E-Issue 07 –– AUH
Winter 2023-24

January 29th, 2024

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in Abu Dhabi/Dubai
  3. Cover Interview: Shaikha Al Ketbi on Darawan
  4. Rapport: Public Art in the Gulf and a Case Study of Manar Abu Dhabi
  5. Hashel Al Lamki’s Survey Exhibition Maqam Reflects on a Decade of Practice in Abu Dhabi
  6. “You Can’t Stand on a Movement”: Michelangelo Pistoletto Interviews Benton Interviewing Pistoletto

Winter/Spring 2024

Curators Interview May 14, 2024
AUH Embracing Change through an Open System: Maya Allison and Duygu Demir on “In Real Time” at NYUAD Art Gallery

About ––

    What We Do
    Editorial Board

Interviews ––

    Selected Archive

Open Call ––

    E-08 Seoul

Newsletter ––

Chronological Archive ––

    Selected Archive

Artist Interview November 18th, 2016
AUH Raed Yassin in Abu Dhabi

Editorial March 1st, 2018
AUH Abu Dhabi Is The New Calabasas

Exhibition Listing May 22nd, 2018
DXB Christopher Benton: If We Don't Reclaim Our History, The Sand Will

Artist Interview June 15th, 2018
TYO An Interview with BIEN, a Rising Japanese Artist

Artist Interview July 17th, 2018
TYO Rintaro Fuse on Selfies and Cave Painting

Artist Interview August 28th, 2018
BER Slavs and Tatars: “Pulling a Thread to Undo The Sweater”

Artist Interview September 1st, 2018
NYC Shirin Neshat In Conversation with Sophie Arni and Ev Zverev

Artist Interview September 1st, 2018
PAR Hottest Spices: Michèle Lamy

E-Issue 01 –– AUH/DXB
Summer 2020

August 1st, 2020

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in the UAE
  3. Pop(Corn): Hashel Al Lamki
  4. Tailoring in Abu Dhabi
  5. Rapport: Dubai
  6. Michael Rakowitz From the Diaspora

Fall/Winter 2020-21

Artist Interview August 23rd, 2020
LHR/MCT Hanan Sultan Rhymes Frankincense with Minimalism

Artist Interview August 24th, 2020
DXB Augustine Paredes Taking Up Space

Artist Interview August 26th, 2020
AUH Sarah Almehairi Initiates Conversations

Market Interview August 28th, 2020
AUH/DXB 101 Pioneers Ethical and Curious Art Collecting

Exhibition September 1st, 2020
DXB Alserkal Arts Foundation Presents Mohamed Melehi

Market Interview September 4th, 2020
DXB Meet Tamila Kochkarova Behind ‘No Boys Allowed’

Artist Interview September 7th, 2020
DXB Taaboogah Infuses Comedy Into Khaleeji Menswear

Artist Interview September 10th, 2020
LHR/CAI Alaa Hindia’s Jewelry Revives Egyptian Nostalgia

Curator Interview September 14th, 2020
UAE Tawahadna Introduces MENA Artists to a Global Community

Exhibition Review September 24th, 2020
MIA a_part Gives Artists 36 Hours to React

Artist Interview September 27th, 2020
AUH BAIT 15 Welcomes New Member Zuhoor Al Sayegh

Market Interview October 14th, 2021
DXB Thaely Kicks Off Sustainable Sneakers

Exhibition Review October 19th, 2020
DXB Do You See Me How I See You?

Exhibition October 22nd, 2020
TYO James Jarvis Presents Latest Collages at 3110NZ

Exhibition Review October 22nd, 2020
AUH Ogamdo: Crossing a Cultural Highway between Korea and the UAE

Book Review October 28th, 2020
DAM Investigating the Catalogues of the National Museum of Damascus

Exhibition Review November 13th, 2020
Kanye Says Listen to the Kids: Youth Takeover at Jameel Arts Centre

Exhibition Review November 16th, 2021
DXB Melehi’s Waves Complicate Waving Goodbye

Exhibition Review November 19th, 2020
DXB Spotlight on Dubai Design Week 2020

Exhibition Review November 21st, 2020
DXB 101 Strikes Again with Second Sale at Alserkal Avenue

Exhibition Review
November 23rd, 2020

AUH SEAF Cohort 7 at Warehouse 421

Exhibition Review December 9th, 2020
SHJ Sharjah Art Foundation Jets Ahead on the Flying Saucer

Curator Interview January 25th, 2021
DXB Sa Tahanan Collective Redefines Home for Filipino Artists

Exhibition Review February 21st, 2021
GRV MIA Anywhere Hosts First Virtual Exhibition of Female Chechen Artists  

🎙️GAD Talk Series –– Season 1 2020

November 1st, 2020
1. What is Global Art Daily? 2015 to Now

November 16th, 2020
2. Where is Global Art Daily? An Open Coversation on Migration as Art Practitioners

November 29th, 2020
3. When the Youth Takes Over: Reflecting on the 2020 Jameel Arts Centre Youth Takeover

December 20th, 2020
4. Young Curators in Tokyo: The Making of The 5th Floor

January 27th, 2021
5. How To Create Digital Networks in The Art World?

