NYUAD Artists Open Exhibition in Dubai

On Sept. 20, sophomores Augustina Zegers and Charlotte de Bekker, juniors Nino Cricco and Shakhbout Al Kaabi and senior Nikolai Kozak, along with ...

On Sept. 20, sophomores Augustina Zegers and Charlotte de Bekker, juniors Nino Cricco and Shakhbout Al Kaabi and senior Nikolai Kozak, along with Emirati fashion designer Khulood Bint Thani, showcased their artwork at the XVA Gallery in Dubai.
Curator and senior Grace Michael Hauser spoke about the process and challenges of organizing the exhibition.
“It was an idea that was born in April among us friends and the show is ironically titled ‘I Hate My Friends’ ... The artists that had been in that dinner decided upon their pieces [and] they worked all throughout summer. It was intense trying to get everything sorted out because we had been away from each other ... getting our bearings on Saadiyat [and] getting [it] sorted out in this completely new environment," said Hauser.
The name of the show was commented upon by some of the attendants. Sophomores Jood Shiqem and Sheba Vohra agreed that it made it easier for the audience to relate with the exhibition.
“I love it. Catchy. Very young. Directed at the crowd,” said Vohra and Shiqem.
Sophomore Belmin Mostic also noted that the name made the exhibition more attractive:
“Imagine it like this: inviting your friends to go to an art exhibition and instead of a dry invitation or saying ‘hey, let's go look at art’ you say ‘let's go see “I Hate My Friends.”’ It's that catchy phrase,” he said.

UAE Memory and Heritage

Thani’s “Between the Dunes” was inspired by desert life and how heritage is portrayed in the UAE. Some of her pieces played with the shape of sand dunes. She also showcased fashion accessories made out of camel leather.
Thani explained how the idea of heritage worked in her art:
“We see a lot of expression for heritage but we don’t see [it] as contemporary. So what I wanted to [ask] over here [was] how can we twist it to be more contemporary?” said Thani.
Al Kaabi drew on his memory of the country he grew up in, the UAE, as well as his skills as a photographer and filmmaker. His photograph series “I Am Memory” touched upon themes like death, the Arab Spring and childhood.
Al Kaabi explained how memory articulated itself in his work:
“[The first photograph] reminds me of death, or like the memory of death … I used black and white because death is either black or white. [The second one] is a memory of  [the] Arab Spring ... and how sad it is or was that rulers are fighting constantly for the chair or the throne. [The last one] is a memory of my childhood, my school [that] got demolished,” he said.

Family Memory

Artists Kozak and Zegers dealt with the idea of memory in an intimate sense.  Zegers’ “Firma del Padre” marked a turning point in her work with still-lifes, shifting her focus from mass-produced objects to her late father’s belongings. She explained she thought of the series as a way to articulate her grief using her experience as an art student in Abu Dhabi.
“I hadn’t been back home for a year and I really wanted to deal with my grief for my father and I thought it was a good moment to tie the two realities that I was living: in Abu Dhabi and back home … because it dealt with a family member, it dealt with objects that were used by my father, it was much more intimate,” said Zegers.
Sophomore Chukwuyem Onyibe mentioned he could relate with what he thought was the feeling behind Zegers’ work.
“After a certain amount of time, the objects become the person,” he commented.
Coming from a family of Ukrainian immigrants in Argentina, Kozak’s “Migrant” explored the relationship between the body and the loss and imposition of memory. His series of photographs portray his sister, Nathalie Kozak, tied in Ukrainian fabrics alongside family objects brought during the move from the city of Ivano Frankivsk more than a century ago.
“So what I do in this work is that I work with a filial body, the body of my sister, and in making her body interact with both the fabrics and the objects in an almost unnatural way I’m trying to speak of the idea of the imposition of memory onto someone who I believe is the most detached from that idea of the collective mnemonic of the family,” explained Kozak.
Nathalie Kozak, who also attended the exhibition, commented on her experience participating in her brother’s work.
“[Participating in the series] opened a way for me to connect more with my family, with objects that we had lying around the house that we never gave much meaning to, so it opened up this door of being able to participate [in] the collective memory he thinks I’m so detached from,” Nathalie Kozak said.

Memories in Motion, Icons in the Making

Cricco’s video art installation featured an underpass below Electra Street, Abu Dhabi, and is part of a larger project on urban communities in the capital. It explores the tension between individual memories of the city and shared experiences of arriving and leaving the emirate.
Senior Benjamin Leb praised Nino’s work because of how it relates to his experience as a student in the UAE.
“I think it speaks to a student experience that we all share that may not be something that everyone in the UAE has an understanding of, because we are necessarily sort of pedestrians in a city that is ruled by cars. So speaking through underpasses, having that sort of creepy yellow light sensation of just wanting to be out of the underpass. Having people flooding towards you and with you,” he commented.
De Bekker’s work drew on her experience shooting a documentary in Zanzibar, Tanzania and growing up in Ras al-Khaimah. Her work consists of a series of photographs taken by her in Zanzibar and on a beach in the UAE. The Zanzibar photographs include stickers of zebras, lions and Maasai people while in the UAE photographs, the bodies of the people at the beach were crossed with a marker.
De Bekker emphasized that her work is not about censorship, but about how tourists and expats can change local cultural practices and icons.
“[It is about] the realization that as a guest [in the UAE] I haven’t just been passively living here, I’m actually changing the place as I live here,” said de Bekker.
She also mentioned how tourists in Zanzibar would only buy paintings of Maasai, zebras and lions, in spite of the fact that these nowhere to be found in Zanzibar.
“They’re actually changing the icons of this island simply by spending their money on this particular artwork because they have a dream of an African island adventure with lions and zebras,” she explained.
Although “I Hate My Friends” has only been open for a day, five pieces were sold and curators from foreign museums have expressed interest in acquiring two of the pieces. The exhibition will run until Oct. 9.
Sebastian Rojas Cabal is the news editor. Email him at
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