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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Pop(Corn): Jumairy

By Sophie Mayuko Arni

Published on April 12th, 2023  

        I first met Jumairy last year in a fitting place, at Jaow Café, off of Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Road. On a rooftop of this two-story villa converted into a cafe, Jumairy pointed out the different establishments and houses of his home neighborhood. Did you know Jumeirah’s white-sand beach used to start at Jumeirah Beach Road? One fact I learned amongst many other anecdotes from the era before the iconic Burj Al Arab and the Palm Jumeirah made this beachfront a global symbol for opulent luxury.

Jumairy, a Dubai-born and Jumeirah-based artist has seen his neighborhood, and by extension, his city, grow in front of his eyes. A multihyphenate artist, with an anonymous name which he plays on, Jumairy’s most famous work is arguably A Comma, in Arabic, which he premiered for Speculative Landscapes, a group exhibition curated by Maya Allison at NYUAD Art Gallery in 2019. Filling a white cube with pink sand, and intricate pink ceiling lighting, the installation made waves and was a turning point for Jumairy’s career, as you’ll read in the following interview.

March 2023 marks the 10th anniversary of Jumairy’s first exhibition in Dubai. After a decade, it was time for the artist to reflect on his journey so far and the three chapters of his ongoing practice, walking us through the highs and the lows, and his views on his city’s ever-changing art scene. On a late-night Dubai-Tokyo Zoom call, energies were high. It was a Full Moon night, Saturn was moving from Aquarius to Pisces – and as Jumairy pointed out, it is also the eve of Hag El Leila.

Someone said to me before “If we can’t make work that’s better than Dubai, then maybe we shouldn’t make it,” and it’s exactly that for me.

- Jumairy

Cover image: Jumairy Avatar, courtesy of the artist. 

Sophie Mayuko Arni: Finally, a sit-down interview. I’m very excited about where this conversation will lead us. Let’s delve right into it. We just came out of Dubai’s annual art week, and I want to reflect on a decade of your practice. Let’s take it back to March 2013. Could you share with us the beginnings of your practice and career as Jumairy, the artist? 

Jumairy: My first exhibition in Dubai was at Sikka Art Fair in 2013. I showed a series of framed photographs, depicting living ants on them. The series was titled “Uncertain Past, Uncertain Future”.

1. Jumairy, Uncertain Past, Uncertain Future, 2013. Digital prints on canvas and mixed media. Commissioned by SIKKA Art Fair. Courtesy of the artist.

Growing up, art was not something I thought of pursuing, I always wanted to be a musician, a pop star. To be honest – I jumped into art as an escape. I needed to do something of my own, outside of university. I was dealing with a bit of a hard time during that period, given my father’s illness and family-related challenges. I was in between majors because there weren’t enough students interested in studying my first choice – Renewable Energy. I even wanted to take art as an elective but I wasn’t able to for the same reason. Visual Arts, Art History, Fine Art were all niche majors, especially in an all-male university.

To be honest – I jumped into art as an escape.

I thought – I’ll pursue art practice on my own. I got an internship at Art Dubai in 2012, and while I was working there, I showed my work to a colleague, who was managing Sikka Art Fair at the time. They were portraits, mostly photography, a medium I was exploring at the time. She asked me – why don’t you apply to Sikka? I didn’t know at first if my work would be accepted, if they were good enough to be exhibited. But she asked me “what’s the worse that could happen?” which made me realize I had nothing to lose. I applied the following year, got in, and just kept the ball rolling after that.

S.M.A.: So in those early days, you entered into the world of contemporary art even though your first love is music.

J.: I was an angsty teenager and was part of a band with three friends called “The Stoned Project”. I was the bass player and backup singer, and we would mostly write hard rock-inspired songs, on top of covering our favorite songs.

I still produce songs and work on music every day. Writing songs is something that fundamentally brings me joy, to this day. Music is my real happy place. There is no real expectations when it comes to the music, both internally or externally. I’m able to have fun, experiment with beats, melodies, vocals, samples. There is absolutely no judgment.

Over the years, art has become a career for me. There’s a shift in energy that happens when something you love becomes a career. Not necessarily a negative shift, but it’s like you owe it to yourself to become successful at it. In that way, being a contemporary artist, in all the subtleties this title entails, became a mission, a job for me.

There’s a shift in energy that happens when something you love becomes a career. Not necessarily a negative shift, but it’s like you owe it to yourself to become successful at it.

