Dubai hosts ‘Moving Museum’ in its backyard

Updated 21 March 2013
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Dubai hosts ‘Moving Museum’ in its backyard

The Middle East is emerging as the next favorite destination to hold exquisite art shows from around the world.
One such art project is “The Moving Museum” co-founded by Aya Mousawi and Simon Sakhai in 2011 that debuted at DIFC (Dubai International Financial Center) on Monday. It’s a complete traveling program of contemporary art exhibitions and events in different cities across the world. Evolving the traditional museum model, this new approach responds directly to the changing global nature of the contemporary art world today. Though the concept is quite unique in its own way, what it offers to take in is priceless. Its sole aim is clearly defined leaving no scope for criticism and otherwise.
“We are living in an age where it’s considered highly imperative to share one’s ideas and information at a fast-clip. More or less, it has become our way of life now. Even if our cultural senses are being shaped by this phenomenon, there is no denying that an artwork is still something that one prefers to experience in person to be able to recognize its real worth," Mousawi saids. “We thought this nomadic format will help us to catch up with the times as well as allow us to offer a service that brings not just the ideas but the artworks to people’s doorsteps.”
Keeping its theme close to neutral, the exhibition will have no particular themes as such. Since it’s titled as “Tectonic,” the show will be highlighting the vast changes that contemporary art has undergone through 24 of the world’s most innovative voices known to be well-versed in it. Some of the most popular ones participating are Jeremy Deller, Ali Banisadr, Michael Rakowitz, The Bruce High Quality Foundation, Eddie Peake, Slavs and Tatars, Ryan Gander, and Liz Magic Laser. “
Each work will look different from one another as well as showcase the artists’ ground-breaking styles they are pioneering in the field of contemporary art. Besides, it’s a great opportunity for Dubai to welcome these most urgent international artistic talents whose works have never been exhibited in this city before," Sakhai said. “They all have unbeatable charisma.”
Perhaps, Dubai was on their radar from the start as they were looking for a place in the region where the cosmopolitan cultures intermingle so effortlessly. “We chose Dubai as our first destination because it is emerging as an important hub for cultural dialogue. This city has arguably one of the most progressive and interesting audiences in the Gulf plus boasts a rich and grassroots arts scene. We really wanted to capture this large audience with our various programs like film screenings, seminars, artworks, talks and interventions. In fact, it’s an amalgam of eccentric creativity. Yet, Dubai lacks a contemporary art museum. It doesn’t have a central institution to nurture such ideas. And this is where our initiative can help connect people of the city to a new cultural revolution," explains co-founder Mousawi.
Adding to this, Sakhai said: “Dubai has been a global hotspot for over a decade now attracting the region’s best talents in all sectors. In fact, these young minds are the ones whom we are planning to influence because of their enormous contributions to changing the face of the Middle East.”


Asked whether this show will be Dubai-centric on the whole, Mousawi said, “Each artist is presenting their solo works keeping in mind that what they display conforms to the changing landscape of the city. For this, we have been collaborating with the artists for a year now.”
Let’s take the art work of Michael Rakowitz for instance, who “will be bringing to life one of his favorite creations known as 'Enemy Kitchen' with a different name altogether — Dar Al-Sulh, or Domain of Conciliation. The whole set-up of it revolves around a pop-up restaurant that will serve his grandmother’s cooking recipes at Traffic (a non-profit arts space) which is located in the heart of the industrial area “Al-Quoz.”
The other thing that has everybody guessing is related to its peculiar name “The Moving Museum” which Mousawi justified by saying, “First and foremost, it’s not a traditional museum bound by curatorial opinions. Rather, it’s a moving institution where art evolves and brings together the artists and the audience together to share their thoughts in an equally open space.”
Its message is loud and clear. It aims to reach people far and wide in order to make them understand the importance of contemporary art. “The Moving Museum is a registered not-for-profit organization with social and educational objectives at its core. That’s why we feel strongly that there is an ethical and transparent way of engaging the commercial side of the art world," the organizers said.
For art enthusiasts, it’s a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to buy the works of their most loved artists as their influential works of art have been assigned to go on sale. From here, this mega show will be organized in Venice and London in the upcoming months.


INTERVIEW: Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki on heading a Cannes jury and the surprise success of 'Capernaum' in China

Updated 43 min 35 sec ago
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INTERVIEW: Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki on heading a Cannes jury and the surprise success of 'Capernaum' in China

  • Labaki is currently serving as the president of the Un Certain Regard jury, the first Arab to do so
  • “Capernaum” has become an unexpected blockbuster in China, reportedly grossing $44 million in just over two weeks

