Friday, May 8, 2015


Bit hectic with winding down here, moving to the US, and my first semester at MIT, so taking a break for now. Hope to continue blogging when things calm down.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Operation Opera at The Ivy

With a breather weekend between stretches of seasonal schedule madness on my hands, I headed down to The Ivy at Jumeirah Emirates Towers for a little Thursday night live music break. And specifically this one, because of a chance to witness opera being performed in a far more casual setting than is typical for the genre, as well as the combination of two talented locally-based artists: friend and vocalist Paul Bester, and pianist/composer Dale Nichols. They made a great musical combination, expertly performing a mix of contemporary and classic operatic renditions, and taking a few requests as well. I and my companion enjoyed the performance immensely, with lovely English bites and drinks from the Ivy's menu rounding off a great Thursday night.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Short+Sweet Gala Final

Short+Sweet's Dubai short play festival ended its three weekends of abbreviated theatre in a final face-off and award ceremony today. Unlike the past two runs S+S, in which I made it to almost all qualifying run events and skipped the finals, my February travel plans allowed me time to attend only the gala final.
The cast and director/writer of Treteau

Having not seen any of the qualifying runs this time, I don't know what the final plays were up against in their respective weekends. Each had their strengths, but I found some of them a bit lackluster as a result of specific writing tropes and production choices (e.g. melodramatic effects, plot twists lacking creativity, etc).

There were some indubitably good ones as well. Third Half Theatre's Treteau powered ahead with its tight stage work by an ensemble cast, sweeping up awards for script (tying with The Bronx Budgie, another play with some great lines), directing, and best play overall on both judicial and popular counts. I was also rooting for the other contemporary theatre ensemble play, Starry Little Stories, but it sadly could not make any of the categories. The power of the monologue reigned, however, as best actor and actress awards went very deservedly to Asad Raza in It's All The Rage, and Mina Kici Khattar in La Marie Vison.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What's on for Art Week this year

Programs for Art Week 2015 were announced at a joint press conference today at Mina A'Salam, with days to go before March Madness. The event focused mainly on Design Days Dubai and Art Dubai, the anchor events of the week that kicks off Art Season.

Some of the more notable points mentioned there included:

  • Art Dubai IX will feature galleries from 40 countries -- the highest geo-diversity so far.
  • Art Dubai's "Marker" programme will shine a spotlight on Latin America this year -- definitely something I look forward to.
  • The Global Art Forum will set aside a day for the globe-trotting youth art project, 89plus (referring to the generation born after 1989).
  • The Artists-in-Residence programme this year will feature six younger (in terms of industry experience) artists, distinguishing it from the Commissions programme of more experienced artists partnered with organizations.
  • Some names to watch out for while browsing the 72 contemporary art galleries include Nikhil Chopra, Olu Amoda, and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, while Farid Belkahia will be among the artists featured in the 15 modern galleries.
  • RCA Secret from the Royal College of Art will be a special guest exhibitor at Art Dubai.
  • Design Days will include its largest UAE and Middle East representation to date, with Sharjah and Ajman making their debuts.
  • Most anticipated for me at Design Days Dubai will be the return of ArtFactum, Crafts Council, The Fatima bint Mohammed Initiative, and Wiener Silber Manufactur. Others to put on the must-visit list would be Zumtobel and House of Today.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Poetry and paint at The Space

Indian artist B'lu of Henosis today launched her grand solo exhibition, "Grandpa Says", in Abu Dhabi, with no less than the Ambassador of India snipping the ribbon. Spanning almost all of February and featuring a palette knife workshop run by the artist, works spanning diverse themes, sizes, and media adorned the display boards of The Space.

The artistic talent on display is evident in the attention to salient detail and the delicious harmony of colors, across works ranging from the very small to the very large. Some of my favorites were of the scenery perspectives: looking up into sky in a grove, or across a distant field at sunset, or down at reflections on a pond -- these are definitely her forte. A couple of paintings done in mainly grey, wintry tones stood out in particular.

Accompanying many of the paintings were short poems. Constructed mainly as narratives, these were notable for their simple flow and occasional colloquialisms that create a sense of intimacy.

Among other explorations of media, gold and coffee -- two among the most expensive commodities in the world, incidentally -- were used in a few works to very harmonious interplay of hue and luster.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Analysis of Dubai public space at A4 Space

UAEU professor Dr Yasser Elsheshtawy delivered a presentation, "Slow Space", at the A4 Space in Al Serkal Avenue today, describing the methodology of and data from his studies on the usage of urban spaces in the Middle East.

He began the Campus Art Dubai talk with an introduction of his earlier Cairo project and mentioned his Abu Dhabi project with FIND, but the bulk of the presentation was about his work on public space usage patterns in Dubai -- specifically, of a street in Hor al Anz and a square in Deira, both in "old Dubai".

I thought the long-ish time lapse videos were kind of unnecessary, but I liked his data maps, his descriptions of the process of acquiring the data, information about the histories and functions of the areas, and various anecdotes from the study, some of which were also revealed during the Q&A session that followed.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Loom Ensemble brings Art Monastery performance to Dubai

Loom Ensemble's Dubai-based cohort returned to the city this month after half a year away, to begin a residency of performance and workshops at thejamjar. The fruits of their Art Monastery residency in Italy during their time away, which they refined over an international tour, premiered at thejamjar this weekend as a contemporary theatre performance they call "Prime".

The central theme of the performance is a relationship that becomes increasingly tempestuous as one of the two characters, played by Neva Cockrell, finds herself unable to relate to her partner, played by Raphael Sacks. The tension and lack of meaningful communication in their relationship is portrayed using an array of visual, verbal, physical and vocal metaphors -- some with more than one dimension of allusion.

The play features beautiful choreography and appropriate pacing, with some particularly interesting motifs expressed through color and clothing. A keen observer will notice a few internal cross-references in the narrative, and see aspects of the broader themes in seemingly mundane actions or words. Much is also added by the tactical lighting and playback sound, which were technically executed very well.

The many questions and interpretations from audience members were addressed during the short discussion session that followed, in which the inspirations and process behind the project were also described.