2. Jumairy on stage, courtesy of the artist.

S.A.: As we’ll get into it later, your work deals with creating a fanbase around the myth of “Jumairy”. ‘Who is Jumairy? What is Jumairy?’ are questions you often hear, I’m sure. I was wondering where this fascination with celebrity culture and fandom came from. Which pop star has left the biggest impact on you growing up? I know you have a special admiration for pop icons such as Beyonce and Britney Spears. 

J.: 100%, I’m completely inspired by pop culture. Some of my favorites stars are Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, PINK, and of course the queen Madonna. These businesswomen were the early masters at creating their own brand and making it work in the creative industry. I’m very inspired by how they found characters, amplified them, and made them into real-life personas. Not unlike Jumairy’s “celebrity-making process.”

I was intrigued by pop music ever since stumbling across a Top of the Pops magazine in my aunt’s room, I remember Spice Girls being on the cover. I just really loved how out of the world and fantastical everything looked.

Linking it back to my art practice, I incorporate these influences into my work, from my performances to a project I made dedicated to Cardi B. I even had a specific loop from Beyonce’s Formation playing on repeat during my first solo exhibition, welcoming visitors into the world of Jumairy.

3. Jumairy on stage, courtesy of the artist.

I’m very inspired by how [pop stars] found characters, amplified them, and made them into real-life personas. Not unlike Jumairy’s “celebrity-making process.”

S.M.A.: I think I once listened to one of your EPs on Apple Music. A mix of electro beats, techno, and some noise music too, with pop melodies and interesting high-pitch vocals. How would you define the music you produce?

J.: You got it, it’s a blender of all my influence, from pop music as we mentioned earlier to punk rock to electronic experimental music.

I think the idea of producing my own records became clearer to me in Germany [2010/2011] while I was there for my father’s medical treatment, I had a lot of time on my hand so all I did was buy albums from the supermarket, research songwriters and music producers and of course listened to music non-stop. I would listen to some songs over and over again. I used to analyze the song’s structure and lyrics and would dream of different ways to make them sound better. Through experimentation, I figured out different ways to create sounds that make sense to my taste. I think I made over 100 songs during that 6 months period.

4. Jumairy, S⋀mss0ng - Single EP, 2016. Screenshot from Apple Music.

It’s funny that you mentioned the high-pitched vocals. female-led rock bands are my favorite type of rock music. I really love the contrast that happens between the heavy guitars and female vocals.

For me I see my first album as somewhere between the Spice Girls, Bjork and Marilyn Manson – I was actually listening to some of his music last night, a song called “The Nobodies” – that’s one of my favorite songs of his.

I think that if you view all of my influences through the lens of Anasheed (Islamic religious music) and Khaleeji love songs, you’ll start to understand the drama and the repetition in the way I build these soundscapes.

5. Jumairy, Ab Ovo, 2014. Charcoal on canvas, self-portrait of the artist, dead ants. Commissioned by SIKKA Art Fair. Courtesy of the artist.

The Early Works

S.M.A.: Does this love for music explain your tendency to explore more ephemeral, performance-based work? Could you tell the readers how and when you knew you wanted to pursue a practice in performance and installation art, instead of more traditional fine art media?

J.: I started as a painter actually. You know, I tell myself sometimes that I’d like to go back to painting, take a year to just paint non stop, just to see how it feels again.

I stopped painting because I felt the need to extend myself beyond the canvas. I personally felt that the canvas is limiting. I wanted to go beyond what the wooden frame allowed. That’s how I first started video and performance-based work. I then realized I would rather have other people perform in the spaces I create rather than performing myself, and that’s how I started to slowly build these installations in my work. I guess that’s me in a nutshell: A performance artist, who builds experiences.

I guess that’s me in a nutshell: A performance artist, who builds experiences.

S.M.A.: That’s a good segway into anonymity. Does remaining anonymous help with experimentation? Does it help take the pressure off?

J.: Jumairy exists in a grey zone. I’ve said previously in an interview: “My voice is neither eastern or western, it’s not black nor white; it’s not masculine nor feminine. My voice is not identarian”.

I think that concept mirrors the world we live in. It also mirrors the city we live in. We’re very lucky in Dubai to be welcoming of all backgrounds, all ethnicities. Growing up here means you adapt to [Dubai] all the time, rather than it adapting to you. You can’t exist with a fixed, static identity or mindset in the UAE. You have to continuously grow and work with the other, whatever the other is to you.

