event / International

Crash | Solo Exhibition by Manal Al Dowayan

17 March 2014 — 6 April 2014

Cuadro, DIFC, Gate Village, Dubai, UAE,
International


Alarming numbers of Saudi female teachers are injured or die in car accidents every year. For these women, the combination of low pay, a ban on driving, far flung teaching assignments and unsafe roads and drivers, has created a highly dangerous and unstable situation. In her latest research-based artwork, Crash, Manal AlDowayan asks the viewer, “Why don’t you see this?”

 These accidents are regularly reported in Saudi newspapers, yet there is no trace of the women’s identities. Their faces are never seen and their names are not mentioned. The repetition of crash reportage of anonymous victims yields numbness towards the subject, ultimately fuelling “active forgetting.” The artist asks, “How do you mourn if the suffering have no face or name?”

 Information on the crashes - newspaper clippings and data analysis - fills the space. Tweets from the women prior to the accidents are also displayed, bridging the divide between data presentation and posthumous contributions to the work. The artist thus records the physical and the emotional impact of these tragedies, making them both tangible.

 Manal AlDowayan’s presentation places her within the global dialogue on the idea of research as artistic practice. Research is integral to her body of work, usually informing the process through which she understands her subject. In Crash, the research process goes further to become the work itself, challenging conventional definitions of what an art object can be.

Perhaps only through the re-visualization of these tragedies can their devastating implications be fully understood. AlDowayan’s utilitarian presentation, stripped of the aesthetics often associated with works of art, matter-of-factly displays her subject. She utilizes common road maps to triangulate three data points – the location of the teachers’ homes, the schools to which they were assigned, and the crash sites. These points are memorialized pragmatically, rather than ceremoniously, using simple pins. Ironically, this provides the viewer a more humane recounting of these events than the media articles dedicated to the subject.

The impact of traumatic images presented by the media is often times dulled by senseless repetition and therefore rendered banal to the average viewer. Manal AlDowayan attempts to reframe the journalistic image as an artwork, thereby isolating it from the numbness brought about by repeated viewing.

 The artist employs the silkscreen technique to create her prints, eerily echoing the reproduction capability of a printing press. These images, a small sample taken from hundreds of newspaper clippings, are as abstract as our perception of these tragic deaths. The subject is not immediately clear and the vagueness invites quiet contemplation and reflection.

 Manal AlDowayan presents a visual journey that attempts to spans the gap between overwhelming clutter of data to an utter absence of recognizable form, prompting viewers – no longer satisfied with an anonymous image - to seek out information where there is none.

“As objects of contemplation, images of the atrocious can answer to several different needs. To steel oneself against weakness. To make oneself more numb. To acknowledge the existence of the incorrigible. ”

― Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

 

 

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