I live in Saudi Arabia, and am very lucky to live within 10 minutes from the incredible King Abdulaziz World Culture Arts Centre (ITHRA) that has finally been completed in 2017. The building itself is a fascinating structure of contemporary architecture and stands prominent in a place just outside the Aramco compound in Dhahran, Eastern Provence in Saudi Arabia.
Photo courtesy of Snohetta website
An initial foundation stone was laid by King Abdullah on May 20, 2008 and officially opened by the present King, the Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz on December 1, 2017. I was extremely excited to visit the centre and it certainly has the wow factor as you approach the unique, contemporary structure.
The building, houses a cinema, theatre, museum, library and exhibition hall. I feel at the moment it is still in its opening stages but cannot wait to see what events and artworks will be held at this magnificent building.
Place: Two landscape features Lush Gardens and a Monosurface – situated in Dhahran, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia providing diverse cultural facilities for both local and worldwide audience.
Time: In a drawing found on the Architectures website: Snohetta it shows the top part of the structure means the future, the middle part on the ground level is the present and below the surface is the past.
Title: ITHRA – King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture
Artist: Snohetta (Architect firm in Norway)
Completion: 2017 (first stone laid 2008)
Art Movement: Site-specific – Cultural landmark for both regional and national visitors
Typology: Cultural Centre
Cost: $400 million – approximately
On reflection I enjoyed visiting the centre and finding out further information about it, there were several sources I used to obtain additional information ie the approximate cost and the Artist which were not displayed on the ITHRA website. Once I knew who the Architect firm were that designed it I searched for their website and was able to gain further informationt. There was also a newspaper called The Art Newspaper that had writen an article back in January this year about pending opening of the centre. This will be an amazing culture centre, at the moment I feel its in its early stages and needs new marketing to spread the word.
Living in Saudi Arabia has its limitations, there are restrictions that perhaps no other country has, like freedom of press, or freedom to create art that perhaps is considered too political or offensive to their religion. However, within two days of researching the Saudi Arabian Art scene, I have become mesmorized by what is happening, I never knew such Art Galleries existed here or that there are International critically acclaimed Arab artists both male and female. As a woman living in Saudi Arabia the restrictions have made me not venture out too far from my secured compound, on a weekly basis I will only go to the local souqs, shopping mall and supermarkets, I now sadly regret this as it would appear there are galleries in Al Khobar and further afield in Jeddah and Riyadh that are open to the public. I feel annoyed at myself for not realising that there is an Art scene and that it is ok for women to go to them, it is an exciting era for the art scene of Saudi Arabia . For this exercise in order to achieve a Gallery visit I decided to go online to see what galleries I could visit virtually, I wanted to investigate Saudi artists and I found many, however I very quickly became fascinated by a certain artist called Abdulnasser Gharem. I found his work on an exhibition site called Edge of Arabia his work was part of an exhibition held in Venice 2009. There were several artists, but his artwork really stood out, one in particular reflected both Place and Time.
Time and Place Photo courtesy of Ayyam Gallery – Al Siraat (The Path) by Abdulnasser Gharem 2007
Title: Al Siraat (The Path) – 2007
Artist: Abdulnasser Gharem – an interview about the artist can be found on the Guardian Website
Description: Lightbox 73 x 123cm – Photography/site-specific/text/religious
Art Movement: Conceptual
Place: A bridge at the base of the rocky Aseeri landscape in Saudi Arabia – site-specific
Time: In 1982 there was flash flooding in the south-western part of Saudi Arabia that headed towards some remote villages, the people in one of these villages headed towards a concrete bridge they thought would protect them. It didn’t, most of the bridge and the villagers were swept away. Twenty five years later, the artist Gharem, covered the remains of the bridge with the world ‘Al Siraat’ which means ‘path’ or ‘the way’. “It is about the choices you make in life, whether you follow the straight path, the winding path, or whether you trust in the idea of a path at all. This word can also be used to refer to the bridge you face on detath that connects this world and the next”. Henry Hemming: Edge of Arabia Exhibition 2009.
The Path 2007 by Abdulnasser Gharem – Edge of Arabia Exhibition 2009
I felt this conceptual piece of art referred to both place and time and also text related. I discovered the artist was an officer in the Saudi Arabian Army who had gone to school with two of the terrorists involved in 9/11. He felt he needed to try and get young people of Saudi Arabia involved in Art to try and stop them being terrorists and has since been a co founder of the arts organization Edge of Arabia that helps to promote arts education to help Saudi artists on to the international platform. His work relates to his Saudi Heritage but also has political and social references.