You can’t exist with a fixed, static identity or mindset in the UAE. You have to continuously grow and work with the other, whatever the other is to you.

6. Jumairy, Left., 2015. Chalk on paper, 29 pieces of paper. Courtesy of the artist.

S.M.A.: Everyone knows you, but no one really knows you. Is that part of the Jumairy mission? What’s Jumairy’s mission?

J.: I think I was very aware early on in my career of how privileged and lucky we are as artists in this region, more specifically as an Emirati artist in the region.

You get a lot of opportunities and a lot of exposure because of how small the community is, but also because of the great support systems we have. For me, I took it as a challenge, I wanted to see if my work can stand strong without a face attached to it, without an identity.

I didn’t want my artwork to be representative of anyone, including myself. I can change who “Jumairy” is and who “Jumairy” stands for, and there is a sense of freedom in this. It’s like creating an avatar. The options are limitless.

I’m aware I miss some opportunities when it comes to participating in exhibitions and attracting press because I chose to remain anonymous. But I made peace with that. If you don’t respect my boundaries, I would happily withdraw from your space, your publication or your exhibition.

I can change who “Jumairy” is and who “Jumairy” stands for, and there is a sense of freedom in this. It’s like creating an avatar. 

7. Jumairy, A Comma, in Arabic, 2019. Installation; sand, custom program, sound. Installation view at Speculative Landscape, curated by Maya Allison, NYUAD Art Gallery, 2019. Photo courtesy of NYUAD Art Gallery.

Coming of Age: The Pink era, BRZ5

S.M.A.: I think a lot of us in the UAE art world really came to know your work through A Comma, in Arabic – the pink desert room at Speculative Landscapes, a group exhibition curated by Maya Allison at NYUAD Art Gallery. I’m curious about your relationship to pink, specifically to fuschia pink. When did you first start using pink?

J.: Back in the Myspace days, I was playing around with the contrast in my selfies. The majority of my selfies were in black and white, and I loved adding a pop of color, whether it was neon blue or neon green. For me, though, pink was always the most fun color to play with.

This mirrored my artistic journey, I used to paint a lot of black and white portraits, charcoal was my favorite material to use. It was a very comfortable space for me to play in.

But when I started to use color, I felt like I had more power. Dividing my practice into colors wasn’t a conscious choice – until I started to look back, and I realized that different gestures belonged to different categories, and those categories were colors just like a karma chameleon – red, gold and green. [Jumairy giggles.]

To answer your question, I started working consciously with pink in 2014 or 2015. I was making videos and publishing them online – you can trace them back to that time. I had a purple desert first, and then it turned into a pink desert.

My use of pink is linked to a body of work entitled BRZ5, which deals with heavy topics such as death and remembrance, I thought pink would be a suitable color to deal with such traumatic events. Pink is considered to be a happy color, it’s the color of kids’ toys, and barbies, but pink – to me – always had a sinister feel to it.

Pink is considered to be a happy color, it’s the color of kids’ toys, and barbies, but pink – to me – always had a sinister feel to it.

8. Still from Jumairy, SM in BRZ5, 2016. Video, 29’25’’. Courtesy of the artist.

S.M.A.: Let’s expand on that a little further. 

J.: Pink is a very soft, pleasing color, until it’s not. If you amp it up towards fuschia, it becomes aggressive and painful to the eye. That’s what I liked about it: it’s a fun, attractive color that encapsulates both positive and negative emotions.

There was a scientist in the late 60s-early 70s who was studying humans reaction to different colors and found out that a specific shade of pink –I believe it was called Baker-Miller pink – had a calming effect on people, so they started painting prison cells this specific color.

The calming effects worked for a short while until prisoners started to get irrationally aggressive and angry. That’s when they realized that the color only worked short-term, it’s long-term effects were not as ideal.

9. BRZ5 Exhibition Poster, 2016. Poster by ©Tulip Hazbar & ©Jumairy. Courtesy of the artist.

S.M.A.: Let’s talk about BRZ5. It was the title of your solo exhibition in Milan in 2016.

J.: It was great. It was my first solo exhibition and I felt all grown-up. I got a lot of publicity from that exhibition: iD, Vogue, and other big-name publications wrote about it. But I was taken aback when I realized no one in Dubai knew what I was doing in Milan.

