Find out why 21,39 is at the heart of Jeddah’s art scene

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A close up of a piece by artist Nojoud Al-Sudairi.
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A section of Filwa Nazer’s “The Anatomy of Winning” (2018).
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Ahaad Alamoudi’s “Those Who Do Not Know Of Falcons Grill Them” (2018).
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Moath Alofi’s “Mihlaiel” (2018).
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An untitled piece by artist Ayman Yossri Daydaban.
Updated 10 February 2018
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Find out why 21,39 is at the heart of Jeddah’s art scene

JEDDAH: This week saw the opening of the most-anticipated art exhibition in town. Jeddah’s bustling art scene was in full swing as annual contemporary art fair 21,39, organized by the Saudi Art Council (SAC) under the patronage of Princess Jawaher bint Majid Abdulaziz Al-Saud, returned for its fifth edition, this time under the theme “Refusing to Be Still.”
The exhibition is being held in multiple locations throughout Jeddah — including SAC’s headquarters, Rubat Al-Khunji in Al-Balad, and the old PepsiCo. factory, which has never before been open to the public — and will run until May 5. It features more than 30 artists, both local and international, and stages numerous artworks in different mediums including sculpture, painting, audio-visual installations and more. It will also feature book launches, a chess competition, workshops and fun family events.
The theme revolves around artists’ desire to continually evolve and spark dialogue. The SAC’s website says the exhibition reveals “the creative energy that characterizes contemporary production in Saudi Arabia and its growing significance in the 21st century.”
Vassilis Oikonomopoulos, assistant curator at the Tate Modern in London, was invited to curate the exhibit and has brought together an array of new artists, Saudi and international, who have created a heady mix of interpretations of the theme, with many interesting angles.
“‘Refusing to Be Still’ presents the creative energies that are active within the local context,” he told Arab News. “I wanted to use the intensity of internationalization to advance a dialogue with other artists from around the world whose work deals with similar concerns about human issues.”
Oikonomopoulos added that the artists have “surpassed” his expectations.
“Working with the artists closely, and commissioning their works, was important because it was also sort of creating a dialogue between us,” he said. “The works are dynamic and it’s necessary as a curator to support the artists to the maximum. Like an evolving reality, artistic practices are constantly transforming, refusing to stand still and become permanent.”
Veteran artist Ayman Yossri Dayban’s latest sculptural installation based on 1960’s Egyptian cinema posters. He has created a complex space based on the posters but defined by the areas he has cut out. A light emanating from inside those cut-out areas of the four-sided sculpture is intended to engage passersby as the shadows from the sculpture fill the entire space, amplifying the sense of theatricality and intensity.
Elsewhere, Madinah-based photographer and explorer Moath Alofi stages a video installation entitled “Mihlaiel,” which tells the story of lost heritage through scenes from five different locations around the magnificent lava tube volcanoes of Khaybar.
“I’m chasing a mystery, chasing enigmas, chasing regions unknown to most people,” Alofi told Arab News. “I wanted to expose and give recognition to the area by shedding light on its beauty. In a way, I wanted to show how we can all relate to these historical civilizations.”
His video is shot from above with corresponding extracts from the ground as the explorer walks around the abandoned structures of a historical fortress. Another part of the video shows the ancient structures of the Arabian desert kites, an ancient hunting technique dating back 6,000 to 9,000 years.
The dazzling aerial views of the lava tubes are surely the best images of them yet captured on film. Alofi’s short video brings history into the present.
First-time participant Hatem Ahmed’s paintings, meanwhile, interpret the theme by examining the way in which meanings of ‘life lessons’ from the past have shifted today.
“My paintings speak of different ideologies that were used in the past and were supposed to teach the viewer a life lesson,” he said. “We’ve taken these lessons from the past and twisted them in a way that speaks to your subconscious in the now.”
Ayman Zedani’s 54 concrete cubes are based on the World Heritage Site map of Jeddah.  The map is thus transformed into the 54 cubes by highlighting buildings in the city and embedding them in the cubes in the form of negative space, signifying the duality of the absence and presence of the site.
“Bab, is a site-specific installation that focuses on difficult issues related to preserving the old city of Jeddah.  Despite all the efforts to rescue it, it still struggles,” Zedani told Arab News.  “Preserving the city is a very delicate task, any attempts to intervene on its behalf must tackle both its complexity and vibrancy.”
Another 21,39 debutant, Saleh Sefari, has created a 15-hour video feed of a campsite staged on a construction site in Jeddah. The video, soundtracked by recordings of city life, displays a full day and alludes to the impossibility of depicting reality without resorting to fiction. What lies beyond the borders of the framed reality casts doubt on the authenticity of what we see and experience.
“The concept derived from a conversation I had with Vassilis,” Sefari explained. “It revolved around how our grasp of reality is inherently flawed by our own personal biases and beliefs. It not only revolves around movement, but the continuity of movement. My work revolves around questioning our most fundamental truths, an ever changing, constant, eternal battle between reality and our perspective of it. I’m extremely excited to showcase my work.”
Oikonomopoulos believes the fifth edition of 21,39 explores the multi-faceted practices that characterize the continuously active contemporary art movement in Saudi Arabia. Art lovers should not miss it.


