Jameel Arts Centre is Dubai’s leading contemporary art institute and one of the most innovative and forward-thinking art spaces in the Arab region. The Art Jameel Commission is an annual, multi-year program that is foundational in supporting heritage, arts, and education programming at the Centre.
The prestigious annual award for The Art Jameel Commission includes an artist’s fee of 7,500 USD, plus a dedicated production budget for the project, curatorial support, technical mentorship, and support in collaboration with MIT J-WEL both during the production process and launch. The final work is entered into the permanent Art Jameel Collection and will also be exhibited online on the Art Jameel platform for at least six months.
For its Third Edition the program moved away from its usual focus of drawing and painting and made an Open Call for digital-focused submissions under the theme of ‘Time’—an apt subject and medium, given the current Covid-19 pandemic that has reshaped our notion of time and modern technology.
Artists were invited to explore how the concept of time has been challenged by technology and circumstance. Their work had to rethink ‘digital art’ and the ways in which it can question, investigate, and form meaningful connections and experiences. In addition, they were encouraged to submit interactive experiences that would engage a local and global audience, while staying true to the Centre’s commitment to diversity and creativity.
The response was overwhelming and over 200 projects were submitted for selection to a panel of experts that included: Nadim Samman, Curator for the Digital Sphere at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Finnish word, living media and sound artist Jenna Sutela; Ben Vickers, Publisher and Chief Technology Officer at the Serpentine Galleries, London; and other members of Art Jameel's curatorial team.
On October 6th, 2020, Nadim Choufi was announced as the winner of the Art Jameel Commissions: Digital Open Call in 2020. A resident of Beirut, Lebanon he works with video, 3D animation, and sculpture. An alumnus of Ashkal Alwan Home Workspace fellowship, he has exhibited his work regionally and internationally in Beirut Art Center, Abu Dhabi's Warehouse421, Sharjah Art Foundation, The New School in New York, and Macao in Milan. Choufi applied to this Open Call because he had already concluded the research for his film and was looking for an opportunity to produce it.
Choufi’s winning proposal embraced the theme of smart cities and the time cycles that govern its foundations. His final project culminated in the form of an 18-minute short film titled, The Sky Oscillates Between Eternity and Its Immediate Consequences.
A sci-fi based film feature that is set in futuristic space colonies, the film explores how the future of smart cities relies on the promise of ’sustainable’ closed systems in the face of health and ecological crises.
Choufi explains his research was “focused on closed living systems and specifically the Mars Science City in Dubai, where they are building space domes in the Dubai desert in order to prepare to send a colony to Mars, as well as learn how to live in ‘harsh conditions’ to better prepare for a future on earth that is full of ecological and health crises.”
Comparitably, the film is set in the near-distant future where Earth’s inhabitants have to move into space because of the devastating effects of climate change on their own planet. It focuses primarily on one colony and two individuals that contemplate what it means to live under such conditions where life cycles seem extremely controlled.
He goes on to further explain that “domes, spheres, secluded worlds to function as efficiently as they want have to capitalize on time. In order to be fully isolated and self-sufficient, they have to exploit the time of plants and animals, make sure they pollinate on time, mature in time, to become food and eventually waste and back to food. In addition, the time people spend inside is exploited and vital. They have to be totally in sync with the dome in order for the domes system not to fail. So it was clear that I can tackle how future cities use, abuse, and change the meaning of time, whether it is biological time, environmental, or even personal time.”
When asked about the audience’s reaction, he explains, “I don’t really want to dictate what the audience should feel but I hope they relate, disagree, agree or more importantly understand the feelings of fatigue, love, and loneliness, etc. that the narrator’s expressing. It is enough for me that the film transports them to this space, and from there, they can form their own opinions.”
The next iteration of Art Jameel Commissions will centre on painting and drawing, with the Open Call taking place in 2021 (date to be announced).
The Sky Oscillates Between Eternity and Its Immediate Consequences by Nadim Choufi can be viewed exclusively on Art Jameel’s online platform, here.
For more information about the Art Jameel Commission, click here!
For more on Nadim Choufi click here or here!
Words: Saira Malik
Images: Courtesy of Art Jameel and Nadim Choufi