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Saddam Hussein's statue to be sent into space?

Silvia Radan /Abu Dhabi
Filed on September 21, 2016

(Picture by Ryan Lim)

The artist poses the question of who is really in control: the device or the handler?

A small statue of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is going to be sent into space as soon as its exhibition in Abu Dhabi ends. Wafaa Bilal, an Iraqi American artist, was commissioned by New York University - Abu Dhabi's (NYUAD) Art Gallery to create an artwork for its opening fall exhibition, Invisible Threads: Technology and its Discontents, and he came up with Canto III.

Bilal was inspired by a rumour from Saddam Hussein times, that the nine meters high statues of the former Iraqi president, which once stood atop of his palace, were going to be copied into smaller replicas and launched into space by the Iraqi Space Programme, with hopes that they would orbit the Earth for eternity.

Thus, Bilal has created a bronze rendering of the original bust, covered in gold and a tiny replica of his statue, fixed on a satellite box, which will be sent into space as soon as the exhibition ends.

"The satellite box has a tiny camera in front of the statue, so you can watch it as it goes into space," said Bana Kattan, the exhibition co-curator and assistant curator at NYUAD Art Gallery.

Canto III is one of the 15 artworks shown in the Invisible Threads, created by 15 different artists. The exhibition, running until December 31, explores the tensions that emerge in our everyday interactions with technology, looking at issues such as isolation versus connectedness or privacy versus social media exposure.

There is, for example, Aram Bartholl's Unknown Gamer, a series of six videos shot and presented on mobile phones, captured by the artist during his commute. The individuals in the videos are all playing video games on their smartphones, so deeply concentrated in their world that they don't notice that someone is sitting right next to them, filming them openly.

The artist poses the question of who is really in control: the device or the handler?

A completely different work is Heather Dewey-Hagborg's Stranger Visions. She collected DNA samples from the streets - cigarette butts, chewing gum - and had them analysed. DNA can predict the likelihood of a person's general appearance, so the artist envisioned the faces of the people who left these objects behind, based on the genetic analyses and created a 3D printed mask of each DNA profile.

"These artists use technology like painters use their paint brush," said Professor Scott Fitzgerald, co-curator of the exhibition and programme head of the interactive media at NYUAD.

"I wouldn't say art technology is a trend, but technology had been used as an art medium since the 1950s," he also told Khaleej Times.

The oldest artwork in the exhibition is Michael Jaquin Grey's My Sputnik, created in 1990, an aluminium, stainless steel, titanium, Kevlar and black velvet sculpture, a replica of world's first satellite that launched humanity into the information age.

Invisible Threads ends with a work that is as humorous as it is destructive: Jonah Brucker-Cohen's Alerting Infrastructure!

Hanging from the ceiling, a hammer drill is pointed at the wall. Throughout the exhibition, as soon as someone visits the online NYUAD Art Gallery, the "hit" on the website activates the drill, which starts digging into the wall.

The work is a physical hit counter, reminding of the days when websites used to boast about the number of "hits" they have. It's meant to reconnect the virtual world to the physical one, much like the concept of the entire exhibition.

Invisible Threads opens to the public today (22.09). Entry is free of charge. Visiting hours are Monday to Saturday from 12 pm to 8 pm (closed on Sundays). [end]

silvia@khaleejtimes.com

 

Silvia Radan

I'm a senior journalist with 22 years experience in all forms of mass media. Originally from Romania, I lived and work in Bosnia, Uzbekistan, England and, for the past 10 years, in UAE. I specialize in art, culture, traditions, heritage, but also environment and the hospitality industry. I'm passionate about jazz and world music, cinema, mythology and offroading - I'm a marshal with one of UAE's offroading clubs!


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