Alserkal Arts Foundation has launched its new season with the introduction of a new Selection Committee that will serve as advisors to the Foundation and mentors to residents and grantees.
The committee members for the first two-year tenure are artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan; curator and researcher Maya El Khalil; architect and urbanist Rupali Gupte; and social scientist and author Shandana Khan Mohmand.
The group was apparently chosen for their diverse backgrounds and multidisciplinary practices; geographical diversity was clearly also important, with their research interests ranging across the GCC, South and West Asia, and Africa.
During their tenure the committee members will be working with the Foundation’s inhouse team to nominate and select artists and practitioners for Alserkal Residency’s Spring and Summer Cycles; evaluate and select applications for research grants; mentor and support residents and grantees during their time with the Foundation; and advise the Foundation as it continues to support new production of knowledge and thought connected to the region.
In the meantime, awards have been made for the second cycle of the Alserkal Research Grants programme. The successful projects were chosen from more than 150 applications from 48 countries; two went to UAE-based social researcher and filmmaker Lubnah Ansari and performance artist and writer Maitha Alsuwaidi ($5,000 each). Two further grants of $10,000 are being awarded to collectives – social scientist Natasha Kirit Maru and environmental designer Rhea Shah from India; and architects and urban researchers Khalda Imad Mubarak El Jack and Zainab Gaafar from Sudan. (We were expecting only three awards in total, but “in response to a particularly impressive round of applications, the decision was made to award four grants this year instead of the mandated three”.)
Said Nada Raza, Director of Alserkal Arts Foundation: “Our work this season, with our new selection committee members, amplifies our commitment to situated modes of research and practice, working with and supporting artistic and research-led practices that are sensitive to their environment and audiences and support projects embedded in their specific contexts”.
Alserkal Research Grants were established to challenge established research methods and modes of practice. Supporting knowledge production and critical exchange that disrupt and expand the boundaries between disciplines, the grants place an emphasis on alternative frameworks that link the arts, humanities, and social sciences.
The Foundation’s focus on the regional also extends to the large-scale site-specific public art commissions currently on show in Alserkal Avenue. This programme, entitled The Follower, works with artists represented by galleries in the Avenue, many of whom have the opportunity to work on public art commissions of this scale for the very first time.
The name of the programme, The Follower, refers to the star Al Daberan that seems to follow Al Thuraya, the Pleiades; these are constellations of significance for astral navigation as indicated by the 15th century master mariner Ahmad ibn Majid. The Follower commissions invite the viewer to pause and observe our surroundings more closely.
The first two commissions appeared in the Avenue in September 2022 – Meadow and Sunset by Fahd Burki (above), the artist’s first public intervention; and Zenith by Ala’ Ebtekar (below), his largest public artwork to date – and they were joined by Sahand Hesamiyan’s Passage (top) in time for Alserkal Art Week (which runs to 20 November and is highly recommended, not least for the talks about The Follower programme: the artworks stay in place afterwards, of course, to the end of August next year).
Further commissioned works, by Sarah Almehairi and Timo Nasseri, will come early in 2023.