NYU Abu Dhabi has announced the winners of the eleventh edition of The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award.
The winning submission, titled Shaheeq, pays tribute to the UAE’s mangroves and encourages an appreciation for the natural solutions they offer in the face of growing climate concerns – it aims “to inspire the viewer to acknowledge and maintain the solutions already activated in our environment, and to illuminate a positive philosophy towards ‘metaphysical grief’ caused by the climate crisis”.
This is particularly pertinent in view as the UAE prepares to host COP28 later this year.
As is the way with the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award, we don’t get to see any visuals that might indicate how the project looks, let alone the work itself (it will probably be unveiled at Abu Dhabi Art in November).
The three winners now have eight months and $10,000 to complete the installation. They can call on a raft of experts including the Award’s director Emily Doherty, the team from The NYUAD Art Gallery, NYUAD faculty (primarily the artists’ mentor, Dale Hudson, Associate Teaching Professor of Film and New Media), and the award team at ADMAF.
The prize goes to NYUAD graduate Vivi Zhu, an award-winning Chinese-born documentary filmmaker, artist, and social entrepreneur whose interest lies in discovering and telling microcosmic stories that reflect bigger social-political pictures; University of Sharjah graduate Hala El Abora, a Palestinian/Jordanian artist living and working in Dubai, whose practice is driven by her obsession with the concept of non-ephemerality, permanence, and the desperate need to preserve; and Majd Alloush, a Syrian artist with a BFA from the University of Sharjah, whose work spans multiple disciplines including printmaking, sculpture, photography, moving image, installation, and performance. He’s currently on the MFA course at NYUAD.
Executive Director of The NYUAD Art Gallery and the NYUAD’s Chief Curator Maya Allison said that the Christo submissions continue to impress. “The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award was established to support the next generation of creative practitioners in the UAE, whose voices must be heard, and their stories told. And there is no story bigger for this generation than climate change and the need to imagine a more sustainable future. The winning artists’ use of the mangrove trees, and the forest ecosystem that supports them, brilliantly connects a symbol of natural harmony and renewal with the potential for sustainable living.”
And Dale Hudson pointed to the winning submission’s contribution to the climate crisis debate, particularly as a counter to the false information that is being spread deliberately and insidiously. “Vivi, Hala, and Majd demonstrate how students and artists are leading discussions on how local and place-based knowledge are urgently needed as alternatives to disinformation that has circulated globally for decades. Everyday usage of ‘climate change’, a term engineered by Frank Luntz to discredit global warming, indicates the severity of the crisis. Luntz may want to retract the term today, but the damage has already been done.
“Art like the winning proposal for the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award can communicate how sustainability policies are insufficient as a response when the consequences of human activity have long been recognized as irreversible and disproportionately affects the most vulnerable, so we have a special responsibility at NYUAD and in UAE. There are other ways of thinking and being, and Shaheeq will help orient humans to as much.”
Produced annually since 2013 in collaboration with The NYUAD Art Gallery, The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award serves as a launchpad for artists across the Emirates, encouraging new work and offering winners insight into professional life as an artist from commission to exhibition. The programme is open to UAE-based students and recent graduates.