Thursday
May052016

Jazirat Al Hamra: A Portal in Time

 

The sun is beating down as I make my way from one building to the next. I reach into my bag for the scarf I had packed earlier that day and use this as a form of protection from the heat.

Stepping carefully in the deserted village of Jazirat al Hamra, I am aware that I have entered a special space. Although accompanied by two friends, I am soon on my own as we each go our separate ways to photograph and experience the area.

Jazirat al Hamra, translated The Red Island, is an abandoned pearling village, just 20 km to the south of Ras Al Khaimah city in the United Arab Emirates.

After the decline of the natural pearl industry, its inhabitants left between the late 60’s and the mid 70’s. Some say the inhabitants were attracted by the prospects of better living conditions being offered by the local government, others that that there were better opportunities including relocation in Abu Dhabi. Yet others cite disputes between one of the tribes and local government. Whatever the reasons, the village has remained almost unchanged since then, and is one of the few remaining areas where one can catch a glimpse of what the Gulf was like before oil was discovered.

The deserted village has three distinct styles of architecture - coral stone buildings from the first half of the last century, sand brick buildings from about 1955 onwards, as well as buildings made from concrete breeze block from the 1960s. Fascinating to behold, the deserted houses, mosques and shops evoke the imagination.

Clicking away on my iPhone, I round a corner and am suddenly stopped in my tracks. Standing before me are two women in traditional dress. Alone in this vast space, I approach them and greet them in Arabic.

We soon establish that our spoken communication is limited. I am only able to see their eyes and I cannot help but notice the openness and kindness in them. The hidden smiles shine from sparkling eyes and I gather that the one lady is there to show the other around. As she shares, I pick up the word “baba”, a term of endearment for father, and gather following her hand movements that her father and his father had lived in the village at the spot she is pointing to.

The chances of such a meeting are overwhelmingly slim and I suddenly feel I have entered a portal.

The portal in science fiction is an extraordinary opening in space or time that connects travellers to distant realms or to the past or the future. This moment in Jazirat al Hamra is for me a time portal. I catch a new glimpse of the village before it was deserted, and simultaneously have the feeling that this lady is sharing memories with me not only from the past, but at the same time, memories from the future.

I have written before about a time to come when communication will be beyond words and am living it at that moment.

I hover in the past, the future and the present moment and realise it is all one. We are all one.

We eventually part ways but the two-fold memory of past and future is with me.

Back home, I begin to do further research on the village. Moving through the corridors of cyberspace, I follow one link after the other - each one somehow a portal leading me to another - until I suddenly discover one very special one. It is as if I have this time been diving in cyberspace, searching for an oyster that will yield a special pearl. Please spend some time at this wonderful discovery , as via it you can read about the village as well as watch videos on certain areas and even listen to a former pearl diver speaking!

Time Portal

I have created this piece on my iPhone to remind me of this day and all it brought and led to. Currently, I am imagining it being possibly printed onto rusted steel.

Memory

As I worked on this second artwork, I wished to create a sense of a special story being woven in time, and hence incorporated what could be seen as a tapestry or carpet like effect. I considered calling it “Time Tapestry” but eventually decided on “Memory”.

This piece also came into being at a time when I was reading up more about asemic writing.

"Asemic writing is a wordless open semantic form of writing. The word asemic means "having no specific semantic content”. With the nonspecificity of asemic writing there comes a vacuum of meaning which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret….. The open nature of asemic works allows for meaning to occur trans-linguistically; an asemic text may be "read" in a similar fashion regardless of the reader's natural language." - Wikipedia
"Asemic writing offers meaning by way of aesthetic intuition, and not by verbal expression." - Michael Jacobson in his article "On Asemic Writing"

When I met the two women, we were conversing despite a lack of understanding of the words being used. In fact, we had been conversing beyond words. We had communicated with gestures, smiles and eyes, but more especially with our hearts.

With all of this in mind, I allowed myself to sense the energy I had experienced that day, and then simply left my fingers to move across my iPhone screen. The first of my asemic artworks had come into being in an attempt to share the beauty of that moment, the meeting with the women, and our shared humanity.

Friday
Mar042016

#interact2connect

Using slow-shutter photography on my iPhone, I captured images of women at an Ethiopian festival in Rome.  With the aid of various apps I then painted with and on my iPhone screen to create six artworks which I have had printed onto cloth cut from traditional Ethiopian shawls. These artworks make up my new series #interact2connect.

There is a short background to this in my last blog “Linda in Wanderland”. 

The almost see through, gauze like cloth of the shawls results in the pieces being fairly transparent.  The figures in them seem to be moving in a space/time beyond past, present and future, or simultaneously in all. As a cloth is held up, it interacts with the surroundings it finds itself in, incorporating objects or people that are behind it. This evokes different emotions in the viewer. We are reminded too that everything is connected. 

 

This is a photo of one of the shawls shortly after it was printed. 

I would very much like to display these pieces as an installation in a gallery. 

