Commission Art Dubai 2015

This month Chris Weaver and I prepare a commission – a sculpture piece and performances for Art Dubai, the largest art fair in West Asia.

Over the years we’ve observed the not-for-profit sections of Art Dubai grow and flourish, creating varied and lasting effects on arts in the region. With this in mind we felt proud to take part in the Commissions this year, curated by Lara Khaldi. The work continued after the fair, and still resonates within our work, the interest in Beatrice de Cardi, archaeology, the Emirates, the Middle Eastern histories and geographies, opera as a register within the schools of music, performance as an interpreter and intervention in public space.

Here are the details of the interventions:

Variations for a Space and its History performances are in flux,
moving through the fair until they arrive at the sculptures, the tones of which are also in flux as they read the parameters of the architecture and turn them into sound. If you’d
like to see one, be at the Souk Entrance to Madinat Jumeirah
Tuesday 17th March – 3.30pm
Wednesday 18th March – 5pm
Thursday 19th March – 7.45pm 

These images pertain to our research into this commission, which have been seeding since June last year, when we began our residency at Tashkeel. We have taken the idea of architecture and history to a limit by positioning the air, which resonates the space with its own
frequencies becoming a live, continuous sound source, to represent the imagined past “activated”. This way there are two sounds; an interrupting one which creates an interstices with the live tones of the current architecture, aurally depicting the ‘presence’ of a space defying both time and architectural construct.

These two sounds, of a posited past and the architecturally defined present, refer to two voices. One voice is of our accepted truths as written and formalised by man in literature, art and history, and the other is the visceral, immediate and indisputable truths of archeology, remnants of a past discarded, subsumed then unearthed, which on discovery, often turn accepted truths on their heads. 

Our piece for Art Dubai 2015, Variations for a Space and its History, is an iteration of Variations for Rooms and a Tone, a piece which we performed most recently for the International Symposium of Electronic Arts (ISEA), Dubai 2014 and which began back as a rather different piece in London several years ago. The performative aspect which we are still exploring, builds on the most recent past performances here during ISEA at Ward Gallery Dubai and earlier a performance in progress at Tashkeel during a series of talks we gave on sound art and listening. The large-scale sculptural element we are including is a progression from our recent exhibition Systems for a Score, for which we devised a series of sound sculptures that affected the materiality of their own sound, and for which the meaning of the visuals elements in the pieces and the movement through the gallery space was also affected by their physical attributes.

For the Art Dubai performance, archeological findings in the Gulf region and the geographic nature of early settlements in Dubai are brought into a fictional monologue, addressed to ‘Beatrice’. Whilst the name is a play on Dante’s muse Beatrice whom he follows through the Inferno, it is the name of the one woman who changed the way the world viewed UAE and other Gulf countries entirely in terms of archeology in the late 60s and early 70s. 

Beatrice de Cardi (b.1914) completely overturned the
world view that the region was nothing but a void when it came to early
archeological history, and as a result astounding discoveries have been
made after investments into digging in the region.

Discoveries that would not have occurred if it had not
been for her include a monastery for a saint on an Island off of Abu
Dhabi (built way before but lasted well into the Islamic period), a
near-complete dinosaur last year in Saudi Arabia and several discoveries
in Baluchistan just north of the sea that link the Indus Vallery
civilisations with UAE early settlers.

 Beatrice finds connections to Indus Valley civilisation Shimal tomb, Ras al-Khaimah

Beatrice’s pioneering work led to her receiving the Al Qasimi Medal for her services to Ras Al Khaimah. 

It was stimulating for us to think that one is often standing on a seemingly blank spot, which has a history which no one yet or may ever know, buried deep below. This thought is strengthened when we consider that while we build histories which quickly become three or four generations of that space’s ‘truth’, these histories too will crumble one day, and the locale will likely surrender once again to it’s previous state of being, in which air or “the presence” is the only thing existing on that spot.