On reflection to discovering the art scene in Saudi Arabia I truly wish I had started sooner, I can’t believe how fascinating it is, I came across a wide variety of work on various online galleries and was particularly interested in some of the female artists that are having a voice in their art. However, After researching many of the sites it was Gharem’s work that really caught my attention and I just can’t help think That not only have I discovered something more about myself, but also about the people and country that I live in. It has made me want to go to Al Khobar now and visit some of the galleries and to research more of the online galleries and discover more about these artists.
INSTALLATION ART – TATE WEBSITE
As part of Exercise 3 we are also asked to make notes regarding an article on the Tate Website by Claire Bishop (2005) – But is it Installation Art? by Claire Bishop (2005).
What is Installation Art?
Tate Gallery: Used to describe large-scale, mixed-media constructions, often designed for a specific place or for a temporary period of time
The Art Story: A term generally used to describe artwork located in three-dimensional interior space as the word “instal” means putting something inside of something else. It is often site-specific
Visual Arts Cork: Installation art is a relatively new genre of contemporary art – practised by an increasing number of postmodernist artists – which involves the configuration or “installation” of objects in a space, such as a room or warehouse. The resulting arrangement of material and space comprises the “artwork”.
Key words from the article:
Gabriel Orozco – Serpentine Gallery – “conceptual and installation artis” – comprised paintings, sculpture and photography
Artforum, Arts Magazine and Studio International: 1960’s magazine – “Installation Shot” – the way an exhibition was arranged.
Ilya Kabakov – paintings installed in fictional Soviet museum – museum is part of the art whereas “The main actor in the total installation, the main centre toward which everything is addressed, for which everything is intended, is the viewer’ Kabakov – he wants the viewer to be part of the place.
Glenn Brown – paintings are specifically installed in a space as separate entities
Vito Acconci – wanted viewers to walk barefoot on sand and straw or to listen to Jimi Hendrix records while relaxing in a hammock. He developed the term “supra-sensorial” he hoped could “release the individual from his opprsessive condition.
Installation of 1980s more visual and lavish giganticism – excessive use of materials, compared to Bruce Nauman’s installations of 1960s and 1970s – video feedback, mirrors and harsh coloured lighting – made to feel out of sync.
1990s Guggenheim in New York and Turbine Hall of Tate Modern or ex industrial buildings – big wow factor
Turner prize often won by video installation artists, site specific work yet to scoop the award apart from Martin Creed’s The lights going on and off 2001.
James Meyer in Artform “To make a big splash in the global pond of spectacle culture today, you have to have a big rock to drop”. – wall size video/film projections, oversize photographs and overwhelming sculptures. rather than “inducing awareness and provoking thought”. wrote Meyer.
Liam Gillick: Middlebrow, low talent earnestness of production and effect with neo profound content
1990s – active participation by viewers – Volksboutique fully functional second-hand clothes shop by Christine Hill. Flying Machine viewers in a harness controlling their speed but not direction.
My thoughts on this article
Claire Bishop starts off with “What does the term ‘installation art’ mean? Does it apply to big dark rooms that you stumble into to watch videos? Or empty rooms in which the lights go on and off’? The conclusion she comes to is that it means many things. This is because of the history and changing terms of the meaning for “installation art”. It would appear different artists believe it to be different meanings such as the artists Ilya Kabakov and Glenn Brown. Kabakov would display his art pieces in a space that would be part of the art collection – the viewer would be inside the art piece as in his fictional Soviet museum. Whereas Brown would have his art pieces installed in a specific way around a room, for the viewer to view individually.
My impression is that Installation Art used to be more about the big wow faction, whereby a whole building would be taken over and the installation would be site-specific to that place or the place would be part of a special building like The Tate Modern, the art piece would enable the viewer to walk in and be part of that installation. Whereas in today’s art world, it’s more about what is installed in the place ie a floor to ceiling video show, or huge photographs that take up a whole wall, these perhaps would not necessarily be site specific as they could be moved.
It is interesting to see the different ideas that artists have and that certain artists feel that don’t want to call themselves “installation artists” as there is confusion over what exactly they are and perhaps takes away the importance of other Art Movement titles. It would appear the large site-specific art works do not win titles such as the Turner Prize, these normally go to the likes of video installation artists. Although there has been one artist called Martin Creed who did win it with his The lights going on and off 2001. Perhaps it is showing that those large places that used to provide the wow factor are no longer what brings the viewer in. However, I do think Bishop believes there are still artists and viewers still wanting to view the traditional “installation art” whereby the viewer is active within the art, instead of the more modern – video on the wall type of installation. I would like to think there is room for both and are equally as important.
On reflection I found this article fairly easy to read and to understand, it was good to see the viewpoints of various artists and how they see themselves as “installation artists”. I enjoyed reading the piece and highlighting areas of interest after reading it the third time. I felt that ‘place’ was very significant when referring to installation art as traditionally it was the ‘place’ where the artwork would be installed or be site-specific.