Alserkal Arts Foundation announces 2021-2022 programme exploring the power of language and listening through multiple mediums

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A Slightly Curving Place, an exhibition curated by Nida Ghouse, will open in Concrete in March 2022

17 October 2021, Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Alserkal Arts Foundation announces its 2021-2022 programme, working with international curators with strong links to the region, and who challenge perceptions through ambitious new projects. Exploring the power of language, the Foundation invites audiences to listen more closely through a study group and film programme, in preparation for a new exhibition. A Slightly Curving Place, curated by Nida Ghouse, is due to open in Concrete on 2 March 2022, presenting an ambisonic soundscape for the first time in the UAE. 

Abdelmonem Bin Eisa AlserkalFounder of Alserkal and Alserkal Arts Foundation, said “It is imperative that we support artists and practitioners who are engaged in unconventional modes of research and cultural production. In an increasingly inter-connected world, encouraging cross-disciplinary approaches is key to creating new forms of knowledge in order to engage and resonate with audiences, now and in the future.”

Centred around an audio play, a video installation, and material in vitrines, A Slightly Curving Place responds to the work of Umashankar Manthravadi, a self-taught acoustic archaeologist who has been listening to premodern performance spaces. In asking what it means to listen to the past and its absence which remains, the exhibition brings together writers, choreographers, composers, actors, dancers, musicians, field recordists, and sound, light, and graphic designers who engage and transform not just each other’s work, but also that of many others. Encompassing a range of practices in which his propositions reverberate, the project attends to what Umashankar does by exploring the political and performative potential of the past that he opens up. The project was previously commissioned and presented by Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the iteration of the exhibition for Concrete is co-produced with support from ​​Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. 

Nida Ghouse, curator of the exhibition, said “An archaeology of sound is primarily concerned with what it means to try and listen to the past, to that which may forever remain outside the range of our hearing. It draws awareness both to sound as a social event—music, theatre, and dance as forms of corporeal relations—and to an absence which remains. The attention to absence challenges the conviction in a technological positivism, that the past can be accessed, that it is for our taking. Such listening is not about finding facts in the acoustic reflections of architectural surfaces so as to reconstruct a once-audible event in a space as accurately as possible, but rather a confrontation with a sense that the past cannot be captured. And can never be known. An archaeology of sound is then about that which is lost but nevertheless always with us—the simultaneity of the past in the present, a collectivity across time beyond possession and accumulation.”

Leading up to the exhibition A Slightly Curving Place, Alserkal Arts Foundation will host An Archaeology of Sound study group and film programme as a means of gathering a community of listeners around the project in Dubai. The film programme, titled A Supplementary Country Called Cinema and organised by Nida Ghouse and Surabhi Sharma, is presented in collaboration with Cinema Akil in Alserkal Avenue, with support from Goethe Institut. With films such as The Music Room by Satyajit Ray and There is Something in the Air by Iram Ghufran, the programme comprises fiction, documentary, and experimental cinema from the mid-twentieth century to the present, tracing the arrival of sound reproduction technology to the Indian subcontinent and its continued reverberations. 

Nada Raza, Alserkal Arts Foundation Director, added: “We look forward to a season that breaks away from the usual methods of programming and exhibition-making. After Homecoming, a collaboration with Janine Gaëlle Dieudji, our autumn programme with Nida Ghouse lays the groundwork for an exhibition that subtly yet fundamentally rethinks curatorial practice, pushing the boundaries of what an exhibition can do whilst remaining sensitive to critical debates and embracing new technologies.’’

As an independent non-profit dedicated to instigating new knowledge through support for research and cultural production, Alserkal Arts Foundation has engaged and collaborated with curators whose projects transform and challenge perceptions. Homecoming, the Foundation’s public realm commissions, which were launched in September 2021, connect practices that inspire and provoke through languagein an iterative series of large-scale works by artists including Lakwena Maciver (UK), Kameelah Janan Rasheed (USA) and Augustine Paredes (Philippines/UAE). Through the Archaeology of Sound and leading into A Slightly Curving Place, the Foundation focuses on listening as a way of coming to know. Alserkal Arts Foundation also begins a new line of research enquiry, asking questions about frameworks of performance and performativity in our region, through a research collaboration with Warehouse421 in Abu Dhabi that will commence in November 2021. 

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