Speculative Landscapes presents a series of new installations through which each artist explores the very concept of environment (natural, artificial, virtual). Each raises a question: how do organisms – whether human or other – create, survive, and inhabit our natural, artificial, and virtual worlds? The four artists in this exhibition have developed their practice in the UAE, establishing a strong regional track record, as well as an emerging international presence. They share a speculative practice, extrapolating imagined worlds within existing ones.
Each installation offers an imaginary journey derived from the artists’ real-world observations of everyday life. In Khalid’s performative installation, she invites viewers to embrace personal well-being as a commodifiable trend, while Kaoud’s playground keeps visitors on high alert to ever-present risk. In two very different landscape installations, Zedani and Jumairy each propose worlds in which our natural bodies and the landscape around us manifest biological or artificial intelligence.
The exhibition is curated by Chief Curator at NYU Abu Dhabi and Executive Director of the NYUAD Art Gallery, Maya Allison.
Allison, who is fast becoming recognized as one of the leading curators of contemporary art in the UAE, comments: “For me, these artists capture something unique in their perspectives, both in how they respond to our surroundings, and how they connect to the unusual art scene here. There has been an apparently fast rise of contemporary art in the UAE that matches the increasingly cosmopolitan nature of the country since its founding in 1971. The art community, of course, has always existed, but began to create a very proactive community starting in the 1980s and 90s. That grass-roots scene was largely invisible to their international peers until around 2012, when the now-acclaimed Hassan Sharif came to the attention of major international curators. By then, the UAE’s Sharjah Art Biennial had long since become a highly-influential leader, while Dubai saw the growth of the commercial gallery sector with the pivotal Art Dubai fair, followed by the launch of a series of international museum projects in Abu Dhabi.”
She adds: “These three emirates (Sharjah, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi) host what has evolved into a diverse art ecology. Still, few know about the later generation of artists now based in the UAE. The community today, as much as ever, come from a mix of international backgrounds, and very often their work is in dialogue with both where we are, and the many cultures that converge in the UAE. Now, a host of organizations support the emerging artists, but other ‘emerged’ artists occupy a midpoint as they branch out into international museum shows and prestigious residencies. This exhibition offers a rare lens onto one specific recurring theme that I’ve observed in this emergent scene, a theme that these four artists in particular express through their distinctly arch, speculative, conceptual practice.”