Never Never Land – EOA.PROJECTS GALLERY
Where activism is curtailed, censorship is widespread and overt social critique is frowned upon, the rebellion inherent in humour is particularly valuable and powerful.
Never Never Land features short films, animations, photographs and installations from Abdullah Al Mutairi, Arwa Al Neami, Monira Al Qadiri, Foundland, Hasan Hujairi and Ahmed Mater. The exhibition, curated by Amal Khalaf and Stephen Stapleton, will present a new perspective on the region and takes its title from a work by Arwa Al Neami, shot in a theme park Mahrajan Abha in Abha, Saudi Arabia, which has a restrictive set of rules which forbids screaming and shouting on rides.
The works in the show subvert mass media formats and official communiqués such as music videos, game shows, advertisements, religious public service murals and pedagogical exercises as well as fashion and corporate branding. Here, preconceptions and stereotypes are challenged; and mainstream tropes are re-appropriated with both an irreverence and thoughtfulness.
Never Never Land reflects on a history of political satire in the region, an example being Kuwaiti satirical theatre produced in the decade after the oil boom of 1973, which heralded the beginning of the end of a period of strong Pan-Arab solidarity and political engagement. This ideological reversal was so swift that only humor could express the experience of simultaneous economic abundance and political enfeeblement. Forty years later, how do you stand down ubiquitous surveillance? In the contemporary moment of digital connectivity, with the high volume of images and videos in circulation, it has never been so fast to broadcast a joke (or a critique).
Abdullah Al Mutairi is an artist and founding member of the GCC. He lives between Kuwait and the United States. He has exhibited at Art Dubai, UAE; Mathaf, Qatar; The Serpentine Gallery, UK; and contributed to Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets ongoing digital natives project 89plus. The GCC collective work has been exhibited at MoMA PS1, Fridericianum, New Museum and the Sultan Gallery, among other institutions.
Arwa Al Neami was born in Khamis Mushait, Asir province of Saudi Arabia and raised in King Khalid military airbase. Al Neami’s work is greatly influenced by her conservative upbringing. In 2005, she received a distinction in a regional art competition under the patronage of HRH Prince Khalid Al Faisal and since then has been part of multiple group shows in Al Miftaha village. She has also taken part in exhibition at venues including Athr Gallery, Al-Furussia Marina and Art Dubai 2014.
Monira Al Qadiri is a Kuwaiti visual artist born in Senegal and educated in Japan. In 2010, she received a PhD in inter-media art from Tokyo University of the Arts. Her work is focused on the aesthetics of sadness, the displacement of cultural and religious identities, and dysfunctional gender roles. She is also a member of the artist collective GCC, who recently held a solo exhibition at MoMA PS1 in New York (2014).
Foundland Collective (Ghalia Elsrakbi and Lauren Alexander) is a design, research and art practice, based between Cairo, Egypt, and Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The collective’s work draws on graphic design, art and writing research in order to formulate research based projects, self-initiated and commissioned. Foundland has presented at many international exhibitions and festivals including Kadist Foundation, Paris (2012); Impakt Festival, Utrecht (2011, 2012); BAK, Utrecht (2012); Damascus Visual Arts Festival, Istanbul (2013). The collective has participated in master classes and lecture presentations at Studium Generale ArtEZ, Arnhem; de Appel for Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam; The Royal Academy of Arts, The Hague; Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam and at the Athens Biennial. Their essays and visuals have contributed to international journals such as OPEN Magazine (The Netherlands), Krisis Magazine (Italy), ease arts + opinion (Canada) and Ibraaz, Middle East online journal. Recent artist residencies include the Townhouse Gallery, Cairo (2013) and ISCP, New York (2014).
Hasan Hujairi is a composer, sound artist, and independent researcher who divides his time between his native Bahrain and Seoul, South Korea. His sound art performances and installations build on his academic interest in Historiography and Ethnomusicology. Hujairis academic background includes a BSBA in Finance from Drake Univeristy (Iowa, USA), a Masters in Economic History from Hitotsubashi University (Tokyo, Japan), and Ethnomusicology research at the University of Exeter (Exeter, UK). He has been a curator at Al-Riwaq Art Space (Adliya, Bahrain) and has been involved in other independent art initiatives in Bahrain. Hujairi is currently pursuing his doctorate studies in Korean Traditional Music Composition at Seoul National University’s College of Music. He is also an accomplished oud player.
Ahmed Mater works as an artist and medical doctor and splits his time between Abha, Jeddah, and Makkah in Saudi Arabia. He is founder of the Al-Meftaha Arts Village in Abha. Mater co-founded Edge of Arabia in 2003 and since then has attracted international attention for his art, which encompasses photography, calligraphy, painting, installation, performance and video. His work explores the narratives and aesthetics of Islamic culture in an era of globalization, consumerism and transformation. His recent work increasingly uses image and video to explore local collective memory and unofficial histories behind contemporary Saudi Arabian socio-political life.
Amal Khalaf is a researcher and curator, currently Projects Curator of the Serpentine Galleries Edgware Road Project. With an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths, her research addresses themes of urbanism, community, media activism and art through participatory projects, and media initiatives. Previously, she has worked with Al Riwaq Gallery, Bahrain, and participated in setting up an art space in an abandoned railway arch in East London, Hold & Freight (2008-2009).
EOA.PROJECTS GALLERY – 40 Elcho Street, London
29 November 2014 – 31 January 2015