421 Arts Campus explores connection between humanity, nature during Fall 2023 program

421 Arts Campus, Abu Dhabi’s independent platform dedicated to supporting emerging creative practices, presents its Fall 2023 Program: Earthly Joys.

Running from September 24 to December 21, 2023, this season features two major exhibitions and over 20 workshops, talks, and special events that explore the profound connection between humanity and nature.

Opening on October 22 are ‘Nine Nodes of Non-Being,’ a group exhibition curated by Ritika Biswas that is the result of the Curatorial Development Program, and ‘Asma Belhamar: Solid Void,’ a solo exhibition by artist Asma Belhamar who is participating in the 2023 edition of the 421 Artistic Development Program.

Running in tandem with these exhibitions, the Fall 2023 program promises a diverse range of workshops, talks, and special events that empower and educate through collaborations with UAE-based artists, creatives, artisans, researchers, academics, and initiatives. The program features interactive environmentally-conscious workshops, guided nature walks, insightful talks and discussions with environmental experts, craft-based experiments that explore local materials, a film festival focused on climate-related works, home-cooking sessions, and other special events designed to preserve and celebrate our planet.

Curated, designed, and organized by participants in the 421 Internship and Mentorship Program, Ahmad Al Bissani, Salmah Almansoori, Sarrah Bashir, Keertana Cherukuri, Dana Husseino, and Zeina Saleh, the Fall 2023 program coincides with COP28, presenting a youth-led approach that fosters a deep connection with the environment. Earthly Joys is conceived as an invitation to connect, learn, and contribute to a brighter, more equitable future and a world where joy is synonymous with harmony in nature.

“Since our inception in 2015, we’ve made it our mission to champion and platform the voices of emerging artists and creatives in the UAE through our programming and initiatives. This season, we’ve pushed this even further, giving the 6th cohort from our Internship and Mentorship Program the opportunity to conceive and conceptualize the Fall 2023 program,” said Faisal Al Hassan, Head of 421 Arts Campus. “Over the past few months, the 6th cohort of the Internship and Mentorship Program has been working closely with the team at 421 Arts Campus to put together an ambitious public program that critically engages with issues related to the climate crisis. They’ve designed an exciting seasonal program that brings youth, artists, creatives, researchers, academics, environmental experts, and the wider community together to reflect on environmental challenges in our region and the world at large. We are thrilled to present this program that aligns with the themes that will be explored during COP28.”

Asma Belhamar: Solid Void

The solo exhibition, ‘Solid Void,’ by Asma Belhamar is the result of the 421 Artistic Development Program. On view from October 22 to December 31, 2023, in Gallery 1, it features new works inspired by the UAE’s architectural history.

The exhibition captures the tensions between shifting natural geographies and dynamic urban environments. The work is footnoted by the artist’s reflections on a culture and national identity in flux.

Asma Belhamar. (Courtesy: 421 Art Campus)
Asma Belhamar. (Courtesy: 421 Art Campus)

‘Solid Void’ narrates the topographic evolution of the UAE, as influenced by Western classical modernity, contemporary traditionalism in Islam, and the historic trade relationships that shaped much of that landscape. The artist’s deft interpretation reveals the diversity and fragmentation of the design sensibilities that have made the nation’s aesthetic identity what it is today.

‘Solid Void’ is the result of the 2023 edition of the Artistic Development Program, which is organized in collaboration with The Institute for Emerging Art.

Nine Nodes of Non-Being

The group exhibition ‘Nine Nodes of Non-Being’ curated by Ritika Biswas will be on view from October 22 to December 31, 2023, in Gallery 2 and will presenting works by nine emerging and established artists, thinkers, filmmakers, and researchers from East, South, and Southeast Asia and the MENA region. It conceives of climate-related extinction through various states of negation and excess emerging from each of the nine artistic nodes in order to examine unknown ways of existing more equitably within our ongoing crises.

Curator Ritika Biswas. (Courtesy: 421 Art Campus)
Curator Ritika Biswas. (Courtesy: 421 Art Campus)

Climate data and science on human and non-human extinctions are evident, abundant, and available. However, few of us actually believe that we are going to become extinct, at least not in an immediate sense. The signifiers of this possibility are deaths and disasters that exist in other places and elsewhere, happening to species and communities we think of as vulnerable—not us.

This apathy stems not from a lack of knowledge but from our incapacity to critically and ontologically contend with what the climate crisis truly means for us. Simply unveiling the material facts of extinction is not enough to alter the realities of modernity and our ingrained behaviors or patterns of thinking.

‘Nine Nodes of Non-Bein’g is not an attempt to represent the Anthropocene but rather conceives of non-being, and thus negation itself, as a creative and generative expanse. The artistic worlds presented here are not merely signifiers of extinction but real propositions about the unknown. The forms of excess and negation found within the work of the participating artists hold the simultaneity of muchness and blankness; the paradox of extinction itself; that we are both in the immense thick of it (muchness) and yet cannot conceive of it (a blankness). Through these excessive modes, we face ways of non-being and the climate apocalypse itself in ways we have likely never considered— through kitsch, cringe, bathos, abstraction, silliness, melancholy, madness, and the weird.

The artists taking part in this exhibition are Mariam AlZayani, Faycal Baghriche, Clemencia Echeverri, UNMAKE LAB, Irtiza Malik, Zara Mahmood, Amba Sayal-Bennet, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Ayman Zedani. Their projects span diverse media, including drawings, moving images, sculpture, text, soundscapes, and multimedia installations.

‘Nine Nodes of Non-Being’ emerged from a year-long journey by the curator Ritika Biswas as part of the 421 Curatorial Development Exhibition Program in collaboration with The Bombay Institute for Critical Analysis and Research (BICAR).

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