Artwork by Farah al Qasimi. Image courtesy of National Pavilion UAE - La Biennale di Venezia
Artist Farah Al Qasimi will present large-scale images of some of the UAE’s sabkha (salt flats) during the upcoming exhibition at the UAE’s National Pavilion during La Biennale di Venezia’s 17th International Architecture Exhibition (Biennale Architettura). Featuring her signature style, the Emirati’s work will complement a large-scale salt-based prototype structure created from an innovative, environmentally-friendly cement made of recycled industrial waste brine.
Open to the public from May 22 to November 21, the “Wetland” exhibition will see the New York-based artist’s photographs of the Al Ruwais sabkha (salt flats) displayed with the prototype by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, the architects and curators of the pavilion. The scenic shots, which are four and a half metres wide and three metres high, capture the tension between urbanisation and nature in the emirates’ sabkha. (The sabkha have been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to their scale, cultural significance and ecological complexity.)
“The scenery of the sabkha sites presents a moment of conflict and resolution. On and below the earth, the sabkha is a serene living environment with many layers of water, sand, salt and micro-organisms which have evolved in harmony to create a delicate ecological system that absorbs more carbon per square metre than the rainforest,” Al Qasimi, who is also a filmmaker and musician, explains. “But directly above this natural phenomenon are high-tension voltage cables running to massive industrial facilities nearby, emitting an ear-splitting electrical buzz.”
Al Qasimi , who also said she was proud to work with a cosmopolitan research team reflecting the nation’s diversity, is currently on show at Toronto’s Cooper Gallery, Sfeir-Semler in Hamburg and the Contemporary Arts Space in St Louis. Previously, her work has been appreciated in numerous galleries and art events, ranging from Helena Anrather in New York and Dubai’s Jameel Arts Centre and The Third Line gallery, to Art Basel, the Institut du Monde Arabe and the Lahore Biennale.
Al Qasimi’s artistic gems have even appeared on bus stops across New York City during the pandemic as a commission with Public Art Fund. The series of 17 effervescent colour photographs were titled “Back and Forth Disco.” The exuberant photos, taken in areas favoured by immigrants, put a joyful spin on living between two cultures, something Al-Qasimi is very familiar with. The 30-year-old, who was born in Abu Dhabi but has spent much of her life in the US, is known for her vibrant and textural photographic vignettes of spontaneous and staged scenarios in the Persian Gulf and the United States. Often like collages, her pieces examine topics like postcolonial structures of power, gender and taste in the Gulf.
The Saudi Pavilion, commissioned by the Architecture and Design Commission, at @La_Biennale di Venezia will be presented as an experiential exhibition rooted in archival research.https://t.co/9rJ3iHOkbg— About Her (@AboutHerOFCL) April 22, 2021
The half-Lebanese Al Qasimi, who has an MFA from Yale School of Art and a BA with Distinction from Yale University, has various awards and residencies under her belt. The most recent feats for the artist who also attended Maine’s Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture include a residency at New York’s Light Work this year and nabbing the Capricious Book Award in 2020.