Postmordial Soup Brings Together Ziad Al Najjar, Talal Al Najjar and Miramar Al Nayyar at ICD Brookfield Place
By Susanne Niemann
Published on October 18th, 2023
Let Dubai’s art season begin: this October, Tabari ArtSpace and ICD Brookfield Place brought together a dynamic trio of artists under an exciting, experimental multimedia exhibition titled Postmordial Soup.
Brothers Ziad and Talal Al Najjar, emerging as leading voices of the Emirates’ next-generation artists, shared the large ground floor gallery of pristine ICD Brookfield Place with Amman-based painter and multimedia artist Miramar Al Nayyar.
In an in-depth interview, the artists share their processes and their thinking behind the making of this exhibition, a 4-weeks art residency culminating in a grand opening party.
1. Ziad Al Najjar, Talal Al Najjar, Miramar Al Nayyar, Postmordial Soup, 2023. Installation views at ICD Brookfield Place, Dubai, UAE, October 2023. Photo courtesy of Tabari ArtSpace and ICD Brookfield Place Arts.
Susanne Niemann: Ziad, Talal and Miramar, together you are creating an otherworldly space with Postmordial Soup. How are your three practices coming together in this group exhibition? What drew you to these questions of time, past and future, foreign and familiar, natural, digital, and physical?
Talal Al Najjar: Ziad, Miramar, and I came together during a 4-week residency where we not only created new works on-site but also engaged in continuous discussions, reevaluation, and refinement of our ideas and the overall exhibition concept. This experience was enriching for all of us, as we learned from one another and reverberated the importance of artistic dialogue. Despite our unique artistic backgrounds, our practices share common themes and interests. The three of us have deep fascinations with history, mythologies, and personal and larger questions of human (and non-human) condition. These shared elements fostered a collaborative approach in shaping the exhibition, with themes such as nature, artificiality, the human body, time, histories, alternative perspectives, and cultural heritage being explored and interpreted in various ways throughout the exhibition. The different media we engage in also helped manifest the plethora of concepts that stirred up in our soup.
Miramar Al Nayyar: When you think about all of these contradictions, you get a soup! Immersed in a dense mixture, almost like someone momentarily decided to flatten the singularity into a bowl of soup. Residing within a dualistic system can lead us to view life linearly, often overlooking the circular nature of existence, where the beginning is the same as the end. By defamiliarizing what’s familiar, we disrupts this dualistic perspective, allowing the future and the past to blend together. In this altered lens, you can see everything as if it's contained in a single bowl of soup, where the future and the past converge into a unified whole.
Ziad Al Najjar: Through conversation. We were talking and getting to know each other before we began working in the space, and for the most part it was about getting to know each other and our interests which influence our practices. The curiosities and speculations of the past, the influences of today, and the Postmordial Soup of the future led us to realize the overlapping questions each of us fundamentally had in realizing the exhibition we imagined creating.
Ziad, Miramar, and I came together during a 4-week residency where we not only created new works on-site but also engaged in continuous discussions, reevaluation, and refinement of our ideas and the overall exhibition concept.
- Talal Al Najjar
2. Ziad Al Najjar, Talal Al Najjar, Miramar Al Nayyar, Postmordial Soup, 2023. Installation views at ICD Brookfield Place, Dubai, UAE, October 2023. Photo courtesy of Tabari ArtSpace and ICD Brookfield Place Arts.
S.N.: Postmordial Soup responds to questions on the origins of life and the influences of the soup that shape the contemporary condition. Can you tell me more about that? What does this mean for you? What questions did you ask yourselves during the residency program with ICD Brookfield Place in collaboration with Tabari Artspace?
T.N.: The scientific theories revolving what is called the “primordial soup” was something we all had keen interest in our own lives, given our own fascinations with related subjects, and we wanted to consider what the “postmordial soup” would be or mean in today’s (or tomorrow’s) world. We started with the primordial soup concept and in a collective meeting I suggested we title the show Postmordial Soup and proposed the idea that we then continuously evolved, months before we even started the residency. It was an amazing experience collectively processing, mythologizing, and theorizing what this would manifest as, both conceptually and physically in the exhibition space. Being situated in the context of a financial distinct made it even more stimulating and fitting to what our contemporary world and human culture revolves around, obviously this would become an ingredient in our “postmordial soup.”
