Bodies in physical transformation at art exhibit

The art exhibit MinD/Body: Body Art and Performance in the Gulf Area held its opening on Sept. 19 at the Downtown Campus. Attracting a crowd of ...

Sep 21, 2013

The art exhibit MinD/Body: Body Art and Performance in the Gulf Area held its opening on Sept. 19 at the Downtown Campus. Attracting a crowd of professors, students and community members, the event gathered approximately a hundred people.
The exhibit, curated by Italian artist Christiana de Marchi, was revealed for the first time in the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre last March. MinD/Body, the capitalization being a creative play on the acronym MDB or Made in Dubai, revolves around the experimental contemporary work of 16 celebrated Gulf artists spanning three generations. Included in the list is NYU Abu Dhabi’s very own Tarek Al Ghusein, a Palestinian-Kuwaiti artist. Exploring the last 25 years of art in the Gulf, MinD/Body concentrates primarily on the role of the body and self-censorship. It also attempts to investigate the creative and exhibitive freedom of the artist within the region.
At DTC, the event opened with a welcome by Maya Allison, NYUAD’s exhibition director, and an introduction by Cristiana de Marchi. The exhibition was a culmination of hard work. Dorothy Lam, a NYU New York junior and one of Maya’s interns, attests to the past few weeks as an experience full of learning.
“I [got] to see a lot of the backstage work that’s being done: how to handle different pieces, how to put together a poster, how to contact different people,” said Lam. “I think the main thing was to learn how to take a tour. Seeing how the curator put certain pieces in certain locations to guide the viewer along the tour, it’s really interesting.”
Before the tours began, the audience was invited to a live performance by Rabi Georges, an acclaimed German artist originally from Syria. The piece was titled “You Shall Not Boil Your Child in Your Mother’s Milk” and began in the marble pool between the North and South buildings of DTC. Enshrouded in darkness, the audience shuffled around the pool as a mix of techno music and ocean sounds played in the background. Georges, dressed in white, was lying on his back in the water. For the next half hour, Georges used black and red charcoal, a knife and a long, white sheet to represent a physical transformation of his body and clothes. The spectators were captivated.
“It was really emotional,” said freshman Alex Roşca. “When he was shaking, it was so powerful, I just got goose bumps.”
“When you are so close to the performer and you see their movements … that makes a difference,” he said, adding that the piece was open to many interpretations.
Other members of the audience did not feel as connected to the piece as Roşca did.
“I have a hard time with performances when I know what’s going to happen,” said
John Torreano, NYUAD professor of Studio Art. “That’s the essence of theater. You’re in that moment and you don’t know what’s going to happen next. If you know what’s going to happen next all the time, why are you watching?”
Georges’ performance was followed by a reception and tours of the exhibition, which stretched across the upper floors of the North and South buildings. Lam enjoyed guiding her audience around the artwork.
“They had very different reactions,” said Lam. “I think they were definitely very interested in how the conceptual art was reacting in the Middle East because conceptual art is quite a Western idea, so to bring that over in the Gulf area … they were wondering how women artists — being independent — how is that OK.”
The exhibition will be open to the public until Nov. 23, 2013. More information on MinD/Body at DTC, along with a list of the artists, can be found on NYUAD’s website.
Costanza Maio is a contributing writer. Email her at 
gazelle logo