An award-win­ning in­stal­la­tion in­spired by the Emi­rati ayala dance is on show

The National - News - - ARTS & LIFESTYLE - Alexan­dra Chaves

The ac­claimed in­stal­la­tion Sila was of­fi­cially un­veiled at New York Uni­ver­sity Abu Dhabi on Tues­day. This year’s re­cip­i­ent of The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award, the piece, which stands in the cam­pus’s cen­tral plaza and is open to the pub­lic, was devel­oped by three stu­dents at the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­sity of Sharjah.

Fal­wah Al­houti, who stud­ies graphic de­sign, and Ibrahim Ab­del­latif and Omer Al Raee, who both study ar­chi­tec­ture, took as their start­ing point the ayala, a tra­di­tional Emi­rati dance per­formed by men mov­ing in uni­son to drum beats and po­etic chant­ing.

Dur­ing the dance, per­form­ers form two rows and face one an­other in a sym­bolic bat­tle, car­ry­ing thin bam­boo canes that rep­re­sent swords.

Speak­ing to The Na­tional,

Al Raee and Ab­del­latif said that “unity” and “rhythm” are at the core of Sila. The work is also made up of two rows, each com­pris­ing units that al­ter­nate in height and colour, giv­ing an il­lu­sion of move­ment from afar.

Like the dancers, these black and white units work to­gether to cre­ate a gra­di­ent-like ef­fect, and the rows ta­per to­wards each other to en­hance this. It is fit­ting for the ti­tle, which is an Ara­bic term for “con­nec­tion”.

“Ar­chi­tec­ture can de­liver a mes­sage in a dif­fer­ent way,” said Ab­del­latif, who is study­ing the pro­fes­sion. “If peo­ple see this for the first time … they can ex­pe­ri­ence the ayala dance as some­thing static.”

Through Sila, the stu­dents have ex­tracted the essence of the dance and pre­sented it in an ab­stract way.

Both Al Raee and Ab­del­latif said the pro­ject had made them con­sider cre­at­ing more ar­chi­tec­tural art­works, rather than work­ing di­rectly in build­ing de­vel­op­ment.

“Af­ter do­ing this pro­ject, we were more at­tracted to this side of ar­chi­tec­ture, where it is not just an art piece or struc­ture that is func­tional. It is some­where in be­tween,” Al Raee said.

For Sila, Al­houti’s pri­mary role was in de­vel­op­ing the con­cept and the nar­ra­tive of the piece, while Al Raee worked with soft­ware to draft the de­signs and model.

Ab­del­latif was in charge of pro­to­typ­ing and fab­ri­ca­tion. The three will share the $10,000 (Dh36,725) prize.

The Christo and Jean­neClaude Award draws its name from artists Christo Javach­eff and Jeanne-Claude De­nat. The cou­ple, who were mar­ried un­til Jeanne-Claude’s death in 2009, worked with en­vi­ron­men­tal and in­stal­la­tion art, of­ten us­ing ev­ery­day ma­te­ri­als such as plas­tic and fab­ric. Their 1983 Sur­round­ing Is­lands, in which they wrapped the shores of 11 is­lands in Florida with pink plas­tic, at­tracted thou­sands of vis­i­tors and marked the be­gin­ning of their mon­u­men­tal projects.

The prac­tice of wrap­ping and drap­ing ex­tended to his­toric struc­tures such as the Pont Neuf in Paris (1985) and the Re­ich­stag in Ber­lin (1995). Their most re­cent projects in­clude The Float­ing Piers (2016) in Italy – walk­ways that al­lowed vis­i­tors to cross Lake Iseo in Bres­cia – and The Lon­don Mastaba (2018) in Eng­land – a mastaba or tomb com­prised of more than 7,506 oil bar­rels afloat on a Hyde Park lake.

The award is sup­ported by the pa­tron­age of Sheikha Shamsa bint Ham­dan Al Nahyan, and pre­sented by NYUAD in part­ner­ship with Abu Dhabi Mu­sic & Arts Foun­da­tion.

Submission­s for the award, which was es­tab­lished in 2013, are ac­cepted from stu­dents and grad­u­ates in the UAE who are in­ter­ested in cre­at­ing new in­stal­la­tion art­work.

The ap­pli­ca­tion process for the 2020 award is now open.

Sila will travel to Abu Dhabi Art on Thurs­day, Novem­ber 21, and later to Umm Al Emarat Park, also in the cap­i­tal.

Pawan Singh / The Na­tional

The win­ning work of this year’s Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award on dis­play at NYUAD

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