E-Issue 02 –– NYC
Spring 2021

February 21st, 2021

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in NYC
  3. Pop(Corn): Zeid Jaouni
  4. You Can Take The Girl Out Of The City
  5. Rapport: NYC
  6. Kindergarten Records Discuss The Future of Electronic Music
  7. Sole DXB Brings NY Hip-Hop To Abu Dhabi
  8. Wei Han Finds ‘Home’ In New York
  9. Vikram Divecha: Encounters and Negotiations

Spring/Summer 2021

Exhibition Review March 3rd, 2021
DXB There’s a Hurricane at the Foundry

Exhibition Review March 7th, 2021
AUH Re-viewing Contrasts: Hyphenated Spaces at Warehouse421

Curator Interview March 21st, 2021
DXB Permeability and Regional Nodes: Sohrab Hura on Curating Growing Like a Tree at Ishara Art Foundation

Exhibition March 28th, 2021
DXB Alserkal Art Week Top Picks

Exhibition Review April 1st, 2021
DXB A ‘Menu Poem’ and All That Follows

Exhibition Review April 5th, 2021
DXB A Riot Towards Landscapes

Exhibition April 16th, 2021
RUH Noor Riyadh Shines Light on Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Art Strategy

Artist Interview April 26th, 2021
CTU/AUH/YYZ Sabrina Zhao: Between Abu Dhabi, Sichuan, and Toronto

Exhibition Review April 27th, 2021
TYO BIEN Opens Two Solo Exhibitions in Island Japan and Parcel

Artist Interview April 28th, 2021
DXB Ana Escobar: Objects Revisited

Exhibition May 9th, 2021
LDN Fulfilment Services Ltd. Questions Techno-Capitalism on Billboards in London

Artist Interview May 11th, 2021
BAH Mihrab: Mysticism, Devotion, and Geo-Identity

Curator Interview May 20th, 2021
DXB There Is A You In The Cloud You Can’t Delete: A Review of “Age of You” at Jameel Arts Centre

Market Interview May 26th, 2021
TYO Startbahn, Japan’s Leading Art Blockchain Company, Builds a New Art Infrastructure for the Digital Age

Exhibition June 11th, 2021
TYO “Mimicry of Hollows” Opens at The 5th Floor

Exhibiton Review June 20th, 2021
AUH “Total Landscaping”at Warehouse 421

Artist Interview June 30th, 2021
OSA Rintaro Fuse Curates “Silent Category” at Creative Center Osaka

Exhibition Review August 9th, 2021
DXB “After The Beep”: A Review and Some Reflections

E-Issue 03 ––TYO
Fall 2021

October 1st, 2022

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in TYO
  3. Pop(Corn): Nimyu
  4. Ahmad The Japanese: Bady Dalloul on Japan and Belonging
  5. Rapport: Tokyo
  6. Alexandre Taalba Redefines Virtuality at The 5th Floor
  7. Imagining Distant Ecologies in Hypersonic Tokyo: A Review of “Floating Between the Tropical and Glacial Zones”
  8. Ruba Al-Sweel Curates “Garden of e-arthly Delights” at SUMAC Space
  9. Salwa Mikdadi Reflects on the Opening of NYU Abu Dhabi’s Arab Center for the Study of Art

Fall/Winter 2021-22

Market Interview October 6th, 2021
RUH HH Prince Fahad Al Saud Discusses Saudi Arabia’s Artistic Renaissance

Exhibition October 7th, 2021
RUH Misk Art Institute’s Annual Flagship Exhibition Explores the Universality of Identity

Curator Interview October 15th, 2021
IST “Once Upon a Time Inconceivable”: A Review and a Conversation

Exhibition Review October 16th, 2021
AUH Woman as a Noun, and a Practice: “As We Gaze Upon Her” at Warehouse421

Exhibition Review February 11th, 2022

Artist Interview February 26th, 2022
TYO Akira Takayama on McDonald’s Radio University, Heterotopia, and Wagner Project

Artist Interview March 10th, 2022
DXB Prepare The Ingredients and Let The Rest Flow: Miramar and Zaid’s “Pure Data” Premieres at Satellite for Quoz Arts Fest 2022

Exhibition March 11th, 2022
DXB Must-See Exhibitions in Dubai - Art Week Edition 2022

Exhibition Review March 14th, 2022
DXB Art Dubai Digital, An Alternative Art World?

