4 Of The Best Things To Come Out Of Desert X AlUla
The free and open to the public event featuring large-scale site-specific works welcomed over 9,000 visitors.
Desert X AlUla, which activated the unique desert landscape of AlUla through installations by 14 artists, welcomed over 9,000 visitors during its five-week run. The first site-responsive exhibition of-its-kind in Saudi Arabia, organised collaboratively by Desert X and the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), fostered cross-cultural dialogue, creating exchange among artists, curators and the international and local community.
Here are four positive things to come out of the event:
Engagement with local communities
Engagement with local communities at the event co-curated by Saudi curators Raneem Farsi and Aya Alireza with Desert X Artistic Director Neville Wakefield included the participation of a group of women weavers. Lines and Colours got involved in Sherin Guirguis’ installation by creating a “tracing” of the inner ring of the artist’s Kholkhal Aliaa sculpture in Sadou, the traditional tent weaving technique. Similarly, Wael Shawky’s mud house was inverted with a Bedouin-style tent on top of its roof rather than the ground, made in collaboration with local artisans. Additionally, artist-run workshops organised by Sherin Guirguis, Manal Al Dowayan and Zahrah Al Ghamdi brought local women artists to the exhibition site to preview the work and discuss how to find your voice as an artist, build a commission proposal and develop an idea for a work. Plus, the exhibition’s school and university programmes brought together 200 students from the AlUla county to participate in on-site educational workshops led by Saudi artists Dalia Bakhurji and Abdelrahmen AlShahed. These were focused around sculpture making using wire and contemporary calligraphy.
A Desert X AlUla podcast series
A newly released Desert X AlUla podcast series provides a global platform for the voices of the featured artists and reveals the discussion and exchange fostered throughout the exhibition. The podcast series features co-curators Wakefield, Farsi and Alireza in conversation with participating artists about their experiences of responding to the landscape and why they welcomed this collaboration.
The large-scale site-specific works by the artists who took part have inspired new dialogue about the desert and themes that range from the passage of goods and ideas along the ancient incense route, the cultural memory that passage has left and the natural resources that have shaped the region, past and present.
The series of eight podcast episodes is free to download at www.desertx.org/podcast/alula and on iTunes and other podcast apps.
The canyon where the exhibition took place will become a permanent arts hub for AlUla
Another great piece of news is the canyon in Ashar, where Desert X AlUla took place, will become a permanent arts hub in the future. The event is part of a wider, long-term plan to reinvigorate, protect and preserve AlUla. One of the RCU’s key ambitions while doing this is to develop AlUla as a new international centre for the artistic community. As well as new museums, gallery spaces and arts and culture experiences in the landscape, there will be opportunities for creativity and cultural production to flourish in AlUla’s open-air environment.
Desert X is inviting Saudi and other Arab artists to participate in its next Coachella Valley edition
The next edition of Desert X is scheduled to take place in California’s Coachella Valley from February 6 – April 11, 2021. One of the organisation’s founding principles is to connect diverse, international artists, deserts and communities around the world, and to find commonalities within shared environmental and cultural experiences. Keeping In line with all this, Wakefield said. “Desert X will be inviting Saudi and regional artists to participate in future editions of the California exhibition.”