In FLOATING WORLD, Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri invites viewers on an imaginary journey into the mechanics of petro-culture, a term that defines the sociocultural impact of our relationship to oil. By turning her contemplation of the oil industry’s invisibility into a hyper-visibility of luminescent objects, Monira Al Qadiri questions the sustainability of fossil fuels, their integration into our lives and the path ahead to energy transition. Bringing the patterns and textures behind this extraction to the surface, Al Qadiri exhibits two bodies of work: BENZENE FLOAT and NAWA.
In BENZENE FLOAT, scientific drawings of petrochemicals and their compounds are reimagined. Cocommissioned with the museum Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria, the installation comprises five large-scale inflatable sculptures that hover in the air, depicting molecular structures of petrochemical substances (like benzene, propane gas, naphthalene) in blown-up forms. Highlighting the dominance oil-derived chemicals have on daily life, these larger-than-life sculptures, over six meters in length, are coated in iridescent fabrics - a nod to how the oil industry has replaced pearling in the Gulf region.
With NAWA, Al Qadiri creates a series delving into the deep processes of the oil industry, which though reliant on its consumption, remain hidden to us. The composition of steel rope cables that carry oil from the depths of the earth to the ground’s surface takes centre stage. When cut in half, these ropes reveal mesmerizing geometric patterns that resemble flowers in bloom, fractals or hyper-visual decorative elements. Al Qadiri has recreated these visual elements into a series of 50 two-dimensional metal sculptures. Something resembling a ‘flower field’ begins to bloom in their place, creating a space that mimics the miraculous strangeness that oil has bestowed upon our lives: the poison apple in the garden of Eden.
By recreating their shapes as metallic sculptural forms, the blooms are made up of different shades of iridescent colours, taking their cue from the shimmering surface of the oil itself. The title of the work “NAWA” originates from the Japanese word for rope, as well as the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs (N-WH) that also reference ropes – the ancient Egyptians were the first to use rope mechanisms as a technological resource.
By using an amplified scale and colour to show how chemicals are so much part of our consumption that they remain invisible, Al Qadiri creates an imaginary place of suspended otherworldly forms alluding to the fuel behind all our activities.
Monira Al Qaderi states, “I have been working on concepts dealing with themes related to oil and my biographical relationship with it for more than a decade. These works reflect that contemporary condition of co-dependency we have with these substances, especially as people from this region of the world.”
Malak Abu Qaoud, Arts & Events Manager at ICD Brookfield Place states, “At ICD Brookfield Arts, we always strive to elevate artists from the region who are doing work that resonates with global imperatives. Monira is an internationally established artist who has been in several museum shows in the past year. Her work and research is based on the cultural histories of the GCC region while being influenced artistically by other places like Japan, where she studied. It gives us great pride to commission new site-specific work by Monira closer to home.”