Saudi Arabia participates in the 58th edition of the Venice Biennale. The pavilion dedicated to the largest Arab state in Western Asia has decided to honor its land, bringing the “After Illusion بعد توهم” exhibition to the Biennial Pavilion, created by artist Zahrah Alghamadi.
The exhibition supervised, by the the Ministry of Culture and the Misk Art Institute – a branch of the Misk Foundation founded by Crown Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud, is entitled “After Illusion”, giving a dreamlike appearance to the perception of the entire artistic character of the Pavilion. Within the Biennale’s theme of “May You Live in Interesting Times”, the title of the exhibition is a metaphor for considering art in a period of crisis: another way of discerning the concept hidden behind the two closely related titles. Speaking about the event, which runs from 11 May to 24 November, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud stated that the exhibition is a parallel expression of the government’s initiative to promote culture and art in the country.
To explain in fine detail the identity of the exhibited works, DRAGO Publisher created a catalog, which contains a message from the Ministry of Culture of Saudi Arabia as well as explanations of the Pavilion’s layout and the concepts and themes behind the artistic selection.
The exhibition “After Illusion” aims to recognize, reconnect and revisit an ever-present but under-analysed feeling in the human soul, so that it can be recreated in a new guise.
“After Illusion” is the brainchild of curator Eiman Elgibreen, Project Advisor Nada Shabout and Project Manager Bahsma Alshathry; their title draws inspiration from an ancient Arabic poem by Zuhair bin Abi Sulma. The text is dated c.500 AD – 600 AD and tells of the narrator’s struggle to find and recognize his forgotten house after twenty years of absence. Only the “illusion” helps the eighty-year-old poet to recognize it. The illusion is understood as a mental state of conflict with the human being during the personal search for “truth”, but if rightly interpreted it can be an unconscious help to the success of venture.
Referring to the theme of this year’s Venice Biennale, the curator Eiman Elgibreen said: “The Saudis have been living in interesting times for some time. Their complicated socio-cultural history has forced them and other populations to be seen as interesting. There is a sense of loss in cultural and historical action due to the hegemony of global discourse, their meaning has been encapsulated in two narrow historical moments: the emergence of Islam and the discovery of oil, leaving them confused about how to perceive their history outside those moments, in particular with the absence of visual evidence. After Illusion is an exhibition that offers an attempt to meditate on the value of uncertainty in opening new doors to self-awareness and transformation.”
Within the catalog readers will find the poem by Zuhair, a critical view on the works of Zahrah Alghamadi, a chapter on contemporary art and Saudi society, as well as and many other insights on the concepts that shaped ”After Illusion”.