For the 2020 edition Short Theatre will host, inside of the WeGil’s space, three Monira Al Qadiri video installation:
This immersive video installation by Monira Al Qadiri represents a new chapter of her ongoing search for historical ties between the pre- and post-oil worlds in the Arabian Gulf. For hundreds of years, the economy of the coastal region was based on decorative pearls, with Al Qadiri’s own grandfather working as a singer on a pearling boat. After the discovery of oil in the twentieth century, a massive transformation took place in the affected societies and this part of history was erased, relegated to popular fiction. The video proposes to bridge that gap through the formal abstraction of colour; it follows the movements of synchronized swimmers wearing dichroic body suits akin to the sheen of both pearls and oil, fully choreographed to a traditional pearl-diving song.
The use of these bodies as ornamentation manifests the placement of these histories in contemporary society – as embellishment and décor – but at the same time reflects the artist’s absolute effort to sincerely articulate them as a solid component of regional identity through exhausting physical action.
commissioned by Durub Al Tawaya VI (Abu Dhabi), 9th Asia Pacific Triennial (Brisbane)
produced by Durub Al Tawaya (DAT), the performing arts program of Abu Dhabi Art, Warehouse421 Abu Dhabi and the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) (2018)
concept e direction Monira Al Qadiri
producer Ezzat Al Hamwi
director of Photography Elias Trad
editing Vartan Avakian
coloring Belal Hibri
costumes Jasmina Popov–Locke
choreography Isabelle Tan
dancers Isabelle Tan, Carly Athawes, Zsofia Péres, Daria Galkina
Behind the Sun
After the first Gulf War in 1991, countless oil fields in Kuwait were set ablaze during the retreat of invading forces as a final act of defiance. Those months following the war were nothing short of the classic image of a biblical apocalypse: the earth belching fire and the black scorched sky felt like a portrait of hell as it should be, an almost romanticized vision of the end of the world. Having experienced this dystopian reality first hand, Monira Al Qadiri felt the need to examine it as a landscape from memory that reasserts its relevance today.
Amateur VHS video footage of the oil fires is juxtaposed with audio monologues from Islamic television programs of the same period. At the time, the tools used to represent religion – specifically Islam – were mainly geared towards visualizing god through natural miracles. Trees, waterfalls, mountains, animals and insect life were the visual staple of religious media, and the narration was not that of the Koran, but of beautiful Arabic poetry recited by a skilled orator with a deep voice. This holistic image of religion has been replaced by more socio-political interpretations of scripture, so the images of dying nature also effectively represent the death of nature within religion. Its subsequent mutation into new extreme imaginaries parallels the transforming portrait of “the end of the world.”
commissioned by Beirut Art Center, Beirut, Lebanon (2013)
concept, direction and editing Monira Al Qadiri
filmography Adil Al Yousifi (1991)
sound Kuwait television archives
sound design Fadi Tabbal
“the artist distills into this short span the momentous collisions between tradition and technology, desert culture and global capital, that increasingly define the Gulf states. The work consists of a tightly framed view of a camel race that the artist recorded from a television broadcast, slowed down just enough to turn a gallop into a glide.” Article by Stephanie Bailey, Artforum May 2015
Travel Prayer is a study of progress in its most ambiguous sense: a step forward that is also a step back. The camels are an example of an ageold tradition tragically caught up in the accelerated development that has propelled the Gulf since the second half of the past century. The camels’ robotic appendages were, in fact, invented in response to a 2002 law banning what had essentially become a trade in child camel jockeys conducted with Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. And the impact of such fraught transformations extends to Gulf residents themselves: Monira Al Qadiri has referred to Travel Prayer as a selfportrait, suggesting that the historical and ethical issues raised by the work are as intertwined with individual identity as they are with the broader culture and politics of the region.