This immersive video installation by Monira Al Qadiri represents a new chapter of her ongoing search for historical ties between the pre- and post-oil worlds in the Gulf. For hundreds of years, the economy of the coastal region was based on decorative pearls, with Al Qadiri’s own grandfather working as a singer on a pearling boat. After the discovery of oil in the twentieth century, a massive transformation took place in the affected societies and this part of history was erased, relegated to popular fiction. The video proposes to bridge that gap through the formal abstraction of colour; it follows the movements of synchronized swimmers wearing dichroic body suits akin to the sheen of both pearls and oil, fully choreographed to a traditional pearl-diving song.
The use of these bodies as ornamentation manifests the placement of these histories in contemporary society – as embellishment and décor – but at the same time reflects the artist’s absolute effort to sincerely articulate them as a solid component of regional identity through exhausting physical action.
Commissioned by: Durub Al Tawaya VI (Abu Dhabi), 9th Asia Pacific Triennial (Brisbane)
Produced by: Durub Al Tawaya (DAT), the performing arts program of Abu Dhabi Art, Warehouse421 Abu Dhabi and the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) (2018)
Concept & direction: Monira Al Qadiri; Producer: Ezzat Al Hamwi; Director of Photography: Elias Trad; Editing: Vartan Avakian; Coloring: Belal Hibri; Costumes: Jasmina Popov-Locke; Choreography: Isabelle Tan; Dancers: Isabelle Tan, Carly Athawes, Zsofia Péres, Daria Galkina
Diver is sponsored by DJB Chartered Professional Accountants and supported by the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. Equipment support is provided by Factory Media Centre.
Monira Al Qadiri is a Kuwaiti visual artist born in Senegal and educated in Japan. In 2010, she received a Ph.D. in inter-media art from Tokyo University of the Arts, where her research was focused on the aesthetics of sadness in the Middle-East stemming from poetry, music, art and religious practices. Her work explores unconventional gender identities, petro-cultures and their possible futures, as well as the legacies of corruption. She is currently based in Berlin. She has held solo exhibitions at Haus der Kunst, Munich (2020), Kunstverein Gottingen, Gottingen (2019), The CIRCL Pavilion, Amsterdam (2018), Sursock Museum, Beirut (2017), Gasworks, London (2017), Stroom Den Haag, the Hague (2017), and Sultan Gallery, Kuwait (2014). Her participation in collective exhibitions includes: “Our World is Burning” Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2020), “Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars” MoMA PS1, New York (2019-20), Future Generation Art Prize, Kiev (2019), “Antikino” Berlinale Forum Expanded, Berlin (2019), Asia Pacific Triennial, Brisbane (2018), Lulea Biennial, Sweden (2018), Athens Biennial, Athens (2018), “Crude” Jameel Arts Center, Dubai (2018), among others.
Image Credit: Monira Al Qadiri, Diver, 2018, Video installation. Courtesy of the artist.