DHAHRAN: “Beyond Unconventional” is the subtitle of Ithra’s first Tanween creativity festival, and it is true to its word from what the Arab News team witnessed on its opening weekend at Saudi Aramco’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, aka Ithra, in Dhahran.
Running from Oct. 11 to 27 with talks, workshops, performances and installations, the three weeks are divided into themes: this week is “Humanities’ Response to Disruption,” in art, science and technology; the second week is “Manufacturing and Communication,” including disruptive technologies such as AI and big data; the third and final week is “Fashion Technology/Adventures in Disruption.” Curating this year’s festival is Robert Frith, the creative director of Ithra’s Idea Lab, who has worked as head of exhibitions at Christie’s and as a senior exhibition designer at the British Museum.
As it says in the program: “Tanween encourages people to see something in a new way, try something they had not done before and explore their relationship to disruption.” Many of the installations and speakers addressed the theme of disruption, including Adam Savage, who visited Saudi Arabia for the first time.
One doesn’t need to visit Ithra to experience Tanween. Saudi artist Abdullah Al-Othman wrapped a building in Al-Khobar entirely in tinfoil “in a symbolic gesture to its frozen state, making a statement about the absurdity of thinking that the cycle of change could ever be stopped.” We found it driving through the narrow streets near the Corniche, glinting in the sunlight, mosque-goers passing it by with barely a raised eyebrow.
Founded by Japanese architect Azusa Murakami and British artist Alexander Groves, it presents an “interactive intallation and multi sensory experience” consisting of “delicate mist-filled blossoms that disappear on contact with skin and surfaces.” It’s like a waterfall of durable white bubbles continuously falling from above making random patterns as they slowly drift down. Likely to be one of the festival’s Instagram hits.
Dutch Studio Drift
A block of what looks like concrete floats slowly along “a controlled 3D path.” “The Drifter creates a performance in its space, calling on the viewer to reconsider the relationship with our living environment, which is often accepted as static and lifeless,” the creators Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta said. There was nothing static or lifeless as visitors here laughed in delight as they pretended to lift it.
• AN photos by Ziyad Alarfaj