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Saudi Arabia Mawhiba stars as sponsor of American convention for gifted children

RIYADH: Art has been known throughout history to reflect, even cause, social, cultural and artistic changes in cultures. The Renaissance period in Europe beginning in the 14th century, for example, or the Bengali Renaissance of India in the 19th century.

Today, Saudi Arabia, a country founded only 90 years ago and currently going through a period of great transformation under its Vision 2030 diversification and development agenda, finds itself in a liminal, or transitional, space. bordered on one side by historical behaviorism and on the other by the dawn of the future. As such, one can only wonder if the experience of the Kingdom will show us whether, in the age of technology, art still has the power to truly influence our societies?

Like many other aspects of Saudi society, the arts sector is going through a period of rapid development and growth. Through the establishment of a variety of art festivals, increased government funding, the launch of exhibitions and the introduction of public art installations, the country is slowly embracing or rediscovering its own art forms. local traditions, creating new ones and opening the door to opportunities for cultural exchange by hosting international art exhibitions.

The second annual Noor Riyadh Light Festival lit up the streets of Riyadh this month, for example. Organized under the auspices of Riyadh Art under the theme “We dream of new horizons”, this year’s event was three times larger than the inaugural festival in 2021, with works by more than 120 local and international artists exhibited in the public spaces of 40 places Across the city.

Architect Khalid Al-Hazani, program director of Riyadh Art, said the festival aims to create joyful experiences for the people of Riyadh by showcasing the beauty of their city’s natural landscapes and cityscapes.

“The reality of Noor Riyadh 2022 is that through a sense of wonder, the artists explore the use of lighting, luminosity and their own encounters with materials as a staging of relationships with otherness and hope in the form of light,” Al-Hazani told Arab News.

The festival is therefore looking to a brighter future after the trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He imagines a city without borders, an art without frames and asks a crucial question: who is Noor Riyad for?

“Our main goal is to reach the widest audience possible, going beyond traditional art audiences to the general public,” Al-Hazani said.

During this period of transformation in Saudi society, contemporary artists across the country are seizing the opportunity to slowly normalize certain ideas that were previously considered controversial by societal norms.

Saudi artist Daniah Al-Saleh said her first exposure to contemporary art was in the early 1990s during a visit to the Venice Biennale. After an undergraduate education in Riyadh which only exposed her to classical, impressionist and modern art, she says she is enlightened by the malleability of artistic expression.

“It opened doors for me and made me think and think about what art can be,” she told Arab News.

His own artistic practice often uses aspects of computing and machine learning to translate abstract ideas into reality. She said she aims to push boundaries with artworks and installations that combine traditional art forms such as painting, with more innovative content such as computer programming code.

One of Al-Saleh’s installations in Noor Riyadh, ‘Love Stories’, is on display in Oud Square in the city’s diplomatic quarter. It examines the traditional resistance to public displays of love and affection in conservative societies.

“There’s this tension and this double standard between things that we know well in songs and poetry but not well in real life,” she said.

His artwork is made up of multiple figures, generated by artificial intelligence and projected onto pillars, which lip-synch to 26 well-known Arabic love songs that contain lyrics about public declarations of feelings of love. Al-Saleh said the reaction to the work was unexpected.

“I saw people, non-Saudi, sitting and smiling, because I translated the lyrics into English,” she said. “For me, as an artist, to see people sitting near an installation for more than five or ten minutes is huge.

“For the Arab population, they sat and sang with these AI characters; you see them smile…it’s such a powerful feeling that brings people and communities together.

Al-Saleh’s second installation in Noor Riyadh, ‘Delicate’, which is on display in the Jax district, views ideas of hierarchy and inequality with a skeptical eye. Inspired by the words of Adrienne Maree Brown in her book “Emerging Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds”, the work is based on biomimicry: the process of emulating natural elements to solve global problems.

Al-Saleh’s multimedia work was created using wood, wool, numerical calculations, paper, canvas and one of the oldest materials in the world, felt, all of which work together, she said, to create a suspended ecosystem of beauty and self-sufficiency. .

Saudi artist Bashaer Hawsawi said the first step towards greater changes in attitude towards art in a society is to encourage greater public engagement with the local art scene.

“The simplest form is photographs of artwork on social media,” she said. “It’s going to spread, people will see it happening, they’ll talk, ask questions and want to know more.”

Hawsawi’s work “Early Maturation” adds a private angle to public art. He depicts methods of pickling lemons and was inspired by his own memories of seeing his mother perform the process. She said the work aims to highlight the simplicity of everyday tasks in public spaces, but also the important role they play in local culture. Scattered across the landscape of Wadi Hanifa, the artwork uses fiberglass lemons to depict the pickling process, the products of which are used in some Saudi communities as a tonic to aid recovery.

Saudi artist Basmah Felemban told Arab News, “We are in an interesting position where we should all talk about all our experiences, away necessarily from any forced discourse of ongoing international conversations.”

Felemban’s works explore ideas of ethnicity, immigration and cultural origin, topics traditionally rarely addressed publicly in the region. She said she hoped to spark conversations and answer questions about her own story.

In his work “The Eleventh View of Time”, the viewer observes, through images projected at Ringing Bird Lake in Wadi Hanifa, the journey undertaken by another species, which has parallels with the own history of immigration, ethnicity and ancestry of the artist, which stretches from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia.

Conversations about cultural diversity are more common in the West, and the artist believes the Middle East needs to develop its own ways of approaching these topics “that adhere to our historical background”.

Aiming to help transform the art world from a perceived image of elitism to populism, Noor Riyadh’s artworks are designed to showcase new ideas and spark cultural discourse on a local scale. and global.

“Good art inspires but great art activates,” said contributing Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde.

His work “Waterleight”, exhibited in Salam Park, uses a captivating and mysterious laser show to draw attention to the effects of climate change. It shows the potential global outcomes of sea level rise, in the context of plans for a greener and more sustainable future under Vision 2030.

His native Netherlands, he said, would already be underwater without the application of technology, science and creativity.

“The world is changing, so we have to adapt somehow… I think it’s important to realize that we have to invent, imagine and create this new world – it doesn’t just happen – (and) learn from the mistakes we made”. did,” Roosegaarde said.

Cultural exchange is a crucial element in an evolving art scene, according to renowned artist and lighting designer Marc Brickman, who consulted on the plans for the historic Al-Faisaliyah building 24 years ago.

Now he’s created a 2,000 drone light show that uses science and technology to encourage us to question our need for order in a chaotic world.

“I think art through the ages has always been the main thing because it’s about people’s imaginations and how they think,” Brickman said.

“And a lot of times they’ve tried to weed him out and conform him, but he always comes back to the top.”

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