Signs, symbols and shared languages

at Concrete, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 5 March – 1 April 2018

Alserkal Programming and UAE Unlimited will bring Ishara: signs, symbols and shared languages to Concrete in March 2018. The show will run from 5 March to 1 April. Curated by Karim Sultan, and joined by senior curatorial advisor Laura Metzler, the exhibition will feature new works by ten UAE-based artists, in addition to loaned works by guest artists Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian. The selected artists for the 2018 edition of UAE Unlimited are Amna Al Dabbagh, Cheb Moha, Chndy, Dina Khorchid, Farah Al Qassimi, Flounder Lee, Nasir Nasrallah, Saba Qizilbash, Salem Al Mansoori, and Shaikha Al Ketbi.

The concept of the exhibition is derived from a broad understanding of the meaning and usage of language. Ishara, denotes “sign”—the most basic form of communication, and refers to the linguistic marks, gestures and indications, as well as commonly used signals that transcend language, like those used in traffic or urban spaces.
The curatorial process for the exhibition has been thematically informed by the idea of “lingua franca”, which hints at constructed, second or third languages that were used to aid communication between various groups or in situations where communication was difficult. In the context of the UAE, with its major port cities, this leads to an intrinsic interest in this mediated form of communication, where numerous languages are assembled together in trade, transportation, and interpersonal relationships. A broader view incorporates body language and infrastructure, where signs create paths but also erect barriers, where appearances or dialects signal the existence of certain publics but preclude others. With the aim of supporting UAE-based emerging artists, not only in growing their practice, but in bringing them to the attention of a global audience, UAE Unlimited has established a practice of selecting emerging contemporary artists for its annual exhibitions. The artists produce work under the guidance of guest artists, creating a culture of mentorship within the arts community and specifically in the exhibition. Each of the artists brings a highly individual practice in development, realised through media such as video, installation, found objects, and drawing.

The selection of the artists was based on their ability to create works that dealt with the structure-building involved in language, or a tendency towards works that address the subject of communication. Often this manifests itself in works that simultaneously deal with the technologies of communication (both artificial and otherwise), the construction of new languages, and the translation of memory into works that attempt to communicate. The Dubai-based guest artists, Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian, provide an important role mentoring the commissioned artists and providing insight into their practices, a format that UAE Unlimited has adopted since its inception in 2015. Their exhibition experience is supplemented by their engaged and highly disciplined shared practices, which incorporate painting, sculpture, a variety of found and assembled media, video, and more. The cultural, and scholarly references they often cite will lend a unique literary asset to the selected artists.