I think when it comes to BRZ5, visitors understood it was about death. We had interactive elements in the exhibition, a floating casket, with a the body of SM in it [Jumairy’s broken Samsung phone]. It was a funeral for a phone. With sound and video, flashlights lighting up the hallways. With such a heavy subject I think the curators [Francesco Urbano Ragazzi] and I really wanted it to feel like an adventure/a fun maze, rather than something macabre and sinister.

10. Jumairy, القهوة صب Pour the coffee, 2016. Performance, Coffee, Coffee Pot, Customised Coffee Cups. Commissioned by: Francesco Urbano Ragazzi for FAREarte. Courtesy of the artist.

That’s exactly what I feel the whole BRZ5 series was set to do, leading up to A Comma, in Arabic – I wanted to create a fun space that explores heavy themes.

S.M.A.: The original meaning of Barzakh (Arabic: برزخ) is probably the most poignant definition of “liminal space”: a recurring concept with video artists. 

J.: In Arabic, barzakh is equal to a purgatory. It’s the space in between life and judgement day. it’s where the body rests, awaiting to meet its creator.

The first time you lose someone you love you lose with them the sense that everything lasts forever. You suddenly become aware of the ephemerality of existence. My biggest regrets in life revolve around death, I regret missing my friend Saeed's call the day he had his car accident [he passed away from that car accident] and I wish I had visited my aunt more often before she left us.

I was lucky enough to hang around some of my idols like Hasan Sharif when I was starting out. Not a lot of artists from my generation had the chance to spend time with him, and because of my crazy anonymous rules, I didn’t think to take any photos with him. I always giggle when I remember the time I made him listen to my song Aconite. I think that’s why I still really love that song.

S.M.A.: Then emerged A Comma, in Arabic. Could you expand on the process behind installing it at NYUAD Art Gallery?

J.: When I started my conversation with Maya Allison, we instantly knew we wanted to continue where I started with the BRZ5 show and continue building that world.

Initially there were some other ideas, like playing with this AI character I created called SM [the dead phone in the casket], or maybe work on robotics. However, I was on the phone with Maya one day and had this moment of realization - when I thought ‘Maybe I need to bring the whole space to life, not bring SM to life’.

We had multiple conversations after that, I really enjoy working with a curator and working out ideas together. We did a lot of research, even when it came to the smallest grain of sand. We looked at the texture, and the different techniques of dying the sand.

There are also other sound and light elements to A Comma, in Arabic that make it a more immersive experience than just a sand room. I wanted audiences to feel like they were in a glitched-up computer: what it feel like for a space to hold your memories and nightmares together.

I designed the space to record people’s conversations and produced glitchy sounds when they moved. The sound increased when people were there. Execution-wise, it was very detailed. For the light, I wanted a pink hue to light up only the sealing, a sliver of a pink LED – not total LED lights. That would ruin the fantasy.

I wanted people to look up and see the color pink. We made it happen at the end, without showing the light source. When you work with great collaborators you always end up with the greatest work. That’s what working with the NYUAD Art Gallery team was like: they raised the bar so high.

11. Jumairy, A Comma, in Arabic, 2019. Installation; sand, custom program, sound. Installation view at Speculative Landscapes, NYUAD Art Gallery, 2019. Commissioned by: Maya Allison. Photo courtesy of NYUAD Art Gallery.

S.M.A.: How did that installation impact your career?

J.: A Comma, in Arabic 100% had an impact on my career. Until today people look back to it, and they either want me to replicate it, or want to replicate it for themselves.

I understand why A Comma, in Arabic garners this much attention. It’s striking. But I fail to understand why you would not just approach me to execute it.

Just last week I was talking to a prominent curator, who was in Jeddah for a visit. “We walked into the space, and they had a pink carpet, and we all thought of you,” he told me. “Why, it’s a carpet?”, I asked. “Jumairy It doesn’t matter. You subconsciously left something in people’s minds, whenever we see pink floors, we think of you.”

Maturing into The Mission

12. Jumairy, Album Photoshoot, Image courtesy of the artist. 

S.M.A.: We now turn into phase 3 of the Jumairy’s portfolio, entitled “The Mission”. The theme color is a vibrant red. From my understanding, this current stage of your practice deals with fame and creating a myth-like figure out of Jumairy.

