Courtesy of Sophie Arni

East-East: UAE Meets Japan

NYUAD senior curates art exhibition, moving away from the traditional East-West hybridity.

Oct 30, 2016

East-East: UAE Meets Japan opened at The Project Space in the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center on Oct. 18. The exhibition, curated by NYUAD senior Sophie Mayuko Arni, was the first institutional exhibition which merged the UAE's and Japan’s artistic, historical and cultural heritage. The exhibition served as a culmination of Arni’s studies on hybridity in art history and a desire to depart from the East-West binary that homogenizes the Middle East and Asia as a singular entity, which she felt seemed to define most types of cross-cultural dialogue. Drawing from her Japanese heritage and on her experience of living in Abu Dhabi for the past three years, she aimed to explore an alternate perspective on intercultural discourse. After reading extensively about 18th-Century Edo history, when Japan opened its borders to travelers and military expatriates who settled in Yokohama, she drew parallels between the UAE's and Japan's closed cultural barriers being broken for the first time, interactions between locals and expatriates and their shared socio-cultural attempts to balance tradition and modernity.
All the pieces displayed were specifically commissioned for the exhibition. Arni sought out Emirati artists that had some affinity with Japanese Art History — Khalid Mezaina’s two-dimensional designs, for example, resembled ukiyo-e print-making traditions and Al Anood Al Obaidly’s conceptual vision reminded the curator of the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi.
The exhibition itself is comprised of the work of four artists who each created their pieces based on a theme: Pictures of a Floating World, Modernity and Materiality, Craft and Repetition and Costume and Pride.
The 10-month process to curate the show involved selecting the artists, conceptualizing the curatorial vision through extensive research and mentoring the production of the displayed pieces. Arni also worked in collaboration with the NYUAD Art Gallery, Mari-Ann Lepp, myself, Shahinaz Geineid, Amal Al Gergawi and Sugandha Shukla, who provided their expertise in public relations, photography, writing, film and installation.
Arni was very pleased with the positive reception of her first curated exhibition and is looking forward to future collaborations exploring Gulf Futurism and the work of the GCC Collective.
Arni’s work was selected to be published as part of an ongoing initiative, run by The Gazelle’s Creative Desk, to create a space for student artwork. The Creative Desk publishes works selected by a rotating panel. We are looking for prose, poetry, photography, film, visual arts, music and more. Send your creative work to alyssa.yu@nyu.edu. Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis. This week’s artist was featured by Creative Editor Alyssa Yu. Email her at feedback@thegazelle.org.
Alyssa Yu is Creative Editor. Email her at feedback@thegazelle.org.
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