E-Issue 04 –– IST
Spring 2022

March 15th, 2022

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in IST
  3. Pop(Corn): Refik Anadol
  4. Rapport: Istanbul
  5. Independent Spaces in Istanbul: Sarp Özer on Operating AVTO

Spring/Summer 2022

Curator Interview March 21st, 2022

Market Interview March 28th, 2022
DXB Dubai's Postmodern Architecture: Constructing the Future with 3dr Models

Exhibition April 23rd, 2022
HK Startbahn Presents “Made in Japan 3.0: Defining a New Phy-gital Reality”, an NFT Pop-Up at K11 Art Mall

Exhibition May 6th, 2022
Istanbul’s 5533 Presents Nazlı Khoshkhabar’s “Around and Round”

Artist Interview May 13th, 2022
“We Are Witnessing History”: Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian On Their Retrospective Exhibition at NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

Artist Interview June 13th, 2022
DXB “Geometry is Everywhere”: An Interview and Walking Tour of Order of Magnitude, Jitish Kallat’s Solo Exhibition at Dubai’s Ishara Art Foundation

Exhibition June 21st, 2022
DXB Art Jameel Joins The World Weather Network in a Groundbreaking Response to Global Climate Crisis

Exhibition June 27th, 2022
What’s On in the UAE: Our Top Summer Picks

Curator Interview July 9th, 2022
IST Creating an Artist Books Library in Istanbul: Aslı Özdoyuran on BAS

E-Issue 05 –– VCE
Fall 2022

September 5th, 2022

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in VCE
  3. Pop(Corn): UAE National Pavilion
  4. Rapport: Venice
  5. Zeitgeist of our Time: Füsun Onur for the Turkish Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale
  6. GAD’s Top Picks: National Pavilions
  7. Strangers to the Museum Wall: Kehinde Wiley’s Venice Exhibition Speaks of Violence and Portraiture
  8. Questioning Everyday Life: Alluvium by Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian at OGR Torino in Venice

Fall/Winter 2022-23

Market Interview June 28th, 2022
How Pearl Lam Built Her Gallery Between China and Europe

Exhibition November 11th, 2022
“Atami Blues” Brings Together UAE-Based and Japanese Artists in HOTEL ACAO ANNEX

Exhibition December 2nd, 2022
TYO Wetland Lab Proposes Sustainable Cement Alternative in Tokyo

Artist Interview December 9th, 2022
DXB Navjot Altaf Unpacks Eco-Feminism and Post-Pandemic Reality at Ishara Art Foundation

Artist Interview January 8th, 2023
TYO Shu Yonezawa and the Art of Animation

Artist Interview January 19th, 2023
NYC Reflecting on Her Southwestern Chinese Bai Roots, Peishan Huang Captures Human Traces on Objects and Spaces

Exhibition Review February 9th, 2023
DXB Augustine Paredes Builds His Paradise Home at Gulf Photo Plus

Artist Interview February 22nd, 2023
DXB Persia Beheshti Shares Thoughts on Virtual Worlds and the State of Video Art in Dubai Ahead of Her Screening at Bayt Al Mamzar

E-Issue 06 –– DXB/SHJ
Spring 2023

April 12th, 2023

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in the UAE
  3. Pop(Corn): Jumairy
  4. Rapport: Art Dubai 2023
  5. Highlights from Sharjah Biennial 15
  6. Is Time Just an Illusion? A Review of "Notations on Time" at Ishara Art Foundation
  7. Saif Mhaisen and His Community at Bayt AlMamzar

DXB Christopher Joshua Benton to Debut Mubeen, City as Archive at The Third Line Shop in Collaboration with Global Art Daily

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Embracing Change through an Open System: Maya Allison and Duygu Demir on “In Real Time” at NYUAD Art Gallery

Interview by Insun Woo

Published on May 14, 2024

Standing in an art exhibition, it’s easy to forget that there were real bodies involved in its making. In a space bounded by sleek white walls where objects sit, stand, and hang gracefully, sense of time and context melt away, and visitors are forced to focus on the object that lies before them.