J.: Yes, The Mission is playing up the fantasy of the pop star/rock star. The works – ranging from performance to installation – centers around the question of what would an obsessed fan of Britney Spears/Jumairy do.

It all started when I subscribed to the Scientology newsletter. I was getting monthly newsletters in my email, and was fascinated by how this whole religion could emerge out of a science-fiction book and exist with a cult-like following.

I got increasingly interested in ideologies. I wanted to tackle the topic of religious communities such as the Rajneesh movement or People Temple movement, and how that applies to our generation of social media influencers, makeup gurus and pop icons obsession.

I wanted to study and emulate or create performances that are inspired by the cross road of these two worlds.

S.M.A.: As part of The Mission, you had two performances at art fairs, one at Abu Dhabi Art and the other at Art Dubai.

J.: The first was at Abu Dhabi Art, entitled ‘The Mission’ in 2017. With a group of hired performers, the idea was to push the audience to unknowingly convert into becoming Jumairy fans by chanting a hymn I’ve written inspired by the titles of the songs from my first album. The second, ‘The Mission: Jumairy Loves You’ was held at Art Dubai in 2019. It was a continuation of the first performance where now you see the fan base performing what looks like a pilgrimage towards Jumairy’s golden record plaque while violently chanting a message of love.

13. Jumairy, The Mission, 2017. Performance, “Prayer”, CD. Commissioned by Cristiana De Marchi & Mohammed Kazem for Abu Dhabi Art: Beyond Emerging. Courtesy of the artist.

14. Jumairy, 9,400,145+, 2018. Gold Plaque, Website, Password. Commissioned by Cristiana De Marchi & Mohammed Kazem for Abu Dhabi Art: Beyond Emerging.

15. Jumairy, The Mission: Jumairy Loves You, 2019. Performance. Commissioned by Munira Al Sayegh for Art Dubai Projects. Photo courtesy of Photo Solutions.

Here’s a funny thing that happened during the Jumairy Loves You performance – in the last few days of the fair, the performers called me. They were told they couldn’t perform anymore. We had agreed on the performance with Art Dubai, we were going to run it for 3-4 days, and it was happening continuously through the days.

We spoke with the managers at Art Dubai, who were also confused as to who was stopping the performance. We decided to follow the performers, in order to see who is stopping them.

As they are walking into the Mina A'Salam valet area, we heard screams from the hotel security, who told them not to do this there. I walked up to them with the Art Dubai management, told them we had already agreed on this performance, that this was part of the art fair, and that the hotel had already been informed about it. They told us that we’re scaring away the hotel guests, that they didn’t want to come into the hotel anymore.

But we really had a huge crowd following us, and they were all headed into the hotel. Finally, the hotel managers screamed the real reason behind their dislike of the performance: “They’re not even saying it right! It’s NOT Jumairy! It’s Jumeirah [name of the hotel chain]!”

16. Jumairy, The Mission: Jumairy Loves You, 2019. Performance. Commissioned by Munira Al Sayegh for Art Dubai Projects. Photo courtesy of Photo Solutions.

S.M.A.: That’s so Dubai. You also exhibited The Mission: Hala Walla!!! in Abu Dhabi, at Manarat Al Saadiyat last year.

J.: ‘The Mission: Hala Walla!!!’ is a multimedia sound installation, involving a large red Nissan Patrol car – the most typical car you will see driving down Jumeirah Beach Road. I wanted to expand on the idea of obsession and fame: what if objects, not humans, are now obsessed with Jumairy?

17. Jumairy, The Mission: Hala Walla!!!, 2021. Sound Installation. Commissioned by Munira Al Sayegh & Dirwaza for Manarat Al Saadiyat. Courtesy of the artist.

For this installation, we programmed the car to seduce and flirt with the audience with pick-up lines, not unlike the driving culture on Jumeirah road. The longer the conversation went on, the more the car would throw Jumairy’s name in sentences, with the aim to recruit the person it’s speaking to into the cult of Jumairy.

Looking back, the first iteration of ‘The Mission’ was part of programme by Abu Dhabi Art called Beyond, curated by Mohammed Kazem and Cristina de Marchi. Recently I met someone who told me that it took him 6 years to finally understand the meaning of that performance and how strange that realization felt.

That’s exactly what I aim to do with my work: I try to put people in situations where they are removed from reality. I lead them to their inner child, or the opposite – I make them feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to spoon feed them what my message is.