Z.N.: We saw this overlapping dialogue between nature, the human body, and technology, with an underlining absurdity and uncanniness. With my contributions of paintings in the show I was thinking about the primordial soup in terms of body. From the depiction of babies in a womb to the deer sleeping in the fetal position, from subtle color abstractions and cell-like mark making to a diptych of visceral foveolar cells. I’m really considering the body in my work as a confronting subject of our own physicality, mortality, sanctity, and evolution that connects ourselves to everything else.
In this altered lens, you can see everything as if it's contained in a single bowl of soup, where the future and the past converge into a unified whole.
- Miramar Al Nayyar
2. Night view of Ziad Al Najjar, Talal Al Najjar, Miramar Al Nayyar, Postmordial Soup, 2023. Installation views at ICD Brookfield Place, Dubai, UAE, October 2023. Photo courtesy of Tabari ArtSpace and ICD Brookfield Place Arts.
S.N.: Postmordial Soup invites visitors into an immersive experience at ICD Brookfield Place, a lifestyle and business hub in Dubai. Has this socio-geographic context played a role for you when you created your work and envisioned the experience? What do you hope visitors take from the exhibition? How do you want them to feel?
T.N.: It was quite a different experience during the residency while creating works in the space where passerbys would peak in and watch us at work. I think the more corporate nature of the district and building’s context made it more fun to create an exhibition like Postmordial Soup–an uncanny, unconventional, and ultra-contemporary exhibition–and in this context these aspects were applified due to this juxtaposition.
M.N.: On a personal note, I've always had a penchant for disruption— a bit of a vandal, if you will. This tendency existed even before I began my journey in art, as I used to dismantle all the toys my mom bought me. However, once art became a part of my life, I found a constructive outlet for this tendency. My experience at the corporate setting of the ICD rekindled that innate tendency and actually encouraged disruption within my creative process. We aimed to shatter the established context of that place, making individuals there feel as though they had stepped out of their usual, familiar surroundings yet they’re inside of it.
Z.N.: I liked the idea of intervening in such a place, especially one that felt so corporate. We worked there for four weeks and at some point, it felt like we were literally building a world inside the space which was, as we planned, dramatically different from the rest. I want the audience to walk into the space and be engrossed in it, almost forgetting what was outside and to have an experience that feels alien, raw, uncanny, maybe a little overwhelming yet also realize it as a world very familiar to them.
S.N.: Talal, in your practice you recontextualize, defamiliarize and juxtapose materials and ideas in a way that the familiar becomes unfamiliar. What does your creative process look like? Have there been particular artifacts and references guiding your explorations for this exhibition?
I liked the idea of intervening in such a place, especially one that felt so corporate. We worked there for four weeks and at some point, it felt like we were literally building a world inside the space which was, as we planned, dramatically different from the rest.
- Ziad Al Najjar
T.N.: My processes are highly driven by collecting and archiving, then recontextualizing, and defamiliarizing via manipulation and distortion. In the studio I like to have an abundance of material, whether it be art and industrial materials and objects, or literature and images that I use as physical and metaphorical/referencial material. I have works that are quite planned out but also create intuitively with these materials at my disposal.
For this exhibition I’ve been focused on artifacts mainly from Sharjah, UAE, one reason being their abundance and prevalence but also the Sharjah Archaeology Authority’s meticulous conservation and accessibility of them. I’ve referenced, remixed, re-translated, and transformed these objects of cultural heritage and used them in combination with what I consider contemporary artifacts, such as internet images of contemporary material culture. In this way I collapse time, history, and culture. The artifacts in my work have manifested both physically and virtually and even in-between (as seen in my holographic works for example). In my video/film works I also animate them, in a way resurrecting these ancient objects using today’s technology, similar to how archaeologists now practice 3D scanning of these objects to virtualize and archive them for conservation and accessibility purposes. For me, using and referencing these objects of cultural heritage is incredibly important, and using them in an art context is another way to allow others to appreciate, understand, and visualize them outside of the historical museum context.
S.N.: Ziad, you work primarily in the two and three-dimensional, exploring materiality, process and perception. I am curious how you are finding your motifs and inspiration. How has living in the UAE and in the US influenced your work?
Z.N.: It’s a process of figuring it our along the way, throughout the process of making the work I’m usually looking through different books, images, and a lot of art as well. There were several books I was particularly looking at with refence to the show such as the wild book of inventions and Anatomical Waxes by David Cronenberg. I grew up and lived in the UAE until I was seventeen and then live in the US for five years to go to university in Chicago. It definitely played a big part in my growth as a person and simultaneously my work, particularly because of its unique creative culture and the variety of artists and art I was exposed to.
