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Desert X showcases 14 site-responsive installations for its Desert X AlUla exhibition in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia Architecture News - Feb 6, 2020 - 15:11   2582 views

Desert X showcases 14 site-responsive installations for its Desert X AlUla exhibition in Saudi Arabia

Desert X, a site-specific, contemporary art exhibition that is held in the Coachella Valley in Southern California, has set 14 site-responsive installations in AlUla desert in Saudi Arabia as its new iteration in the Saudi Arabian desert.

Named Desert X AlUla, the exhibition features prominent artists, including American artist Lita Albuquerque, Copenhagen-based studio Superflex, Saudi Arabian artist Nasser Al Salem, Jeddah-based artist Zahrah Al Ghamdi, Saudi artist Rashed Al Shashai. 

Desert X showcases 14 site-responsive installations for its Desert X AlUla exhibition in Saudi Arabia

Lita Albuquerque's NAJMA (She Placed One Thousand Suns Over the Transparent Overlays of Space)

Lita Albuquerque's NAJMA (She Placed One Thousand Suns Over the Transparent Overlays of Space) installation continues to document generations of human consciousness and wisdom through the science of astronomy. 

A gift that gives an understanding of the cosmos, it first flowered in this part of the world and provides constant guidance in both ordinal and celestial dimensions.

The narrative is particularly potent here in AlUla, with the region’s long connection to astronomy. The sculpture sits atop a bolder in the hidden valley, amid a special arrangement that reflects the alignment of stars overhead on January 31, 2020, at the exact moment of the opening ceremony, at 26.5503 degrees N, 37.9679 degrees E.

14 site-responsive installations have been built on the desert on January 31, 2020 and will be on view until March 7, 2020, which was organized collaboratively by Desert X and the Royal Commission of AlUla (RCU).

Desert X showcases 14 site-responsive installations for its Desert X AlUla exhibition in Saudi Arabia

Zahrah Al-Ghamdi's "Glimpses of the Past"

Zahrah Al Ghamdi's Glimpses of the Past consists of approximately 6000 tin date containers of different sizes, laid out across 80 meters against the terrain of AlUla. The artwork is an ode to AlUla’s agricultural wealth; its plentiful palm tree groves that have fueled the area’s trade for generations and the springs of water that have sustained them.  

Desert X AlUla was arranged as the first site-responsive exhibition of its kind in Saudi Arabia. The exhibition emerges as an exploration of desert culture and aims to boost a cross-cultural dialogue between artists from Saudi Arabia and its surrounding region and artists from previous iterations of Desert X in California, taking its cues from the extraordinary landscape and historical significance of AlUla.

Desert X showcases 14 site-responsive installations for its Desert X AlUla exhibition in Saudi Arabia

Nasser Alsalem's "Amma Qabl"

Nasser Alsalem's Amma Qabl structure is an elegantly simple gesture that spans past and present: a passage-way, its circumference shaped by calligraphic letter forms that read Amma Qabl (loosely meaning ‘what precedes’). 

The words, elongated to 9m, are architecturally transformed into a tunnel as they link one non-descript point in the desert to another, equally anonymous point.

The exhibition was co-curated by Desert X Artistic Director Neville Wakefield and Saudi curators and contemporary art specialists Raneem Farsi and Aya Alireza. 

It takes place in the landscape of the extraordinary and historically significant desert region of AlUla, northwest Saudi Arabia, which is home to the country’s first UNESCO world heritage site. 

Desert X showcases 14 site-responsive installations for its Desert X AlUla exhibition in Saudi Arabia

Rashed Al Shashai's "A Concise Passage"

Rashed Al Shashai's A Concise Passage considers compositional elements of trade histories, AlShashai playfully employs two distinctive symbols of ‘civilization’ and ‘commerce’ – one ancient and one modern. 

The pyramid has been a subject of fascination and study across various different fields for centuries, such as architecture, engineering, science, and spirituality.

"Having this opportunity with these working artists from diverse backgrounds is evidence of us creating a platform in this region," said co-curator Raneem Farsi.

"We’re not only playing a part in it; we’re initiating it. We’re opening doors to foster this kind of engagement, allowing people to reach out. It is about the artists being in conversation with one another, alongside their conversation with the landscape, alongside our conservation with them and community engagement."

