DUBAI: The Arts Center at New York University (NYU) Abu Dhabi has launched its sixth season as a fully virtual event.
The season, which started on Sept. 5 and runs until Dec. 10, features Kid Koala’s Robot House Party; Tania El Khoury’s As Far As Isolation Goes (Online); A Thousand Ways: Part 1 by 600 Highwaymen; a piano recital by Ioannis Potamousis; a Short Films Program by Sam Green, and Murmur 2.0 and #JeSuis by Aakash Odedra Company.
“The Reconnect. online series that we did in late spring to early summer was all archival footage from our first five years and it was great as a retrospective,” Bill Bragin, the center’s executive artistic director, told Arab News. “What we found is that, in a certain way, the power of the digital event could transcend the medium of the screen, particularly if we could address the feeling of ‘liveness.’”
Audience members and performers came from different continents, said Bragin, adding that there was an “unexpected advantage” in realizing that the reach through digital means could be so much larger.
He and his team had the sixth season line-up ready and began to saw that, given current constraints due to the coronavirus pandemic, it would be more feasible to do the season virtually.
Bragin and Maya Allison, founding director of the art galleries and chief curator at NYU Abu Dhabi, hosted online meetings during the past few months with members from the UAE art community.
“One of the first conversations we had revolved around the glut of archival material that was going online - how much of the art we were consuming had to do with the past,” said Bragin. “With all the heightened experiences that people are facing right now, in addition to the very deep emotions during this particular time, what about the art that is being created right now and how do we address that?”
The present state of art creation during these challenging times was something that Bragin took into consideration when planning the sixth season.
“We decided to invest more into commissioning new work and also reach out to artists about what they are making right now that can be presented in a distanced way,” he said. “In certain cases, this could be via Zoom or video or via a telephone call - but that really captures all of the complex issues that people are facing right now.”
Allison said that performances were about people coming together and, instead of trying to recreate that virtually, Bragin was using a format that acknowledged the intimacy of the screen.
“I’ve really tried to resist the urge to talk about ‘in real life’ because the reality is that at this point this also is real life,” Bragin said.
The fall exhibition at The Art Gallery at NYU Abu Dhabi, while still to be announced, has also been influenced by the current situation of social distancing and an increasingly digital sphere propelled by COVID-19.
“A gallery space is created for interaction with an object and so much of virtual reality, video art and so forth, needs to be either totally immersive or else it really lives in this kind of in-between space in a gallery,” Allison told Arab News. “The idea for the fall was to curate a show that was comfortable in the virtual world.”
Instead of curating for a space that people walked into, Allison said she was now curating for a space that was “the size of the palm of your hand - a space that walks into you.”
“This totally shifts the way I think about sound, movement and interactivity,” she added.