Saudi annual event 'Ayam Zaman' teaches younger generation the customs and traditions of days gone by

Ayam Zaman is an annual event that creates the old Ramadan atmosphere through the design of the place and the food and art exhibition. AN photo by Iqbal Hossain
Updated 22 May 2018
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Saudi annual event 'Ayam Zaman' teaches younger generation the customs and traditions of days gone by

  • Ayam Zaman, or “Old Days,” is an annual event that is usually held during the holy month
  • The event is sponsored by many companies such as STC, PEPSE, and Al-Faridah Hall

RIYADH: Parents always talk about the old days, and how “old is gold.” They start their conversations with the phrase “Back in the old
days …”

Today we get to live these old days in the Ayam Zaman’s event, held in Al-Faredah Hall in Riyadh from May 19-22.  The event started on the third day of Ramadan, and is one of the many events happening during the holy month.
Ayam Zaman is a place where the older generation can retrieve their memories and the younger generation can enjoy the customs and traditions in their original form but in a modern way.
Ayam Zaman, or “Old Days,” is an annual event that is usually held during the holy month, creating the old Ramadan atmosphere through the design of the place, the food, art exhibition and Ramadan products such as clothes, fragrance perfume and accessories.  It also holds the classic cinema for the first time in Saudi Arabia. It is a social development entertainment event that brings together heritage and modern innovations to support Saudi sm all enterprises through the booths represented there.

 

A young participant called Noura Alkhalel, a pharmacy student who is also an artist, told Arab News about her company “Adaptive Pieces” and how she and her sister came up with the concept to serve a younger audience. She said: “The idea of the company is to sell unique art pieces for everyone, especially the younger audience who cannot afford to buy art at their original prices.”  Asked how she ended up in Ayam Zaman, she said; “The Ayam Zaman event found us. No matter how many times Ayam Zaman do events, I’m pretty sure we will be part of it because it’s how we launched ourselves and we feel very grateful to it.”   
Ibrahim Al-Juwar, an architect at Clear Spectra, one of the “mindmakers” of this event, told Arab news: “The event’s idea is to tell the story of our lives today by bringing back our old culture and traditions, and that is how it is reflected through the designs of the booths and the outdoor settings.”
He said: “The event will be a great place for the family to chill and entertain themselves, watching live performances and allowing themselves to participate in Ramadan games.”
The event is sponsored by many companies such as STC, PEPSE, and Al-Faridah Hall. STC’s booth had a children’s arts section where they can express their artistic talents.
The concept of Garge’aan is strongly emphasized during the event with children roaming around the hall singing songs and collecting sweets and candy.
There is a separate zone for children to play in and have fun. The children’s zone includes bouncing castles, arcade games and entertainment shows.
Ibrahim said: “The kids’ zone is a little separated from the adults’ sections so that the parents can enjoy themselves.”  
The event is created by a Saudi group, who worked hard on designing and shaping the identity of the event to make it a reality. Many talented female designers also participated in the event.  Ibrahim told Arab News that there will be more events, especially during Eid and for the national day.

FACTOID

The event is created by a Saudi group, who worked hard on designing and shaping the identity of the event to make it a reality.