I don’t want somebody to experience ‘The Mission’ and think “Oh, this is post-internet art” or “This work is about the history of cake”. No, I want people to get away from intellectualizing my work and instead have fun experiencing it.

I try to put people in situations where they are removed from reality. I want people to get away from intellectualizing my work and instead have fun experiencing it.

After that, they can think whatever they want – I know I can’t control if people like the work or not, but I do want them to feel a sense of wonder and/or confusion. Why am I here, talking to a car? Why am I in this room, that has pink sand and why does this song sound like it has two people singing on it even though I know it’s one?

S.M.A.: Back to colors. Why red, after pink?

J.: Red is the color of love, of passion. That’s the reason I use it for the cult. But the exact shade of red I use comes from a Givenchy collection, that was an homage to Riccardo Tisci after his departure as the creative director of the label.

That same year I was invited to take part in an exhibition at the Julius Baer lounge at Art Dubai, an homage exhibition dedicated to Hasan Sharif curated by Cristiana De Marchi. I wanted to wear head to toe red, and that Givenchy collection in particular inspired the Jumairy uniform greatly.

I also decided to wear the bunny head to commemorate that moment. One of Hasan Sharif’s favorite artists is John Cage, I performed a piece by him titled ‘Lecture on Nothing’ while playing a grand piano. When I was done and stepped outside the lounge, I thought – Wow, this is so funny! I’m wearing a bunny mask at Art Dubai – this is my “star is born” moment! 

I’ve been wearing red in my performances ever since.

18. Jumairy wearing his bunny mask after his homage performance to Hasan Sharif. Courtesy of the artist.

However, It’s not like I’m forever done with pink. After my NYUAD exhibition, I went to a psychic – and told him I was so tired of being known for my pink desert. I wanted to switch it up and go all red. The psychic warned me, “do not reject the pink, or the pink will haunt you.” The pink did haunt me.

On Dubai

S.M.A.: What do you feel was missing from the UAE art scene when you first started out, that today exists and thrives? And the opposite question: what did you cherish as a young artist that you feel is slowly disappearing today?

J.: Art education is more accessible and available now, that’s probably the first thing that comes to mind.

But truly, reflecting back on what has changed over the decade, I’d have to mention the element of transience. A lot of time has passed since I started my career, and because Dubai is a place of transit, a lot of people I started with either don’t live here anymore or have stopped making work.

Just to take a recent example – I was walking around Art Dubai last week. Over the years, I built great relationships with gallerists, members of the art community both regionally and internationally. I was surprised that this year, I couldn’t recognize 70% of the crowd. I don’t know, Maybe It’s a moment to celebrate. Our scene is not as small as it used to be.

Our scene is not as small as it used to be.

19. Safa Park Street view, Dubai, Courtesy of the artist. 

The art community 10 years ago was small and so tight-knit, I’ll be forever grateful for starting when I did. At least we would hang out more often. We were able to have very honest conversations with one another, watch each other grow and celebrate our successes together. Until today that group of artists are still some of my best friends in the world.

On the other hand, because the art scene has become a commercial space, I feel that young artists don’t have as many opportunities to experiment with their art. I wish sometimes that more artists would just record a video, take a photo, just for the sake of it. Taking a photo, not for Instagram, but for you and for yourself. That’s something that’s really missing in our community. More than a decade ago, we were missing artists, now we’re missing experimentation.

More than a decade ago, we were missing artists, now we’re missing experimentation.

I also empathize with the new generation. People need to feel safe in a space to be able to experiment. That’s what I’ve learned from the older generation of artists: you need to find your tribe and when you find them, you need to trust them to give you sincere, thoughtful critique and support each other to grow.

S.M.A.: Let’s pause a bit on the topic of commercialization. I wonder how you feel about gallery representation.

J.: I always tell artists that it’s ok if they aren’t signed with a gallery. Especially for young artists, it’s fine not to be represented. You’ll be able to play and experiment more on your own and figure out what it is that you really want to say before you take the leap and work with a gallery.

In this digital age, you can always make money independently by utilizing your skills, whether it’s copywriting or illustrating. There’s so much to do. These activities will allow you to build a network or even just allow you time to work on your practice.

Most galleries are going to push you to make more sellable work – that’s the nature of their business. Just don’t be stuck in the loop of only producing to sell. And remember, that sometimes you finish an artwork, and you love it – you’re happy with it – and sometimes you end up hating your work and you should be ok with that. Just keep making. As long as you continue making honest work.

