JAMES TURRELL | SEDNA
Offering a shift in sensory perception with its presence right outside Rubat Al-Khunji, James Turrell’s Sedna (2017) provides audiences with a unique experience of the artist’s light and color works. Often described as a “spiritual experience,” the Glass Series, of which Sednais part, consists of a glass front emanating a color that changes subtly and very slowly into a multitude of different colors over the course of three hours. Turrell, whose childhood fascination with light led him to study perceptual psychology, began experimenting with light in the
mid 1960s. In a 1986 interview with Julia Brown, quoted in Turrell: The Art of Light and Space by Craig Adcock (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), the artist says of his work: “Light is a powerful substance. We have a primal connection to it. But, for something so powerful, situations for its felt presence are fragile. I form it as much as the material allows. I like to work with it so that you feel it physically, so you feel the presence of light inhabiting a space. I like the quality of feeling that is felt not only with the eyes.”
TRAUMNOVELLE | PALACE OF CULTURES
The Palace of Cultures (2019) is an installation of stone elements occu- pying the entirety of the vacant Rubat Al-Khunji in Al-Balad. The stone objects, made from leftover stone sourced from the demolished areas in Al-Balad, are laid in every room and corridor upon a thick layer of sand. Their mysterious and shapes and sizes, as well as their weighty silence, evoke both far gone civilizations, perhaps even rituals, while simultane- ously opening possibilities for new imagined uses.
The Palace of Cultures is a fictional palace built a long time ago by a group of people who wanted to escape an extremist libertarian system and the apocalyptic ecological disaster born out of it. Viewers expe- rience this through a letter written by a woman named Lina and ad- dressed to her daughter Bardi, whom she had abandoned after the eco- logical disaster and subsequent war in order to create this experimental
shelter from the harsh world beyond it. In the letter, Lina invites Bardi after a 30 year absence to the Palace of Cultures, describing the place as being an unwavering structure that allows an exchange of culture, as is the nature of the city of Jeddah, a port city that has been a place of exchange for hundreds of years. The names Lina and Bardi are a hom- age by Traumnovelle to Italo-Brazilian modernist architect and designer Lina Bo Bardi.
Expressing the dualism in nature and technology, The Palace of Culturesplays on a belief system that articulates both phenomena, lending both equal importance. Taking into consideration the simultaneous dualism of the private and public nature of Rubat Al-Khunji, viewers are bound to think about the liminal nature of this space and of the ideas brought forth by the tactile and powerful installation created by Traumnovelle.
HAJRA WAHEED | VIDEO INSTALLATION PROJECT 1-10
Hajra Waheed’s multi-channel video installation project expands her on- going inquiry into the gaze and practices of documentation as a means of collecting and celebrating seemingly lost moments. Challenging herself to capture beauty in the mundane, surprises in everyday routine and minor moments within the constraints of censorship laws, each of these un-staged works act as single pages of a running multi-page diary, where the spectacular and mundane collide to form a series of ‘magic moments’ – in which polarized entities collaborate and co-exist seamlessly.
Video Installation Project 1-10 (2011-2013) is composed of ten unique video works that are woven into the rooms of the top floor of Rubat Al-Khunji Al-Sagheer. These ten vignettes were shot between 2011 and 2013, although many other similar diaristic moments continue to be collected by the artist. Each sequence is captured from an observational point of view using a fixed tripod in locations where it is prohibited to use any photographic or video documentation. Over time, these mo- ments continue to accumulate to form a larger real-time scrapbook, a sister project to The Scrapbook Project 1/3 (2010 - 2011).
The Video Installation Project 1-10 continues to be exhibited internation- ally to wide critical acclaim. Showcased in Still Against the Sky at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin (2015), the work then travelled to the UK for the artist’s biggest solo exhibition The Cyphers, where it was featured at BALTIC Gateshead, UK (2016). It is currently on view at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, where its first edition is held in the permanent collection.
EMY KAT | ASSEMBLAGE
Emy Kat has exhaustively documented Jeddah’s Historic District. After having lived and worked in Al-Balad, he has managed to capture the passage of time, the subtle changes of atmospheres, and the layers of history and usage that have come to shape its contemporary condition today.
Through the transformation of this specific heritage site, he questions the modernization process of the city and its parallel narratives across the region.
The photo assemblage presented by Kat is a constructed narrative that connects past and future. The interiors of the traditional Hejazi house are intercepted by contemporary steel and glass high rises in the United Arab Emirates. The technical manipulation of his photographs records passages of time and space in the static surface of the two-dimensional image. He stitches together different vantage points of interior spaces in a seamless composition that recalls the temporal experience of a wandering gaze. As he moves outside to record Dubai’s sleek residential developments, Kat traverses the natural and urban landscape to chron- icle the different points of transformation in time. He then layers this collected development timeline and collapses it into a single archetypal image.
For this site-specific project, Kat reframes his photographic works as a form of trompe-l’œil that interacts with the urban landscape as well as the architecture and the street, highlighting the duality between in- terior and exterior, and a decaying past and a future promise. Facing the tangible pragmatism of inevitable development and change, he encourages viewers to reevaluate preconceived notions of history and progress.