In NYUAD Art Gallery’s latest exhibition, In Real Time, this solitary art-viewing experience gives way to something more embodied and communal, as the show foregrounds time—its passage—and the human body. Declared as “an unfolding exhibition to visit and revisit,” In Real Time has invited artists to perform or install work after the show’s opening in February, as well as visitors to participate in the production of two works.

  1. Installation view: Rana Begum, No.1348 Wall Drawing (detail), 2024. Ink on wall, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and The Third Line, Dubai. Commissioned by the NYUAD Art Gallery. Photo: John Varghese

The presence of others’ bodies is made palpable even before I set foot in the gallery. My walk towards the entrance is accompanied by a wall dotted with hundreds of black thumbprints. It is Rana Begum’s No. 1348 Wall Drawing (2024), inspired by the artist’s experience of providing her thumbprint to authorize the passing of her father’s property following his death in her home country of Bangladesh. The marks hint at the many hands that were at work to create the piece—an aspect echoed in Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing 797 (2024) facing the entrance of the gallery. Half-completed at the time of my visit, its vivid colors imbue the space with a playful energy, which contrasts with the poignant context behind Begum’s work.

This oscillation between opposites is repeated throughout the exhibition. Cristiana de Marchi’s knitted squares—the sizes of which supposedly correspond to that of the smallest prison cell—evoke a sense of suffocation, which is soon replaced by the expansive space generated by Gözde İlkin’s installation. Boundaries between the inside and the outside are blurred, as domestic materials compose a three-dimensional landscape and images of human bodies fused with natural elements abound. Products of weaving hands, the fabric screens and sculptures invite movement. With every step, I become more conscious of my body and surroundings, as my movements are reverberated by the performers in the video works who move with acute bodily awareness.

On the other side, the airy space created over time by Chafa Ghaddar’s Breathing Grounds (2024) and Haleh Redjaian’s The trick is to keep breathing (II) (2024) leads to a section so dense with bright colors and an assemblage of serving vessels, welded iron structures, clay plates that it arouses a sense of claustrophobia at first glance. Constructed by artist trio Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian with several collaborators, the space performs despair, sustenance, and relief all at once. It asks me to linger to pick up a thread and make meaning, and I do.

The aesthetic and thematic heterogeneity is fitting for an exhibition organized to mark the tenth anniversary of NYUAD Art Gallery, which has served multiple functions for the diverse NYUAD community throughout the years. In addition to showcasing art from and outside the Gulf region, it has served as a space for community members to gather and share their work. For arts students, it has often been the first institutional space to gain hands-on art world experience. In my last year at NYUAD alone, the Gallery was where I listened to my friends’ Capstone readings; witnessed the writing of the history of modern art in the Arabian Peninsula through the exhibition, Khaleej Modern; met with a mentor to discuss post-grad life; and spent occasional short breaks between classes in the afternoon.

In Real Time gestures towards such various roles the Gallery has played in the past, as it is meeting the community’s current need for a transmuting space away from class and work to contemplate—which has arisen in response to several conflicts taking place around the world, including the unfolding genocide against Palestinians.

In early April, I sat down with Chief Curator Maya Allison and Curator Duygu Demir, who joined NYUAD Art Gallery in November 2023, to discuss their experience of putting together In Real Time. The two reflected on the pleasant surprises that arose as the show operates as an “open system” that invites many bodies to intermingle and shape what is visible at the space, as well as the role of social media in relation to the exhibition and for NYUAD Art Gallery at large.

Insun Woo: In Real Time “will see works evolve as the show progresses.” This is an interesting premise for an exhibition. Could you further elaborate on how you came to conceive this curatorial framework?

Maya Allison: When I first began thinking about the exhibition, I was imagining one that is mural-based; artists would come into the exhibition space and make work on the wall. As the idea developed, I began to reflect on what it is that I’m responding to with this idea, which then led to the realization that it was that of the physical body in the space. When you see a hand-painted mural, you know that people were there making work. If you get to see or be part of the process yourself, it’s even better. Since people don’t get to have the latter experience very often, I wanted to embed it in the show. That’s where I lost the idea of a finished exhibition that is looked at by visitors. Instead, we conceived an exhibition about the passage of time—about artworks made by people in the past, present, and future. This aspect felt urgent because the news cycle in this region is heavy with reportage on the different conflicts happening right now. I thought that a static exhibition wouldn’t match what our audience—the NYU Abu Dhabi community—needs, which is a space away from class, work, or the dining hall to contemplate.

