21,39 Jeddah Arts: Participating artists announced

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21,39 Jeddah Arts: Participating artists announced
Work by Mohammad Alfaraj.

JEDDAH.- The seventh edition of 21,39 Jeddah Arts (28 January - 18 April 2020) is a call to action in response to the environmental emergency from the specificity of a local context. As Saudi Arabia imagines and plans a new future, 60 local and international artists, architects, designers and thinkers will pose questions around environmental sustainability and explore alternative and symbiotic ways to inhabit our planet through a city-wide programme of exhibitions, commissions, talks and debates, and an extensive public education program. 21,39 Jeddah Arts is presented by the Saudi Art Council, an independent initiative aimed at cultivating the local Saudi art scene and building bridges with the international art world.

Curated by Maya El Khalil, the program’s central exhibition, I Love You, Urgently contends with the global climate emergency through a series of explorations by 22 artists. Encompassing painting and drawing, film, sculpture, performance, installation, sound and scent-based works, visitors to I Love You, Urgently can discover works by:

Ayman Zedani, Aziz Jamal, Cristiana De Marchi, Daniah Al Saleh, Duran Lantink, Fahad bin Naif & Alaa Tarabzouni, Farah K. Behbehani, Filwa Nazer, Maha Nasrallah, Manal AlDowayan, Marwah AlMugait, Mohammad Alfaraj, Mohammed Kazem, Muhannad Shono, Obadah Aljefri, Omar Abduljawad, Nasser Al Salem, Nojoud Alsudairi, Raja’a Khalid, Sultan Bin Fahd and Zahrah Alghamdi.

The exhibition’s unexpected address, I Love You, Urgently, departs from the often overly-scientific, divisive, or bureaucratic language of global summits, the media, and environmental policy. Instead, it emphasizes the highly personal nature of the crisis, focusing on the individual artists’ contexts – geographic, cultural, and social – and their own journeys into a collective experience, driven by emotion and curious research. Each artist has responded to three specific themes: ideas of biomimicry, the imitation of the models, systems and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems; of adaptability; and of specificity, how to think of alternative and symbiotic ways to inhabit our planet from a local context. Throughout I Love You, Urgently the problems of engagement and understanding are brought to the fore, while highlighting the significant role artists, designers and other creatives perform: communicating and inspiring love for the planet, for future generations, and for each other - urgently.

In a period of hyper-consumption, lessons can be taken from an architectural history that predates the rapid urban development of the last century. The legacy of Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Frei Otto (1925–2015) – a pioneer of light structures and biomimicry – provides a powerful contrast to acceleration and excess. As inspiration for I Love You, Urgently, there will be an exhibition of Frei Otto’s architectural models, sketches and research, documenting his work in biomimicry and adaptability, and his radical philosophy of “architecture before architecture”. Architecture of Tomorrow. Frei Otto’s Legacy in Saudi Arabia, curated by Maya El Khalil and Georg Vrachliotis, professor of architecture theory and director of the architecture collection at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, offers an opportunity for reflection on a vision that contributed to the urban landscape of Saudi Arabia, home to some of his most innovative projects.

Transdisciplinary perspectives on the challenges and opportunities of the current environmental crisis will be offered by Propositions for a Poetic Ecosystem, bringing together artworks by six Saudi and Swiss artists, Zahrah Al Ghamdi, Nasser Al Salem, Marie Griesmar, Sandra Khne, Muhannad Shono and Nadya Suvorova, who since 2016 have worked with acclaimed scientists from different disciplines both in Switzerland and Saudi Arabia during the artists-in-labs program’s international residency exchange. Curated by Irne Hediger and Flurin Fischer, the exhibition is a speculative, tangible and poetic manifestation of the artists’ inquiries into leading ecological research on the Red Sea and the Swiss Alps’ ecosystems, shedding light on the importance of water as the primary medium through which we feel the effects of climate change. The exhibition is presented and supported by the artists-in-labs program - Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology KAUST, Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia and the Saudi Art Council.

A further exhibition inspired by the landscape of Al Ula will be announced soon.

Each year, with every edition of 21,39 Jeddah Arts, the Saudi Art Council curates an extensive educational program open to the public for the duration of the three month art initiative. Young people sit at the core of this program, and the seventh edition will continue building on the work by the Saudi Art Council to fill a demand gap in the artistic education across Saudi Arabia.

The seventh edition will also present the 21,39 Jeddah Arts Forum, a series of talks and panel discussions curated by Maya El Khalil taking place during the opening week. Featuring artists from I Love You, Urgently and other creatives and thinkers, including Dr Sami Angawi, Christina Dean, Francisco Carballo, the topics will include: architect Frei Otto’s relevance today to Saudi Arabia and the region as it moves forward in an environmentally unstable context; the impact of heavy urban and industrial development on the natural environment; the approach to environmental sustainability on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast; the mass movement of people caused by climatic changes in the context of Saudi Arabia; the fashion industry’s challenge of finding new models of sustainability; and art and artists’ role in fighting the ‘green malaise’.

Maya El Khalil, curator of the seventh edition of 21,39 Jeddah Arts, said: “Artists, architects and designers – in short, creators – are in a unique position to explore ideas and take an active role in dismantling Anthropocene attitudes, replacing these with solutions to the environmental crisis we face and inspiring debate and dialogue. As a species, we have dissociated ourselves from nature, increasingly building a relationship of dominance and exploitation. We need to revisit the value of our interdependence not only with nature but with each other. By observing and emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies, we already have the solutions to a sustainable future. I hope 21,39 Jeddah Arts 2020 is a catalyst for new ways of thinking about how we live.”

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