S.N.: Miramar, your work can be described as bridging between the distinct practices of Talal and Ziad in this exhibition. How have your three worked together during the residency? Has this influenced the works you are showing? Is there one work that is particularly meaningful for you? And if yes, why?
M.N.: Working alongside Talal and Ziad within the same creative space was the genuine act of building bridges. It's a known fact that you can't escape the influence of others when you spend a month in close proximity, especially as an artist, where you're constantly creating and remaining open. I cannot deny the impact they had on my work and creative process. The colors and direction of my art started to evolve in a way different from what I initially planned before arriving in Dubai. You could say that our collaborative experience in the same creative space led to a process of unity, and for me, this was a profoundly powerful and beautiful journey. Witnessing how 30 days of co-creation with such energy manifested itself to the audience during the opening in a single day was truly rewarding, and I'm delighted that people could feel that energy.
In the context of this exhibition, one piece that’s most meaningful is the puzzle artwork. It continues to unravel itself to me, and I am constantly learning more about myself through it. In the aftermath of creating this particular piece, I feel transformed, like another version of myself. I've come to believe that certain creations can give birth to you, rather than the other way around, a catalyst for personal rebirth, and the puzzle artwork exemplifies this transformative experience.
Witnessing how 30 days of co-creation with such energy manifested itself to the audience during the opening in a single day was truly rewarding, and I'm delighted that people could feel that energy.
- Miramar Al Nayyar
Exhibition branding by Safa Sayfaaei.
Saba Sayfaiee, a visual designer from the United Arab Emirates is designing the overall branding for the show. Her main interests lie in editorial design, typography, and branding. In her practice, Saba examines, researches, and explores different cultural, social, and behavioural topics utilizing various mediums. In 2021, she graduated with a B.S. in Visual Communication from the American University of Sharjah. @78ss
Miramar Al Nayyar (b.1997) is a multi-disciplinary artist hailing from Iraq, currently based between Amman and Dubai. Al Nayyar’s three-dimensional works reveal her profound fascination with the interplay between nature, kinematic phenomena, temporality, and spatiality.Her self-developed technique amalgamates an array of approaches to painting ranging from oil glazing to the thin layering of wet-on-wet paint and airbrushing. Her work has been showcased at Gallery Ras Ain (2017), The Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts (2018), NOFA Gallery (2020), among others. She has also been a participating artist at numerous festivals and projects such as Baladk Street Art Festival (2017-2019), Distrito Grafiti Festival (2019), Wall of Contemplation project (2019), the Factory Festival (2019) and Open Art Shuffle street art festival (2021).
Talal Al Najjar (b.1999) is an artist from the Emirates, based between Los Angeles and Dubai. Driven by collecting, archiving, and distorting, his interdisciplinary practice recontextualizes transhistorical material culture and imagery with an absurdist lens. Defamiliarization and the uncanny teeter and prompt new anthropological and material questions in his work. He produces sculpture, video, sound, CGI animation, painting, and installation, in addition to other media. Primary concerns include ideas around simulation, poor images, artefacts, counter-futurisms, and the contention of postmodern conditions. He received his MFA from ArtCenter College of Design (2023), and his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2021). He has exhibited work in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Chicago, and Los Angeles.@talalnajjar
Ziad Al Najjar (b.2001) approaches two and three-dimensional art with an aim to upturn fixed notions surrounding process, materiality, and visual perception. Establishing an interplay between organic and inorganic forms Al Najjar reflects upon the connectedness between the natural, constructed and spiritual realms and how they relate to his lived experience in the contemporary moment. Breaking from established conventions Al Najjar works upon an unstretched canvas, placing his focus on its material properties and releasing it from its flatness. Through his art, Al Najjar reimagines the canvas as a tapestry. @ziadnajjar_
ICD Brookfield Place Arts program creates community and opportunity through the transformative power of the arts. A vibrant and open space, we seek to engage and welcome everyone, inside and outside our walls, with the belief that having arts and culture in daily life positively impacts wellbeing. @ICDBrookfieldPlace
Tabari ArtSpace has played a central role in connecting international audiences to the modern and contemporary artists of the MENA region and its diaspora for the last two decades. Advanced by an all-women team, Tabari Artspace foregrounds marginalised perspectives and lesser-known narratives in contemporary art. @TabariArtSpace
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