Photo courtesy of Natalie Kopczewski

Warehouse 421: Community and Critique Exhibition

The fourth round of the Community & Critique exhibition showcases the work of artists who support each other’s work by exchanging knowledge and critical dialogue.

Warehouse421, which launched in 2015, is part of a collective of numbered warehouses in the Mina Zayed area in Abu Dhabi, just off Saadiyat Island. Located between warehouses numbered 422 and 423, Warehouse421 — which itself lacks a number plate — was designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group and is supported by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation. Part of its mission statement is the encouragement of a more diversified engagement with arts and culture in the UAE as well as the exploration of one’s own creative abilities through initiatives such as Wednesdays at the Warehouse, which includes “talks, workshops, film screenings and performances,” according to an informational booklet distributed by Warehouse421.
The upcoming events are mostly related to the current show, titled Community & Critique: SEAF 2016/17 Cohort 4. However, there will also be workshops, such as ones on the process of design led by the internationally-acclaimed design duo Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby on Nov. 8, and on mold-making and assemblage led by Tony Bragg on Dec. 6.
Film screenings mostly fall under the genre of contemporary Arab cinema, displaying the works of directors from across the Middle East and North Africa. In upcoming weeks, there will be screenings of Shrimp and Mimosas on Nov. 29, as well as The Purple Field and Sounds of the Sea on Dec. 20.
Currently, the fourth round of the Community & Critique exhibition, which opened on Sept. 16, showcases a series of 15 artists who support the advancement of each other’s work through the exchange of knowledge and critical dialogue. According to the informational booklet distributed by the gallery, this spirit is supposed to instruct the 15 fellows who are currently displayed in the exhibition and includes “rigorous reflection, questioning and analysis”. The communal space is a way for the artists to also enter into discourse with the audience.
Pradeep Sharma, Provost of the Rhode Island School of Design, presented the motivation behind this: “Art is one of those resources that can encourage us to look more purposefully, to present ... a more focused view of what is valuable in what is in front of us, to break from habit, to look again.”
Outside the warehouse itself is an intriguing, shipwreck-like scene, which is an installation by Ayesha Hadhir Al Mheiri that is set in Al Dhabiya, a small island of beach houses in Abu Dhabi. It shows a chandelier hanging within the dishevelled area and includes a soundtrack. Pieces of cloth and coated stairs complement these components.
Syrian artist Malda Smadi explains that she pursued art in order to save herself, and some examples of her work can be seen on the wall in the right part of the gallery, showing parts of bodies and a painting of herself in acrylic. She says that the incentive for this came “from a very personal space, within myself, where experiences are more internalized than externalized. The works act as an observation and analysis of the self or the inner world, in an attempt to connect with the other, or the outside world.”
Right next to Smadi’s work is another striking part of the exhibition: animal creatures that are sprawled across the floor of the gallery. The informational booklet describes how the piece, which includes rabbits and ducks, is supposed to represent an “atmosphere of reminiscence and nostalgia” and “the motifs of childhood” by “mapping the liminal space between the interconnected world, playing out questions of social and cultural identity.” The twisted limbs of the animals connect to this idea.
The exhibition and other works can be further explored at Warehouse421 in Mina Zayed until Jan. 14.
Natalie Kopczewski is Deputy Features Editor. Email her at feedback@thegazelle.org.
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