20. Jumairy, Mirror, Mirror, 2016. Dissected poem written on mirror. Courtesy of the artist.

S.M.A.: Honesty is the foundation for everything else. Being honest with yourself is the only way to feel truly at peace with yourself.

J.: You can center your whole practice around any topic you connect with, you just have to be honest about it, and go for it 150%.

If you want to make art about money, that’s fine – make it about money and consumerism. Photograph or paint money, make sculptures with dollar bills, make a documentary. Push it, hammer it, both aesthetically and conceptually. Research everything there is to know about money, the symbolism of currencies, the types of liquid and illiquid assets, how transactions have changed from barter to flows of capital. Become the expert in the topic you explore. No one should tell you what to make work about; that’s your right and freedom as an artist. Just know your topic, and be the best representative of it.

S.M.A.: You talked about art education earlier. Since you couldn’t study contemporary art practice or theory at university, can you tell us more about your experiences at SEAF? You also participated in Campus Art Dubai. I feel like these programs were created especially to fill a gap in the postgraduate art education, and have done a tremendous job at educating a very strong generation of artists in the UAE.

J.: You know, sometimes some programmes work for you and sometimes some don’t. I’ve gone through most education art programmes in the UAE, and for me, the best programme that the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation had was “Explorations in the Arts”. It was a great introductory programme into the art scene. It had both an education course and an internship in an organization in the UAE. We got to learn about how a different art community operates – and we got to travel to my favorite city in the world, Berlin, and learn about the art community there.

The way I work is different in the sense that I sometimes take months or years to finalize a work conceptually before even executing it. This is why CAD [Campus Art Dubai] was a game-changer for me. We could spend entire sessions dissecting texts, connecting with other research, deciding whether we were going to take some parts of it in an upcoming project or not. We were building ideas together, having layered discussions. Most importantly, there weren’t any right or wrong answers. Murtaza [Vali] and Usma [Rizvi] [running CAD program at the time] are some of the most incredible people I’ve had the pleasure to work with: so kind, so understanding, and generous. They allow you space to rethink and restructure ideas without judgment, and they truly put effort in understanding us and our practices.

S.M.A.: How do you stay clear of group-think in a city, and by extension an art scene, that’s often very much focused on “trends” and the next hot thing?

J.: As artists we cannot claim to be sole rangers in whatever conversation we’re having. When it comes to our artwork, we are all continuing a conversation or building from a point that has started long before we were born. It’s this forever cycle of trying to understand the past, present or the future.

A lot of trends come and go sometimes based on collective interest. I’m not denying that, however, the biggest mistake you can make as an artist is this flip-flopping and following these trends. This is why I always say being honest in your practice is very important.

I’m a big foodie, but does that mean that I’ll start making work about food because a group of artists have found success in it? No, that’s not true to who I am as an artist, but that could work for someone else. You just need to have some self-awareness and push forward with confidence.

S.M.A.: Well, food art makes sense in Dubai, as a food & beverage capital.

J.: It does. Totally. And some artists are great at it too.

Someone said to me before “If we can’t make work that’s better than Dubai, then maybe we shouldn’t make it,” and it’s exactly that for me.

We are already living in the most forward thinking, future of the future utopia. It’s okay to just take a breather and enjoy it for what it is. We don’t have to always respond to it.

We are already living in the most forward thinking, future of the future utopia. We don’t have to always respond to it.

21. Jumairy, The Mission: Hala Walla!!!, 2021. Detail view. Courtesy of the artist.

Looking Ahead

S.M.A.: What’s next for Jumairy? I was wondering about your thoughts on NFTs and the metaverse. I feel like NFTs really mesh well with the cult-like performative aspect to your practice, as well as the digital footprint you have accumulated as “Jumairy.” The perfect username.

J.: I always say that I’m an Internet kid. I love technology, I love seeing things progress. I don’t believe in looking back a lot. I love the future. 

But I wanted to take time to understand how I can contribute positively to the world of NFTs. I’ve always worked with new media, tech, sound, digital collage, and creating digital footprint: I’m 100% aware of that and the power that digital art holds.

I love technology, I love seeing things progress. 

I wanted to understand more about blockchain technology and build something unique. Only now, I feel ready to engage with NFTs. A lot will be revealed soon. I’m genuinely excited.