"I feel like we’re connecting dots, transcending all these boundaries and creating connections while re-enacting AlUla’s place as a crossroads of civilisation and reinventing it as a cultural hub."

Desert X showcases 14 site-responsive installations for its Desert X AlUla exhibition in Saudi Arabia

Gisela Colon's "The Future is Now"

Gisela Colon's The Future is Now draws a subtle comparison between human time and geological time. Exploring through juxtaposition, the work encourages a humble sense of perspective and appreciation of the expanse of history from a non-anthropocentric perspective. 

It creates opportunities for dialogue beyond geographical boundaries, focusing on universal planetary concerns as it looks to the future. The Future is Now, the latest of her Parabolic Monolith series, stands as a beacon of transformation, renewal, and hope, adding even greater dimensions to the already culturally rich history of this spectacular geological location.

The inaugural edition of Desert X AlUla features the desert installations of 14 artists: Lita Albuquerque from the US; Manal Al Dowayan, Zahrah Al Ghamdi, Muhannad Shono, Nasser Al Salem and Rashed Al Shashai from Saudi Arabia; Gisela Colon from Puerto Rico, based in the US; Sherin Guirguis from Egypt, based in LA; Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim from the UAE; Nadim Karam from Lebanon; eL Seed from France, based in Dubai; Wael Shawky from Egypt, based in Alexandria and Philadelphia; Superflex from Denmark; and Rayyane Tabet from Lebanon.

The exhibited works start ranging from colourful ball-like sculptures to 6000 tin date containers of different sizes, laid out across 80 meters against the terrain of AlUla. 

Desert X showcases 14 site-responsive installations for its Desert X AlUla exhibition in Saudi Arabia

Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim's "Falling Stones Garden"

Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim's Falling Stones Garden is a site-specific installation composed of 320 sculptures that vary in size and hue, inspired by the natural rockfall at the base of the sandstone cliffs surrounding the exhibition valley in AlUla. Ibrahim discerns an abundance of color in the rocks around the installation, even though this isn’t necessarily perceptible at first sight. 

Initially, it is easy to anticipate the landscape as monotone; the vibrant palette of the installation challenges this, guiding the viewer to pick up on the multiple different hues of the rocks. 

Desert X showcases 14 site-responsive installations for its Desert X AlUla exhibition in Saudi Arabia

Nadim Karam's "On Parade"

Nadim Karam's On Parade is set on the rocks of AlUla and the shifting flux of its sands are the theater for thousands of life forms hidden within its crevices, recesses and pinnacles. 

They belong to the vast ancient time of the landscape and the time of accumulated moments; they are visible only to those who know the secrets of the desert. 

In fantastical procession, nature’s creatures are on parade, coming together to show off the forms and shapes of their diversity. Inspired by the flora and fauna of the Arabian desert, their linearity echoes time and the movement of the caravan people. 

Desert X showcases 14 site-responsive installations for its Desert X AlUla exhibition in Saudi Arabia

el Seed's "Mirage"

el Seed's Mirage artwork has often been described as a bridge. His French-Tunisian heritage straddles the gap between East and West and his use of Arabic script is a tool to communicate his messages of unity to the various communities that witness them. 

This project is inspired by the ancient trade routes that once wound their way through this walled city. Mirage takes reference from the walled city of AlUla, which was an oasis in the desert valley and full of fertile soil.

Desert X showcases 14 site-responsive installations for its Desert X AlUla exhibition in Saudi Arabia

Muhannad Shono's "The Lost Path"

Muhannad Shono's The Lost Path reminds us that the journey is always greater than the destination, and points us towards our own personal buried histories. 

The path is drawn from a single line, seemingly unobtrusive but conspicuous enough to draw attention and arouse enough curiosity to want to follow it. At first, there is a sense of being led towards something, but soon, the path itself grows and expands so as to become the treasure itself, a sculptural relic waiting for visitors to explore it.  

Desert X showcases 14 site-responsive installations for its Desert X AlUla exhibition in Saudi Arabia


Superflex's "One Two Three Swing!"

Superflex's One Two Three Swing! invites its users to activate the socially transformative potential of collective movement, challenging society’s apathy towards the political, environmental and economic crises of our age. 

The multi-user swing acts as a human-powered pendulum, converting energy into movement that is almost flight: rocking, moving, propelling backward and forward with increasing momentum in a process of ever shifting equilibrium and play.

All images © Lance Gerber, courtesy of Desert X

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