Artist News

Hassan Hajjaj at Fotofest's Exhibition at the Abu Dhabi Festival

21 March - 20 April 2015

Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Untitled 4 (DII Series), 2010, Digital print, 39 3/8h x 59 1/8w in / 100h x 150w cm

The internationally acclaimed FotoFest International makes its first appearance in the Middle East. At the invitation of the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF), FotoFest will present VIEW FROM INSIDE: Contemporary Arab Photography, Video and Mixed Media Art as a special commission and visual arts centerpiece of the Abu Dhabi Festival 2015, the twelfth edition of the festival.


With more than 35 leading Arab artists and over 140 works from 12 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, VIEW FROM INSIDE, will take place at the Emirates Palace Gallery in Abu Dhabi, UAE. It opens with a private preview March 20, 2015 and continues through April 20, 2015.


As a special commission for ADMAF, founder and organizer of the Abu Dhabi Festival, VIEW FROM INSIDE, is based on FotoFest’s highly acclaimed presentation of leading Arab photo and media artists originally created for FotoFest’s 15th international Biennial in Houston, Texas. With the exhibition, there will be a series of public programs, curator tours and artist workshops. A special colloquium will be done with New York University Abu Dhabi on April 15, 2015 featuring eight artists exhibiting in VIEW FROM INSIDE. A limited edition commemorative book on the Abu Dhabi exhibition will be produced by ADMAF.


VIEW FROM INSIDE is joined by an exhibition of twelve Emirati artists curated by ADMAF, Emirati Insights, as well as three 2015 Festival Commissions sponsored by ADMAF. VIEW FROM INSIDE, the Abu Dhabi 2015 Festival Commissions and Emirati Insights will be open to the public from March 21 to April 20, 2015 at the Emirates Palace Gallery (Sunday - Thursday: 12pm - 8pm; Friday - Saturday: 10am - 10pm). Admission is free.


Organized by FotoFest International, VIEW FROM INSIDE brings together one of the world’s leading curators of contemporary Arab art, Karin Adrian von Roques, with FotoFest’s co-founder and expert in the international photographic arts. Wendy Watriss.


“This exhibition focuses on the works and the voices of artists who are important and pioneering figures in the use of photography and media-related arts in the Arab world,” says lead curator Karin von Roques. “The range and quality of their work vividly reveal the inter-relationships between tradition and change, both regional and global, and how these inter-connections are central to the way contemporary artists engage with the world around them.”


The exhibition features video animations and three dimensional works alongside vivid photojournalistic images of recent news events and personal reflections on contemporary Arab life. The works are conceptual and figurative. Many of the works address issues of the diverse and shifting identities of both people and place in Arab life today. The artists confront societal and environmental changes, the rapidity with which they are occurring and how they are affecting traditional relationships with “homeland,” family, religion, gender, diaspora and displacement. Other works look at questions of religious and historical heritage; the legacies of colonialism; and political upheaval.


“The artworks reveal strong connections between contemporary experiences and the histories of the cultures from which they come - their relationship to Arab society today and the world beyond,” says Wendy Watriss, Co-founder of FotoFest International. “With passion, irony and anxiety, they confront the issues of transformation in their social and physical environment. Reflective, critical and often humorous, the artists show a deep engagement with what is happening in the Arab world today. The exhibition is about their voice.”


At its original showing in the United States, Al Jazeera America described VIEW FROM INSIDE as “one of the largest exhibitions to date of contemporary Arab photography and mixed media.” It was received enthusiastically by thousands of U.S. and international visitors over its six-week presentation. Reviewer Rupert Goldsworthy recently noted in the Arab art journal Contemporary Practices, that VIEW FROM INSIDE illustrates: “a clear view of what the future may hold.”


It is the third major exhibition on the Middle East that FotoFest has showcased: the first U.S. presentation of NAZAR (2005), a groundbreaking Dutch exhibition of historic and contemporary Arab photography which later traveled to the Aperture Foundation in New York City; and Kurdistan, In the Shadow of History (1996) which FotoFest originated and traveled with its producer-author-photographer Susan Meiselas.


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