S.M.A.: Are you participating in any upcoming exhibitions, or have plans for future performances?

J.: We just concluded a group exhibition in Riyadh where we re-performed ‘The Mission: Jumairy Loves You’. I was selected to be part of an international delegation of artists by the Sundance Institute, the programme is education focused and built around the legacy of New Frontier at the Sundance Film Festival.

My first NFT project will be unveiled later this spring/summer in an exhibition in Brussels, Belgium.

I’m also very happy to announce that I will be performing during this year’s Art Basel in Switzerland, as part of a programme curated by the incredible Munira Al Sayegh.

S.M.A: Very exciting. Last question for you – a more personal one for me – we had private conversations in the past about your interest in East Asia and the art scenes of Tokyo and Seoul. For our readers based in Japan, could you expand on your interest in Japanese contemporary art?

J.: I love, love, love Japan. East Asia in general, but especially Japanese culture. Like many kids of my generation, I grew up watching anime such as Case Closed, Hunter X Hunter, Digimon, Death note, D.N. Angel and Tokyo Ghoul. I can go on and on when it comes to my love for anime.

I also love Japanese fashion, I love Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto and Junya Watanabe.

I’m not signed to a gallery yet – but I’ve always thought, the best fit for me as an artist is to be signed with a Japanese or a Korean gallery, if not a local Dubai gallery. I think it could be a great fit. Given the scene’s openness to digital art, and the themes I explore in my work.

I think one of the main similarity between Emirati and Japanese culture is our respect for the collective. We come from a tribal society and showing respect for other members of your clan, especially your elders, is something we take a lot of pride in. I’m a big believer in the community and the tribes I belong to – whether my friends or my family, even a chosen family. I want to be with a gallery that works with me as a family unit, a tribe. We grow together and we support each other through the ups and downs.

I graduated with a degree in Psychology. From a Western point of view, there is heavy focus on the individual: “Stand your ground, be your authentic self; always push for your independence!”

“Be yourself, even if you feel your parents misunderstand you!” I understand that perspective, but it’s not a mentality I subscribe to. Thinking this way can be counterproductive for people who grew up in cultures like ours. I don’t feel like a powerful individual if I don’t have my tribe around me.

I’m a big believer in the community and the tribes I belong to.

22. Left: Aerial view, Jumeirah, Dubai. Right: Jumeirah Beach at Night. Images courtesy of the artist.

One artist on your mind right now?

Britney Spears

What are you reading these days?

Physics of the Future by Nitshiou Kaku

Favorite magazine?

Kajal Magazine

Favorite song?

I can’t choose.

Top album?

I’m not chosing. [Jumairy refuses to answer this question.]

A song is trapped in your head?

Elissa’s song ‘Hobak Waja’ more specifically the line ““مطرح ما كنا نحترق، صار الجمر بردان (Translation: The place in which we used to burn, the coal has gone cold)

Favorite airport in the world?

The airport does not matter, as long as there’s a great duty free!

Biggest role model? 

Kurt Cobain

Favorite sneaker?

Black high-top Converse

Favorite app?

An app I check often is ‘Moon', it helps me keep track of the moon cycle.

Favorite outfit?

Red long sleeve tshirt, red leather pants, black leather boots and a long black fur coat.

Favorite word in Arabic?

كيفي. , I don’t know how to translate it, but it’s basically a statement to say “it’s my choice and done”.

And in English?


Jumairy (b.1992, Dubai) is an artist who uses experimentations with sound, film, digital technologies and performance to create an immersive world composed of sensory experiences. Jumairy's work has been presented through residencies and exhibitions across the region and internationally. He was commissioned for the inaugural 'UAE Unlimited' exhibition 'A Public Privacy' (Dubai, 2015) and 'Is Old Gold?' (Dubai, 2017). In 2015/16 he participated in the Art Dubai A.i.R. programme in collaboration with Delfina Foundation and Tashkeel, which culminated in an installation and performance work at the fair. A residency with Maraya Arts Centre resulted in 'BRZ5', his first solo exhibition in Milan, Italy organised by FARE Arte. His work has been collected and supported by Barjeel Art Foundation and Maraya Art Centre as well as being acquired by private collectors.

Sophie Mayuko Arni is an independent curator based between Dubai and Tokyo. She founded Global Art Daily in 2015. 

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