Saudis Holds a Very Different ‘Alidades’ Exhibit

The Jeddah-based Saudi Art Council has announced that the eighth 21, 39 Jeddah Arts will open on March 24. Titled “Secrets of Alidades,” this year’s exhibition is curated by French academic Dr. Fabien Danesi, a doctor of philosophy in art history and a university professor.

The alidade is a scientific and astronomical device for citing a distant object and for measuring an angle by posting to a star to determine directions.

“This tool was used in the context of navigation, but here the alidade are the artworks. It means that my approach is allegorical. The subject of the show will be astronomy in cartography, but not necessarily in a literal way,” Danesi said. “The Secrets of Alidades elaborates a kind of explanation where astronomy and category play a poetic impulse to escape the nets of rationality.”

Through this year’s event, Danesi, with participating local and international artists, will propose a mental journey to the audience.

“This allegorical perspective means that the show attempts to produce a representation with the potentiality of a journey. Just as sailors used the stars to navigate the seas, artwork can help us drift in our cultural field with the contrary winds and ocean currents,” Danesi said.

“Between Two Stars” is one of the participating artworks by Saudi artist Ayman Zedani, where he created a multilayered installation about a parasitic desert plant called Cynomorium.

Zedani’s conceptual works attempt to renegotiate the relationship between human and nonhuman, animal and plant, organic and inorganic, land and water. In this work, he wanted to highlight the Cynomorium’s life — and lessons that could be learned from it.

“This type of plant has been relying on other desert plants to survive and continue its existence, and in the process I have been collecting DNA of those plants making it what I am calling an archive of the desert,” Zedani told Arab News.

Zedani participated in the 7th edition and decided to connect his work for this year with the previous edition, “to continue the conversation about the future of the Gulf,” which he also addressed last year through an experimental film that tells the story of oil from the perspective of a Prototaxite, a giant fungus that inhabited the earth about 400 million years ago.

“For this year’s exhibition, Fabian has drawn on his inspiration, interest and passion for the stars, the planets and everything else that forms part of our great expanse in light of the tragic pandemic that has changed our lives forever,” said Nada Sheikh, director of the Saudi Arts Council.

The 21, 39 Jeddah Arts is a non-profit initiative organized by the Saudi Arts Council to highlight and maintain the city’s position at the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s contemporary art scene. The name is taken from the geographic coordinates of the city (21.5433°N, 39.1728°E ).

The program includes curated exhibitions, gallery openings, workshops and a series of talks and discussions that aim to build bridges with the outside world through the universal language of art.

The 21, 39 Jeddah Arts is a pivotal opportunity for aspiring artists to engage in an internationally recognized platform as it provides young artists with the chance to make a leap from emerging to professional, Sheikh said.

Sheikh added that it was also a space for international curators to work in and make a mark on the burgeoning art field within the Kingdom, and a pathway for local curators to expand their experience.

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