Duygu Demir: Before I begin, I want to note that my role in this exhibition has been supplementary. This is Maya’s project, and I’m learning to ride with the wave as I’m trying to mark my little place in it. As shared by Maya, the show is about bodily presence—being attuned to and more aware of another body in the same space that breathes, leaves marks, and needs space as much as you do. This aspect sensitizes everybody to somebody else. With the Sol LeWitt drawing, for instance, a participant follows the vibrations of somebody else’s hands. Artists are also much more aware of one another’s work, because the show didn’t just bring together work by artists who were doing their own thing. Nujoom Alghanem made her work having seen Haleh Redjaian’s and the Sol LeWitt drawing. I think seeing the work of other artists in the space. In that way, one of the conceptual aspects of the show affected artistic production—which was a nice outcome.

“I thought that a static exhibition wouldn’t match what our audience—the NYU Abu Dhabi community—needed, which is a space away from class, work, or the dining hall to contemplate.”
– Maya Allison

2. Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing 797 on April 30. The piece is being made by NYUAD community members. Photo: Insun Woo

I.W.: An exhibition that unfolds and morphs over time—it’s a lot of letting go of your power as a curator. Would you say that it led to a new form of anxiety? Or did it remove the stress that usually comes with the “final crunch period” before the opening of an exhibition?

M.A.: The anchor pieces were in place at the time of the opening and then more work was generated to add to those existing works. So, producing the exhibition didn’t differ dramatically from usual practice—we still had label deadlines and we still had to deliver something to look at. It was more that the show had a little room to breathe and change after the opening. Apart from this, I’ve also done a lot of commissioning work, which I take a lot of joy in. So the uncertainty embedded in the exhibition wasn’t too anxiety-inducing.

D.D.: I worked with Gözde around two years ago on a similar project. The exhibition involved a choreographer; a sound artist and musicians; and four dancers and took shape through mutually responsive making—as the dancers rehearsed and figured out how they were responding to the work, the work also responded to the dancers by changing its form. For example, if the dancers needed something to be bigger, the size of the sculpture would change to meet this need. Having had this experience with Gözde in which we had no idea during the production process what the exhibition was going to look like at the end, I was more relaxed about letting go and having less control over the outcome of our project in In Real Time. It’s been about making space for unexpected things and accommodating unanticipated bodies because things turn out differently than you plan anyway.

3. Installation view: Gözde İlkin, Entrusted Ground, 2022-ongoing. Dyed and stitched fabrics, fiber filling, stones, twigs, video, 3-channel sound, performance, dimensions variable. Photo: John Varghese

“The show is about bodily presence—being attuned to and more aware of another body in the same space that breathes, leaves marks, and needs space as much as you do.”
— Duygu Demir

I.W.: It almost feels as though you’ve created a temporary collective artist studio. Have artists expressed their reactions to this approach?

M.A.: I think it’s more something we’re observing; I’m not sure how much it’s intentional. For example, when Haleh—who does these extraordinary delicate geometric thread installations that bounce off the walls and spill onto the floors—installed her work, it was the only one in that space. When she came back two weeks later, other works had been installed, so she could think about how her work responds to those. She looked at Chafa Ghaddar’s fresco mural right next to her work. She might have gone further into Chafa’s space if she felt like there was a connection. Instead, she decided to keep her work to the outer edge, facing the mural. Chafa in turn used these big bold brush strokes, which is not how she always works. My sense is that she was creating a distinct contrast with Haleh’s delicate thread installation. Similarly, Nujoom’s piece has nails and yarn that draw lines between the walls of this hallway-like space in the gallery. You would think that that would be like Haleh’s thread installation. But then when Nujoom saw Haleh’s work, I think she wanted hers to be much bigger to achieve a different visual impact. So, it’s more that if you know the artists’ practice and see what they are doing in the exhibition space in response to others’ works, you can see the influences that are happening.

D.D: I think that’s also what happened with Gözde and other artists. When she and I were installing, Chafa was doing her fresco, and I’m pretty sure Gözde’s imagery affected Chafa’s consciousness. Similarly, Ramin, Rokni, and Hesam, who were installing in the other rooms, would come and look at what we were doing and we would go look at what they were doing.

