Every year, Abu Dhabi Art features a unique exhibition called Art, Talks & Sensations. As the name suggests, ATS always brings a multidisciplinary approach to the audience, exposing the viewers to a surprising and thought-provoking mix of performance art, audio-visual displays, music and various types of art works. The brains behind ATS is curator Fabrice Bousteau, a French national charged with making each year’s edition more incredible than the last. We spoke to the quirky curator about the challenges and preparation involved with this year’s edition, entitled: The Island/A Game of Life.
Located in Gallery 1 inside Manarat Al Saadiyat, The Island consists of different sections showcasing art works and installations from various artists, such as Joachim Mogarra, Dario Escobar, Fabrice Hyber and Alexis Laurent, to name a few.
At the entrance, visitors place their hands inside a box and either pull out a white or black ticket. If you pull out a black ticket, then you are meant to follow the black path (Black Meanders), whereas the white ticket means you should enter on the white path (White Meanders). ‘Each path leads you on a different journey and experience,’ says Fabrice, ‘where you can discover little islands within the island. What I like about it is that you begin with an element of chance (which is the colour of your ticket) and you follow your path. Sometimes, a couple walking in will pick two different cards, so they will be separated in the beginning of their journey, only to be reunited later on in the exhibition.
I think life is a lot like this.’
We asked Fabrice about how the concept of The Island came about for this exhibition. ‘I was inspired by Abu Dhabi, which is an island itself, as well the many islands it has. In fact, Abu Dhabi has one of the largest numbers of islands worldwide. It is also interesting to see how different islands sustain different life forms, much like this exhibition does. This is why it is also A Game of Life.’ There is one exhibited artwork which stands at the front, between the Black and White Meanders, called ‘Sand/Fans’ by Alice Aycock. Dubbed as ‘minimal art’, the piece has four industrial fans placed opposite each other and equidistant from the centre. Some sand was then placed on the floor and slowly, an island began to form due to the wind currents from the fans. This piece illustrated how an island can come into existence with the bare minimum of materials.
Each path has an interesting mix of artworks that engage the viewer, making one reflect about the interconnectivity of elements and the isolation and sustainability of islands. It is clear that the selection criteria for the exhibition was not easy, and that Fabrice had to really assess the best pieces with the loudest messages, considering the spatial and cultural constraints. When asked about how the curator dealt with
restrictions, he told us: ‘There are constraints, be they location, culture, language or space in any exhibition, in any country of the world. Although some might consider this as hindering their expressions, I see it as a way to test your creativity. Because if you are able to say what you want to say, no matter what or where you are, then you have succeeded as an artist.’
A notable feature throughout the exhibition is music. Each different area has some form of music playing in the background. Fabrice believes this is very important and crucial to art. ‘Art should touch all your senses, and whether the guests realise it or not, the different musical notes played throughout the exhibition will engage different parts of your mind, especially as you are looking at the different art works.’
Although the black and white colours lead down different paths, they eventually meet at an area called ‘The Heart of the Island’.
This area is very dimly lit, with some low chairs scattered about on sand. In this area, there are different movies being showcased, as well as live performances. Once the visitor has watched the show or performance, they can proceed along the exhibition down the opposite path.
Unlike past editions of ATS, this year’s will run until January 6, 2013. We asked the curator about the reason for this, and he replied that there were two. ‘The first is that people always asked for the exhibition to run for longer in the past, saying they didn’t have time to see all of it properly.
The second is that, any island takes some time to form and disappear, so why should this island last for only four days?’ And who are we to argue with the man?
Art, Talks & Sensations is featured at Gallery 1 in Manarat Al Saadiyat, until January 6, 2013. Open daily from 10am-8pm. Entrance is free. For a list of special performances and movie screenings visit www.abudhabiartfair.ae (02 657 5800).