, June 22, 2020

* * * * *

shaqayeq arabi is a painter, sculptor and installation artist. She was born in Tehran and divides her time between her hometown, Dubai, and New York City. Arabi’s work finds its point of departure in image, sound, and smell, as well as the sensitivity of the surrounding environment. In sketching, composing and connecting accumulated fragments together, Arabi traces her reminiscences, creating a tangible and touchable reality out of the emotions and sensations. She received her Bachelor in Graphic Design from Al-Zahra University, Tehran, a BFA from University of Valencinnes, France and an MFA from Sorbonne University, Paris. Arabi has had exhibitions in the Middle East, North America, and Europe – notably Roots, Total Arts, Dubai, Study of an Upturned Ziggurat, Dept. of Signs and Symbols, New York, and Bits And Pieces: Collages And Assemblages, Shirin Gallery, New York.

What to expect? Toggle


Mitra Khorasheh

Exhibiting artists

Shaqayeq Arabi


Have you been to this event? Share your insights and give it a review below.