“If you know the artists’ practice and see what they are doing in the exhibition space in response to others’ works, you can see the influences that are happening.”
— Maya Allison

4. Installation view: Haleh Redjaian, The trick is to keep breathing (II), 2024. Thread, nails, walls, floor, dimensions variable. Commissioned by the NYUAD Art Gallery. Photo: John Varghese 5. Installation view: Chafa Ghaddar, Breathing Grounds, 2024. Fresco on wall, dimensions variable. Commissioned by the NYUAD Art Gallery. Photo: John Varghese
4. Installation view: Haleh Redjaian, The trick is to keep breathing (II), 2024. Thread, nails, walls, floor, dimensions variable. Commissioned by the NYUAD Art Gallery. Photo: John Varghese

4. Installation view: Haleh Redjaian, The trick is to keep breathing (II), 2024. Thread, nails, walls, floor, dimensions variable. Commissioned by the NYUAD Art Gallery. Photo: John Varghese 5. Installation view: Chafa Ghaddar, Breathing Grounds, 2024. Fresco on wall, dimensions variable. Commissioned by the NYUAD Art Gallery. Photo: John Varghese
5. Installation view: Chafa Ghaddar, Breathing Grounds, 2024. Fresco on wall, dimensions variable. Commissioned by the NYUAD Art Gallery. Photo: John Varghese

I.W.: The artists in this show come from different regions and generations, and their practices are varied as well. The inclusion of Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing 797 came across as a surprise. I’d like to hear more about how you went about selecting the artists.

M.A.: That’s a great question. Typically, I wouldn’t think of Sol LeWitt since he is from another generation. But Wall Drawing 797 made sense for this exhibition because of its mural aspect. LeWitt is well-known for his rethinking of wall painting, the history of which stretches back thousands of years to cave paintings. Contemporary artists who engage in mural-making will be compared to him in many ways. I was interested in creating a conceptual mirroring between some works in the exhibition, like Chafa’s fresco work, with LeWitt’s. Another fascinating example is Rana’s No. 1348 Wall Drawing (2024). She has instructed performers exactly where to put their thumbprints on the wall. It could be said that she is using a language related to LeWitt’s, but the narrative behind the work is wholly different—it’s about the death of her father and how official documents are signed using thumbprints in Bangladesh.

On the other hand, Wall Drawing 797 speaks to the other conceptual aspect of the show—bringing the community into the space to get them off of their screens and make them engage in art with their bodies. Normally, a special certified Sol LeWitt estate supervisor needs to come in to ensure that specific details are followed in the execution of a work. Being able to draw a line is a really big deal. But anyone can participate in this particular piece. That’s why the piece is in the lobby and not in any of the main galleries. It sets that tone of participation. There’s something primal, something instinctive in that particular combination of body, space, and wall mark, and seeing this happen in the gallery is profoundly satisfying to me as a curator.

D.D.: “Drawing” is another apsect that ties together the works of the artists in the show. Haleh’s strings through three dimensional space is a kind of drawing. So is Gözde’s embroidery work. Ramin, Rokni, and Hesam wear these contraptions on their bodies to mimic immobility and draw on the floor. It’s about bodily movement and leaving traces—which is what drawing is about. In that way, even though aesthetically the works might look completely different, they are very similar.

“There’s something primal, something instinctive in that particular combination of body, space, and wall mark, and seeing this happen in the gallery is profoundly satisfying to me as a curator.”
— Maya Allison

I.W.: I noticed how letters appear repeatedly throughout the exhibition. There are letters of intent—as stated by the curatorial text (which is also titled as a letter of intent)—and there are different kinds of letters like the one by “the baker” in Moza Almatrooshi’s The Alphabetics of the Baker (ongoing) and an essay on biryani in the installation by Ramin, Rokni, and Hesam that is akin to a letter due to its personal tone. Could you elaborate more on why it felt important to include words by artists in the letter format?

M.A.: The letter format does two things. First, the letters of intent situate the text as a moment in time: intent is about the future. This acknowledgment of being from a moment in time relinquishes some of the authority usually implied by exhibition wall texts. Even in our ad campaign, I’m using that language, “this advertisement marks a moment in time…”  Second, my hope is that it heightens our experience of “I” and “you,” between the visitor and the person who was there, or who will be there—much like correspondence used to do. To experience the thoughts of the curators and artists in their letters is quite different from the usual language of curatorial wall text, and also different from our common mode on social media. How often do we get to read a letter from an artist?

“How often do we get to read a letter from an artist?”
—Maya Allison

6. Letter by “The Baker” from Moza Almatrooshi’s The Alphabetics of the Baker, ongoing. Performance, bread, paper, pen. Photo: Insun Woo

I.W.: Duygu—as you’ve said earlier, you’re working with Gözde on Entrusted Ground (2022-ongoing) for this exhibition. It’s her first time showing in the UAE. Why Gözde for this exhibition? Is there anything else that you’d like to elaborate on?