 

Each piece would be hanging draped on the gallery wall when encountered, but visitors to the gallery would be encouraged to take down an artwork, hold it open and even walk around with it, thus allowing the figures in it to interact with the surrounding architecture, art and space. 

At this point another dimension would be added.  Because I believe that the physical and online worlds can no longer be viewed as entirely separate, visitors would be requested to take photos with these pieces and share them via social media with the hashtag #interact2connect and any other hashtags they might wish to add. 

In this way both the ethereal figures in the artworks and the individual sharing the photo would simultaneously be entering the realm of cyberspace - the mindspace we find ourselves in when we connect online.  

Later when other images shared under this hashtag are seen, the possibility would exist to make new and interesting connections by engaging with others who, regardless of their physical location or time zone, have shared their archived experience of the event, or commented on a photo.

As I have used current technology to create the artworks, it is my wish that the heart of the art of this installation will be found in the connections made through online sharing.

The vibrant patterns on the borders of the shawls are a stark reminder of the beauty to be found in diversity within unity, and the harmony of the colors asks us to question how we view the other.

The age of connectivity calls for transparency.  The gauze like cloth of the shawls asks us to question whether we are authentic when online.

#interact2connect would further raise the question of whether photography should be allowed in galleries and museums in an age when most people want to archive experiences using the technology at their disposal. 

Until such time that these pieces find themselves together in a gallery, I have decided that I will carry different ones with me when I am out and about, and ask people to hold them up in their surroundings once I have given them a short background.

 

This week while in Dubai with two instagrammers, Nilufer and Femi, I allowed the first piece to make its debut in the new phase of City Walk.  That the venue included the word “walk” felt appropriate, and it was wonderful to see the background glass shining through, and the reflected green wall pick up the color of the one ladies’ dress. There even seemed to be similar shades of orange and yellow to the colors in the border of the shawl.  

 

The next day I asked a waiter in a cafe to hold up the same piece.  Ernesto willingly obliged.  I had seen beforehand that there were artworks up on the wall behind him but I only realized afterwards that they were of three women too! The green skirt of Maria Callas on the wall also picked up the color of the transparent lady on the right and the chairs behind the cloth, despite themselves being stationary, added a sense of movement to the transparent figures. 

 

Who knows what further journeys the figures in these cloths will make, and what connections they will lead to.

I wait with anticipation :) 

---oOo---

Related: To see one of the journeys the figure have made, check out this steller story!

Wednesday
Feb172016

Linda in Wanderland

Ever the flâneur, a person who wanders through a city in order to experience it, I was excited to recently visit the Hermès Wanderland exhibition when it was in Dubai.

Having made its debut in the Saatchi Gallery in London, the traveling exhibition which showcases flânerie,  moved to Paris where it could be seen in a building on the left bank of the Seine. In Dubai, it was a floating exhibition in the Burj Lake near the Dubai fountain. The exhibition was outstanding allowing visitors to explore its magical arcades.   

My last two blogs were about arriving and departing.  Since I wrote them I have done much traveling, and as a result much wandering.  

In Portugal I walked the streets of Lisbon in search of its famous trams and street art.

 

Elevador da Bica

 

The face of Portuguese fado singer, Amália Rodrigues, in cobblestones, by the street artist Alexandre Farto, also known as Vhils. The other artwork I found by him can be seen on my Instagram account.  

Visiting Canada, it was wonderful to walk with my grandson at his pace and behold every little wonder along the way.  

On a short visit to Rome for the opening of Tutte le Strade I spent an early morning wandering the Via Cavour. As I turned a corner I came across an Ethiopian festival. 

Mesmerized I began to click away using my slow-shutter photography technique on my iPhone.  Since returning to Abu Dhabi, I have been working on a new series based on the images I captured that day. I hope to be able to share this project with you all soon. 

In Germany I wandered the streets of Munich.  We lived there for three years, but on every visit I still find places I have not seen before. On one of my strolls this time round, I was drawn to a window exhibiting the piece “Unendlichkeit” (translated “Infinity”) by sculptor Hajo Forster.  Stepping inside the entrance hall of the Hofgarten Palais, I was confronted by the beauty of his piece “Harmonie”

Harmonie

On yet another morning, we went off to find Munich’s infinite staircase by Ólafur Elíasson.

 

Umschreibung

I have been a fan for some time now of Ólafur's work so it was wonderful to see this piece.  You can find out more about him and his art on Artsy

Back in Abu Dhabi, I have walked slowly through oases in Al Ain, always on the look out for wonder. 

 

In Dubai I attended a book signing by Roland Michaud. Roland and his wife Sabrina have spent most of their lives on the road, photographing remote parts of Asia and Africa.  He shared that ultimately you see yourself in the other. 

 

Along with all of this, I have visited many countries online, chatting to others in different parts of the world via various social media platforms.  I still look back on “Linda in Wonderland” written four years ago and know that this particular way of journeying never fails to amaze me. 

At the beginning of his talk Roland Michaud emphasized that nothing should be done in life without taking one’s time. 