DUBAI: The success that Lebanese director Nadine Labaki’s third film, “Capernaum,” continues to find across the world is astounding — even to her. Just one year ago, “Capernaum” won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival — a jury chaired by Cate Blanchett — after a 15-minute standing ovation. The film went on to be nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, with Labaki becoming the first woman from the Arab world to receive that honor. Now, perhaps most surprisingly, “Capernaum” has become an unexpected blockbuster in China, reportedly grossing $44 million in just over two weeks.
“It’s crazy! I can’t believe it! I really can’t. Why there? It’s all very new, so I still don’t know what it means exactly, but we’re soon going to find out,” Labaki tells Arab News in Cannes.
With its success in China, along with the US, Middle East and across Europe, “Capernaum” has reportedly become the highest grossing Arabic-language film in history.
“There’s been rumors going on for the past two to three days, and it’s like, ‘What?’ I still can’t believe it. It’s living proof that an Arab film with no actors can actually be a box office hit — can actually return money, make money for investors. You know how much we’re struggling in the Arab world to make films, find money, find funding, find investment. Especially for a Lebanese film,” Labaki says.
Labaki was in China just one month ago to show the film at the Beijing International Film Festival, and although the film got a rousing response in the room, she didn’t feel the reaction was any stronger than anywhere else the film has shown.
“Maybe it’s because there’s more than a billion people in China, but even the distributor is saying it’s working like any big blockbuster movie,” says Labaki.
The Chinese release of the film has one major difference from other cuts. The original version of the film tells the story of a young boy named Zain El Hajj (played by Zain Al-Rafeea) struggling to survive on the streets of Lebanon with the help of a young Ethiopian immigrant named Rahil and her undocumented infant son Yonas, dreaming of escaping as a refugee to Sweden. The story is not far from Al-Rafeea’s real-life situation at the time — he is a Syrian refugee. Since the film’s release, though, Al-Rafeea and his family have been relocated to Norway, something the Chinese release includes at the end of the film as a short visual report.
“The film ends on his smile, and in a way there’s (now) a continuation of real life in that story. This is really happening, it’s not made up,” says Labaki. “That’s why we’re making a documentary around the film. Maybe it’s a way of comforting people, knowing that he’s alright, he’s good, he’s in a better place. Deep down, people know this kid is going through this in his real life, they know he’s not just an actor in this film.
“I think it’s comforting to know Zain is in a different place now. He’s travelled. He was dreaming of going to Sweden the whole time, and now he’s really in Norway. He has a new life, a new beginning, a new house. He’s going to school, all his family is with him,” she continues. “It’s a complete shift of destiny. Maybe the fact the distributor added this report after the film made people understand that this is a real story and a real struggle, and not just another film.”
Though this is a huge moment for Arab film in general, Labaki doesn’t believe that the success of “Capernaum” necessarily signals a greater appetite for Arab cinema worldwide.
“I don’t think it’s about (where the film comes from). It’s about good films. It has nothing to do with the identity of the film or the country it’s coming from, really. It doesn’t mean if this film worked in China that another Arab film will work in China,” she says. “Maybe there’s going to be more hope for Lebanese cinema in the sense that investors will be less afraid to invest in Lebanese films, but it’s about the script, the filmmaker, the craft, the know-how. This is what gives confidence to somebody.”
Speaking to Arab News at the renowned Hotel Barrière Le Majestic Cannes on one of the busiest days of the film festival, Labaki is currently serving as the president of the Un Certain Regard jury, the first Arab to do so. Labaki began her relationship with Cannes in 2004, writing and developing her first feature, “Caramel,” at the Cinéfoundation Residency before showcasing the film at the Director’s Fortnight in 2007. Both of Labaki’s subsequent films — “Where do We Go Now?” in 2011 and “Capernaum” in 2018 — debuted at the festival, each in increasingly competitive categories.
“I feel like I’m their baby, in a way. With a baby you start watching their first steps, see them grow, protect them, push them… They’ve accompanied me in this journey, and recognized and encouraged me. It’s great — I really love this festival. I think it’s the best festival in the world. I like the integrity they have towards cinema. You feel that watching a film in Cannes, you know that you’re not going to watch just anything — there’s something in there for you to learn from, to be surprised by, to be in awe of. There’s always something about films that are shown in Cannes,” says Labaki.
In approaching her role as head of the jury, Labaki is focusing on connecting with the films, and taking on the perspective of myriad filmmakers from across the world.
“I don’t watch films as a filmmaker. Never,” she says. “I watch the film as a human being… I don’t like the word jury. I don’t like to judge because I’ve been there — I’m there all the time. I’ve been in those very difficult situations, very fragile situations, where you’re making a film, where you’re doubting, where you don’t know, where you don’t have enough distance with what you’re doing, and you don’t have the right answers and you’re not taking the right decisions.”
Just as her own films have become increasingly focused on the problems facing Lebanese society, Labaki believes that contemporary film cannot help but be political, and must accept its role as a commentary on the world we live in — something that she feels she’s seen in the films in her category.
“Cinema is not just about making another film; it’s about saying something about the state of the world right now. Until now, every film we’ve seen is (doing that). That doesn’t mean that cinema that is just art for art’s sake is not good — there are so many different schools — but I feel we’re becoming so much more responsible for this act,” she says. “You become an activist without even knowing you’re becoming an activist, and saying something about the state of the world. It’s important.”