D.D.: It was almost intuitive; I thought about her instantly when Maya articulated her ideas about a show that would change over time, since this is also what happens in Gözde’s installation. I’m now realizing that one of the reasons I thought of her is that she is open to ideas and integrating other disciplines such as sound and movement. Some artists are very adamant about their vision and don’t consider a symbiotic relationship with the curator, while some artists are open to this kind of relationship. In Real Time is an exhibition that requires this latter kind of approach.

It’s interesting to see how that became a common thread in some of the artists in the show like Ramin, Rokni, and Hesam, who worked with dancers Julie Becton Gillum and Kiori Kawai and a metalsmith who made pedestals for their play. Nujoom has done that too by inviting someone else to sing a poem that she wrote and integrating the resulting sound piece in her installation. The artists have given away some of the power to decide how their work would turn out. I’d say that we were interested in artists who are interested in other artists and inviting them in. It’s about having this kind of open system whose blurry boundaries allow for the mingling of various ideas and practices.

“I’d say that we were interested in artists who are interested in other artists and inviting them in. It’s about having this kind of open system whose blurry boundaries allow for the mingling of various ideas and practices.”
— Duygu Demir

M.A.: I like that way of talking about In Real Time as an open system. In this open system, the audience and curators become one of the artists whether they realize it or not because they have the opportunity to shape both the aesthetics and experience of the exhibition.

It might be that I was inspired subconsciously—a couple of years ago, I did a solo show with Ramin, Rokni, and Hesam. I wouldn’t show an artist twice within a short span of time, but because their work is all about the mark of the body in a space, I thought that it wouldn’t make sense to do this show without them. Their artistic practice centers on inviting people in and letting them shape the work, and I’m beginning to realize that my curatorial practice for this show in many ways parallels theirs.

I.W.: I’d like to hear more about aspects related to the show, like the guided tours. Did the exhibition concept influence the way they are done?

M.A.: The tour for this show has unexpectedly taken on a new layer. Usually, the exhibition tour changes over time as I respond to what I learn from the audience who voice out their perspectives on what they see. But the tour for this show has almost become like a healing journey in which I function like a yoga instructor. I start the tour with Cristiana de Marchi’s works, The Echo of the Void (2021) and Black Square (2022). One is a two-by-two white knitted square on the wall, and the other is a 98-by-98-centimeter black knitted square on the floor. Governmental records say that the former is the size of the smallest prison cell, while non-governmental records say that the latter is the smallest. I invite the audience to come stand near the work and physically comprehend how small 98-by-98 centimeters is by their own bodies. This can be painful. And then I make note of how the space around us might now feel huge. It's a powerful moment, but instructive: it is possible to not turn away from the suffering in the world, and feel appreciation of the moment we are in, simultaneously. It almost serves as a somatic exercise that invites the audience to be fully present in the space.

7. Installation view: Cristiana de Marchi, The Echo of the Void | Lettere dal Carcere, 2021 (left), Black Square, 2022 (right). Hand-knitted wool stretched on board, dimensions variable. Photo: John Varghese

I.W.: Instagram is the main channel through which you’ve been announcing what is happening at the exhibition every week. Would you say that this show has changed the way you engage social media? In addition, reflecting on the past decade, how has NYUAD Art Gallery’s relationship with social media changed?

M.A.: Our use of social media has changed a lot partly due to practical reasons like staff availability to work on it, but more importantly, because Instagram is the main channel through which people in the UAE learn about what’s happening around the region. I remember having a hard time trying to figure out what was happening when I moved here because I wasn’t used to relying on Instagram for information. It took a while for us to recognize it as an integral part of NYUAD Art Gallery’s identity. Our Instagram account began as a platform where I posted occasionally about our exhibitions, and it was developed into a more significant platform thanks to a staff member who was eager to build it as a channel for communication. We will experiment more with social media in the next year. We’re thinking of opening a TikTok account soon.

Having said this, I also feel uncomfortable about engaging Instagram as the main means to reach our audience, because it has become a place where we “doom scroll,” which impacts our mental health, especially because of the images of various conflicts across the region that are circulating right now. I want In Real Time to serve as a tonic that gets visitors off their phones and wash away the screen-based living. In Nujoom’s performance, the audience was invited to read part of her poetry, and a lot more people put their phones down than I’d expected. Many showed great enthusiasm at the chance to add to the yarn installation after the performance.