I know that my mindfulness practice has helped me to keep a regulated pace and not fall into the habit of rushing. 

“Speed, whether online or offline, is a characteristic of the modern world.  The flâneur reminds us to set the pace of our own lives”.  Mindfulness and The Flâneur 

Flânerie always goes hand in hand with wonder. With Wanderland, the artistic director for Hermès wanted to create an exhibition that would embody what wandering is all about. 

“Guided by instinct, senses all alert, flâneurs watch passing moments intently, all the better to seize them.  Flâneurs garner, forage and gather. They unearth the unusual in the mundane, the unnoticed in the already seen, the distant in the near, the visible in the invisible.” Pierre-Alexis Dumas. 

“My hope is that people come to the show, maybe forget reality, and then look at their own city with new eyes.  We must never lose our ability to dream, to wander, to go with the flow and let ourselves be surprised”. Pierre-Alexis Dumas.

Monday
Nov022015

A Place to Departure

 

In the flow of life, every moment is both an arrival and a departure. When I decided to write this piece, the first thing that struck me was that whereas my previous blog was called “Arriving”, this one would contain the word “Departure”. Presence goes beyond both and is fascinating.

When online, we sense the presence of others in various ways. We become familiar with the way an individual combines texts, visuals and sounds and the way they interact on websites and social media. We know the other is there interacting when we receive comments, emojis or voice messages in response to what we post We sense the movement of the other through the change of an avatar or profile picture, or we watch them and their movement via apps such as snapchat or periscope.

In the physical world, sensory stimulation received about the other person makes them feel more present. When we see, hear, smell or touch them we know they are there. Visual and auditory stimulation is becoming more and more sophisticated online, but the dimensions of touch and smell, two of the senses humans rely heavily on, especially during childhood, are still limited although developing.

I visited Dubai for three days last week for The Dubai Design Week. Upon arrival in the Al Fahidi District, formerly called Al Bastakiya, the first installation I saw was “A Place to Departure”, the inspiration for this blog.

The plaque next to it read:

“What you are looking at is half of the whole. Elsewhere there is an installation just like this one. With people like you. Come. Touch it. Feel the glass. May you and the other person touch the same spot, at the same time. You will both gently feel each other’s presence.”

Reading it was an immediate resonance with all I write about at here2here. A meeting in a special wespace despite the constraints of linear time and physical space was before me in a new way! 

Designed by D3 (Brazil), A Place to Departure uses a haptic feedback system and is an interactive installation allowing people to interact remotely with each other by touch, despite their distance. The further development of this concept will further revolutionize our current technology.

If you also own an Apple Watch, you and I can send each other our current heartbeats. How much more real you will be when I can actually touch you!

The first installations of A Place to Departure was in Beijing and Brazil and you can see it in operation here:

A Place To Departure from D3 on Vimeo.

The Dubai Design Week installation had the two pieces in the Al Fahidi District and the Dubai Design District. Made of glass and wood, digital interaction is taken to a new level. When the clear window is touched, the digital mark is transported to the second window, and when someone is touching that spot on the other window, you each gently feel it, despite your physical distance.

Whereas the glass section allows one to be connected in a mindspace by the moment, the wooden section is a reminder of where you are currently present in bodily form. The geographic coordinates of each spot are important for the windows, whereas the wood used in the pieces in Dubai had clear resemblances of the mashrabiya in their design.

There were awesome installations at the Dubai Design Week but I kept returning to touch the glass on numerous occasions over the next three days. I am happy to report that I was fortunate enough to touch another in this way.

On my last morning, I was fortunate enough to chat to two of the people involved in the project. I photographed the installation yet again and in keeping with the name of the installation, used it as a starting point of departure for a stroll through the sikkas (alleyways) of the surrounding area. I have included a gallery of pics which also shows you where I walked and has a few more links of interest.

Saturday
Oct172015

Arriving

Today I share with you a poem by Derek Walcott entitled “Love After Love”:

The time will come

when, with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

 

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

 

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

 

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

 

— Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott, a West Indian poet and dramatist, was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1992.  In his works Walcott studied amongst other things his role as a nomad between European and West Indian cultures. 

Jon Kabat-Zinn used this poem as an inspiration for his book “Arriving at Your Own Door: 108 Lessons in Mindfulness

Here is Walcott’s poem read by Jon:

Art has for centuries inspired poets and poetry has inspired artists.

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Certain galleries have experimented with poetry readings in front of artworks and found that this encourages active looking and listening. At the opening of “Unfolding”, a poem was recited in front of my artwork “Trinity”.

The reading gives the viewer a chance to stop and listen, and also to focus on a particular artwork for a while, as well as perhaps see the work from a different perspective or think about it in different ways as multiple senses come into play. Dialogue between the viewer and the artwork is encouraged.  

The poem “Love After Love” and the book “Arriving at Your Own Door” are the inspiration for my new series which I have entitled “Arriving”. The works, created entirely on my iPhone, are printed onto aquarelle paper and framed.