D.D.: We’re trying to share content that is different than what is available on the website. The PR agency that we work with has come in to do interviews with the artists when they were installing their work. If you’re following us on Instagram, you might get extra behind-the-scenes information that you wouldn’t get by checking the website or coming to the exhibition only. But the other way is also true—we’re using social media to tell the audience that it’s important to be physically present at the gallery. Maybe we’re instilling a bit of FOMO to say that you’re just getting a taste of what is happening at the venue.

“I want In Real Time to serve as a tonic that gets visitors off their phones and wash away the screen-based living.”
— Maya Allison

8. Installation view: Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, Hesam Rahmanian, Julie Becton Gillum, Kiori Kawai, Pirouz Taji, Mohammed Rahis Mollah, Bhakta Gaha, Take a poiesis capsule with a glass of shadow on an empty stomach, 2024. Installation: floor painted with Dastgāh performance, video derived from that performance, assemblage of serving vessels, welded iron structures, clay plates, dimensions variable. Commissioned by the NYUAD Art Gallery. Photo: John Varghese

I.W.: It sounds like the exhibition served as a ground for experimentation for the artists and curators, and as a space of joy for audiences where they may come in, put their phones down, and create.

D.D.: I’d say it’s not only joyful; it’s a place to feel all the feelings. Nujoom’s poetry brings you to the verge of tears because it’s about a friend of hers who passed away living in exile without many friends. The show is colorful and beautiful but also deeply poignant at the same time. Visitors are asked to process these contradictory feelings at once. News cycles flatten lived experiences of political conflicts to a singular narrative that is often only about suffering. These experiences indeed are painful, but it’s also true that they are punctuated with moments of laughter and solidarity. It’s a very human thing for paradoxical feelings to coexist.

“News cycles flatten lived experiences of political conflicts to a singular narrative that is often only about suffering. These experiences indeed are painful, but it’s also true that they are punctuated with moments of laughter and solidarity.”
— Duygu Demir

M.A.: An intense performance by a Butoh dancer took place on the opening night. There was a point when the dancer was biting clay and putting it in her ears and eyes. It was difficult to watch because it looks so much like the kinds of suffering that are happening in many parts of the world today. The video version of it is playing in that space, and a lot of people have found it disturbing. But giving space to feel grief opens up the possibility for joy. So, yes, the show is joyful but it also holds intensely dark moments that are necessary. I’m not used to talking so much about emotions in my curatorial practice, so making this show has been a new experience for me as well, and I’m glad that it happened.

In Real Time is on view at NYUAD Art Gallery until June 9, 2024. Exhibiting artists include Moza Almatrooshi, as well as the artist trio Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian with Julie Becton Gillum and Kiori Kawai.

Maya Allison is founding Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Art Galleries at New York University Abu Dhabi. She has edited and authored a number of books related to her curatorial work, including the first monographs on Syrian-American sculptor Diana Al-Hadid, and Swiss installation artist Zimoun, as well as a series of studies of the UAE’s art history, starting with But We Cannot See Them: Tracing a UAE Art Community, 1998-2008 and Artists and the Cultural Foundation: The Early Years. Her most recent book, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset was published on the occasion of the Venice Biennale 2022, for which she was curator of the UAE Pavilion. Before relocating to the UAE in 2012, she held curatorial posts in the university museums at Brown and RISD, and directed an annual city-wide exhibition of new media art in Providence, Rhode Island.

Duygu Demir is the Curator at NYUAD Art Gallery and Research Assistant Professor at NYUAD Humanities Division. Originally from Türkiye, she was a founding member of SALT, a research-based cultural institution in Istanbul. She earned her PhD from MIT, with funding from both MIT and Harvard University. Prior to joining NYUAD, Demir was Assistant Professor of Art History at Sabancı University.

Insun Woo is a writer and researcher with a Bachelor’s degree in Art History from NYU Abu Dhabi. Her life experience of growing up in cities across the world—from London, Sofia, Seoul, Moscow, and Osaka to Abu Dhabi, New York, and Istanbul—as an East Asian woman informs her present-day interest in contemporary art that explores urban culture and history, memory studies, feminist thought, and the history of modern Korea. Currently an editor at Global Art Daily, Insun has previously managed a professional enrichment program for arts students at NYUAD Career Development Center; created a project related to “comfort women” survivors as part of the Guggenheim Museum’s Summer College Workshop; and contributed to Canvas Magazine, Fiker Institute, and Guggenheim Blog.